Public Heritage in the Symbiocene.

Public Heritage in the Symbiocene (draft).

Albrecht, G.A. (2018) Public Heritage in The Symbiocene, The Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Practice Edited by Angela M. Labrador and Neil Asher Silberman. Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Public Archaeology, Online Publication Date: Mar 2018. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190676315.013.12

Glenn A. Albrecht

Honorary Fellow; School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney.


The chapter argues that all forms of heritage are at risk from population and development pressures within the Anthropocene. We lose our sense of place in the age of solastalgia, as natural and built heritage, the integral parts of loved home environments, are lost. No amount of citizen collaboration or soliphilia can save heritage from desolation when government and corporate power values profit over all other forms of value. The concept of the Symbiocene is proposed as an antidote to the Anthropocene. However, in the Symbiocene, heritage will remain an ironic and elusive experience. This is because the full reunification of human praxis with life support systems will produce almost no distinctive signature on Earth that could be highlighted as exclusively ‘human’ heritage. Heritage as something that defies the natural ‘beauty of decay’ will be a deliberate, educative act of creation.

Key words: Symbiocene, Solastalgia, Symbiosis, Sumbiophilia, Anthropocene, Soliphilia, Psychoterratic, Heritage


The Anthropocene shows no sign of imminent collapse. As a human artefact at global scale, the leviathan we know as the Anthropocene is now predominantly controlled by those who seem to have little interest in heritage as exemplifying the cumulative memory of communities of the valued historic past. The past, as represented by valued built and natural heritage sites, is to be bulldozed or re-purposed to make way for a future that entrenches, even deeper, anything that gets in the way of further industrial and technological domination of cultural and natural landscapes. In the domain of natural heritage, we are seeing the gradual erosion of biota and biodiversity to such an extent that many scholars refer to the era we are in as “The Sixth Extinction” (Kolbert 2014).

The extinction of cultural diversity is running in parallel with the loss of natural diversity. We are rapidly losing languages and distinctive human cultures over the remainder of the undeveloped parts of the globe (Maffi and Woodley 2010). In some respects, it is not hyperbole to speculate on a future where only one type of culture and its values dominate the Earth. Such a conclusion should come as no surprise, since, in our past, the many ways of being human sat within distinctive bioregions and biomes all over the habitable parts of the planet. However, under global development pressures and the homogenising power of capitalism and its universal forms of design, architecture, planning, management and technology, both the distinctiveness of place and the human culture that once inhabited that place have been obliterated or are in the process of being metastasized by ‘progress’. Those sensitive to the scope and scale of such losses feel a deep emotional distress.

My work on solastalgia (Albrecht 2005) as the lived experience of negative environmental change has relevance here. There are large emotional and psychological costs associated with the loss and degradation of valued and indeed loved natural and social heritage. If we are to challenge and resist this process, then it will entail challenging the globalised Anthropocene at its foundations. While admittedly an optimistic view in the light of the current political ascendency of champions of the Anthropocene, I wish to forward its opposite world-view, that which I call the Symbiocene (Albrecht 2011, Albrecht 2014, Albrecht 2016a). I argue that the Symbiocene, as a period in the history of humanity of this Earth, will be characterised by human intelligence that replicates the symbiotic and mutually reinforcing life-reproducing forms and processes found in living systems. That intelligence will then oversee the creation of the built environment and its commodities in such a way as to satisfy the key foundational principles of the Symbiocene.

The Symbiocene will be an era identified by a positive affirmation of the value of life and the love of life. Here, a role for public heritage will be to help us cultivate and nurture values that support life in general and human life in particular. As the re-unification of human culture with nature takes place, heritage will play an invaluable educative role showing what went wrong in the Anthropocene and what in the past exemplified the proto-Symbiocene. Symbiocene heritage will be an elusive and ephemeral experience, because, once it is in place, the full reunification of human praxis with life support systems will mean there will be almost no distinctive signature left on Earth that could be highlighted as ‘human heritage’. Heritage as something that defies the ‘beauty of decay’ will be a deliberate act of creation whose purpose will be primarily educative.

The Anthropocene and Heritage

The most powerfully transformative period within the geological era known as ‘the Anthropocene’ (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000) largely coincides with my lifetime. I am a baby boomer born in Perth, Western Australia in 1953. As I have matured during my time on Earth, the biophysical world I experienced as a child has almost disappeared. In Perth, only remnants of it survive and even they are under constant threat from further development. The institutional structures of my adulthood and working life are locked into a ‘permanent strategic revolution’, while the world I inhabit now as a retired ‘farmosopher’ (philosophical farmer) seems to be on the brink of a global eco-climatic-nuclear collapse. It is hard to be ‘on the land’, trying to grow food with a limited water supply, in summer temperatures that are now regularly over 38 degrees Celsius. My current home in New South Wales (NSW) is on the verge of becoming uninhabitable as we endured a record breaking 47 degree Celsius day in the summer of 2017.

Bleak forecasts of a possible seven-degree Celsius rise in global temperature within one lifetime from now (Friedrich et al 2016) is enough to stop me sleeping at night. A four degree rise is enough to wipe out most complex life on Earth, including human life. As such, we are no longer talking about climate change, since, as the sceptics and denialists constantly point out, the climate has always changed … we are more precisely talking about “climate calescence” or, by definition, an increasingly warm climate (Albrecht 2017). 

The concept of the Anthropocene is so arresting because it conveys a strong impression of human domination of the planet. All of the major planetary-scale biogeochemical cycles are now seriously affected by human action with, for example, climate calamity the direct result of human disruption of the carbon cycle balance. The pervasive presence of radio nucleotides and persistent plastics worldwide in sediments and the guts on animals are also presented as signs of the existence of the Anthropocene. As humans have greater impacts, the question of balance becomes even more critical. After some 10,000 years of relative Holocene harmony, the patterns and rhythms in nature (as studied by phenology) are now breaking down and failing those species that are highly dependent on them. The replacement of the Holocene by the Anthropocene will have major implications for species health and survival (Albrecht 2011a, McMichael et al 2017).

Unfortunately, for humans, we are one such species as, in order to feed ourselves, even with the might of global agribusiness, we still need seasonal regularity with rainfall and weather favourable for good crops and healthy stock. All over the world we are seeing how erratic weather in the form of drought, floods and intense rain, destructive storms and super typhoons (aka hurricanes and cyclones) and extreme high temperatures negating all our technological advances and, in some instances already, reducing the total harvest in crops such as wheat in Australia (Hochman et al 2017). There can be no ‘good Anthropocene’ in the future. Humans, despite their hubris, are not ‘in charge’ of nature and earth-systems. We have put the human project we currently call ‘civilisation’ at risk because the forces of nature will counter our hubris and titanism. As the Gaians constantly point out, life on Earth will continue, however, it will be the current form of human civilisation that will fail at the end of the bad Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene also strikes me as an important concept precisely because it is so at odds with how life has evolved on this planet. Once I understood the full implications of being in the Anthropocene, I instantly wanted out. It was a gut feeling, almost like the onset of acute food poisoning … I wanted out of it and it out of me. The last time I had felt such a gut-wrenching feeling was when I was confronted by large-scale open pit coal mining in the Hunter Valley of NSW. I had been researching the journey of John and Elizabeth Gould, the British ornithologists and artists, into the Hunter Valley in 1839-1840. They both gave graphic descriptions of the beauty of the Valley and its natural productions. Others, also taken by its great beauty, had called this valley, ‘the Tuscany of the South’.

On one journey from the coast of NSW into the Upper Hunter Valley, I came by car over a rise to see below me, hundreds of square kilometers of open-cut black coal mines feeding two large power stations and a rail system to take coal to the port of Newcastle for export by ship. I stopped the car and got out to have an unmediated, un-air-conditioned experience of what lay before me. The air was thick with dust and there was the smell of raw coal in the air. You could hear the monstrous draglines and dump trucks hard at work in the mine sites. Great, long, diesel-powered trains belched and snaked their way through the valley as they transported the coal. The power stations ejected huge amounts of steam from their cooling towers, creating their own dust coloured clouds over the valley. Carbon dioxide and dozens of toxic but invisible fumes left the giant chimney stacks in amounts measurable in thousands of tonnes per annum. Creeks and the Hunter River itself were being seriously degraded by coal dust and the products of disturbed land and erosive forces. The industrial landscape below me was the very opposite of the undulating hills of Tuscany. One local Mayor claimed that his local government area was being turned into “a moonscape” while other citizens objected in vain to the insults and damage being caused by multinational mining corporations.  

The colonial people of the Hunter Valley had a history of coal mining but the old underground workings were nothing compared to the gaping open-cut wounds to the land inflicted by the new forms of mining. In extracting coal, the new leviathans were obliterating the strata of history in this part of the world and terraforming the landscape into massive flat-top spoil hills and deep voids full of toxic water. The natural history was being blown-up for the coal, the remaining ‘solid’ Indigenous history of the Wonnarua people was being pulverised by the massive machinery and the colonial history (including whole villages) was being swallowed by an industry with no limits to its appetite. Here was a case study in the loss of heritage par excellence. Natural and human heritage were being sacrificed for a locally polluting and global climate-changing source of energy.

Coal was a vital source of power at the beginning of the industrial revolution in England, and today, coal from the Hunter Valley in NSW is driving the new globalised industrial revolution in places like China, India, Japan and Korea. If you want to see the Anthropocene in action, then right here in the Upper Hunter Valley is your place to go. However, for some strange reason, most tourists bypass the mined areas and the power stations and head for other parts of the valley where more pleasurable pursuits are to be found. Located on the edge of the mines and coal leases, are green rural idylls in the form of thoroughbred horse studs and premium quality vineyards. The juxtaposition could not be any greater. Already some of the vineyards have given way to the mines. The horse studs remain, for the moment, but one industry has to go … they cannot co-exist.

The Hunter Valley of NSW Australia provides us with a snapshot of what is going on over the whole world. Development via the use of massively transformative technologies is driving change at a pace and scale never before seen in human history. In turn, this rapid change suits some who benefit economically from the transformation and hurts others who are victims in its path. The ‘hurt’ that some feel is a deep and heart-felt distress at the loss of home as a place of solace and comfort.

Magnified to the global scale, our home, the Earth, is also a place under stress and duress. Earth citizens can now feel something similar to the distressed citizens of the Hunter Valley as the Anthropocene churns its way into every sector of the globe.


Out of the feeling that there was something seriously wrong with this state of affairs I began to think about what happens when a place and its people are violated by desolating material forces beyond their control. In particular, I wondered what the emotional impact of the psychological desolation of the Hunter Valley was having on its inhabitants. Did they feel much the same as I did? Was I just an unusual ‘ultra-sensitive’, bird-loving, atavistic aesthete? In 2003 I created a new concept to describe this feeling of desolation and I soon realised that it was able to be understood and shared by those for about whom I was concerned. ‘Solastalgia’, or the lived experience of negative environmental change was about to become a new concept on the fields of place identity and human mental health (Albrecht 2005).

I have published elsewhere on the concept of solastalgia (Albrecht 2007, Albrecht 2012a, Albrecht 2012b) but for consistency the definition of solastalgia has always been:

the pain or distress caused by the loss of, or inability to derive, solace connected to the negatively perceived state of one’s home environment. Solastalgia exists when there is the lived experience of the physical desolation of home (Albrecht et al 2007: 96).

I have always tied the definition of the emplaced, existential feeling of solastalgia to the state of the biophysical environment and, in the case of the Upper Hunter, the clearly defined biophysical entity was the valley, its river and the landscape contained within it. However, even in the first published essay on solastalgia, I was aware that ‘the environment’ was a broad concept:

The factors that cause solastalgia can be both natural and artificial. Drought, fire and flood can cause solastalgia, as can war, terrorism, land clearing, mining, rapid institutional change and the gentrification of older parts of cities. I claim that the concept has universal relevance in any context where there is the direct experience of transformation or destruction of the physical environment (home) by forces that undermine a personal and community sense of identity and control. Loss of place leads to loss of sense of place experienced as the condition of solastalgia (Albrecht 2005:46).

Solastalgia promoted by change to the built environment has never been a major focus of my work since the most obvious impact of mining is on natural and rural landscapes (National Parks, private uncleared land and its native vegetation and improved pasture and cropping land). However, I was aware of heritage issues with respect to the loss of long-standing villages, convict history and its buildings, colonial homesteads and Indigenous contexts. To some extent they were already covered under the formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) concept of heritage and were considered in the social impact component (SIA) of EIA development proposals.

However, as I became more aware of just how little heritage mattered when final decisions were being made to give mines the go-ahead, I realised that solastalgia applied as much to the built environment as it did to the natural environment. Further, the SIA process, as practiced in NSW, did not even ask questions about a human sense of place, or history and social cohesion. There were mandatory questions of conventionally defined heritage, but they too were hardly ever permitted to be elevated above economic considerations when determining the outcome of a development application.

Solastalgia went to the NSW Land and Environment Court (NSW L&EC) in 2013 (McManus and Albrecht 2014, Kennedy 2016). I was asked to help a soliphilia-driven community group, the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association that was fighting the expansion of an already large open cut coal mine promoted by both the coal industry and the State Government. I call them ‘soliphilia-driven’ because they were a disparate group of people united in their belief that their love of the places, Bulga and Milbrodale, were worth defending. They met my definition of soliphilia as an affiliation of people who love their place and the solidarity needed between them to be responsible for that place and the unity of interrelated interests within it (Albrecht 2012b). They, like me, had a belief that solastalgic distress could be overcome only when sufficient of us act in solidarity to defeat the forces of desolation. The politics of love of place could defeat the politics of its destruction.

I was an expert witness for the community group and my job was to convince a judge that issues like sense of place matter and that they cannot simply be dismissed because they are not assessable in dollar terms. I presented testimony from people in the affected community about the impact of the existing mine and how those impacts would be made intolerable should the mine be expanded. I explained that, in essence, solastalgia meant the personal and community distress associated with a loss of sense of place. The judge agreed with me. He concluded:

In relation to social impacts, I find that the Project’s impacts in terms of noise, dust and visual impacts and the adverse change in the composition of the community by reason of the acquisition of noise and air quality affected properties, are likely to cause adverse social impacts on individuals and the community of Bulga. The Project’s impacts would exacerbate the loss of sense of place, and materially and adversely change the sense of community, of the residents of Bulga and the surrounding countryside. (NSW L&EC 2013)

The people of the community of Bulga thus won a significant victory in the NSW L&EC and followed up with a victory in the NSW Supreme Court when the proponent and the State appealed the refusal to expand the mine. It would have been an ongoing important legal precedent (Kennedy 2016) at that point, however, the mining industry and the State government decided to change the law in NSW so that economic considerations would trump all social and environmental factors when making significant development decisions. When that law was promulgated, the proponent simply put a slightly modified ‘new’ application in for approval and, of course, the planning authorities were obliged, under the new law, to approve it. So, Bulga and its people lost and Rio Tinto and the State Government won! The Anthropocene had triumphed yet again.

If heritage is defined as “… those valuable features of our environment which we seek to conserve from the ravages of development and decay” (Davison and McConville 1991) then quite clearly heritage in the Upper Hunter was/is being lost. The Planning and Assessment Commission, the body charged by law to make the final decision, at one stage even suggested that, since the mine was coming so close to the village of Bulga, Bulga would have to be relocated or else it would suffer irreparable damage. That has not occurred, so the historic village of Bulga (as have many others) will be sacrificed for the coal industry. Along with the village, another aspect of Colonial heritage identified as important in the area to be affected by the mine is a section of the ‘The Great North Road’ which was constructed between 1826 and 1836 using convict labour. It lies in the path of the mine extension so it too has to go. The Indigenous heritage issues are complex but there is some evidence that the mine extension will obliterate a ceremonial area and, the whole area has been deemed by local Indigenous people to be a spiritual and physical pathway (songline) to important sacred sites in the region. In any case, an application by a developer for the destruction of Aboriginal heritage and evidence of culture is almost always approved by the NSW government (The Greens 2015).

I do not need to go into detail to mount the case that, subject to open-cut mining, the biophysical environment will be transformed by land-clearing, blasting, massive machinery, terraforming, coal extraction and transport. The mine at Bulga will leave a desolated landscape with a final void of almost 1000 hectares which will be over 300 metres in depth. Just in case you might have thought such a void could be a landscape asset, especially when it fills with water, it will not. The water will be off-limits because it will be highly saline and full of toxic metals.

The conclusion, from where I sit in NSW, is that, like so many other once valued aspects of culture and the environment, heritage, even as manifest in shifting baselines of value in the Upper Hunter, has become a victim of the Anthropocene. There will be very few traces left of the older strata of human culture and the landscape will become unrecognisable. Biodiversity as heritage has also been sacrificed. Indeed, this whole area is a heritage sacrifice zone[1] where soliphilia was not sufficient to save heritage and an endemic sense of place.

As an interim measure, with my human geographer colleague Phil McManus, we have suggested how to improve impact assessment so that ‘psychoterratic geographies’, or the emotional and psychological aspects of the heritage/development dialectic can be incorporated into EIA and SIA. We concluded:

In this article we examined the issue of a proposed coal mine in the Upper  Hunter  region  of  NSW  from the perspective of an emergent psychoterratic geography, thereby offering a much-needed conceptual framework  and  vocabulary for incorporating  feelings  of  strong  emotional  attachment to place, concerns about potential threats to much-loved places, and the feelings of desolation experienced by those residing in a place that has been significantly, and negatively, changed. (McManus and Albrecht 2014:64)

The more inclusive approach I have in mind here has been well expressed by Rodney Harrison’s notion of ‘dialogical heritage’ (Harrison 2013). What I call ‘psychoterratic’ (psyche-earth) relationships, can be teased out and defended at a local level where citizens have the opportunity to be directly involved in the assessment and decision-making processes, including when community concerns determine that development is prohibited.  However, despite the obvious appeal of dialogical approaches to heritage, the Hunter Valley case study suggests that, when push comes to shove, the community and their concerns about heritage will be marginalised.

The Symbiocene and Heritage

I see no real future for heritage of any type in the final stages of the Anthropocene. Even our best soliphilic efforts will be defeated by powerful forces. As public spaces and their objects are privatised, as public service is cut back and as valued spaces are compromised to be ‘commercially viable’, the past as heritage will vanish. A new meme, one powerful and attractive enough to appeal to disillusioned Anthropocene people where they can clearly see a positive role for themselves, is urgently needed. For this reason, I have created the concept of the Symbiocene (Albrecht 2011, 2014, 2016a). The concept is derived from the term ‘symbiosis’ which itself is derived from the Greek sumbiosis (companionship), sumbion (to live together) sumbios (living together), bios (life) and ‘cene’ (new), as in a new era. However, the conceptual foundation for this concept lies within ecological science.

In almost every area of ecologically relevant science, we are discovering that two of the foundational rules of nature and life are interconnectedness and ‘balance’ as understood as dynamic equilibrium or homeostasis. The importance of the degree of interconnectedness has been provided for us in the field of mycology. In plant science, in particular, we have seen huge advances in the understanding of the relationships between fungi and roots. We have only recently discovered the immense mutually beneficial associations of macrofungi with flowering plants in complex positive metabolic symbiotic relationship to each other in ecosystems all over the world. These positive relationships help to maximise benefits for the life-chances of whole species. In essence, there is a form of ‘natural justice’ that prevails. From Simard’s work we now know that, for example, health in all forest ecosystems is regulated by what are called “mother trees” that control fungal networks that in turn interconnect trees of varying ages (Simard et al 2015). The control system also regulates nutrient flows to trees, such as to the very young, that need them most. There has also been discovered a role in the transfer of information and energy from dying species to those that might continue to thrive, thus maintaining homeostasis and balance in ‘the forest’ (see Fraser 2015). As Suzanne Simard has put it:

We have learned that mother trees recognise and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defence chemistry, and resilience in the forest community. These discoveries have transformed our understanding of trees from competitive crusaders of the self to members of a connected, relating, communicating system (Simard, in Wohlleben 2016)

Given that forest ecosystems are foundational for most life on Earth, including humans, the so-called ‘wood-wide-web’ also represents a revolution in understanding the total flow of life and these insights must be incorporated into our culture as well as our technologies. As a consequence of my understanding of this post-Spencerian view of life, I argue that the Symbiocene, as a period in the history of humanity on this Earth, will be characterised by human intelligence that replicates, within all human artefacts, the symbiotic and mutually reinforcing life-reproducing forms and processes found in the living systems of nature. ‘Sumbiotechnologies’, for example, will put humans back into nature as their alienating and despotic counterparts in the Anthropocene are dismantled. What will need to be replicated in human systems are the life-principles that make life possible, to flourish and be restorative. Just some of these Symbiocene life-principles include:

  • full and benign recyclability and biodegradability of all inputs and outputs
  • safe and socially just forms of clean, renewable energy
  • full and harmonious integration of human systems with biogeochemical systems at all scales
  • the elimination of toxic waste in all aspects of production, consumption and enterprise
  • all species, great and small, having their life-interests and kinship taken into account
  • evidence of a harmony or balance of interests where conflict and cooperation are mutually inclusive

None of these Symbiocene processes are difficult to achieve even given the current state of human science, knowledge and technology. If we put real effort into Symbiocene science, citizen science, Indigenous knowledge and technology and use the very best of biomimicry (organic form) and sumbiomimicry (organic process) (Albrecht 2015), we could get well into Symbiocene living in decades.

What is interesting for the concept of heritage is that, if the Symbiocene is embraced, there will be very little in the way of heritage left behind by its presence. In the proto-Symbiocene cultures of the Earth, such as the Australian Aboriginal people, there are so few precious long-term ‘concrete’ remains of their presence because they lived in a way that satisfied all the above Symbiocene principles. They used organic materials, recycled everything, built from substances that naturally biodegrade and died leaving their bones and teeth as material evidence of their occupation of continental Australia. They also left artworks that have persisted for thousands of years, however, to remain vital and part of a living culture, these artworks such as rock engravings had to be re-pecked by stone implements each generation so as to revive and polish their meaning within culture. Without such re-touching, the current generations lose all sense of the meaning of the ‘art’ and its connections to culture. Without the active involvement of people, these important forms of cultural knowledge become merely ‘art’ or ‘dead’ heritage.

Above all, where evidence of the past seemed inconvenient or an embarrassment to the prevailing culture, these things and places must be preserved or even reconstructed as proto-Symbiocene heritage. In Australia, the colonial assumption of terra nullius or ‘land belonging to no one’ was directly contradicted by the existence of stone houses and large engineering works made by Aboriginal people. They were removed from the landscape by those who wanted to appropriate their land (Pascoe 2014). With the support and permission of Indigenous people, such ‘heritage crimes’ (Hutchings and La Salle 2017) can redressed as a meaningful part of restorative justice.

The remains of pre-industrial cultures are significant because they show that it was possible to be human without violating the Symbiocene principles. Part of their educative role as ‘heritage’ is to demonstrate that human energy and intelligence can be applied to that which is already part of the fabric of life to meet human needs. That process went on for 200,000 years (Homo sapiens sapiens) before the industrial revolution so it is vital that sumbiophilia, or the love of living together (Albrecht 2016a), produces a continuous tradition and be acknowledged and protected for all humanity.

The heritage elements of the industrial revolution onwards tell a different story and it is one about the gradual, then rapid technological and cultural pivot humans undertook towards the full Anthropocene. The coal and steam revolution becomes a series of steps from Stephenson’s Rocket to the world’s largest coal-fired power plants, illustrating how humans achieved anthropogenic global climate calescence (hot change), globalised toxic pollution and precipitated events like the 6th extinction in the space of only 300 years and most rapidly in the last 64 years.

Elements of the industrial revolution that put us on the path towards the Symbiocene also become important examples of heritage. The earliest wind turbines, the first solar cells, prototype electric vehicles and the places where they were invented and built become key items of heritage. These transition technologies should be celebrated despite the fact that they were made of some toxic and non-biodegradable materials and used non-sustainable forms of energy.


In the Symbiocene, heritage will tell us a story about where we have come from, where we went wrong and how we got back on track again. The Anthropocene takes us into the age of solastalgia and, as a consequence, cultural heritage loss is most likely to be experienced as negative environmental change. As the cultural landscape is homogenised, people will become alienated from their own cultural history and will likely suffer solastalgia (and worse). As Robert Macfarlane has put it:

Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants (Macfarlane 2016).

That lived experience of home-heritage distress will be hopefully short-lived as people look for new ways to make connections within a dynamic conception of place. I believe the Symbiocene will arise out of mass soliphilia as people recover their ‘humans-as-part-of-nature’ heritage from those who wish to deny it. Out of the creativity of the Symbiocene will arise new ways of living with new forms of design, architecture, engineering and art. There will have to be a new politics that represents a dynamic, vibrant and inclusive decision-making process I call Sumbiocracy (Albrecht 2016a). With all that will come a revival of the importance of heritage and history and the commitment and expertise to tell the new story about the end of the Anthropocene and the start of the Symbiocene.

As argued above, heritage in the active Symbiocene will be always educative. We will keep examples of Anthropocene heritage to show present and future generations precisely how such artefacts violated Symbiocene principles. Despite their design and manufacture to be completely recyclable and part of a fully restorative economy, Symbiocene heritage will tell the story of how we replaced Anthropocene ‘heritage’ with new creations that preserved their function, but revolutionised their form and process. However, we will actually want most of our objects, buildings and artefacts to ultimately disappear with “the beauty of decay” … as everything should. Those artefacts that we wish to preserve will be by acts of choice to display how the Symbiocene is deliberately made to be completely recycled back into life. The conclusive evidence that we are in the Symbiocene will be the failure to find a distinctively human presence located in the most recent layers of the Earth. Hence, in the Symbiocene, our heritage will be … the whole Earth.


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[1] Indeed, anthropogenic pressure is having an increasingly negative impact on existing remnant natural heritage worldwide with even designated Natural World Heritage Sites (NWHS) under stress with the conclusion of a recently published study suggesting that ” … many NWHS are rapidly deteriorating and are more threatened than previously thought” (Allan et al 2017).

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