In early March I had an opportunity to explore the question, “Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?” My audience was an erudite gathering of the online 3 Horizons University (3Huni for short).

I proposed to explore the case for the evolution of cities, not as a bane on the Earth, but as a necessary stage of maturing capacity of Gaia’s living system. I offered evidence from science, thought experiments and practice, from my Integral City Book Series, Reframing Complex Challenges for Gaia’s Human Hives (2018), Inquiry and Action: Designing Impact for the Human Hive (2017) and Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive (English 2008, Russian 2014).

This is blog 2 of a 4-part blog series – to continue to the next instalments click on the links at the bottom of the blog.

Beyond the sciences of physics, biology, evolution and social systems, further insights accrue to the understanding of cities as “human hives” by studying the biomimicry lessons of the beehive.  Effectively the bee hive prototypes the human hive – demonstrating the full set of 12 intelligences (as I have written elsewhere).

To summarize the key points that Apis Mellifera offers us:

  • Apis Mellifera system reflects Nature’s experiment for 100 million years – thus they are exponentially more mature as a species than humans.
  • In their evolution of 100 Million years, bees have developed a “hive goal” to produce 20 kg honey per year in order to survive. They use sophisticated forms of complexity, communication (not only their waggle dance but through chemical transfers) and course correction to create a “hive mind” that serves the simultaneous wellbeing of individuals and the collective of 50,000 bees in the hive.
  • Honey bees have developed 4 Internal Roles and a 5th External Role to accomplish their intentions. The 4 Internal Roles of Forager-Producer, Diversity Generator, Resource Allocator and Inner Judge suggest that human patterns suggest we consider the contributions of 4 Voices in the human hive: Citizens, Business/Innovators, Civic Managers and Third Sector and learn how to align them for sustainable and resilient outcomes.
  • The 5th Role of the bee hive is external. It is called “Intergroup Competitor” and contributes to the advancement of hive resilience by ensuring the species does not eliminate competition but instead transcends and includes it so that the best hives survive to perpetuate the species.
  • The bees have a purpose that encompasses their annual production targets and also serves their ecoregion by pollinating all the plants to ensure that their renewable energy resources will be available not just for this year but for next year. In this way bees align Placecaring & Placemaking on two scales – one for the hive itself, and the other for the eco-region with which they co-exist. Cities need to take the same lessons so that they are living the same double sustainability loop of not just accumulating wealth but returning it in circular economies to enable the wellbeing of the eco-region(s) that support them.

Although this cross-species learning may seem like a fanciful thought experiment, it becomes much more than a nice story, when we consider the dire consequences of  the threat to the bee hives that we call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Surely, this aspect of our biomimicry lesson from the bees, must give humans a warning that we pay attention to the Vortex of VUCA conditions mentioned above.  Because it seems that bees are experiencing an eerily similar pattern to the VUCA vortex that humans face (as seen in Figure of CCD above).

This blog series explores science, thought experiments and maps to inquire if “Cities are Becoming Gaia’s Reflective Organs?”

Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?

Thought Experiments – Listening & Learning from Bees

Integral City Maps, Intelligences, Emergent Practices for Gaia

Evidence for Big Bite & Hope for Gaia