The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself.

Drawing on pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 percent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful, hopeful possibilities, than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision, and a faith in the power of direct action.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Reciprocity

Robin Wall Kimmerer on “Reciprocity” for the 28th Headwaters Conference topic “Science, Story and Justice.” Held by the Center for Environment and Sustainability at Western State Colorado University on October 6, 2017. Includes the slides from her presentation.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

The 28th Headwaters:
This year’s topic is “Science, Story and Justice.” Kimmerer will speak as both a botanist and a native woman who learned plants through the stories of her ancestors and the inquisitive explorations of childhood. Topics will explore how language creates both justice and injustice as it unfolds in diverse ways of knowing—from scientific analysis to multicultural narratives.

The conference will feature tours of the Headwaters region, audience interaction and discussion, as well as exciting speakers like Robin Wall Kimmerer, Devon Peña, Mistinguette Smith (of the Black/Land Project), Aaron Abeyta, Michael Howard (of Chicago’s Eden Place Nature Center), and Gavin Van Horn (all of whom are featured in the new anthology Wildness: Relations of People and Place).

The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion — Surprising Observations of a Hidden World

Through vivid stories of devoted pigs, two-timing magpies, and scheming roosters, The Inner Life of Animals weaves the latest scientific research into how animals interact with the world with Peter Wohlleben’s personal experiences in forests and fields.Horses feel shame, deer grieve, and goats discipline their kids. Ravens call their friends by name, rats regret bad choices, and butterflies choose the very best places for their children to grow up.In this, his latest book, Peter Wohlleben follows the hugely successful The Hidden Life of Trees with insightful stories into the emotions, feelings, and intelligence of animals around us. Animals are different from us in ways that amaze us-and they are also much closer to us than we ever would have thought.

Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems

Ecological extinction caused by overfishing precedes all other pervasive human disturbance to coastal ecosystems, including pollution, degradation of water quality, and anthropogenic climate change. Historical abundances of large consumer species were fantastically large in comparison with recent observations. Paleoecological, archaeological, and historical data show that time lags of decades to centuries occurred between the onset of overfishing and consequent changes in ecological communities, because unfished species of similar trophic level assumed the ecological roles of overfished species until they too were overfished or died of epidemic diseases related to overcrowding. Retrospective data not only help to clarify underlying causes and rates of ecological change, but they also demonstrate achievable goals for restoration and management of coastal ecosystems that could not even be contemplated based on the limited perspective of recent observations alone.

Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier’s urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural “modernization” in the Tropics—the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?

In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not—and cannot—be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against “development theory” and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a “high-modernist ideology” that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large- scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.

Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development

In this pioneering work, Vandana Shiva looks at the history of development and progress, stripping away the neutral language of science to reveal third-world development policy as the global twin of the industrial revolution.

As Shiva makes clear, the way this development paradigm is being implemented—through violence against nature and women—threatens survival itself. She focuses on how rural Indian women experience and perceive the causes and effects of ecological destruction, and how they conceive of and initiate processes to stop the destruction and begin regeneration. As the world continues to follow destructive paths of development, Shiva’s Staying Alive is a fiercely relevant book that positions women not solely as survivors of the crisis, but as the source of crucial insights and visions to guide our struggle.

Vandana Shiva is the author of many books, including Staying Alive, Earth Democracy, and Soil Not Oil. She is a leader in the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) and the Slow Food movement.

“Secrets of the Soil Sociobiome” – Dr. Christine Jones

March 30th 2021
Dr. Christine Jones presents “Secrets of the Soil Sociobiome”

Links to articles mentioned in the Q&A are found below
1. Re-visioning soil foodwebs

Editorial by Mark Bradford, published in the Journal of Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2016). There are 14 other articles linked to this.

https://bradfordlab.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/bradford-m-a-2016-re-visioning-soil-food-webs-soil-biology-biochemistry-102-1-3.pdf

2. Techniques for assessing functional diversity in soils can be found in section 1.6 of the following article, entitled ‘Microbial Signaling in Plant—Microbe Interactions and Its Role on Sustainability of Agroecosystems’

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313731425_Microbial_Signaling_in_Plant-Microbe_Interactions_and_Its_Role_on_Sustainability_of_Agroecosystems

3. Enhancement of drought tolerance in crops by plant growth promoting rhizobacteria

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944501315300380?via%3Dihub

4. The following article is also illuminating ….

Rolfe, S.A, Griffiths, J, Ton, J. (2019). Crying out for help with root exudates: adaptive mechanisms by which stressed plants assemble health-promoting soil microbiomes. Curr Opin Microbiol. 49:73-82. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2019.10.003.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1369527419300578?via%3Dihub

How to Grow a Planet

Professor Iain Stewart tells a stunning new story about our planet. He reveals how the greatest changes to the Earth have been driven, above all, by plants

The Secret Language of Bacteria – An ASM “Microbes After Hours” Event

No bacterium lives alone — it is constantly encountering members of its own species as well as other kinds of bacteria and diverse organisms like viruses, fungi, plants and animals. To navigate a complex world, microbes use chemical signals to sense and communicate with one another.

Live streamed on Monday, January 28th, 2013, from 6-7:30 p.m. at ASM’s headquarters, 1752 N St., NW, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Bonnie Bassler, Princeton University

Bonnie Bassler Ph.D. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. The research in her laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms that bacteria use for intercellular communication. This process is called quorum sensing. Bassler’s research is paving the way to the development of novel therapies for combating bacteria by disrupting quorum-sensing-mediated communication. Dr. Bassler was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2002. She was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002 and made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004. Dr. Bassler was the President of the American Society for Microbiology in 2010-2011; she is currently the Chair of the American Academy of Microbiology Board of Governors. She is also a member of the National Science Board and was nominated to that position by President Barak Obama. The Board oversees the NSF and prioritizes the nation’s research and educational priorities in science, math and engineering.

Dr. Steven Lindow, University of California, Berkeley

Steven Lindow Ph.D. is a Professor at the University of California, Berkley where his research focuses on various aspects of the interaction of bacteria with the surface and interior of plants. Dr. Lindow’ s lab uses a variety of molecular and microscopy-based methods to study the ecology of bacterial epiphytes that live on the surface of plants as well as certain bacteria that are vascular pathogens of plants. They also study bacteria that live in and on plants that are fostered by consumption of the alkaloids produced by endophytic fungi. The longer-term goal of their research is to improve plants’ productivity by achieving control of plant diseases through altering the microbial communities in and on plants. Dr. Lindow is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and was elected to fellowship in both the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.