Dr. Brian Goodwin, 1931 – 2009
Photo via flickr by Picture Perfect Pose
An advocator for the unification of science and the humanities, a key founder of Theoretical Biology and an expert in morphogenesis and evolution developing a critical evaluation of the role of natural selection and advocating the explanation of biology from the vantage point of complex systems, Brian was a founding member of Santa Fe Institute, a Professor Emeritus at the Open University and professor of biology at Schumacher College. Has authored: “Theoretical Biology: Epigenetic and Evolutionary Order for Complex Systems” (with Peter Saunders); “How the Leopard Changed His Spots: the Evolution of Complexity”; “Form and Transformation: Generative and Relational Principles in Biology” (with Gerry Webster); “Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology” (with Richard Sole).
Excerpt from a conversation with Sputnik Observatory recorded in 2007.
Sputnik Observatory: What is the future of sustainability?
Brian Goodwin: It’s a very interesting question about anticipating the future because I don’t think we can foresee the order that is going to emerge. So we can’t give a plan for getting there but we can give a direction. We can say, look, let’s engage in these activities. We know we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, therefore we have to develop the technologies further for renewable energies. We have to develop methods of food production that are local, that are appropriate to each different location as they used to be. We must stop flying food around the world. We have tax aviation fuel, so we have to stop all this travel. And so there are lots of things that we need to engage in, but we cannot predict what the outcome of this is going to be. We can see the things we need to get started with, but we can’t see the places we have to end up. And we have to keep on accessing the situation we find ourselves in at any particular moment. I’m assuming that we’re going to go radically local in all our decision making, that it’s going to be bio-regions. We as human beings are going to be much more closely integrated with our bio-regions. And we’ll be much more sensitive to the ecological requirements of those. We will have become what Thomas Berry calls a community of subjects, all beings on the planet will be seen as subjects and we’re participating with them. So we’re moving along a path in which we’re going local. We’re reducing our energy demands. We’re developing lots of technology. We’re experiencing a high quality of life because we’re actually recovering community. Community is absolutely – that’s the one prediction I would make: that if we’re going to survive, we will survive in community and not as isolated individuals the way we are at the moment in our culture. But I don’t know what form that will take. I don’t know how large these communities will be and I assume there will be lots and lots of networking, lots of communication, so these communities in different parts of the world will be sharing their knowledge and interaction and information with each other so as to benefit each other and help the others adapt to circumstances as they develop. These are the processes that are occurring, they’re occurring locally here, they’re occurring at the college, they’re occurring in the town nearby, Totnes, where people are now engaging in this process of going local, reducing energy use, getting into sustainable energy and renewable energy supplies, and recovering community and having local currencies. Now these are all things that I think are going to be part of future society and it will be dominated by quality, abundance, celebration, joy, and a general high level of health and well being and a sense of meaning – we’ll have recovered a sense of meaning in our lives. So that’s the way I think things are going to move, but I don’t know how far or how fast.
Sputnik Observatory: Is that your vision?
Brian Goodwin: Yes, that’s the vision. But it’s not a coherent vision, it’s just a sense of direction. But I’m quite hopeful about it. Are you?