Excellence Reporter: Dr. Albrecht, what is the meaning of life?
Glenn Albrecht: The meaning of life comes with an understanding that it is not the isolated property of a single, independent organism, but a shared property, the ‘biocomunen‘ (life sharing), between multiple organisms all coordinating their actions to support each other toward the end of reproduction, staying healthy and remaining alive. In reproduction, the biocomunen continues.
Holobionts are assemblages or consortia of different types of collaborating organisms within the one arbitrarily defined boundary (e.g., body, ecosystem) that all share the biocomunen. Individual humans are holobionts who interact with other humans who are also holobionts. We freely exchange our biocomunen with others in the biosphere of Earth. The biocomunen is ultimately contained by the sum total of all life on Earth as different life forms are in some way connected to all other life forms.
Thus life is not the ‘entanglement’ of different species, which is its structure, it is the sharing of diverse attributes by diverse species that enables the biocomunen to persist. Life, as the biocomunen, cannot be defined or given a meaning for individual species because it is always a shared property. It is the ghedeistual unity in the diversity of life.
~Glenn Albrecht retired as professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia in June 2014. He is now an Honorary Fellow in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney. He is an environmental philosopher with both theoretical and applied interests in the relationship between ecosystem and human health, broadly defined. He has pioneered the research domain of ‘psychoterratic’ or earth related mental health and emotional conditions with his concept of ‘solastalgia’ or the lived experience of negative environmental change. Solastalgia has become accepted worldwide as a key concept in understanding the impact of environmental change in academic, creative arts, social impact assessment and legal contexts. He is currently writing a book, ‘Earth Emotions’, an overview of his scholarly and public contributions to solastalgia, other psychoterratic issues and the Symbiocene.
Excellence Reporter 2018 ©Glenn Albrecht