This seminar was presented at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland on 9 November 2017 –

Redefining Development English slides (2)     

Redefining Development  Polish Version

Anthropocene Resources – Selected Videos, and readings

 Redefining Development – Summary Notes – 


  1. Internal and external adaptation is required to maintain the stability and resilience of hierarchically embedded systems, e.g. the Machine World (MW) embedded in the Natural World (NW).
  2. The ever-increasingly complex MW has become dominant and is now maladaptive (‘ecological footprint’ is overshooting the carrying capacity of the NW) within the NW in which it is nested and from which it derives its energy and material sustenance.
  3. Complexity, globalisation and loss of diversity make human systems fragile and vulnerable to large-scale collapse, e.g. banks too big to fail (2008 collapse); nuclear defence system & proliferation vulnerabilities.
  4. Social development is often seen as growth and expansion of human system dominance and management of natural systems. It has led to the Anthropocene Epoch and is based on unwitting anthropocentric belief that infinite growth is possible within a finite planetary living space.
  5. Exponential ‘development’ trajectories of human systems and their impact on the finite geosphere (NW) are now accelerating beyond its physical carrying capacity and heading for inevitable collapse (following ‘tipping points’) if not radically transformed (climate disruption and global warming or potential nuclear war are examples)
  6. The ‘story’ or worldview promoted by the ideology of human power and dominance (‘expansionist hubris’) of both of the NW and of fellow humans, by ruling elites has led to human society into the ‘double bind’ dilemma.
  7. The ‘double bind’ presents a dilemma in which we are caught between two futures – EITHER to Keep ‘developing’ and destroy the Earth, our offspring and ourselves; OR Reverse population & economic development (growth) and face poverty, hunger & uncertainty
  8. The first trajectory (business-as-usual – globalised, neo-liberal, deregulated, consumer society, growth ethic & market-driven) is the consequence of ‘development as growth’; the second involves downscaling human impact through de-growth, localised sufficiency & circular economics. Both trajectories lead to maladaptive distress in many complex MW & NW systems and their collapse (critical stress becomes fatal).
  9. ‘Development as adaptation’ of complex systems by managing downscaling, etc. is what ‘sustainable development’ implies. If ‘development’ is seen as continuing growth of human impact leading to collapse of natural ‘support systems’, then sustainable development is an oxymoron.
  10. Unfortunately the rapid evolution of the Machine World (memosphere, cybersphere & technosphere) has outstripped the capacity of human ingenuity to manage or even understand the global implications of human ‘progress’ that have led us to the Anthropocene Epoch.
  11. Those who do aspire to redefine development as ‘adaptation for equilibrium’ and a reversal of the ethic of growth to an ethic of sufficiency are as yet unable to influence global and national leaders despite the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the widespread dissatisfaction, uncertainties and destabilisation now evident in political systems
  12. Changing the ‘story’ of progress and development to a story of based on global-scale eco-centric equilibrium (harmony with the NW) as opposed to a limited-perspective anthropocentric story of progress (human dominance of the NW), faces many psychological and cultural barriers.
  13. Educators and researchers can offer a critique of mainstream delusions about ‘development as growth’ and encourage a critique of the myth of progress.
  14. ‘Development as adaptation’ involves the creation and maintenance in the Anthropocene, of adaptive human systems that are self-regulating and that operate within the limits of and in equilibrium with, the long-evolved NW.