Human identity for all; males, females and LBGI+, has become a place of dangerous contradictions, with globalisation destroying the planet while locking people into psychic instability, toxic jobs, structural unemployment, addictive consumption and deep inequality. Control and influence over our emotions in such a context has become a battleground.
Tribalism is built into our evolutionary origins and was once a vital requirement for our survival. Human kinship, tribalism and territorial identity seem, from an understanding of our evolution as a species, to be universal human attributes. While traditional forms of kinship seems less relevant than tribalism and territory in contemporary society, the other two have not diminished in their influence over human behaviour.
With considerable trepidation, I suggest that tribe and territory may yet be once again important, as a form of emotional tribalism might be the only human social and cultural expression compatible with a Symbiocene world.
The neo-tribalism of the defenders of ‘tradition’ have a point. Their world view is one that can be defended on ‘neo-bioregional’ grounds which bring together the essential elements of human culture, ecosystems, geology and the biocomunen of biodiversity into some sort of functioning symbiotic consortium.
However, an ecologically illiterate cosmopolitan alternative takes us down the path to gigantism and then ecocide. Even eco-cosmopolitanism looks like the last gasp of the privileged sector of an alienated, juggernaut-defending form of gigantism.
The blending of cultural and biological diversity, the strict boundaries of catchments and land-forms of older forms of bioregionalism become less important than the overall sense of cohesion that people create within a given geographical space. The porosity of boundaries is reinforced by the novel concatenation of people and other biota from all over the world in places that were once relatively isolated.
As a consequence, we must go beyond older conceptions of bioregionalism in order for the new emergent order of places to be understood, then made viable for habitation. The past, culturally and ecologically, lies hidden, just below a new layer, the dominant strata of the Anthropocene. The older layers will need to be re-discovered, valued and appreciated alongside the emergence of new but intimately related culture and ecology. New biomes will emerge in this process and they will generate new forms of endemophilia in the people who live within them.
To give expression to this emergent idea I define a ‘sumbioregion’ (from the Greek, sumbios: living together) as an identifiable biophysical and cultural geographical space where humans live together and engage in a common pursuit of the nurturing, re-establishment and creation of new symbiotic interrelationships between humans, non-human organisms and landscapes. Sumbioregionalism is the social movement that will emerge from this new perspective on human-nature relationships in the twenty-first century.
More fine-tuned self-sufficiency within sumbioregions, ipso facto, means less global destruction. More emotional ‘grounding’ and ‘earthing’ in the local, and people will be more secure. Terroirism just might also be a counter to terrorism and war. More democracy within regions will phase into sumbiocracy, as that which is inherent and endemic to a sumbioregion is perceived to be valuable and must be conserved.
Confederations of sumbiocracies can form larger units of collaboration and there is nothing stopping that process going global scale. The United Nations (UN) will be replaced by the United Sumbiocracies (US).
In essence, I am hopeful that a new form of human community, sumbio-tribal in its protection and love of place, can arise out of the current identity crisis of all the ‘techno-industrial’ post-Boomer Gens and other people already emplaced at small scale all over the world. They will use their own inner distress, the scientific critique of homogeneous gigantism and its toxic legacy, climate chaos, plus sumbiophilia and tribalism, to create the Symbiocene.
The inertia of recalcitrants will be unblocked by positive Earth emotions based on the understanding of the symbiotic revolution in science and the overwhelming appeal to be a part of a mentally and physically strong Gen S.
[a modified version of text from Glenn A. Albrecht, Chapter 6. Generation Symbiocene, in Earth Emotions (2019), published by Cornell University Press].