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Piotr Skubała

Piotr Skubała

Title: Thinking with Nature. On (New?) Symbiotic Stories

Authors: Piotr Skubała, Magdalena Ochwat & Anna Kopaczewska

Abstract: The purpose of this article is a transdisciplinary reflection on the paths leading out of the Anthropocene, the epoch that has become a symbol of self-destruction of the homo (non) sapiens and their alienation from the natural world.

            We would like to depart from Darwin’s model of evolution based on competition and move toward the symbiotic model based on cooperation, interconnectedness, and balance of interests. This new scientific view perceives life on Earth as a process in which each element attunes with the others and thus provides a continuity of life within a biosphere. Symbiosis turns out to be a regular phenomenon that is fundamental to all living beings and permeates ecosystems. Biology today refers to the human, animal, and plant organism as a biological network that is composed of a host and a myriad of non-human beings where mutual relations, interconnectedness, diversity, and cooperation play a central role. Science clearly proves that the metaphor put forth by Alfred Tennyson, “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” is far from the truth, whereas Douglas H. Boucher is right when he describes nature as a great community “green in root and flower.”  

With reference to the natural sciences and publications by such excellent authors as Lynn Margulis, Suzanne Simard, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, we would like to prove that symbiosis is now regarded as a crucial factor that determines conditions of life on earth. Guided by Albrecht Glenn’s reflection, we aim to relate/present the concepts forwarded by the above scholars to/in the context of the humanities and the arts, thus laying the foundations for a new branch of ecocriticism (symbiocriticism) and the basis for a new conceptual framework of the world, i.e., the Symbiocene––an era that could replace the Anthropocene.

Viewed as a training in collective imagination in the area of good interspecies life in the spirit of symbiocriticism, we would like to present interpretations of the newest books (i.e., Izabela Klementowska, Drzewa [Trees],Richard Powers, The Overstory,Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,and Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree. Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest), film productions (e.g., Avatar), and readings in older texts that could be read anew by means of symbiotic interpretative keys, yet without repeating errors of dichotomization and alienation (e.g., social utopias in Le Guin or Selma Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils).

            As part of the conclusion, we will make an attempt to visualize the Symbiocene and its assumptions. We will present how our species reconnects to the tides, rhythms, and cycles of a greater biospheric community we are inherent and inseparable part of.

Bio: Prof. Piotr Skubała, Ph.D. – an Earthling, representing one of the millions of species inhabiting the Earth, who is very lucky to be a professor of biological sciences employed at the University of Silesia in Katowice. Ecologist, acarologist, environmental ethicist, ecological educator, climate activist. Ethic expert at the European Commission in Brussels, member of the Team Europe expert network (European Commission), member of the Climate Council at the United Nations Global Compact Network Poland.