New website showcases seeds of a brighter future

Want to solve big problems? Start small. Seeds of Good Anthropocenes, a website created by an international team of sustainability scientists, seeks to do just that.

Seeds of Good Anthropocenes showcases more than 500 initiatives from around the world that, while not widespread or well known, might contribute to a sustainable future.

The purpose of the project, according to its founders, is to provide a middle ground between gloom-and-doom reports, which may inadvertently spur feelings of powerlessness and resignation, and those that are overly optimistic and risk inciting complacency.

Writing in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the founders argue that we should break through this dichotomy by looking to “seeds” — environmentally beneficial tools and techniques that are neither untested proposals nor established practices.

Each seed offers an idea that helps in some way to address challenges posed by the Anthropocene, such as environmental awareness, urban sustainability and equitable decision-making.

“Seeds are initiatives (social, technological, economic, or social–ecological ways of thinking or doing) that exist, at least in prototype form, and that represent a diversity of worldviews, values, and regions, but are not currently dominant or prominent in the world,” the team wrote.

The founders hope these seeds help identify values and approaches that people organically gravitate toward when facing the Anthropocene. Seeds can inspire similar projects in new areas.

The project maintains information on hundreds of seeds, which users can access via topic tags and an annotated map. Seeds came mostly from sustainability researchers and practitioners.

One highlighted seed is the Satoyama Initiative, a joint endeavor of the Japanese government and the United Nations University, which promotes traditional Japanese farming over large-scale industrial agriculture.

The traditional satoyama landscape varies land use and preserves biodiversity to balance agricultural needs with ecosystem stability. The Satoyama Initiative hopes to revitalise this agricultural approach in part by connecting with city dwellers to solicit financial donations and volunteered time.

Another seed is Project Tamar, a Brazilian marine conservation effort launched in 1980 that works with coastal communities to shield the country’s five sea turtle species from extinction.

Yet another seed, the Finland-based Robin Hood Coop, is an unusual hedge fund: Its staff work as unpaid volunteers, all members have equal voting power on major decisions, and a portion of the fund’s profits go to projects that it says benefit wider society and create “shared space, resources or means of production.”

Seeds of Good Anthropocenes is on the lookout for new initiatives to add to the database, with an online form soliciting contributors for information about additional seeds.

Since environmental challenges like climate change, species extinctions and corporate greed are systemic and interconnected, as are their solutions, it’s important to not miss the forest for the trees.

But before looking too long at either, perhaps it’s time to sow the seeds — or take a lesson from what’s already been sown.

This story was written by Andrew Urevig for Ensia.com and was republished with permission.

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