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“Deep(er) Ecology”: William Rees, Nora Bateson & Rex Weyler

July 10, 2023

Conversation Recorded on June 27th, 2023)

On this segment of Reality Roundtable, Nate is joined by William Rees, Nora Bateson, and Rex Weyler to discuss the purpose of ecology and what it might look like to have a civilization centered around it. Despite our tendency to think of ourselves as separate from the biosphere, humans are a part of it, just like any other animal. What sets us apart now is our outsized impact on the world around us, as we and our societies take up more space and resources, degrading the ecosystems that support ourselves, our descendants, and other species. How can an understanding of systems and relationships help us rethink how we interact with the planet? Could ecologically literate governments and citizens create wider boundaries across time and space in which decisions are made? What might the parameters be for a civilization centered around ecology, and how can we navigate there through declining energy and resource availability? Most of all, how can we as individuals and communities root ourselves into a deep(er) ecological knowledge and way of being?

About Nora Bateson

Nora Bateson is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator, as well as President of the International Bateson Institute, based in Sweden. Her work asks the question “How can we improve our perception of the complexity we live within, so we may improve our interaction with the world?”.

An international lecturer, researcher and writer, Nora wrote, directed and produced the award-winning documentary, An Ecology of Mind, a portrait of her father, Gregory Bateson. Her work brings the fields of biology, cognition, art, anthropology, psychology, and information technology together into a study of the patterns in ecology of living systems. Her book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, released by Triarchy Press, UK, 2016 is a revolutionary personal approach to the study of systems and complexity.

About William Rees

William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver, Canada. He researches the implications of global ecological trends for the longevity of civilization, with special focus on urban (un)sustainability and cultural/cognitive barriers to rational public policy. Prof Rees is best known as the originator and co-developer with Dr Mathis Wackernagel of ‘ecological footprint analysis’ (EFA), a quantitative tool that estimates human demands on ecosystems and the extent to which humanity is in ‘ecological overshoot.’ Dr Rees is a founding member and former President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; a founding Director of the OneEarth Living Initiative; an Advisor for the Post-Carbon Institute and an Associate Fellow of the Great Transition Initiative.

About Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler is a writer and ecologist. His books include Blood of the Land; the Government and Corporate War Against First Nations, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Greenpeace: The Inside Story, a finalist for the BC Book Award and the Shaughnessy-Cohen Award for Political Writing; and The Jesus Sayings, a deconstruction of first century history, a finalist for the BC Book Award.

In the 1970s, Weyler was a cofounder of Greenpeace International and editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles. He served on campaigns to preserve rivers and forests and to stop whaling, sealing, and toxic dumping.

He currently posts the “Deep Green” column at the Greenpeace International website. He lives on Cortes Island in British Columbia, with his wife, artist Lisa Gibbons.

Watch on YouTube


Show Notes & Links to Learn More:

00:00 – Nora Bateson’s Warm Data and TGS Episode, William Reesworks and TGS Episode, Rex Weyler’s Deep Green essays index and TGS Episode

01:58 – Ecology

04:18 – Emergence

05:12 – Dissipative Structures (Section 1.3)

07:59 – Endosomatic/exosomatic energy

10:04 – Bio-semiotics

12:50 – 1st Order, 2nd Order, Nth order

14:01 – Moth camouflaged as birds of prey

17:27 – Copernican Revolution

18:31 – Kepler, Galileo

18:51 – Rachel Carson Silent Spring

19:28 – Taoism

20:08 – Divine Efficacy

21:05 – Humans and livestock are taking up 96% of space on Earth

25:17 – Sierra Club

27:00 – Mental models and human constructs

28:10 – A repeated concept forms synaptic circuits that block out competing information

30:27 – Microbiome, Mycelia and Tree relationships

31:52 – Charles Sanders Pierce

32:45 – Humans have more bacterial cells than their own cells

35:20 – Renewables haven’t helped reduce emissions and are just adding more energy and fossil fuel demand is also still increasing

37:32 – Overshoot

40:26 – Daniel Schmachtenberger TGS Episode

46:26 – Map is not the territory, Korzybski

47:21 – Negative and Positive Feedbacks

47:30 – The fossil abundance has provided the resource for human population to explode

48:32 – Circular Economy

50:47 – Esalen Community

53:22 – Redundancy

56:52 – Contraction of the human species is inevitable

1:01:30 – Energy consumption 100 years ago

1:03:45 – Declining fossil fuel accessibility

1:04:35 – Ways to ethically and slowly decline global population

1:09:25 – Eugenics

1:11:59 – Stephen Gaskin

1:14:03 – British Columbia made all contraception completely free

1:14:50 – Pro-Natalists

1:20:20 – Russo-Ukraine War risks

1:21:10 – Nuclear Fallout risks

1:25:31 – Laws of Thermodynamics

1:25:36 – The Arrogance of Humanism

1:28:25 – Tautology


Teaser photo credit: By Snežana Trifunović – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2647911. By Snežana Trifunović – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2647911

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: building resilient societies, ecological civilizatiion