Dwelling in the biosphere: exploring an embodied human–environment connection in resilience thinking

Abstract

Resilience has emerged as a prominent paradigm for interpreting and shaping human–environment connections in the context of global environmental change. Resilience emphasizes dynamic spatial and temporal change in social–ecological systems where humans are inextricably interwoven with the environment. While influential, resilience thinking has been critiqued for an under-theorized framing of socio-cultural dynamics. In this paper, we examine how the resilience concepts of planetary boundaries and reconnecting to the biosphere frame human–environment connection in terms of mental representations and biophysical realities. We argue that focusing solely on mental reconnection limits further integration between the social and the ecological, thus countering a foundational commitment in resilience thinking to social–ecological interconnectedness. To address this susceptibility we use Tim Ingold’s ‘dwelling perspective’ to outline an embodied form of human–environment (re)connection. Through dwelling, connections are not solely produced in the mind, but through the ongoing interactivity of mind, body and environment through time. Using this perspective, we position the biosphere as an assemblage that is constantly in the making through the active cohabitation of humans and nonhumans. To illustrate insights that may emerge from this perspective we bring an embodied connection to earth stewardship, given its growing popularity for forging local to global sustainability transformations.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Sarah Cornell, Andy Stirling, Jana Paschen, Lisen Schultz, Vanessa Masterson and Chris Raymond for their helpful and constructive feedback. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments that have greatly enhanced our paper. We acknowledge the financial support of Vetenskapsrådet (VR) and The Swedish Research Council FORMAS (Project Grant 2013-632 1293). The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) supported the research for this paper through a core grant to the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

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Correspondence to Benjamin Cooke.

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Handled by Kei Otsuki, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

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Cooke, B., West, S. & Boonstra, W.J. Dwelling in the biosphere: exploring an embodied human–environment connection in resilience thinking. Sustain Sci 11, 831–843 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0367-3

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Keywords

  • Resilience thinking
  • Social–ecological systems
  • Dwelling
  • Stewardship
  • Temporality
  • Biosphere