This website is an outcome of my work in human ecology and biohistory at the Australian National University from 1965 to 1990, and afterwards during my retirement. It is not an academic treatise. It makes no attempt to review the literature in this field, or to discuss the work of others. It is simply a summary of my own personal thoughts that I would like to communicate at this time in my life. Things that seem important to me.
Biohistory has been defined as the study of human situations, past and present, against the background of, and as part of, the story of life on Earth. One important feature of the biohistorical approach is that it recognises the emergence of human culture as a new kind of force in biological systems. Through its influence on human behaviour, culture has impacts not only on humans themselves, but also on the rest of the living world.
I am among those who appreciate that human activities are now on a scale and of a kind that threaten the survival of civilisation, and perhaps of the human species. The only hope for the future lies in a radical transformation across the cultures of the world, leading to big changes in the scale and patterns of human activity, and to societies that are truly sensitive to, and respectful of, the processes of life that underpin our existence.
We can call this transformation a ‘biorenaissance’, because in the past hunter-gatherer cultures held deep respect for the natural world. They understood that we humans are part of nature, and that we are completely dependent on other forms of life for our wellbeing and survival. This was not because hunter-gatherers were particularly wise, but rather because, under their conditions of life, it was all blindingly obvious to them.
The transition to a society that is ecologically sustainable and truly in harmony with Nature will involve a sequence of cultural and social steps. To facilitate thinking and communicating about the transition, I have found it necessary to introduce several new ‘Bio-’ terms. They are defined below.
I am very grateful to my grandchildren, David Moore and Karina Bontes Forward, for their great assistance with this website – to David for persuading me to have a website and for creating it, and to Karina for countless hours helping me put it all together.
The story of life on Earth, including the recent rise of human civilisation and its impacts on the rest of the living world.
Understanding the Bionarrative.
A worldview that is based on understanding the story of life on Earth and that
− holds profound respect for nature and the processes of life that underpin our existence
− perceives the achievement of harmony with nature as supremely important, to be given the highest priority in human affairs
− harbours a vision of a society of the future which is truly sensitive to, in tune with and respectful of the processes of life.
Sensitive to, in tune with, and respectful of the processes of life that underpin our existence.
For more detail, see Some Publications
[i] I have wasted countless hours trying to think of a suitable term for this worldview. It is a broader concept than ‘environmentalism,’ because it relates to life as a whole, past and present, and it includes Homo sapiens – not just the environment. Biorealism is the best I can come up with. This term reflects the reality that humans are living beings, products of biological evolution, part of nature and totally dependent on the processes of life for their existence and wellbeing. I considered Biophilia, but this term is already in use, and has been defined differently.