Seminar : What Are Connections In Nature?

Seminar Title: We Are All Connected

  1. Seminar title
  2. Background material
  3. Question list
  4. Reference material.

If there is one unifying principle in all of Nature, it is that everything in Nature is connected in some way to
everything 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.

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
things 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.