Humanity has precipitated a planetary crisis of resource consumption—a crisis of stuff. Indeed, so accustomed are we to living with stuff, it has become difficult to imagine ways out of the environmental crisis that do not come down to substituting a new package of material artifacts (perhaps with a smaller carbon footprint) for those we have today.
In The Human Scaffold, anthropologist and philosopher Josh Berson offers a new theory of adaptation to environmental change. Drawing on niche construction, evolutionary game theory, and the enactive view of cognition, Berson considers cases in the archaeology of adaptation in which technology in the conventional, that is, material, sense was virtually absent. Far from being isolated events, these cases exemplify a pervasive feature of human cultural evolution with implications for our own time.
As more and more of us are reconsidering our relationship to stuff, we need to ask what the environmental crisis demands of us not as consumers but as biological beings. The Human Scaffold offers a starting point.