A structural approach to reimagining community: biomimicry, biophilia and living labs

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The global economic operating system of capitalism is incongruent with the values required to sustain life on a planet with a growing population and finite resources. Living in marginalized communities the impoverished are the most negatively affected by the current system, as they are the most vulnerable to the vicissitudes of climate change, resource extraction, labor exploitation and wealth concentration. Our way of life needs to be reimagined to align with principles that are in accordance with the ecological worldview. Aspects of an effective strategy rooted in the ecological worldview - especially Biomimicry, Biophilia and a Living Labs approach - are being created in silos but lack application at a systems level. The objective of this research is to bridge the disparate streams of these concepts into a community-based model, with the aim of replicating the emergent system in order to build alternatives to the current model. The research question to explored is the following: how can the principles of Biomimicry, Biophilia, and Living Labs be integrated and systemically applied in communities? Investigating this question will bring forth the Principles for Transition Infrastructure - an approach to building a resilient, self-sustaining, regenerative model for an alternative way of living. This research concludes that there is an opportunity to dismantle the mechanistic worldview of isolating problems in silos and rather observe the multiple points of interconnectivity that weave together a solution that transcends the parts of the whole. In doing this, we draw from multiple disciplines and find the synergies to construct a reality that is conducive to building new systems and structures to support a harmonious life on this planet.