Gen (S): Entering the Symbiocene through art and community-building


In the essay Exiting the Anthropocene and Entering the Symbiocene published in 2016, environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht describes the Anthropocene as an era "characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability, genuine chaos, and relentless change". The demands of continuous growth set by capitalism and the greed of corporations and oligarchs have brought to existence a system Albrecht describes as "corruptalism" — a term that describes not only the corrupted ethics of politicians and global elites, but also the way these actors corrupt all systems, institutions, ideologies and concepts that could be used to topple them. For Albrecht, the rising acidity of the oceans is analogous to the toxification of societies.

To stay this course means that humanity will eventually destroy the Earth completely. In order to avoid this fate, humans must abandon the economical and political model currently in place in the developed world and restore a balanced coexistence with nature and one another. Sadly, conceptual tools that are necessary for this to happen, such as sustainability and resilience, have already been corrupted by marketing and political spin. "There can be no 'Good Anthropocene'", says Albrecht, "given the corruption that has already taken place. In order to counter all these negative trends within the Anthropocene we clearly need [...] more novel conceptual development, since the foundation on which we are building right now is seriously flawed." A healthy conceptual foundation for escaping the Anthropocene, he proposes, is to imagine a new era, the Symbiocene.

Albercht coined the term "Symbiocene" from the Greek word συμβίωση (symbiosis), which means to live together. Symbiotic relationships exist in various forms in nature, which for Albrecht resists the notion that nature is "essentially hostile and a competitive war of all against all". He proposes to image symbiotic politics, a symbiocracy, where governance is "committed to the types and totality of mutually beneficial or benign relationships in a given socio-biological system at all scales". To develop the politics of symbiosis and mutuality, Albrecht suggests that we need to go beyond biomimicry (the mere imitation of natural forms) and into the realm of symbiomimicry, where the internal processes of biological coexistence and mutual prosperity are used as the model for organising new forms of social and political structures.

Inspired by Albrecht's ideas, a group of young activists in Athens has just announced a four-month programme of art workshops and activities that seek to promote the idea of symbiosis and the prospect of entering the Symbiocene. The group is called Generation Symbiocene, or Gen (S), and their programme has just kicked off last week in Athens with an introductory meeting. As they state in their press release, we can enter the Symbiocene "by building a strong emotional relationship with the Earth and acting accordingly". To achieve that, Gen (S) will use the power of community-building and creativity to leverage empathy among people in Athens and cultivate coexistence and respect.

Gen (S)'s first meeting is open to all and is taking place today Thursday 13 February, at K44 (Konstantinoupoleos 44, Athens 11854). This will be followed by more meetings and a series of participatory art events, as follows:

Sumbiography, a creative writing workshop on 08 and 15 March.
The Bird Inside You, ornithological storytelling with the Hellenic Ornithological Society on 29 March.
Sumbiophonics, a music workshop with traditional instruments on 05 April.
Circles of Sumbiosis, a painting workshop for children on 12 April.
Sumbiokinesis, a movement workshop on 03 May.

For more information about Gen (S) and their programme you can visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

The Gen (S) team. Photo © Generation Symbiocene