Broken Links

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.

Your comments are always welcome. To receive a notice whenever I post a new blog, please sign up for my newsletter. 

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.

10 Responses to “Broken Links”

  1. Bonnie says:

    Hi Bill – Your blog struck a cord with me today. Earlier in my life I traveled through the National Forests of the West, and experienced situations very much like the ones you are describing.

    Once, in Joshua Tree National Monument, the mutant hoards from LA arrived on a holiday weekend and we were exposed to noise and chaos for three days. The worst of it was how they treated a coyote. A small mob chased and terrorized this poor creature until a park ranger showed up (at my summoning) and warned them off their rabid fun.

    And today there was a story about mutated insects that are believed to be the result of the radioactivity in Japan. A sad and clear proof of the links you speak about. The article said that until now it was thought that insects were not affected by radiation.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for your comment Bonnie. I had a similar horrid experience at an estuary in Mexico – a bird sanctuary. An American couple, thinking that they could do anything they wanted in Mexico, let their Golden Retriever dog loose in the lagoon among a large group of migrating birds. The dog almost got a White Pelican. When these people were confronted, I found that they could not care less – thinking the whole thing was funny.

  2. shannon Jones says:

    Tall Pine by David Hoffmann 2008
    Upon her crystal shores-waves of shimmering light
    Part of a larger symphony near water’s edge
    Under tall pine a leaf gently spirals to the ground.
    A small note..unheard by most of that say

    A myriad of light from far away..but really not so far.
    A glimmer highlights the base of tall pine
    Blending with the fallen leaf’s song
    A neighbor’s melody of change

    A different forest … A new time
    Within the sounds a symphony
    Within the rhythm..a rememberance
    A note heard by those who chose to listen

    Touched by a myriad of lights..
    Reflecting upon a small leaf
    Sounds blending under tall pine
    Dancing around a tree…upon crystal shores

  3. Ellen Conyers says:

    Hi Bill. As usual I find your work wonderful and often ‘wondering’ as to how so many can wake up in the morning and not see and feel all the glory of this planet. You got off to a delayed start this summer but you have made up for the lost time. Good going! You go out a lay witness to the precious moments and movements at our feet and at the end of our noses and sum it up to make us witness to the wonderment around us and how so many have lost their connection to Life itself!
    Thank you Bill! Peace be the journey!

  4. We live in an urban area, but have tried to bring nature closer by creating an wildlife habitat, planting fruit bearing trees and shrubs for food and shelter, and providing water sources. It’s been interesting, and disturbing, to see how climate change seems to be affecting the migrating patterns of birds from year to year.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the Alaskan bush, once on a six day rafting trip on an isolated river where we did not see or hear another human for all but the last day of our trip. But even in that remote place, small planes flew overhead several times a day.
    It was in August and the salmon were thick in the water heading upriver to spawn, so every day we saw grizzlies coming to feed at the river. We were the intruders and they wanted nothing to do with us.
    For us the hardest part of the trip was re-entering the “civilized world” of bright lights, technology,traffic, the twenty four hour news cycle…

    It doesn’t take much time to reconnect with the natural world. Given the chance, most of us intuitively have a deep knowledge of our need to be connected to wild places, but as your post eloquently points out, we’re quickly replacing that connection with our increasing dependence on our technological toys and their attendant distractions.

    We really do seem to be a devolving race intent on making ourselves extinct.

    • Hi Emma:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write your comments. While we are all “on the same wavelength”, I wonder how we can make necessary changes. I’m hoping over time that our dialogs will address ways we can affect change. I plan to present some ideas that are developing in my mind. Hope you will do likewise.

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