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

Author(s): Cooke, B., S. West, W.J. Boonstra
In: Sustainability Science
Year: 2016
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Stewardship
Link to centre authors: Boonstra, Wijnand, West, Simon
Full reference: Cooke, B., S. West, W.J. Boonstra. 2016. Dwelling in the biosphere: exploring an embodied human– environment connection in resilience thinking. Sustainability Science 11(3): 1-13. doi: 10.1007/s11625-016-0367-3


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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