Sustainable evolution

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Sustainable evolution is a "life-centric" perspective on very long term sustainability of life on earth. Sustainable evolution is a goal. The term has its roots in w:evolutionary biology.

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The term "sustainable evolution" is used in various contexts to indicate a system's ability to continually adapt to change (and thereby survive).

Here we are concerned with sustainability of life on earth.

Biodiversity is at the root of evolutionary potential and life's ability to adapt to change (e.g. climate change).

In the short term, what needs to be done to maximise that potential?

Examine contemporary notions of sustainability and sustainable development.

In the long term, assuming the potential is not lost, what might happen?



The aim of this page (or collection of resources) is to explore the concept and develop knowledge resources leading to a common understanding of what "sustainable evolution" means in the context of (mostly) human impacts (e.g. climate change, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, pollution, ...), technological capability, and the global knowledge society.

These pages are intended to evolve into a useful collection of knowledge resources for an interesting thought experiment leading to new ways of thinking about sustainability and the destiny of life on earth.

Short Term (pragmatic)

As custodians of the Earth, we need to sort out sustainability really soon[1]. It is time for a new[2] model which still recognises the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental concerns, but which inspires policy making in cognisance of the biophysical environment as the source of all life and resources on which it depends[3]. An aim could be to change the rhetoric from statements like "kick-starting the economy" for "economic growth" which tends to perpetuate aspirations of affluence and ownership ..., towards rational approaches which maximise sustainability and quality of life[4].

Long Term: past and future (speculative)

What if humans had not evolved? Would the planet's evolutionary potential be higher? Was the evolution of a species like us inevitable? What could "like us" mean in the previous sentence? (as destructive as, self-aware, top of the food chain, ...).

In future: "sustainable co-evolution" - imagine other species co-evolving with us. Some after millions of years matching and exceeding our intelligence (frogs? octopodes? lizards? other primates? bees? ...).

Learning objectives

Make these up as you go along. They may relate to:

  • Understanding
    • sustainability
      • ecology
      • the social sphere
      • economics
      • interactions among social, economic and environmental concerns.
    • genetics and evolution.
    • The role of humans. Understand:
      • what we are (a life form on Earth which has evolved from ... to homo sapiens ...)
      • who we are, how we define ourselves in our socially constructed world (so far largely at the expense of other species and the environment) and who we really are (e.g. the species responsible for the Holocene extinction, ...)
      • and envision:
        • who we could become (the species with zero or only positive impacts on biodiversity and the quality of life on earth, custodians and protectors of life)
        • what we could become (assuming we can control our own evolution) or replace ourselves with (e.g. genetically engineered cybernetically-enhanced collective).
  • Being able to critically evaluate the concept of sustainable evolution
    • e.g. through exploring alternative scenarios to the utopian vision(s) above.
  • Developing new ways of thinking about sustainability.
  • Speculative writing.
  • ...



The "process" box on the right appears on some pages to suggest a process for developing the Sustainable evolution pages:

Throughout the process:

  • Build communities of interest/ practice/ etc.
  • Stimulate discussion (use the 'discussion' tabs on WikiEducator pages)
  • Enhance the resources (all pages associated with sustainable evolution).

See Also


  1. Climate change in mind ....
  2. New as in newly dominant paradigm - not new in concept.
  3. i.e. It is nolonger sufficient to merely consider all three pillars of sustainability in development decisions. Pillars is the wrong analogy. The environmental (biophysical) "pillar" is actually the whole foundation.
  4. Quality of life includes all of life with all its diversity and evolutionary potential as well as quality of life in the human sense (e.g. Gross national happiness,...).