Earth’s Web of Life

If you have been a regular reader of my blog site, you may have noticed a recent subtle change. You now rarely see the words “Connections in Nature”. Increasingly, I use the the expression “Web of Life” to portray what this web site is all about. In truth, I have struggled to find a good way to describe the interconnectedness of Nature in my writing. For me the term “Connections in Nature” has always seemed too technical and vague. It doesn’t tell me much of anything unless I accompany these words with some sort of explanation.

 

“Web of Life” paints a metaphorical picture. It suggests a vision. weboflife-3486One can almost see lots of living interconnected  organisms as the words roll off your tongue.  If you like to see dictionary definitions, “Web of Life” is described as a succession of organisms in an ecological community that are linked to each other through the transfer of energy and nutrients.

 

In 1997, Fritjof Capra published a book that described the changing worldview of modern science. The book was titled “The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems“. Earlier, modern science had looked upon Nature as a collection of parts. By studying the parts, scientists erroneously claimed that they could understand the whole. This process was called “reductionism”. But, a major paradigm shift in scientific thinking took place during the first half of the 20th century. Nature became viewed as a system of interrelated parts where the actions of a natural system are greater than the sum of the parts. It was recognized that simply studying the parts of a system could not define a system.

 

The bookseller, Amazon, offers a description of Capra’s “The Web of Life” book that gives us some perspective on this major shift in modern scientific thinking.

 

weboflife-2964“In The Web of Life, Capra takes yet another giant step, setting forth a new scientific language to describe interrelationships and interdependence of psychological, biological, physical, social, and cultural phenomena–the “web of life.” During the past twenty-five years, scientists have challenged conventional views of evolution and the organization of living systems and have developed new theories with revolutionary philosophical and social implications. Fritjof Capra has been at the forefront of this revolution. In The Web of Life, Capra offers a brilliant synthesis of such recent scientific breakthroughs as the theory of complexity, Gaia theory, chaos theory, and other explanations of the properties of organisms, social systems, and ecosystems. Capra’s surprising findings stand in stark contrast to accepted paradigms of mechanism and Darwinism and provide an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that will allow us to build and sustain communities without diminishing the opportunities for future generations.”

 

In its metaphoric beauty, the term “Web of Life” portrays NatureResilience_1 as an interdependent collection of systems that, starting with the sun’s energy, transports and transforms the energy that drives Nature. One small part of this complex web includes we humans. But, Nature’s systems can easily survive without humans. The notion of an interconnected web of life does not facilitate the human dominance that the Earth is now experiencing. Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist, Dr. David Suzuki, suggests that we are one brief generation in the long march of time. The future of the Earth  is not ours to erase. All that we know and believe about the “Web of Life” must now become the foundation of the way we live. He says that :

 

  • We must work from dominance to partnership.
  • From fragmentation to connection.
  • From insecurity to interdependence.

 

Suzuki goes on to note that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the ecological inheritance of many are ethically wrong.

Wrapped up within the beautiful and simple words, “Web of Life”, there lies a both a description of Earth’s complex and interdependent systems as well as a pathway to our survival on this Planet.  It elegantly summarizes the truth of who we are and what we must do. And, “Web of Life” describes what this web site is all about.

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.

6 Responses to “Earth’s Web of Life”

  1. at UW-Green Bay in mid-1970’s I had the privilege of studying Ecosystems Analysis for 3 semesters with a team of 4 professors from several disciplines. Was a great opportunity to see life from the more wholistic perspective. Still attempting to get data and measurements to quantify energy flow and such, but was a leap forward. Seems we are getting back to that perspective once again. Nice way of framing it. Will look for Capra’s book.

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