Project Update Jan 2016

seed textboxHello! We are just starting the second year of this project, and building momentum with new seeds, collaborations with different communities, workshops, conference contributions, as well as scientific papers and book chapters. We thought we should take a minute and let our online community know how the project is progressing and what we are doing with the seeds that we have collected so far. Note that this is primarily still a research project, but we have aspirations to expand it into something more public, participatory, and inspirational.

The website is our primary method of communication with diverse communities, and you can follow us on twitter to find out when new seeds have been posted on the website (@seedsGA). We try to post stories about individual seeds about twice a week and there are 46 stories to date. Some of these stories are quite popular, having been viewed hundreds of times since publication. On the website we present a range of the seeds as they have been submitted, focusing on their positive and innovative aspects and what they have achieved so far. We are considering adding some interactive features to the website to allow our online community to give feedback on the seeds (e.g. we do not expect that all people will agree that a particular seed is ‘good’, so why might it not be good for some people or places?) and their potential for contributing to a better world, and under what conditions they could be expected to thrive or fail.

The map below shows the locations of first 200 seeds that have been collected. We now have over 400 seeds (we’ll update the map very soon!).

200 seeds map

A great diversity of types of seeds have been submitted, including:

  • Intentional communities (e.g. eco-villages within different cultures, smart cities)
  • Social movements (e.g.15-M, transition towns)
  • Green technology & design (e.g. green buildings, solar innovations, biomimicry)
  • New approaches (e.g. to sustainable food production, democratic governance, research, management; permaculture, and urban farming have been especially popular suggestions)
  • Organizations addressing multiple challenges simultaneously (e.g. conservation/development/poverty/education/marginalization)
  • Education programs, research or knowledge networks
  • More abstract, radical ideas (not seeds under our criteria of the seeds needing to exist at least in prototype form, but we are keeping these ideas as they might signal future seeds that we should take into account)

The seeds have been organized into a sortable database that includes all the information that was submitted with each seed (visit our ‘submit a seed’ page to see what information is collected), as well as some additional coding by us, that categorizes the seeds by ‘type’, ‘type of action’, ‘major challenges addressed’, etc. We are still experimenting with the coding so that we can analyze and make sense of the kinds of seeds that are being sent to us. We plan to eventually make this database public for all to see and use.

Our preliminary analyses of the seed database have identified a number of clusters of seeds, and we have named these clusters based on the types of seeds they contain: AgroEcology, Urban Ecology, Future Knowledge, Conservation Ecology, Political Ecology, and Climate Smart. These brief descriptions indicate that seeds have different goals, focus on different problems and adopt different methods. For example, the political ecology seeds focus on environmental justice while climate smart seeds are focused on applying technical solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While these clusters are diverse, they identify a few gaps in types of seeds submitted.

We would like to increase the diversity of seeds that have been submitted, which means accessing different types of communities and getting better geographical representation. For example, most of our seeds have been developed by individuals, scientists or non-governmental organizations, and we have fewer seeds that have been developed by business or government, or indigenous communities.  We also lack seeds that focus on energy or transportation. We have many urban seeds, but do not have as many seeds that are focused in other places, such as rural landscapes, villages, forests, coastal areas or oceans. Our seeds are also focused in Europe and North America, and we would like to collect more seeds from Latin America, Asia & Africa. We plan to continue to build our seed database and we hope that some of these gaps will be filled in time.

First project outputs

This project is both a public project and a research project. As a research project we are writing papers about our work and presenting and discussing the project at scientific meetings. We have been developing a set of papers about this project. A first draft of a paper describing the objectives and first steps of this project is just about ready to be submitted for publication. We are also contributing a chapter to a book about urban transformation, focusing on the seeds that have been submitted with an urban focus. Another paper on what are ‘good’ anthropocenes is also underway.

We are developing the concept of seeds at conferences and workshops. We have had sessions on this project at Transformations 2015 in Stockholm, and at PECS 2015 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Members of our team have also run a series of workshops to collect seeds from people in several Southern African countries, and we have been developing a game that people can use in workshops to use seeds to develop future scenarios. We will report these activities in more detail on our website in coming months.

group foto 7 Nov Workshop Spier South Africa 2015

Final note

Now that you have read a little about what we are doing with the seeds, we wonder whether you have other or better examples of initiatives that could contribute to building a good Anthropocene? We would love to hear back from you and receive more seeds, especially if they can help us fill some of the gaps that we have identified above. We are particularly interested in any seeds that could transform the way the people and societies relate and work with nature. We would appreciate if you can mention this project to friends and colleagues who may be interested.

Thanks for your interest in this project, we hope that you will continue to follow its progress and contribute. We will provide another update later in 2016. We look forward to developing Seeds of Good Anthropocenes further!