"If we wanted to survive the ecological and social crisis which we have caused, we would have to engage in radically new and dramatic community enterprises."
-- Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis is one of my all-time scientific role models and has greatly influenced my way of thinking - both scientific and outside of science. Her major work was in cell evolution and the events that led to the appearance of eukaryotic cell (a cell with a nucleus - as opposed to cells without a nucleus, such as bacteria) 4 billion years ago. Fifty years ago, she argued that it was thanks to a special kind of very intimate biological relationship, and was at first was ignored or ridiculed by the scientific community. She imagined that these internal organelles - such as chloroplasts, mitochondria - arose from a symbiotic origin: i.e. by associations of different kinds of bacteria, being engulfed by the then existent proto-cells. Symbiosis in cell evolution is now considered one of the great scientific breakthroughs.
It is profound to me, that Margulis commented on the radically new kinds of relationships that will be necessary to survive our current crises. It was thanks to the new way of co-existing of two previously 'separate' organisms, fusing to become one, that gave rise to the stepping stone towards the next level of evolution. Mitochondria paved the way for aerobic life, and later, multi-cellular organisms. Chloroplasts... Well, without photosynthetic organisms to convert the sun's energy into chemical bonds, none of us would be around, and Popeye wouldn't have his spinach.
Perhaps it is the same kind of revolutionary thinking behind that discovery and radical co-existing that led to that jump in development that we need in order to reimagine how we live on this planet together... And ultimately, survive on to the next evolutionary 'jump'. But what could these new ways of relating, co-existing and co-habiting look like? And what is the synergy that may come out of that new, currently unfathomable way of living?