These are two key questions tackled by biologist Dr Ulrich Loening in a new lecture.
With the title Harmonise with Nature, its aim is “identifying and reversing the causes of industrial society’s destructive behaviour”.
That which makes us human also bestows on us the potential to develop an ultimately suicidal power over Nature,” he says. In the lecture he identifies nine basic attributes of industrial civilisation.
The incompatibility of these with natural processes reveals what needs to change, what options for change are possible, and what changes are emerging. The analysis provides a framework for development that reverses current trends and leads towards planetary sustainability. This will require a shift of motivation away from power over Nature to one of cooperation and lays the basis for cultural changes, core areas being science, economics and agriculture.”
Dr Loening has had two careers at the University of Edinburgh. One was in research for more than 20 years on RNA, finishing as Reader in Molecular Biology. He was then Director of the Centre for Human Ecology, again for more than 20 years. During this time, he converted two 18th-century stone buildings into homes, the later one with various solar heating features; he has also grown organic vegetables to feed the family for more than 65 years. He is now using all these experiences to develop better biochemical understanding of how crops control their own pests, changing the philosophy of farming from a battle to cooperation.
This is the second in a series of talks by members of the Resource Use Institute, which was established in Scotland in 1969 to highlight fresh approaches to the use of resources to meet economic and environmental challenges. The series covers varied aspects of resource management, including land use and community regeneration, energy, minerals and the environment.