Times are changing. Next month, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) will announce the selection of a site that will mark a new geological era in Earth’s history. Because the ICS is responsible for defining the International Geodetic Time Scale, it sets the global standard for measuring Earth’s history. History has changed, and we need a new narrative to help us understand our brave new world: anthropology.
Human activities have become so consequential that they now affect the functioning of the Earth system. Evidence increasingly shows that the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere (air, water, rocks, and life) did not operate within the chemical boundaries of the earlier Holocene epoch. Our impacts rival ice ages and meteor strikes. Residues from our activities, including plastics, pollutants and plutonium, are in the fossil record. They even have an official name: Technosphere.
The crisis of storytelling
The sheer force of our dominance over other life forms begs the question of what and who we really are. How we define humanity is shaped by mythology – religious beliefs and the likes of novels, plays, operas and other arts. Myths can be thought of as composite stories that contain transcendental truths. They reflect not what we are, but who we think we are. This may seem trivial compared to the physical danger we find ourselves in, but so is the crisis of anthropological storytelling.
Is there any way to correct our tendency to create false stories that completely distract us from physical reality? Can we keep our beloved fantasy, fantasy, mythological and more or less imagined art forms and still find a way out of our illusions? Yes. There is another way to tell stories. It’s not based on individual adventures, but on crowdsourced data points. This is called citizen science.
Citizen science has its roots in traditional ecological knowledge. It has been practiced by tribals for thousands of years. Today’s citizen science focuses on collecting direct observations of nature and helping to create a fact-based, non-fiction narrative about what is happening in the biological world.
There are many ways to implement it, but The iNaturalist app A good example. Users upload photos of plants, animals and fungi, and the app geolocates observations. The iNaturalist community verifies observations and collectively agrees on what they are. My observation Teppia splendens Mapped by date, time and location. Therefore, my association with this beautiful golden fuchsia will become a witness and testimony of life. The data becomes accessible to the global community that monitors the health of ecosystems. When species are shown to be in trouble, we can intervene. Even if the data points don’t add up to disaster, they help us better understand the Earth systems we live on and depend on.
A hero with 8 billion faces
Citizen science isn’t too far from traditional stories. In his 1949 book Joseph Campbell popularized the use of mythology to help live a life of literal meaning A hero with a thousand faces. Thanks to Bill Moyers’ PBS program, his work reached a wider audience in the 1980s The Power of Myth. Today, “Journey of the Hero” presents harsh A method of constructing film scripts, especially in the superhero genre.
When I was in my early 20s, a college friend gave me tickets to hear Joseph Campbell give three lectures in a row at the New School in New York City. Campbell was a popular public intellectual in the 1980s, when ideas like „self-actualization” were in the zeitgeist. Campbell was a serious scholar of mythology, but based on his conviction that the stories of the world are deeply personal—models that you and I can shape our own lives while remaining true to ourselves. Campbell doesn’t have much name recognition now, but his ideas have endured. He would have been appalled by this suggestion, but one could say that his ideas helped accelerate anthropology.
Although humanity has modified our environment for thousands of years, we didn’t really begin to change how geophysical cycles interact until the great acceleration, in the post-World War II era, of goods, services, GDP, human population, transportation, communication, and so on. The timing of Campbell’s rise and influence closely tracks the Great Acceleration, which makes sense. All new goods and services are offered more quickly, offer new market niches, and individuals may choose to identify specific identities with different products. Campbell advised people to amplify their individuality, and the market encouraged the same.
On stage at the New School, Campbell explained that all myths around the world have the same pattern. From Buddha to Jesus Christ, all world stories have basically the same plot. He told the audience, „I’m glad we’re all on a hero’s journey.” Self-realization is a lonely, private business, but it is of mythic importance. He addressed our longing for meaning, purpose, a special identity. Our bliss is told to follow what we love to do most. „Follow your bliss, and the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” Campbell said.
Purana is nature speaking
At the height of the Great Depression, when he was in his 20s, Campbell embarked on his own hero’s journey, part of which included a trip to Sitka, Alaska, the model for John Steinbeck’s best friend, Doc in Canary row. Ricketts was an amateur scientist. He never finished college and made a living selling tidepool samples to university labs. He co-authored the basic textbook Between the waves of the PacificStill relevant today.
Campbell and Ricketts collected specimens on that trip, mostly for sale. In the spirit of scholarly collaboration, they deposited some that eventually became the Sitka Science Center. Those historical models help form the basis for understanding changes over time—changes in marine ecosystems, changes in species distributions. The samples Campbell collected are used as a reference point by scientists working today to understand the sea star wasting syndrome that is destroying coastal waters. This is the essence of most citizen science related to biodiversity: providing data points that tell a story across time and space, rich in species.
Later in his life, Campbell said that this trip was „the beginning of it all,” when he began to understand that „mythology is speaking naturally.” He does not explain what he really means beyond affirming that it is perfectly normal for a young man (in the most talked-about stories) to leave the home of his birth, reluctantly accept challenges, face grave danger, and face grave danger. Even death — in the cases of Jesus and Black Panther, literally dying — and then rising again with valuable information for his tribe.
Now all we have to ask is the samples. They say that in the 1930s, Sitka, Alaska had an abundance of sea stars. Some species are recovering, but the sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), the only species of its genus and one of the largest in the world, is now completely absent from the site. Surya Nakshatras end their heroic journey. Following the specific patterns in which they inhabit tidepools is the foundation for learning what happens to them so that we can try to remedy the situation.
A new myth for the Anthropocene
Citizen science can help us by correcting our heroic myth that centers on the trials of the individual A wise man To recognize the foundation of the biological life cycle on which it is based. The sun rises and the hero goes out. The sun comes up, and photosynthetic organisms turn sunlight into carbon in their bodies, powering the rest of the food chain. As the day progresses, there are challenges: species compete with each other for space and food. The sun travels across the sky and the hero has adventures. Many birds and mammals have traveled for millions of years before Hero’s Journey, following the sun for food not only in its daily rounds but also in its seasonal cycles. The sun goes down and night comes; The hero is lost and in danger of dying. In this dark hour of unconsciousness, a new awareness is born for the hero. He gets help. The sun rises again and the hero brings this new information to his tribe. Perhaps by establishing new territory or braving competitors and predators, the animals reproduce and the cycle begins again.
By making personal observations of creatures in nature reserves and developed city parking lots, we can track the heroic journeys of other life forms. The perennial wildflower blooms in spring, known for its seasonal proximity to the sun, and a butterfly drinks its nectar. The wildflower matures and the butterfly lays its eggs. Depending on the species, the caterpillars emerge and are eaten by local and migratory birds or small mammals. Heroically avoiding being eaten, the caterpillars now encase themselves in a chrysalis, a dark place of mystery in which the creature literally dissolves and reforms itself into a butterfly. It is the cycle of resurrection and renewal of life.
And we can observe the result. With tools like iNaturalist, we can make individual observations of single species relative to latitude, longitude, and time. These collective events of time, place and species will never come again and documenting this event is an honor, it is special. The soul of citizen science is not in individual observation, but in the sharing of these observations, allowing a global visualization of what is happening where and so we can realize and correct what we are doing. Our course. It is the practice of citizen science.
Late in Campbell’s career, he said, the age of the hero’s journey was over. It was useful for cultures when we lived in tribes, but now we live in a global world and we are all one tribe. Regardless of what country we’re from or what kind of religion we do or don’t follow, we all have to find a story now that we can relate to.
Well, that story found us. This is called the Anthropocene. But the hero’s journey is not over. Indeed, we find ourselves in the most wonderful, most terrifying, and most important part of the heroic journey. We are in a dark age where we don’t understand, we are afraid, and we are threatened to our core. As Campbell taught us, it is a time of discovery, creativity, spiritual strength, and new awareness. „Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Pull out your smartphone and share a picture of life.
„Oddany rozwiązywacz problemów. Przyjazny hipsterom praktykant bekonu. Miłośnik kawy. Nieuleczalny introwertyk. Student.