Tallinn Botanic Garden


We need a trickster and education based on real-life experiences because the Anthropocene is a trap

We need a trickster and education based on real-life experiences because the Anthropocene is a trap

Dear speakers, performers, audience, collaborators, supporters, and sponsors of Biotoopia’23, we appreciate your participation in this year’s conference at the Tallinn Botanic Garden on 11–13 May. We are still a little lightheaded from processing the information we received and the emotions we experienced, but it was outstanding. Feel free to view, download and share the photos!

With an emphasis on education, Paco Calvo developed the conference topic, Underground Networks. If you claim that something learns, recognizes other organisms of its kind, chooses to cooperate, foresees risks, competes for nourishment, imitates others, and counts to five, then you may believe that being is an animal. But Paco addressed plant intelligence. We must take the study of plants seriously if we want to fully understand the world.

Paco Calvo at Biotoopia`23, photo Valdek Laur

Furthermore, Paco noted that 70% of human DNA is identical to that of fungi, which is ironic given that Merlin Sheldrake concluded the conference by pointing out our lack of knowledge about fungi. Over 90% of all known fungi have no descriptions. It continues to be a miracle how they were and are able to facilitate natural processes. This kind of superpower exists. Merlin thinks that understanding fungi and their behaviour can benefit both humans and other species in making the world a better place.

Merlin Sheldrake at Biotoopia`23, photo: Valdek Laur

The same day, Bayo Akomolafe began his lecture by discussing tricksters (e.g. Vanapagan in Estonian folklore), since he thinks we need a trick to deal with the current crisis. He emphasized the foolishness of the Anthropocene. It endorses growth, economy, and roadways. It is a trap. According to the executive summary of the most recent IPCC report, we are unlikely to survive but likely to experience widespread pain. Death is on the way. The report concludes with a call to action similar to those made every year since the 1970s – please take the environmental crisis seriously! But we keep making the same mistakes. Humanity is in crisis as the Anthropocene practises death.

There were various presenters and artists in addition to the aforementioned; and, before the art day dawned the next morning on Loopealse wasteland, the conference part ended with artist Olive Bieringa teaching us about the experience of dying. 

The Anthropocene period can be summarized as the practice of death, and the conference section held at the Botanic Garden considered it at length. The conference was organized by the Estonian Anthropocene Center NPO. I can see similarities with the Minimal Intelligence Lab, where ‘minimal’ would refer to humans.

So, if you were there, you would know that we did not only see and hear and discuss the topics, but we also really lived through them. How can this kind of learning be integrated into our current education systems? Well, Mihkel Kangur knows how. To learn more about how two ecologists at Rakvere State Gymnasium are developing new education systems, you’ll need to listen to his speech again.

This was a very brief description of the conference days; stay tuned for more! And in late autumn, most of the content will be posted on the Biotoopia YouTube channel. Currently, you can rewatch the conference’s online part till the end of this year. Visit Fienta if you don’t have an online pass yet.

Many many many thanks to our supporters: Tallinn – European Green Capital 2023, Medivar, Liivalill, Kuuldeaparaadid, Tallinn Botanic Garden, National Foundation of Civil Society, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Republic of Estonia Ministry of Culture, Republic of Estonia Ministry of Environment, Muulin, JANKEN WISESPACE, Kadri-Liis Rääk, and all of you who purchased a ticket.

We could not do it without the best partners: Event Media, Postimees, Tallinn University, Tartu University, Krisostomus bookstore, HOP Gallery, Hobusepea Gallery and Estonian Museum of Natural History.

Warm greetings to Biotoopia Advisory Board who are connecting many invisible networks: Sirje Helme, Kalevi Kull, Marek Tamm.

With gratitude Biotoopia`23 conference team: Kelli Turmann, Peeter Laurits, Vaim Sarv, Anette Pärn, Jila Svicevic, Martin Rästa, Saara Silvia Soasepp, Herkko Labi, Hildegard Reimann, Dimitri Korobko, Kristi Lahne, Anne-May Nagel, Aiko Hayashi, Gabrielė Janilionytė, Aditi Toome, Hannah Segerkrantz, Merike Rabi, Karin Kiigemägi. Moderators: Peeter Laurits, Grete Arro. 

Photos by Valdek Laur, Liina Lelov

Biotoopia`23 visuals by Martin Rästa

Article by Kelli Turmann