My Vision And Voice

What follows are notes that I made to myself as I thought about how I want to live my life. I share these ideas with my readers in hopes of creating a dialog with other environmental educators and stewards of Nature. Please share your ideas and comments at the bottom of this page.

My Objective:

To share ideas by translating the language of the natural world. Let what is out there speak to us clearly on its own terms using Nature’s three voices – factual, spiritual, aesthetic.

My Premise:

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 and energy flow with everything else.  If any of these links are broken, Nature at any scale would 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 Paradox:

The Anthropocene, the epoch of man, is a new geological epoch in which humans are drastically altering the planet. Humans have become the primary force for change on our planet. It is our actions  – from local to global – that now have a major influence on the health or the destruction of life on earth.

Human consciousness of the interdependence in Nature and the conservation of the resulting interconnections is essential for the survival of humanity on this planet. But, human consciousness is no longer connected to Nature even though Nature is highly interconnected with humans. 

To survive, humanity must protect connections in Nature.

The single greatest obstacle to sustainability is the erroneous human worldview that views humanity as disconnected from and superior to Nature.

The Question:

  • How can we create a new sense of stewardship to replace the destructive idea of “mastery”? 
  • How do we rapidly shift Western worldviews so as to re-establish humanity as an interdependent part of Nature?
  • How are we to go about connecting humanity with Nature?

My Vision:

  • Gain a further aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific understanding of Nature’s patterns and how they are connected.
  • Enter into a meaningful engagement with Nature.
  • Enter into a dialog with others regarding the vital importance of connections in Nature. Enlighten through my writing and teaching. Create knowledge and passion through my photography and videography.
  • Help build a renewed and large-scale consciousness of Nature through young people.

Goals:

Build A Revised Consciousness

  • A worldview that realigns the human-nature relationship to one of interdependence.
  • Build a sense of stewardship instead of “mastery”.
  • Build a consciousness of how we are all connected
  • Sustainability through education
  • Create passion
  • Offer enlightenment

Human Focus

  • Translate the language of the natural world into a language understood by humans.
  • Let what is out there speak to us clearly on its own terms.
  • Evangelize an ecological morality.
  • Our youth have the capacity to change humanity.

Needed Action

  • Read, read, read!!!!
  • Blog searches
  • Book highlights
  • Reread Silent Spring
  • Define target audience
    • Environmental educators
    • Students
    • All stewards of Nature
  • Read other blogs
  • Talk/comments to blog readers
  • Use Social Media
  • Amazon reader reviews

Write

    • Weekly Twitter
    • New essays

Photography

Videography

Environmental Education Essay List

Click on a title to view an essay

Interbeing – No Man Is An Island

 

No man is an island. Instead, his “interbeing” is shared with the plants and animals he eats, the people who make his clothes and food, the people who populate his home, country and the very world he perceives, the insects that pollinate the trees that yield his fruit, shade him from the sun, and provide lumber or his house.”                                                                                                     Buddhist Monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh

There is something about the world “interbeing” that tugs at my soul leaving a joyous and very comfortable feeling. In one word, “Interbeing”  describes all of the processes that drive our planet because it describes the processes of inter-dependence and co-existence among all things. Without interbeing, Nature would fail to function. In human terms, interbeing recognizes the dependence of any one person on all other people and objects. Interbeing is the process that describes Nature as a living system as well as a well-functioning human society.

One of my favorite environmental writers is Dr. Scott Sampson who is a  dinosaur paleontologist, science communicator, and author of the book  How To Raise A Wild Child. In a 2011 essay at edge.org, Scott does a great job of describing the absurd mindset of a very large group of human adults over the age of 25.

Arguably the most cherished and deeply ingrained notion in the Western mindset is the separateness of our skin-encapsulated selves — the belief that we can be likened to isolated, static machines. Having externalized the world beyond our bodies, we are consumed with thoughts of furthering our own ends and protecting ourselves. Yet this deeply rooted notion of isolation is illusory, as evidenced by our constant exchange of matter and energy with the “outside” world. At what point did your last breath of air, sip of water, or bite of food cease to be part of the outside world and become you? Precisely when did your exhalations and wastes cease being you? Our skin is as much permeable membrane as barrier, so much so that, like a whirlpool, it is difficult to discern where “you” end and the remainder of the world begins. Energized by sunlight, life converts inanimate rock into nutrients, which then pass through plants, herbivores, and carnivores before being decomposed and returned to the inanimate Earth, beginning the cycle anew. Our internal metabolisms are intimately interwoven with this Earthly metabolism; one result is the replacement of every atom in our bodies every seven years or so.”

The idea that we humans are separate from Nature and can control Nature is blatantly false. The truth is that we humans are totally dependent on Nature and each other in order to live. Like every other creature on Earth, we are in a state of “interbeing” — this highly interconnected state of dependency on Nature. We humans must embrace the fact that we are not outside or above Nature, but fully enmeshed within it!!! As a result, every act that we do can affect everything else. But most of the time we have no idea what the consequence of that act might be. WHY?? Because we have no way of predicting what Nature will do.

The tragedy is that we adults are blindly consuming and abusing Nature at a rate that destroys or alters Nature’s ecosystems in addition to leaving little or nothing for our children, our grandchildren, future generations, and life in general.

Scott Sampson goes on to then pose the question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” His response to his question is that humanity “would greatly benefit by embracing and practicing the concept of interbeing”.

The idea of interbeing comes from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who says:

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in a sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.”

‘Interbeing’   is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have a paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. . . . ‘To be’ is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

We must learn to see ourselves not as isolated but as permeable and interwoven — selves within larger selves, including the species self (humanity) and the biospheric self (life). The interbeing perspective encourages us to view other life forms as fellow travelers in the current of this ancient river. On a still more profound level, it enables us to envision ourselves and other organisms not as static “things” at all, but as processes deeply and inextricably embedded in the background flow.

Interbeing, an expression of ancient wisdom backed by science, can help us comprehend this radical ecology, fostering a much-needed transformation in mindset.”

The solution to climate change problems, human over-population, and over-consumption rests with those humans who have embraced a consciousness for the “interbeing” of everything on our Earth. When our central organizing priority becomes the interbeing of all life, we then experience the recovery of our world. When a person is gifted with a consciousness of interbeing and acts upon an ecosystem in some way, that action is always accompanied by the question:

If I do this here, what might happen over there? 

Here is a famous example. If I kill all the wolves at Yellowstone  National Park, what will happen to the ecosystem where those wolves lived? (Hint: Look at the video “Lords of Nature).  The killing of all the wolves at Yellowstone in the early 1900s by ranchers and hunters resulted in major, unexpected changes in the Yellowstone ecosystem. In the later 1900s, scientists recognized the negative ecological impact of the wolf killings and wolf reintroduction began. This recovery effort demonstrated the power of interbeing. This is a video worth watching !!!

It is a sad fact that the development of consciousness for interbeing will not come from the current generations of human adults who are separated from Nature, are focused on near term financial “growth”, and who choose not to consider the welfare of Earth’s creatures or the well-being of future human generations. This group of adult humans has left a mess for future human generations.

However, in all good stories, there are heroes that come to the rescue. These heroes are environmental educators, other specialists in education, scientists, college students, and those other folks who are angry about what is going on. What is essential for the long-term survival of the human race is a strong sense of interbeing with Earth and all life on Earth. Interbeing exists as a profoundly important tool in the arsenal of those who, through education, direct action, or example, will help define a new and positive future for all life on earth.

For Your Further Consideration

Video:  The Story of Interbeing   (8:44 minutes) Charles Eisenstein

In this video on interbeing, Charles Eisenstein explains how the real power we have to create change comes from alignment with the web of being.

Video: If We Don’t Protect Nature We Can’t Protect Ourselves  (5:34 minutes) Harrison Ford

  • 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 eco literate 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 living Mother Earth on to humanity. Environmental education must be hands-on, and action-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become conscious in the minds and hearts of all of our youth.
  • This website offers a free PDF book entitled “Empowering Nature’s Stewards”. ‎ The book offers educational 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 when you click the “Empowering Nature’s Stewards ” menu item from the menu list. 
  • 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

 

Empowering Stewards of Nature (Free Study Guides)

Empowering Stewards of Nature

Lessons From the Web of Life

 


For Nature at all levels to exist, everything in our universe, in our world, and in our local communities must be connected because Nature’s fuel is energy which must flow between all plants and animals. Everything is connected. Nothing is self sufficient. Every rock, bird, beast, plant, and human being is dependent on each other in some way that is important. Without interconnectivity, Nature would not be here on Earth.

 

Everything lives within this web of life. A plant is connected to our sun because the plant needs the sun’s energy to live. An animal, such as ourselves, needs the plant because the plant gives us the energy that we need to live. And so on. The conservation of our natural environment is the identification, understanding, and protection of these vital connections in Nature.

 

I am pleased to offer this series of lesson guides that focus on the theme that “Nothing In Nature Exists In Isolation”. The material is in the form of a PDF eBook which is provided, free of charge.

 

The objective of this book is to help environmental educators instill the need to preserve an interconnected Nature in the consciousness of our young people. The strategy of the material is to demonstrate the vital importance of identifying, understanding, and protecting connections in Nature. Equipped with this consciousness and new knowledge, a young person is in a position to influence his generation and future generations about how the conservation of connections in Nature will preserve the Earth’s environment for ourselves and for other creatures.

 

This book is written for environmental educators and their students. The material and methodology has been successfully used in environmental education programs in junior and senior high school levels. Modified and simplified material has been used from fourth grade up to sixth grade. I’ve found that all students, no matter what grade level, love the question and answer approach. I have also trained my high school students to become the mentors for sessions given in the lower grades. Young students seem to follow the lead of other students better than the lead of adults.

 

The material in this book is a collection of lesson modules that focus on our interconnected world of Nature. Individual lessons may be used separately or the complete lesson set may be used in the sequence provided as activities that focus on connections in Nature. Each module can be printed as a handout to your students.

 

The methodology sets aside the formal presentation of facts in favor of individual exploration and discovery. Instead of being a purveyor of facts, the “teacher” acts as a mentor who only asks questions. The research and the answers must come from the students.. Through Socratic style seminars and discussion groups accompanied by hands-on place-based education, this material will assist a student in engaging, exploring, and discovering Nature’s interconnected world. The Socratic approach is used because it builds critical thinking skills and strongly encourages students to do their own Internet research.

 

An important part of this book is the process of regularly providing updated editions. New material and ideas are openly welcomed and will be incorporated into new editions. Those who download a copy of this book will be asked for an email address so that new editions can be sent automatically. In effect, the book is a community project where, with time, the expertise of many environmental educators will be represented.

 

Download Your Free Book Here

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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments – List Of Collaborators
  • Who Should Read And Use This Book?
  • Welcome
  • Suggestions For Using The Material in This eBook
  • Student Instructions For Participating In Seminar Sessions
  • Seminar Material On Connections In Nature
  • What Is Nature?
  • What Does “Engaging Nature” Mean?
  • What Are Connections In Nature?
  • What Is Energy?
  • What Are Ecosystems?
  • What Are Habitats?
  • What Are Food Webs?
  • Why are Wildlife Corridors Important ?
  • How Are You The Same As Rocks, Birds, Animals, and Rivers?
  • How Are Plants And The Sun Connected?
  • How Are Plants, Animals, And Humans Connected?
  • Why Are Sounds In Nature Important?
  • Why Are Forests Important In Our Lives?
  • How Can I Identify Connections In Nature ?
  • How Can I Protect Connections In Nature?
  • Case Studies
  • Our Sun’s Energy
  • Our Moon
  • Air
  • Water
  • Ice Bergs
  • Log Beaches
  • Winds
  • Storms
  • From Raindrops To Rivers
  • The San Pedro River
  • Estuaries
  • Fiddler Crabs
  • Forests
  • Lichens
  • Cow Pies
  • Grasslands
  • Fire
  • Deserts
  • Sand Dunes
  • Nursery Plants
  • Insects
  • Bugs And Flowers
  • Spines
  • Spider Webs
  • Emergent Behavior
  • Gray Whale Migration
  • Salmon Migration
  • Ant Colonies
  • Ants and Eggshells
  • Penguin Colonies
  • Elephant Seal Mother And Her Pup
  • Bull Elephant Seals
  • Salmon And Bears
  • Gentoo Penguin And Chicks
  • Albatross Predators
  • Pelicans And Seals
  • Turkey Vultures
  • The Baby Dies Too
  • Coyotes
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Frigate Birds
  • Bison
  • Beavers
  • Soundscapes
  • Fractals
  • Case Studies – Connections Broken By Man
  • Whale Catcher Boats
  • ATVs And Turtles
  • Fences
  • The Killing Of Wolves And Other Great Predators
  • Activity Sets In Nature
  • Using Students As Teachers
  • Engaging Nature With Photography
  • Identifying Sounds In Nature
  • Identifying Connections In Nature – The String Game
  • Applied Connection Identification Activities
  • Developing A Conservation Plan
  • A Final Note – Gifts Of Wisdom Passed On To You

Stewart Udall – an environmental hero

The earth needs your devotion and tender care

 

Recently, I spent some time visiting Canyonlands National Park in Utah.  I was particularly moved by the magnificent vista that surrounded and included the convergence of the Colorado River and the Green River. “Awesome” is an understatement. Later, I was deeply inspired by the story on a plaque that described the vision of the newly appointed Secretary of the Interior,  Stewart Udall’s vision for this new park.  On a flight over this area in the early 1960s, then Bureau of Reclamation Chief Floyd Dominy showed Udall where he wanted to build a big dam: just below the Confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. But where Dominy saw a reservoir, Stewart Udall saw a national park. Driven by Udall’s vision, Canyonlands ultimately became a national park.

 

This story has a deep significance in my mind and soul because, in 2018 as I write this essay, we live in the era of Donald Trump and his highly unqualified political appointee, Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. While Stewart Udall and Ryan Zinke may have similar backgrounds as elected officials, Stewart Udall can be characterized by what he has said to his children and grandchildren:

 

Whether you are a person of faith who believes the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, whether you are an individual who has had mystical experiences that link you to the network of eternity, or whether you are a fervent conservationist who wants to leave a legacy for your progeny, the earth needs your devotion and tender care. Go well, do well, my children! Support all endeavors that promise a better life for the inhabitants of our planet. Cherish sunsets, wild creations, and wild places. Have a love affair with the wonder and beauty of the earth!”

 

We have a moral duty to leave a legacy

 

Udall went on to say:

 

“We have a moral duty to leave a legacy. Keeping Earth a home not only for humans but for animals and birds and other creatures that share this planet with us.”

 

 

Ryan Zinke spent his first year in office selling off rights to our public lands. Donald Trump’s Interior secretary is taking extraordinary steps to put public lands in private hands. Vox  reports that :

” Since he (Ryan Zinke) was sworn in on March 1, 2017, to lead the $12 billion agency in charge of federal lands and natural resources, he’s made unprecedented changes that could leave a lasting mark on America’s wilderness and its environment. From his recent proposal to open almost all of America’s coast to offshore drilling to rolling back federal protections on national monuments, Zinke has taken extraordinary steps to make public lands more accessible to fossil fuel companies and other industries. Part of what he’s doing is selling mineral and energy rights to our public lands through leases — and potentially lowering royalties for industries in the process. In line with Trump’s interest in expanding mining on federal lands, Zinke has made critical mineral production a top priority.”

 

Stewart Udall’s vision of building a legacy of environmental consciousness within our children and youth has also been the vision of environmental educators worldwide. It is this vision that will change the environmentally destructive worldview of western civilization . This vision has the potential of reversing the current pathway to human misery that threatens to be a reality starting about 2050.

 

Humanity cannot afford to advocate the destructive culture of creatures like Ryan Zinke or his boss. We desperately need another Stewart Udall in Washington as well as the strength of environmental educators as they create a constructive and sustainable legacy through their students and with their elected representatives. Read more:

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

The Web of Life – A Resource List

Explore extensive Internet resource lists for 22 subjects about Nature and Her interdependent web of life .

 

 

The lists are categorized by topic. These lists will be useful to environmental educators, students, and anyone who wishes to do further research on the material provided in this web site.

To go to an individual resource list, simply click on its title in the list provided below. You can also view the list by clicking on the “Online Resource Lists” menu item on the main menu for this web site. To return to this list from a selected resource list, simply use the back button.

 

Biodiversity

Climate Change

Conservation Practices

Energy Flow In Nature’s Ecosystems

Environmental Education

Environmental Ethics

Forests and Subterrainean Ecosystems

Intelligence, Behavior, and Social Patterns

Man’s Impact On Nature

Miscellaneous Web of Life Subjects

Nature’s Living Systems

Nature Videos

Patterns In Nature

Predators

Self Similarity – Fractals

SIze and Scaling

Soundscape Ecology

The Spiritual Voice of Nature

Superorganisms and Self-Organization

Symmetry In Nature

Synchrony and Time Patterns

Wildlife Issues

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

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.

Our Earth Is Our Web of Life

“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.

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

Humans Killing Animals Alters The Flow Of Nature’s Energy

Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. … The circuit is not closed; some energy is dissipated in decay, some is added by absorption from the air, some is stored in soils, peats, and long-lived forests; but it is a sustained circuit, like a slowly augmented revolving fund of life. … When a change occurs in one part of the circuit, many other parts must adjust themselves to it. Change does not necessarily obstruct or divert the flow of energy; evolution is a long series of self-induced changes, the net result of which has been to elaborate the flow mechanism and to lengthen the circuit. Evolutionary changes, though, are usually slow and local. Man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity, and scope.”   — Aldo Leopold

 

Grey_wolf_killI find it interesting that when I write about wolf killings or other emotionally charged environmental issues, my readership increases significantly and then sustains itself for some time. My blog post about Bison, Cattle, and Wolves was no exception. What I find interesting is that the high emotions that seem to run when one writes about creatures like wolves, whales, or dolphins usually masquerades some very important underlying ecological issue. Human fear and emotion tends to win — leaving important ecological messages in the dust.

In this blog post, I want to examine the core ecological issue that lurks behind many of the emotional pleadings of both stewards of Nature and those who hate environmentalism. What is missing in all of the emotional stuff is the idea of energy flow and energy conservation in Nature.

 

In today’s society, we think of the word “energy ” as relating to the prudent use of electricity, the elimination of fossil fuels, the use of wind machines, or the like. Rarely does one think about energy at an ecological level. Yet, as I hope to convince you, energy flow and energy conservation within all ecosystems is probably the most vital of all the issues when we talk about preserving the Planet for future generations.

 

Energy is the operating currency for all of Nature. While we cannot touch it, we can feel it. Energy is not just some philosophical or spiritual concept. It is tangible, it is real, it is an essential and basic component in Nature’s equation. Energy is the force that drives all of Nature.

 

The Sun is our key source of energy. Our Sun’s light photons that arrive on Earth drive our basic Recent-9and essential biochemical processes. Plant leaves receive these photons. A leaf’s chlorophyll takes in the Sun’s photons and, through a chemical process known as photosynthesis, transforms the solar energy into a form that is usable by a wide variety of plant eaters (herbivores) from microbes all the way up to grazers like elk and deer. Through their metabolic processes, these creatures chemically transform the stored plant energy into a form that is useful to them. Meat eaters, also called carnivores, then  eat the plant eating creatures and transform the stored energy once more.

 

What we have is a highly interconnected system of energy transportation and transformation. We call this system an “ecosystem”. The reason we humans need to respect and protect ecosystems is because these systems contain vital energy transportation links and energy transformation processes. The basic reason that an ecosystem forms and exists is to facilitate energy flow between and among the members of that system.

 

So what does all of this have to do with wolves? Watch the “Lords of Nature”  video. The scientists in this video do a great job of explaining and demonstrating what happened to the ecosystem at Yellowstone National Park when humans  killed off the wolves.  The evidence was very clear because they were able to observe what happened when the wolves were reintroduced over a half century later. When the wolves died, the elk and the deer populations exploded and ate off a lot of the plant life. In energy terms, the elk and the deer excessively consumed the plants that transported and transformed the photons from the sun into useful energy for plant eating animals. The excessive elk and the deer populations altered the flow of energy in the ecosystem.

 

DynamicTension-8681The energy of stream beds at Yellowstone was also altered. The eating of stream side tree saplings by the excessive elk and deer population resulted in the erosion of stream banks and the altering of water flow. In turn, this affected the fish in the stream and the beaver. So, the killing of wolves by humanity resulted in the alteration of energy flow which caused stream bed alteration and its side effects just as if humanity had picked up a shovel and physically changed the stream flow.

 

When the wolves were reintroduced into Nature, a route of passive restoration was wisely chosen by the overseers of the program. Without the intervention of mankind, Nature restored its own original energy flow. Here is a great explanation of a wolf’s role in the ecosystem from Mission:Wolf .

 

Since wild wolves have returned to Yellowstone, the elk and deer are stronger, the aspens and willows are healthier and the grasses taller.  For example, when wolves chase elk during the hunt, the elk are forced to run faster and farther.  As the elk run, their hooves aerate the soil, allowing more grasses to grow.  Since the elk cannot remain stationary for too long, aspens and willows in one area are not heavily grazed, and therefore can fully recover between migrations.  As with the rest of the country, coyote populations were nearly out of control in Yellowstone before the wolves returned.  Now, the coyotes have been out-competed and essentially reduced by 80 percent in areas occupied by wolves.  The coyotes that do remain are more skittish and wary.  With fewer coyotes hunting small rodents, raptors like the eagle and osprey have more prey and are making a comeback.  The endangered grizzly bears successfully steal wolf kills more often than not, thus having more food to feed their cubs.   In essence, we have learned that by starting recovery at the top with predators like wolves, the whole system benefits.  A wild wolf population actually makes for a stronger, healthier and more balanced ecosystem.  From plant, to insect, to people… we all stand to benefit from wolves.”

 

“With only 5% of our nation’s wilderness left, people are recognizing the important roles complete ecosystems play in keeping all of us healthy. With new knowledge of the trophic cascade (Nature’s energy flow), we can now begin to focus wilderness recovery efforts on a wider variety of ecosystems. Using Yellowstone as an example, we can teach the world about the wolf’s positive and vital role in the wild.

 

The lesson we can learn from this is that many of our actions as human beings can alter the energy flow in our ecosystems. We are deeply connected not just to each other but to all of life. Here are the  important ideas:
  • Nature is defined by her dynamic interrelationships between everything and anything in the Universe.
  • Energy is the unifying force that defines these relationships. Energy is the operating currency which connects and drives all animate and inanimate objects in the Universe.
  • Nature’s interconnections are the conduits for energy flow between and within Nature’s systems.
  • Ecosystems are collections of Nature’s energy conduits. The organizing principles under which ecosystems are organized define our Earth.
  • The job of the conservationist is to define and preserve Nature’s energy conduits.
 
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I have an ongoing section in my blog entitled “My Musings”. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by an take a look. You can reach it by clicking on the  “Blog Posts” menu tab near the top of my blog site. One of the sub-menus is entitled “My Musings”. 

 

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Powerful Voices In The Midst Of Ecological Instability

I wish to share with you the wisdom of three people who will inspire you and help you think about the impact of an interconnected Nature on your life and the lives of all other human beings. I have mentioned each of these people separately in other posts. But, their messages have much more power when presented as a whole.

 

Rachel Carson was an early pioneer in advancing the idea that everything in Nature is interconnected. In her 1962 book, Silent Spring, she sounded a warning siren that was heard around the world.

 

Two influential men received their early university education as scientists. Barry Commoner became famous as “the Paul Revere of Ecology”. The other gained his fame and respect as “Pope Francis”.

 

The wisdom of Rachael Carson, Barry Commoner, and Pope Francis offers a strategy of restoration to a Nature that has been warped, twisted, separated, and forgotten by mankind.

 

Rachel Carson told the story of a chemical death caused by man’s ignorance as he attempted to rachel-carsoncontrol his environment, free himself from pests, artificially enhance the growth of his food supply, and “manage” the ecology of other living creatures on this planet. By describing relationships between various living species and their environment, Rachel started a campaign to abolish the use of harmful chemicals in agriculture and by the consumer. Her book became a harbinger of change to come which included the modern environmental movement. Recently, Discover Magazine named Silent Spring as one of the 25 greatest scientific books of all time.

 

Rachel Carson’s most powerful message came through many examples that portrayed the importance of connections in Nature. She skillfully defined the connections between various living creatures and their environment. Then she recorded man’s ignorance of these crucial connections.  Some 50 years later, this idea has begun to take hold in the new science of Systems Biology. The importance of Rachel Carson’s message concerning connections in Nature is reflected in a quote by her biographer, Linda Lear.

 

I don’t think Rachel should be or would want to be credited with starting the environmental movement or banning pesticides. I think what she was hoping to do is raise the American consciousness about the natural world and our interconnection to it, instead of thinking we can control nature.

 

Carson’s powerful, message was a precursor to a major paradigm shift in Western science.   In her “Essay on the Biological Sciences” written in 1958 she said:

 

Only within the 20th Century has biological thought been focused on ecology, or the relation of the living creature to its environment. Awareness of ecological relationships  is — or should be — the basis of modern conservation programs, for it is useless to attempt to preserve a living species unless the kind of land or water it requires is also preserved. So delicately interwoven are the relationships that when we disturb one thread of the community fabric we alter it all — perhaps almost imperceptibly, perhaps so drastically that destruction follows.

 

Rachel Carson started modern ecological thinking with Silent Spring by exposing the ignorance and the disastrous assumptions that biologists made about ecological interrelationships. She laid the foundation for an awareness of interrelationships in Nature. Her legacy is the new and more productive ways in which we can now holistically view Nature.

 

Barry-CommonerChances are that you may not have heard of Barry Commoner. He offers inspiring and powerful ideas about connections in Nature. In reading Barry Commoner’s work, I learned a new word. It is “holocenosis”. A real mouthful. But, a very important word that describes an essential fact about how Nature operates on Earth.

 

Holocenosis means that everything on Earth influences and is influenced by everything else. Within a holocenotic environment, it is impossible to imagine only a single change in the environment.  Every component, living and non-living, interacts with every other component. In addition to physical relationships, these components include the social, cultural, and economic activities of humanity which impact Nature. Our world is “holocoenotic” because it is a network of relationships in which all factors act together and where the whole is more than a simple sum of it’s parts.

 

Since the 1950s, Barry Commoner warned of the environmental threats posed by modern technology (including nuclear weapons, use of pesticides, other toxic chemicals, and ineffective waste management). His classic book, Science and Survival (1966), made him one of the foremost environmental evangelists of his time. In 1970, a Time magazine cover story dubbed him the “Paul Revere of Ecology” for his early leadership in the field.

 

On September 30th, 2012, Barry Commoner died at the age of 95. One of Commoner’s lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology:

 

1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

 

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in Nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

 

3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon Nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

 

4. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Exploitation of Nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

 

Barry Commoner’s four laws of ecology define the conservation of Nature using terms that can easily be adapted to any environmental education program at any level. And, these four laws of ecology can be used in any “hands-on” outdoors teaching experience. For example, in the simple act of picking up garbage, Commoner’s second law becomes a teaching opportunity.

 

Like Barry Commoner, Pope Francis emphasizes holocenosis – but on a wider scale that includes PopeFrancisthe interconnectivity of all parts of human life with Nature. This includes mankind’s social, cultural, and economic activities. He looks upon environmental education as a connection in Nature because it passes a positive and active consciousness for Nature from one generation to the next. It offers a connectivity between generations.

 

He calls on us to stop trying to control and change Nature and “accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary,”

 

He looks upon all of us as an integral part of Nature’s ecosystems when he says that “the world is a gift we have freely received and must share with others. The world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. The environment is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next. What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to children who are now growing up?”

 

These words of Pope Francis describe the challenge to all environmental educators and stewards of Nature. You have the power to affect the future of Nature’s environment by sharing yourself with the current generation and helping this generation influence future generations. You are helping to define the future of humanity and our Planet.

 

What is astounding about the voices of Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner, and Pope Francis is that, within the words of each person, there exists a central holistic theme of an interconnectedness in Nature that includes mankind and his effects on Nature. In their individual writings and together, the popular cartoon portraying the truth of no dominance and strong interconnectedness is described.

 

manvsnature

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

 

Thanks for reading this blog post.

 

I have an ongoing section in my blog entitled “My Musings”. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by an take a look. You can reach it by clicking on the  “Blog Posts” menu tab near the top of my blog site. One of the sub-menus is entitled “My Musings”.

 

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The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

 

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In Praise Of Prairies

Each summer, I take a break from a structured life and roam in Nature throughout the United States. I have a special fondness for visiting tall-grass prairies where vast expanses of grasslands speak to me in the soft voice of moving grasses, gentle winds, and the sounds of birds. It is here that I experience a profound solitude and a deep connection with Nature. The prairie is also where I experience what has been lost and what is being lost.

Prairies-9393This blog is a meditation on what tall-grass prairies once were. It is also a lament on what prairies are today. Tall-grass prairies hold for us an important story of man’s interconnections with Nature both good and bad. It is a story where man’s reverence toward Nature contrasts with man’s senseless ignorance about his environment. 

The word “prairie” comes from the French language and means “meadow”. The US National Park Service has done a nice job of describing tall-grass prairies  ,parts of which are paraphrased here:

“…tall-grass prairies are an extremely complicated web of life. They began appearing in the mid-continent of the United States from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago and have developed into one of the most complicated and diverse ecosystems in the world, surpassed only by the rainforest of Brazil. Prairie plants have evolved on a landscape that can be difficult to survive on. Climates on the prairie range from extreme heat and drought in August to bitter cold winters locked in ice and frigid winds.

At first sight, one sees a vast landscape dominated by grasses — some 40 to 60 different species. The other 20% of the primary vegetation is made up of over 300 species of forbs or flowers. The prairie also has over 100 species of lichens and liverworts as well as numerous species of woody trees and shrubs along creeks and protected areas. Prairie landscapes vary in soil types and depth, moisture, and slope. This creates many different situations and niches for specific plant communities to fit into.

The secret to the survival of the prairie plants is that 75-80% of the plant material is underground. The visible plants seen on the landscape are merely the photosynthetic leaves gathering sunlight for a much larger community underground. Just beneath the surface lies the main stems or rhizomes, running horizontally. Here they lie protected from drying, grazing, trampling, fire, and frost. Tough fibrous roots descend from these rhizomes deep into the ground. Roots of some plants have been reported to go 10 to 15 feet deep. On these roots, are microscopic “rootlets” numbering in the billions and utilized by the plant. Even smaller than rootlets are mycorrhizae that support plant growth by drawing in nutrients too little for even rootlets to obtain. The roots of plants are so numerous, that were one plant’s roots placed end to end they would stretch for miles. The competition for nutrients and resources is fierce, so thickly interwoven are plant roots that early settlers were able to cut bricks out of the sod to build homes and schools.”

My wonderful solitude while I connect with Nature in these prairies starkly contrasts with the sometimes destructive hand of mankind. While prairies are a living demonstration of highly interconnected, biodiverse, and resilient ecosystems,  mankind has succeeded in altering or destroying much of what Nature has taken millenia to develop. Man’s impact has resulted in the fencing of these vast stretches of land so as to fragment the habitat of many creatures. This has resulted in animal migration corridors being destroyed. With the introduction of domestic species such as cattle, largePrairies-5749 areas of plant biomass have been altered due to the specialized and destructive grazing habits of the cattle species. The image to the right portrays land that has been grazed by cattle ( left side of the fence). The protected area to the right side of the fence prohibits grazing.

The plowing of prairie land has damaged or destroyed the topsoil resulting in events such as the historic “dust bowl” removal of  topsoil by the winds. It is estimated that tall-grass prairies once covered about 40% of the United States. Only about 1% of these North American tall-grass prairies still exist.

Prairies-2755The story of the American Bison’s connection with Nature is also the story of America’s Midwestern Great Plains tall-grass tall-grass prairies.  The American Bison was a keystone species that was inextricably interconnected to these complex tall-grass ecosystems . These connections to the prairie ecosystems produced a unique ecology that has deep effects on mixed-prairie ecosystems. If you knew the bison, you knew the prairie.

It is estimated that over 30 million bison once inhabited the North American from Alaska to Mexico. Human slaughter of these creatures reduced the population to a few thousand. Because of subsequent conservation efforts, the bison population has rebounded to a revitalized North American population of about 500,000. Most of these animals are constrained by fences in mixed-grass prairie preserves and private ranches. Those bison that are part of conservation herds and considered to be truly wild, number only 20,000.

Research has shown the American Bison to play a keystone role in the health of the remaining tall-grass prairies. Unlike cattle, bison selectively graze in patches, leaving broad-leaved herbs (called forbs) and woody plants untouched. The resulting patchiness promotes plant species diversity by allowing the forbs to grow unharmed.

Spatial and seasonal bison grazing with the ongoing presence of forbs enhances density and plant cover above ground as well as gas exchange below ground. With parts of the prairie grazed, photosynthesis rates are enhanced because more light is made available.

In addition, bison grazing increases animal diversity. Prairies-9303Herds of grazing bison shape grasslands and create habitat. Prairie Dog foraging capabilities are enhanced. In turn, these Prairie Dogs are prey for ferrets, foxes, hawks, and eagles. Prairie Dog tunnels are homes for the Burrowing Owl, small mammals, and reptiles.

Bison cause nutrient recycling in prairie ecosystems. By consuming plants, the bison return nitrogen to the soils in the form of urine. This form of nitrogen is far more effective than that formed from plant litter. There is less plant litter because of bison grazing.

Fire is a natural and healthy phenomenon in prairie ecosystems. Bison grazing limits the loss of nitrogen through fire by reducing the amount of plant litter. Through grazing in patches, the bison helps produce patchiness in fire.

During my summer meditations while camping in prairies, I was deeply saddened by what has happened over the years. Highly complex, resilient, and biodiverse ecosystems have given way to the perceived needs of one species — human beings.

Some of you may remember Kevin Costner’s highly symbolic film, “Dances With Wolves”. Here, a lone union solder sought solace in the prairie where he met up with peaceful and conservation-minded Indians who had a deep reverence for Nature. He befriended a wolf named “Two Socks”. He witnessed the greed of the white man MexWolfOrg_1as he viewed a herd of slaughtered bison stripped of their fur but with their meat left to rot. In the end, the union soldiers symbolized an ignorance and a lack of passion for Nature as they shot “Two Socks”, and tried to kill off a culture of conservation-minded people. I confess that this movie caused tears to roll out of my eyes when Two Socks was shot. Then a fierce anger grew in my heart for the greed and ignorance of those who were wantonly killing off the prairie and other great ecosystems.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped. The grim statistics about the destruction of prairies teach this to us. And those like me who want to give Nature the opportunity to restore herself are stopped by those who refuse to remove their fences and want to continue the killing. I can only hope that my legacy, the youth who will follow, can somehow pick up the torch and carry on to restore and protect the prairies and the forests and all of the other good things Nature once was able to offer to caring people.

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post.

I have an ongoing section in my blog entitled “My Musings”. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by and take a look. You can reach this material by clicking on the  “Blog Posts” menu tab near the top of my blog site. One of the sub-menus is entitled “My Musings”.

Please Comment and Subscribe

The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

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