“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”. – John Muir
“The words of our grandmothers and grandfathers have taught us respect for the Web of Life and the interdependence of all things in the Universe. The stories passed down through oral traditions remind us that we are all connected.” – Ancient Native American saying
“Life is a self-replicating hierarchy of levels. Biology is the study of the levels that compose the hierarchy. No phenomenon at any level can be wholly characterized without incorporating other phenomena that arise at all levels. Genes prescribe proteins, proteins self-assemble into cells, cells multiply and aggregate to form organs, organs arise as parts of organisms, and organisms gather sequentially into societies, populations and ecosystems. Natural selection that targets a trait at any of these levels ripples in effect across all the others.” – From “The Superorganism” by E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldubler
I’m just returning from a summer of spending quiet time in the forests and prairies of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. During this summer, I’ve done a lot of thinking about my focus, my direction, and my “voice”.
It has been almost three years since I’ve started writing books and about a year since I started writing a blog about patterns and connections in Nature. I’ve been gradually leaning toward subjects on connections in Nature because I’ve grown to realize that broken links within any ecosystem are the key to any ecological problem, large or small.
As I watched people in the forests with their ATVs, dogs, and constant social chatter, I became convinced that a large part of humanity is dependent on their toys to bring happiness. They fail to realize or care about the role humanity is playing in destroying the very basis for life – Nature. I have come to believe that the human race is gradually destroying the links that hold Nature together. As I see it, unless there are major changes in how humanity views life on Earth – a renewal of reverence for Nature if you will – there will ultimately be an extinction of the human race. We are selectively destroying the connecting links that hold Nature together. In destroying these links, we destroy the habitat on which we depend.
So, I’ve decided to strengthen the emphasis of connections in Nature in this blog. My content will continue to include both the identification of patterns and connections (links) in Nature. But, I intend to suggest how these links are being affected by humanity and how the destruction of these links could lead to large or small ecological disasters.
I’ve been working on a new book about connections in Nature. As I develop my material and observe humanity during my travels, I have decided on the book’s title. I am hoping to release “Broken Links: The Self-Extinction Of Man” by the end of the year. Much of the material in the book will be developed in blog posts with the hope that my readers will enter into a dialog with me. In this post, I present the premise for future blog posts and for my new book.
Some 65 million years ago, a mass extinction (known as the K-T event by modern science) took place. The event wiped out about three quarters of Earth’s species. The worst hit organisms were those in the oceans. On land, the Dinosaur went extinct. Mammals and most non- dinosaurian reptiles seemed to be relatively unaffected. Terrestrial plants suffered to a large extent.
There are several hypotheses as to why and how the extinction took place – a meteorite which crashed in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and/or large volcanic eruptions are the predominant ideas. There is one certainty, however. Vital links within the Earth’s ecosystems were broken. To wit, the essential link of energy flow from the sun to the Earth was altered because the sun’s energy had a difficult time penetrating the clouds created by meteorite impact and/or volcanic eruptions. This altered link in Nature resulted in global warming that changed the environment in which creatures and plants had adapted. And diminished solar energy effected the processes of photosynthesis in plants. The result was a cascading effect where the food supply and the environmental surroundings were severely altered. Connections in Nature, links that tie Nature’s organisms into functioning ecologies, were broken.
We are facing another ecological crisis caused by broken links in Nature. But this time it is not an event precipitated by Nature. Instead, it is precipitated by man. And in the course of events, man will create his own extinction while it is predicted by experts that other creatures may survive.
The cause of this potential extinction is modern man’s world view. Herein lies a paradox – a conflict of truths. A conflict that affects your very existence as a human being on this earth.
One of the two conflicting truths in this paradox is described by nature photographer, Rafael Rojas , when he notes that we are the first generation of human beings that are totally detached from the natural world. He says “for millions of years we have lived as another species grounded to our natural environment. But now, cities have become the new ecosystem for us, an artificially created one where, instead of experiences so basic to our natural history, we now fill ourselves with money, career, success, commercial malls and technology. Our urban world and its goodies keep us busy, and alienated in most cases. It has become impossible for us to remember what happened to the natural world that our ancestors enjoyed.”
Sadly, most of human contact with Nature is in passing. We drive by. We take a glimpse. At best, we get a quick emotional “fix”. We are not connecting. We are ready to move on to our distractions, our cell phones, and our toys rather than linger a while. We are preoccupied with “things” in our lives because “things” make us happy. We are not beholding Nature. We are not seriously conscious about how we are interconnected with Nature and how our actions may affect vital connections within the ecosystem that we live. In fact, we probably never think about it.
This image of two adults and their child riding an ATV was taken in a national forest campground with beautiful, thick woods and an awesome rushing stream. They arrived without giving the forest or the stream a look. Instead, the ATV was fired up and set at idle for about 15 minutes before they took off for a ride. At their campsite. they left behind two hounds who were tied up and who loudly bayed and cried the entire hour the family was gone. As I write this paragraph in the San Isabel National Forest, other’s are running their noisy dirt bikes. And, a young adult just walked by plugged into her iPod. All of this was taking place with the full knowledge and endorsement of the US National Forest Service. So much for a quiet weekend engaging Nature. So much for the ecological damage that these people are imposing on the creatures in this forest. And, these destructive habits and a lack of respect for life are being passed on to the next human generation as culturally acceptable.
The distraction of driving the ATV and it’s noise disconnected this young family from their awesome surroundings. The parents didn’t bother to guide their son through the Nature that surrounded them. The ATV and dog noises disrupted those important sounds that are vital communication links between forest creatures. My next post will talk about these sounds. Acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton says that silence is an endangered species. He defines real quiet as a presence – not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. Scientists are now discovering that human noise does affect the viability of an ecosystem.
The truth on the other side of this paradox is that nothing on earth, or in our universe for that matter, exists in and of itself. As noted in the quote from E.O. Wilson presented at the top of this post, everything exists within a network of interrelationships where everything is dependent on everything else. It is in these links that Nature is defined. And, it is by understanding and respecting Nature’s interrelationships that we grow to “know” Nature, protect Nature, and thus assure our survival.
The paradox is that modern humans are detached from a Nature that is interconnected. Humanity’s detachment from a highly connected Nature is very dangerous because an awareness and the protection of Nature’s connected patterns by we humans is essential to our continued existence on Earth.
Here is an example. It has been well publicized in the media that we humans have the power to destroy our vital connection to the sun by either blocking or accelerating the flow of energy from sun to earth. Our gaseous emissions from coal burning, the use of fluorides, and other chemicals can cause both the blockage of energy flow or excessive energy flow through holes in our protective ozone layer. This is an important example of how we are adversely altering a vital connection in Nature in a way that will ultimately destroy humanity. It is a repeat of the K-T extinction, but this time caused by humanity and not by Nature.
My premise in this blog post is that much of humanity is disconnected from Nature. As such, those disconnected souls would loath reading this blog or my books. Thus, another paradox. How do those of us who understand and wish to survive instill an awareness of our interconnected nature to those who really need to become aware?? I have no magic wand. But, I do hope that what I have to say will encourage the explorers, adventurers, and discoverers who do read my writings to somehow help spread the word. As my blog writing progresses, I will offer some suggested action items. For indeed, our survival as a race is dependent upon the respect and preservation of the links within all of Nature. It is dependent on a reverence for Nature that a large part of our race lacks.
In the next post, I will talk about and demonstrate some sounds in Nature and explain why they are important links that shouldn’t be broken by man. These sounds are indicators of the health of an ecosystem. Human noise pollution, like dogs and ATVs, causes disruption of these connections in Nature. Stay tuned for more.
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.