Community-based approaches have gained attention in recent decades as crucial building-blocks for conservation in many regions of the world. But what does it take to make them work? Almost 50 years ago, leaders of a small community in southwest Madagascar joined with academics in Madagascar and the US to launch a partnership with the declared goal of helping people, forests and wildlife in the area flourish together. I trace the gradual development of this partnership from a “bargain struck” between constituencies with very different interests into a broadly shared endeavor. Today, it offers a model for transcending the small scale and limited impact typical of community-based-conservation initiatives, and a glimmer of hope that they can help safeguard the environment in Madagascar and beyond.
Madagascar has always been a place of change, as even a brief glimpse at its long history makes clear. A widely held view is that human activities alone have driven recent environmental changes, and the island is a poster child for human destructiveness: forest cover has declined sharply, and all the largest-bodied animal species have gone extinct within the past thousand years. Evidence bearing on the decline and disappearance of the island’s giant elephant birds raises many questions about this simple story of human-driven change. A more nuanced understanding of the past is a vital foundation for efforts to ensure the continued survival of the many unique plants and animals to which Madagascar is still home.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the simultaneous political, economic, and climate crises upon us, but Frances Moore Lappé digs to their interacting roots so we can be sure that in attacking them our actions matter. Lappé shows us how our peculiarly brutal form of capitalism—enabling Big Money’s corruption of our democracy—has brought on climate catastrophe. Lappé also exposes and uproots our culture’s myths about our own nature that hinder us. Our deepest human needs beyond the physical are for power, meaning, and connection, she argues, and only democracy can fulfill them. Stepping up to meet our historic crises becomes an opportunity to meet our own legitimate needs. Through inspiring stories and startling facts on effective climate actions, Lappé helps us realize our own power to generate a new story as we tackle root causes with exhilarating, courageous action—together.
Frances Moore Lappé shares her journey from an awakening that led to the three-million-copy Diet for Small Planet in 1971. Starting with events triggering her to ask, “why hunger?”, she describes how this question led her to a life-long quest probing “the question behind the question.” She identifies both the progress in both understanding and partially realizing holistic solutions to food and hunger as well as shocking, backward motion worsening ecological destruction and human health. The actions she advocated in 1971 as positive choices are now absolute essentials, Lappé explains. Throughout she stresses the “power of ideas” guiding human action—how limiting ideas have trapped us on the wrong path as well as how a new, more holistic “story” is emerging. From courageous actions across the planet, some in surprising places, she identifies a positive remaking of our understanding of human capacities that can inspire our effective action.
James Timberlake’s lecture, FULLNESS: Next, explores how FULLNESS: The Art of the Whole might be interpreted through unbuilt work, future work, and current research – revealing the art, science, and beauty of architecture in data, fact, and logic, and in the seams of program, life, work, and production.
Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake proceed from the belief that architecture is most resonant, beautiful, and artful when it connects deeply across levels and dimensions in ways that resolve into a new whole—a whole that is expansive, unified, and far greater than the sum of its parts. Their lecture FULLNESS: The Art of the Whole explores how beautiful design arises from the art and science of a deep, query-based research process, and includes many individuals and many (often competing) influences. Central among these influences is an ethical commitment to researching and envisioning anew the ways in which architecture and planning can address some of the most pressing issues of our time: the international crisis of affordable shelter and the role that carbon consumption plays in global warming and the decimation of our physical environment. Using project examples from the past decade, they will discuss the evolution of their creative process over time, the expanding role of communication in their work, and how innovative new modeling and analysis technologies can become tools for dialogue and collaboration.
Studies of genes and social behavior, aided by new genomic resources, are coming of age. Here, I highlight three of the insights that have emerged from these studies that shed light on the evolution and mechanisms governing social life: 1) Nature builds diverse social brains from common genetic blocks in insects and vertebrates, including those related to metabolism and transcriptional regulation; 2) Changes in the wiring of gene regulatory networks are involved in the evolution of insect societies; and 3) The social brain is addicted to altruism.
This lecture will describe the roots of sociogenomics and how it provides a new framework for understanding the relationship between genes and social behavior. The key discoveries underlying this framework will be discussed: 1) Brain gene expression is closely linked with behavior, across time scales, from physiological to evolutionary; 2) Environmentally induced changes in gene expression mediate changes in behavior; and 3) The relationship between genes and behavior is highly conserved, from animals to humans.