Organizing Principle #1: Everything Is Connected

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This blog is the first in a series of posts that focuses on Natures six organizing principles. In a previous post  we noted: It is from the idea that Nature can be defined by the organizing principles of her energy flow that we are able to understand her in a more comprehensive way. These organizing principles are present in all of Nature at all scales and all levels. If there is one unifying principle in all of Nature, it is that everything in Nature is connected in some way to BookGallery-330everything else. The connections may be physical – such as our heart is joined within our body. Nature may also be functionally connected such as two birds communicating with each other through the pattern of their sounds. And Nature may be connected through the environment. A Right Whale and a Penguin are connected because they both eat krill within the Southern Ocean ecosystem’s food chain. In all cases, Nature’s connections are the conduits for her energy flow. Interconnections in Nature are a critically important scientific fact. Much of our effort in explaining the principle that everything is connected and interdependent is nicely summarized by E.O.Wilson and Bert Holldubler in their book,  “The Superorganism”:

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.

Dawn- The operating currency that flows throughout Nature’s inter-connected animate and inanimate forms is energy. This energy drives Nature by traveling through networks of inter-connectivity that are within all patterns in Nature. The transportation and transformation of energy is a highly connected necessity of life. It is safe to say that Earth’s connection to the sun’s energy is the most essential, critical, and basic of all connections in Nature.  This energy  initiates chains of other connecting patterns vital to life on Earth. The sun’s photons that arrive on Earth produce major biochemical changes through photosynthesis in plants. Plants then become the food and fertilizer that connects many of Earth’s creatures into food chains where the herbivores are prey to the carnivores – the “meat eaters”.

The lifeblood of Nature’s connections that transport energy can be destroyed by man – resulting in his extinction and the eradication of all life as we know it. Our gaseous emissions from fossil fuels, the use of fluorides, and other chemicals can cause both the blockage of the sun’s energy flow or excessive energy flow through holes in our protective ozone layer. Humanity is affecting the primary connection in Nature upon which all life depends. We have it within our power to avoid this destruction. Those who warn about harmful emissions moving into the atmosphere are not simply crazy environmentalists or doomsday fanatics. The destruction could become real. Developing a consciousness, a respect, and a reverence for interconnections in Nature, even as an abundance of caution, is a wisdom that leads to the survival of life on Earth. That consciousness may not affect your generation, but it will save your children, your grandchildren, and Earth’s other creatures from harm.

What all of this means is that any human activity within Nature needs to be done so with a consciousness of how Ironwood_Thumb-7720things are connected and how relationships are affected. For example, those government agencies who are stewards of public lands need to carefully consider the killing off of wildlife in the name of “resource management”.  The noise impact of ATV activity must be evaluated in terms of how it affects the relationships of local wildlife. Logging and grazing activities need to be considered in the light of how relationships within the flora and fauna of Nature are adversely affected. Destroying a link within the hierarchy of an ecosystem results in the destruction of energy flow between entities within that system. Part of any consideration of a human activity within Nature should include a careful definition of all the interconnections within the subject ecosystem and an impact assessment study of those connections.

Whether you are simply a lover of Nature or a professional naturalist, your mature consciousness for Nature should include two questions whenever you observe something of interest. For example, if you are simply observing a Sahuaro cactus or if you are considering the environmental impact of some human activity on that cactus, you might ask the following questions:

Question #1: How is this Sahuaro cactus interconnected with all other organisms in its ecosystem?

Question #2: What will happen to the Sahuaro if one or more of these connections are disturbed or broken?

From all of this, we can conclude that the idea that Nature’s first organizing principle – “Everything In Nature Is Connected” – is not just some spiritual worldview. It describes real collective behavior. It is scientific fact!! Connections in Nature are vital because these connections are Nature’s transporters of energy between components in a natural system.  The alteration or destruction of links in Nature, an oft-times common approach by stewards of Nature, is never a good solution. The conservation of ecosystems by mankind should always involve the definition and the preservation of Nature’s connections.  Connections in nature are the very basis for our existence as living creatures on this earth. It is these connections that need our attention and preservation — the job of the steward of Nature.

Worth Your Extra Attention : Rest In Peace Pete Seeger David Suzuki’s tribute to Pete Seeger This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”  — Words painted on Pete Seeger’s banjo

A man with a banjo can be a powerful force for good. Pete Seeger, who died Jan. 27 at the age of 94, inspired generations of political and environmental activists with songs ranging from “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to “Sailing Down My Golden River.” From the late 1930s until his death, Seeger brought his music to union halls, churches, schools, migrant camps, nightclubs, TV studios, marches and rallies—always inviting audiences to join in. His calling took him from being hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 to being invited to perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Like me, he was inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring to become a strong defender of the environment as well as human rights. In both social justice and environmental causes, he believed in the strength of grassroots efforts. As he told the CBC Radio program Ideas, “The powers that be can break up any big thing they want. They can attack it from the outside. They can infiltrate it and corrupt it from the inside—or co-opt it. But what are they going to do about 10 million little But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They don’t know where to start. Break up three of them and four more like it start up. Seeger and his wife, Toshi, devoted a lot of time to protecting the Hudson River near their home in Beacon, NY. To save the polluted waterway, they raised money to build a sloop, the Clearwater, to take children, teachers and parents sailing. The boat and cleanup efforts have since spawned a science-based environmental education organization and music festival—and led to progress in restoring the river and ridding it of toxic PCBs, pesticides and other chemicals. Seeger was also involved in anti-fracking efforts, adding the line, “This land was made to be frack-free” to his late friend Woody Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land Is Your Land,” when he joined Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews at a Farm Aid benefit last year. Like all of us who devote our lives to trying to make the world better, Seeger made mistakes along the way. But he was willing to admit when he was wrong and to change his views. As a geneticist, I’m fascinated by the built-in need we have for music; it reaches deep within us. The power of a good song to touch us emotionally and rally us to action is nothing short of extraordinary. Like Nelson Mandela, who died in December at age 95, Pete Seeger was a great communicator for whom principles mattered more than anything else. He was a true American and world citizen and we’re better off for the contributions he made during his long life”.

I’ve included links to two short Pete Seeger performances here and here.

For Your Further Consideration

Ecological literacy (ecoliteracy) is the ability to understand how our Earth’s natural systems make life on  our planet possible. The essays in this website offer thoughts about ecoliteracy to all environmental educators,  students, and  stewards of Nature.   The emphasis is on these key ideas:
  • Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms the energy necessary for all life to exist. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity. This worldview (the “Living Earth Story”) is supported by the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  • Environmental educators, their students, scientists, and all stewards of Nature  are a powerful progressive force that, through their knowledge about Nature, through the legacies that they create, and through their informed actions are capable of overseeing the well-being of our home —  Mother Earth
  • Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a worldview in the minds and hearts of all of our youth. Environmental education must include the acts of passing this consciousness on to future generations.
  • If you are interested in working with me, other environmental educators, and other stewards of Nature to build a legacy of young people who will embrace and evangelize the worldview that “Everything on Earth is Connected and Interdependent”, please provide your questions and comments in the space provided below or by contacting me at my Twitter account @ballenamar.

Please Comment  Here

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.

18 thoughts on “Organizing Principle #1: Everything Is Connected”

  1. I’ve been volunteering in an elementary classroom sharing my passion, the marine realm. In the first session we looked at marine debris & sea turtles and how they have become interconnected. Next, we looked at plankton and its major role on earth – oxygen source for all living things on earth to the base of the food chain in the ocean. The 6th Principal in Ocean Literacy: Essential Principals and Fundamental Concepts is “The Ocean and Humans are Inextricably Interconnected” – a principal that helps me develop information to share with students. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/literacy/ocean_literacy.pdf

    1. Hi Annette:

      Thank you so much for your comment. To add to your words and to the URL you provided, I recently found a powerful video about ocean pollution entitled “Midway”. Here is the movie’s description and URL.

      MIDWAY, a Message from the Gyre is a short film. It is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. We walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on.


  2. I appreciate your inclusion of Suzuki’s tribute to Pete Seeger. Seeger’s impulse to protect his backyard water by making something positive is such a good example of a non-threatening educational lesson.
    Can we apply such a creative solution to deal with the backyard plastic waste of San Carlos?..or anywhere?

    1. Hi Jackie:

      Good to hear from you again. I’ve always had this idea of contacting the engineering school at ITSON to design and build a plastic recycling plant for Guaymas. We never have problems with aluminum cans because folks are always gathering and recycling them.We could do the same for plastic – which is now 90% of our garbage.

  3. I would like to thank you to give your readers a chance to write their comments here.
    As it is mentioned in the article: Everything Is Connected and every one sees and defines the connection from his/her side. I’m working on Insects(collecting, fixing, painting,…) and they’ve got different patterns on their body especially on their wings. You can see some similarities between what on their body and on the Earth or galaxy. I’m drawing a butterfly named Papilio demoleus its wings reminds me sea wave and galaxy and lots of other patterns. And I think there should be a reason for this similarities!

  4. “The operating currency that flows throughout Nature’s inter-connected animate and inanimate forms is energy”.

    This energy is what my favourite philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, would call ‘Will’. He says that the phenomenal world we perceive is driven by a hidden, noumenal energy, the ‘thing-in’itself’, which forms the kernel of existence. He was writing this in the 1820s, and was the first philosopher to fuse western and eastern philosophy. Strangely, he built a pessimstic philosophy of suffering out of this – but his insights are brilliant. I wonder what he’d have made of your essay…

    “He will recognise this Will of which we are speaking not only in those phenomenal existences which exactly resemble his own, in men and animals as their inmost nature, but the course of reflection will lead him to recognise the force which germinates and vegetates in the plant, and indeed the force through which the crystal is formed, that by which the magnet turns to the North Pole, the force whose shock he experiences from the contact of two different kinds of metals, the force which appears in the elective affinities of matter as repulsion and attraction, decomposition and combination, and, lastly, even gravitation, which acts so powerfully throughout matter, draws the stone to the earth and the earth to the sun, — all these, I say, he will recognise as different only in their phenomenal existence, but in their inner nature as identical, as that which is directly known to him so intimately and so much better than anything else, and which in its most distinct manifestation is called Will. It is this application of reflection alone that prevents us from remaining any longer at the phenomenon, and leads us to the thing-in-itself. Phenomenal existence is representation and nothing more. All representation, of whatever kind it may be, all object, is phenomenal existence, but the Will alone is a thing-in-itself. As such, it is throughout not representation, but toto genere different from it; it is that of which all representation, all object, is the phenomenal appearance, the visibility, the objectification. It is the inmost nature, the kernel, of every particular thing, and also of the whole. It appears in every blind force of nature and also in the preconsidered action of man; and the great difference between these two is merely in the degree of the manifestation, not in the nature of what manifests itself.”
    [‘The World as Will & Representation’, book 2, chap.21

    1. Hi Tim:

      Thank you very much for taking the time to provide such a deep and insightful comment.

      I could comment on a number of things but am fascinated by your use of “noumenal” (a thing unto itself) to describe energy. Since energy takes on different forms, I’ve always had trouble with he idea of defining energy because it can be different at any moment. Probably the most obvious issue, to me, is the transformative nature of energy. My worldview sees connections in Nature as both transferring and transforming energy. The sun’s photon energy transforming into chemical energy in plants for example. So, how do you hold the beast down and call energy a thing unto itself when it takes on different forms?? It is a fun topic and I certainly don’t pretend to have an answer.

  5. I also believe that everything is connected, but I challenge you to provide a more precise definition of what this means. Here are some open ended questions that may spark some ideas to help provide a more clear definition of this concept.

    Is “connection” just limited to a transfer of energy, resources or food chains, or something else / more?

    What does a “connection” view of nature require? Does this differ from other views in science?

    If someone believed that the world was not connected, what would this entail and would there be inconsistencies with observations?

    Is there a difference in believing that the world is composed of disconnected entities that may or may not interact, versus a world composed on interconnected entities?

    These questions are not meant to criticize, but are questions I also ask myself when thinking of nature’s connectivity.

    1. Thanks David. I really appreciate your list of questions and issues. While I usually answer or reply immediately to every comment, I have decided to write a new essay that will address your thoughts and questions. Thanks for the inspiration

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