By Way of Introduction, Part 2

Kim Kastens
Author Profile
published Aug 23, 2009

Cathy's eloquent By Way of Introduction post has inspired me to try my hand at articulating what I am hoping to accomplish with the Earth & Mind blog.

As I see it, humanity faces profound problems in our relationship with our planet, basic, non-negotiable problems such as ensuring sufficient food, potable water, energy, and a stable climate. Throughout the history of our species, Homo sapiens' most effective survival strategies have hinged around our ability to think and to combine the thinking of multiple individuals through mechanisms of distributed cognition (Hutchins, 2000). If, a hundred years from now, our descendants look back on the 21st century and see that human society survived our era intact, it will likely be because we managed to think our way, and collaborate our way, through our problems. I see Earth & Mind: The Blog as a mechanism to facilitate this thinking and collaborating.

photo by Anita Brosius
Like Cathy, I am new to blogging, and seeking my voice as I go along. One thing that we editors each had to do in setting up the blog was to choose a photo to illustrate our mini-biography. I chose an old photo of me peering out through the viewport of the submersible Alvin. The view from a submersible is extremely limited. It's been compared to doing field geology in the dark by shining a flashlight out the window of an old-style VW bug. My first car was, in fact, a 1968 VW bug, so that analogy struck home for me. As the economy unravels and I try to understand the relationship between economic systems and Earth systems, I've had that feeling a lot recently, of trying to make sense of a complicated world by peering through a limited viewport at things I can discern but cannot touch, from a cramped and unsustainable position, knowing that I am only seeing a tiny fragment of the system of interest. It's encouraging to realize that marine scientists did, over several decades, manage to piece together a reasonable understanding of seafloor processes, assembling snippets of insight from a multitude of individually insufficient observations (from submersibles and other tools). I think and hope that Earth & Mind: The Blog can accelerate the process of assembling snippets of insight about how people think and learn and make decisions about the Earth. I think that time is short; we don't have decades to spare.




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