Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 6, No 2 (2012)

Works of Doubt and Leaps of Faith: An Augustinian Challenge to Planetary Resilience

Jacob von Heland, Sverker Sörlin
Issued Date: 6 Jul 2012


This article discusses recent developments among strands of earth systems science as providers of knowledge and advice in emerging global environmental politics from the vantage point of the screenplay Avatar. The field ‘resilience thinking’, emerging as part of systems ecology in the 1970s, pioneered propositions about the critical role of local, traditional, and indigenous knowledge to understand and manage human–nature relations. In more recent years there have been attempts to address sustainability beyond the local in ‘extended resilience enterprise’ including ideas of ‘social ecological systems’ and ‘planetary boundaries’. However, the leap to argue the case of resilience at larger, even planetary scales ran the risk of rendering the diversity of local cultures and knowledge traditions invisible by devising an epistemic space that privileged conventional Western knowledge. Using insights from the scientist Dr. Augustine in the screenplay Avatar, it is possible to discuss historical and current authority claims in local and planetary science policy. While there are good reasons to apply resilience beyond the ‘local’, this could be done in many ways. We contend that the potential virtues of involving resilience thinking with global environmental policies would be better realized if this also meant developing a careful understanding of its moral and epistemological aspects. This understanding need not only cohere with current ecological understandings of the world as living and complex, but also with humanistic recognition of the human stature as many-fold and situated.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v6i2.151


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