"Nature is Over" and "Handprints, not Footprints"

The March 12/2012 issue of TIME ran a series on the "10 Ideas that are Changing Our Life".  "Nature is Over" by Bryan Walsh argues that there are very few pristine areas of nature left, supporting the idea that we are in the "Anthropocene: the age of man" where "It's no longer us against 'Nature.'  Instead, it's we who decide what nature is and what it will be." (attributed to Paul Crutzen). 

Wayne argues that we need to accept the human influence on the planet.  I am certain that there will be considerable argument with his concerns about programs to eliminate invasive species as well as his support of nuclear energy, GM crops and geoengineering to combat climate change.  Nevertheless, taking on the role of "planetary gardeners" may be "a responsibility we have no choice but to take on."

In the same issue, "Handprints, not Footprints" by Daniel Goleman describes the concept of handprints, developed by Gregory Norris of the Harvard School of Public Health.  Whereas our global footprint measures the resources we consume in relationship to what the earth can provide on a long-term basis, our handprints measure the positive contributions that we make.  The examples in the article (inflating tires, printing on both sides of the paper) seemed weak, but the concept at least suggests that we should strive to become ecosystem engineers similar to the role played by coral reefs and mangrove swamps. 

What seems to be missing from both articles is a framework and a foundation that enables humans to make a positive impact.  Biomimicry and bio-inspired design could fill that role, in terms of setting goals (such as defining a set of Ecological Performance Standards for a location), applying a holistic systems approach to evaluating our role and looking to Nature for strategies and specific solutions.

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