Nothing exists solely on its own. From the most minuscule atomic particle to the grandest galaxies, the past, the present, and the future of every animate and inanimate being in our universe, including human beings, is defined by its interconnection to everything else. If any of these links are broken, Nature at any scale will change or simply not operate.
We human beings are interdependent organisms with a legacy that is represented in both living organisms and non-living natural objects. Like the rocks, mountains, lions, and ants, we are all made from the same basic atomic materials. We are equal partners with everything else in the Universe. The health of both our interconnected bodies and our interconnected surroundings is essential to our existence.
The single greatest obstacle to ecological sustainability on Earth is the outdated world view that places humanity external and superior to Nature. Nonetheless, everything in Nature is interconnected. This idea has been very familiar in both the spiritual and aesthetic worldviews for a very long time. More recently, interconnectivity and interdependence in Nature have become scientific fact. We now know that life on Earth would cease to function if interconnectivity did not exist. We now know that humanity is not external or superior to Nature. Indeed, humanity is an integral part of Nature just like every other creature on this planet.
Patterns In Nature conjure up images like the spiral horns in sheep, ocean waves, sand dunes, and other regular or irregular shapes for us to enjoy, to meditate upon, and to study. However, Nature’s patterns also represent something much deeper. All of Nature’s patterns are physical manifestations of interconnected, interdependent networks of conduits that transform and transport our sun’s energy to all living and non-living things on our planet. Without these networks of energy flow, all objects and creatures on Earth would cease to exist because they could not receive the energy necessary to function.
Each energy network interacts with energy conduits in larger and smaller networks. A human being, a tree, a mountain stream, a maturing ecosystem, and Earth’s evolving biosphere are all interconnected and dynamic networks that direct energy flow in Nature. Each segment in a network performs similar fundamental functions of energy usage, energy transformation, and energy transportation despite the different physical structures that contains these networks. Said another way, a river and a human being don’t look alike. Yet, their energy transportation networks do look alike and perform similar functions.
One such energy containing pattern that is familiar to all of us is the tree. The twigs in a tree support leaves that capture the sun’s energy. The green chlorophyll in a leaf’s energy transforms and stores that captured energy. Some of that energy is transported to the rest of the tree through twigs, branches, and trunks. Look carefully at a tree’s structure. Twigs are connected to branches in similar ways. Branches are connected to truncks in much the same way. In a very approximate way, each branch or twig in the tree’s structural hierarchy is a magnified or reduced version of its immediate neighbor. Mathematicians call this phenomenon “self similarity” because each structure looks similar to other structures in the tree. The structures are called “fractals”. It has been shown that many different energy transportation and transformation systems in Nature are fractal. A tree’s root system captures nutrients and other energy forms from the Earth. Roots look much like fractal collections of twigs and branches. These roots intertwine with root systems from other trees as well as various subterranean ecosystems. Our lungs and our blood transportation systems are fractal structures that interrelate with each other. Our systems of nerves are fractal. River systems are fractal. Indeed, much of the energy in Nature is transported and transformed by networks that have the same fractal structure that we see in trees.
Looking at these interconnected “self similar” systems of energy flow gives us a sense that some kind of unity exists. Modern systems science has searched for more solid proof of unity in our interconnected world. As it turns out, all self similar fractal patterns can be mathematically described using a single characteristic number. If this characteristic number were the same value for a variety of different energy transportation and transformation flow networks, that would be very strong evidence that a unity among these systems exist. As it turns out, many energy networks can be described by a characteristic number whose value is about 1/4. A group of scientists at the Santa Fe Institute have been working on this issue for a number of years. They examined a famous relationship where the mass of many very different animals, from mice, to humans, to elephants were compared with their metabolism. Metabolism is a measure of energy utilization. It is astounding to find that the relationship between body mass and metabolism varies by a multiple of about 1/4 for all animals whether it be a mouse, a human, or an elephant. This phenomenon has been named “Quarter Power Scaling”. It has been proposed that the reason behind this phenomenon is that this characteristic number does describe the underlying fractal energy transportation structures for life on Earth. For those of you who wish to dig deeper, you can read any number of papers written by the group. Simply Google “Geoffrey West”, and/or “Quarter Power Scaling”. Or you might care to read the scientific paper entitled ” The Predominance of Quarter-power Scaling in Biology” or “The Origin of the 3/4 Scaling Law“.
What all of this suggests is is that there is growing scientific proof that there is a unity among all living creatures in how they process the currency of Nature – energy. Science is now beginning to show what the spiritual and aesthetic worldviews have known for a long time. Nature does have a common thread. We are all connected! And, we are now able to describe more precisely the patterns of these interconnections that are so vital to life in Earth.
The idea of connectivity and interdependence in Nature is no longer just the creative whim of an artist or the scribblings from an ancient Chinese text. Modern science is now quantifying Nature’s connectivity and defining the importance of why Her interdependencies exist. The seemingly ubiquitous phenomenon of Quarter Power Scaling amplifies the notion that connections in Nature are very common and vitally important. By conserving Nature’s energy flow we preserve life on this planet.
It is now fair to say that conservation can be defined as the identification and protection of connections in Nature. Any act by you to preserve a connection in Nature is an act of conservation. These acts might be as simple as picking up garbage. You would also be conserving Nature’s connections by doing what you can to stop the air pollution that diminishes the energy flow from our sun. You could be helping stop the deforestation that slows down the flow of oxygen from a tree’s leaves into the atmosphere. Or you might be helping stop the killing of a key predator like the wolf who preserves a healthy diversity of both plants and animals in ecosystems. You could also evangelize the need to protect connections in nature by becoming a volunteer or a professional environmental education teacher. Your acts of conserving Nature’s interconnectivity help build a future and a legacy for all of Nature, including mankind.
For Your Further Consideration
Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms the energy necessary for all life to exist. The key to an active group of ecoliterate humans 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 – particularly our youth. 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 for the future, 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 include the acts of passing a worldview of a Mother Earth on to Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of all of our youth.
This website offers a free PDF book entitled “Empowering Stewards of Nature – Lessons From The Web of Life”. The book offers education methodology and content for creating Nature’s “Living Earth Story” within our youth and all stewards of Nature.. To download this book, follow the instructions on the right side of the web-site when you click the photograph of the book.
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.
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.