Nature’s Resilience Deals With Change

In a recent post , I emphasized the idea that Nature is dynamic and changing even when humans are not impacting the environment. But yet, we see humans see resilience where Nature’s changes appear to be pretty stable and predictable. The sun rises and sets every day. The four seasons of the year each have generally predictable climates. The forests, meadows, and lakes that we visit appear to be pretty much the same from year to year. And so on.

There seems to be an inconsistency between what science tells us about changes incloughjordan-eco-village Nature and what we observe. This paradox, in part, is a matter of scale. Nature’s changes usually happen slowly over long time periods that exceed the life span of humans. So, in most cases, we do not see long term changes in Nature. We only see clearly the seasonal or cyclical changes. But, change at one level can influence other levels, cascade down or up levels, reinvigorate, or destroy. 

So, how can we resolve the idea that Nature changes even though our own observations may not be able to see changes? How is it that we humans can do horrible things to our planet but fail to see (at least in the near term) any negative impact on Nature? The answer comes from Nature’s inherent ability to adapt to change. This quality is called “resilience”.

Resilience in Nature is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function, structure, and feedback systems.

 Resilience usually works within limits. If a disturbance is too great, the effect of that impact will overcome the ability of Nature to make corrections.

image_230gcThe process of resilience involves a phenomenon known as feedback. A feedback loop is a mechanism by which change in some environmental variables result in either an amplification  or a dampening of some behavior within the ecosystem.

A familiar example of feedback is the cruise control in our automobiles. After we set the control to govern a given speed of the car, the feedback mechanism increases the throttle if the car is going slower than the set speed. Likewise, the feedback mechanism backs off on the throttle if the car exceeds the selected speed. In our cruise control, the next action is defined by the state of the current condition which is the speed of the vehicle.

Another familiar example is how we humans, and other animals, thermo-regulate body temperature. If we get cold, we shiver. If we get too hot, we sweat. The temperature sensor in our body sends signals to shiver, sweat, or do nothing.

Our car’s cruise control and our body’s thermo-regulation mechanism are examples of linear feedback controls. A single event drives an expected response.  But linear feedback rarely happens in Nature. Far more often, a feedback mechanism responds to combinations of  varying and unpredictable inputs and environmental factors that change over time. The results are non-linear, highly unpredictable, and chaotic behavior.

Think about a population of rabbits that live in a farmer’s field. The current size of theimages (4) rabbit population depends on external factors such as weather, food supply, and predator activity. Each one of these controlling factors is highly variable and usually unpredictable. Consequently, the resulting population trend is highly variable and unpredictable.  Feedback systems that respond to the combination of a number of different unpredictable influences result in the complexity and unpredictability that we see in Nature’s ecosystems and their organisms. This is a classic scenario for Nature’s ecosystems. Science calls this chaos. Chaos describes a system that has apparent randomness but, when more closely observed, order is seen.

While producing some chaos, Nature’s feedback systems also produce ordered resilience in ecosystems. Resilience arises from a rich structure of many feedback loops that can work in different ways to restore a system even after a large perturbation. Ecosystems with much biodiversity are resilient because they contain many complex feedback systems that serve to correct for outside perturbations.

Grey_wolf_killAt Yellowstone National Park, when the wolf was reintroduced, Nature’s feedback mechanisms restored her ecosystems to an approximate earlier state or equilibrium. But, it is important to note that equilibrium in Nature is dynamic. It is rarely a fixed state. For example, equilibrium could be cyclical or complex. It is also important to note that Nature’s resilience mechanisms do not necessarily act to restore ecosystems to a previous state. Nature does not predefine equilibrium. Equilibrium exists only in the minds of we humans who vainly try to “manage” Nature in some state of equilibrium. Unlike Nature, our current environmental and resource management policies seek to restore a fixed balance when we seek to control Nature. It won’t work.

The basic framework underpinning our approach to environmental management has been based on a false assumption of stability or equilibrium. Regulations, such as fishing or hunting quotas, are crafted to create a static equilibrium. These steps are all needed, but there is one catch: they won’t solve the problem.

We have assumed that we can manage individual components of an ecological images (3)system independently, find an optimal balance between the components, and assume that other attributes of the system would stay largely constant. But, ecological systems are extremely dynamic, their behavior much more like the analogy of a boat at sea. They are constantly confronted with “surprise” events such as storms, pest outbreaks, or droughts. What is optimal for one year is unlikely to be optimal the next year. The structure and function of the ecosystems continually change through time. They will change even more rapidly in the future as global warming becomes an ever-stronger driver of change. We have not understood well enough the functioning of the ecosystems involved. It isn’t just the amount of knowledge – the details about species and ecosystems – it’s also the kind of knowledge. We have yet to fully comprehend the impact of thinking at a systems level. We don’t have a clear idea of how resilience works to deal with change.

Resilience_1The systems we live in and depend on are usually configured and reconfigured by extreme events, not average conditions. While minor changes are often incremental and linear, the really significant ones are usually lurching and nonlinear-like mouse plagues in Australian wheat crops, insect pest outbreaks in forests in North America, and the sudden change from a clean, clear lake to one dominated by an algal bloom. 

Ecology, economics, and sociology is full of examples showing that the systems around us, the systems we are a part of, are much more complex than our assumptions permit.  What it all adds up to is that there is no sustainable “optimal” state of an ecosystem, a social system, or the world. It is an illusion, a product of the way we look at and model the world. It is unattainable, and yet it is a widely pursued goal. It is little wonder, then, that problems arise. And when they do, rather than question the validity of the model being applied, the response has been to attempt to exert even greater control over the system. In most cases this exacerbates the problem or leaves us with a solution that comes with too high a cost to be sustained. 


Resilience, in reality, is the act of adapting to change. Change and resilience go hand-in-hand. Resilience thinking is about understanding and engaging with a changing world. By understanding how and why the system as a whole is changing, we are better able to build a capacity to work with change, as opposed to being a victim of it. 

The reality of resilience in Nature is that social and ecological systems are complex adaptive systems. Resilience does not act in a predictable, linear, incremental fashion. Resilience can exist in more than one kind of regime in which function, structure, and feedbacks are different. Shocks and disturbances to these systems (like fires, floods, wars, and market changes) can drive a system across a threshold into a different regime, frequently with unwelcome surprises. The realities of change and resilience are facts of Nature over which we humans have little control.

Things that we humans can do to respect and foster resilience thinking

Here are some suggestions from the Stockholm Resilience Center.

Maintain diversity and redundancySystems with many different components, be they species, actors or sources of knowledge, are generally more resilient than systems with few components. This leads to  redundancy which provides ‘insurance’ by allowing some components to compensate for the loss or failure of others. In other words: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Manage connectivity. Well-connected systems can more easily recover from disturbances.Perhaps the most positive effect of landscape connectivity is that it can contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity. This means building wildlife corridors and encouraging connected habitats rather than permitting habitat destruction.

Foster systems thinking.A systems approach means accepting that within a social or ecological system, several connections are occurring at the same time on different levels. It also means accepting unpredictability and uncertainty, and acknowledging a multitude of perspectives. This means adopting the idea that man cannot control Nature.

Encourage learning. The most powerful conservation tool is environmental education with both our young people and adults. By including studies about connections in Nature,  a “connectivity consciousness” gradually becomes a part of our Nature consciousness. With a “connectivity consciousness”, the ideas of biodiversity, change, and resilience in Nature become part of conservation thinking within humans.

 

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.

 

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Change Is Normal In Nature

My two foodwebprevious posts, Visualizing Connections In Nature and The Architecture of Biodiversity, described Nature as a highly interconnected network of life where the energy that is necessary to live is passed from one organism to the next. These networks, called food webs, imply an equilibrium that could be disturbed by change resulting from mankind’s uninformed interference.

Nature can change all by herself without the hand of man.

While this picture is true, it is incomplete. The fact is that Nature undergoes many changes all by herself without the hand of man.  For Nature, change is a normal thing !! These natural changes can affect food webs.  But, for mankind to try to change Nature, either intentionally or in error, is destructive. In this blog post, I will describe why change is normal in Nature but destructive by man. 

Change in Nature can come from species activities or interactions within a food web or from environmental changes that impact the functioning of a food web. For example, a storm can wreak all sorts of havoc in an ecosystem. 

Organisms eating each other are only one of many important interactions among
species. Other types of  interaction between species include habitat modification and predator interference induced by fear of being eaten. These “other” types of interactions are called “non-trophic” interactions. Non-trophic means that creature interactions are not directly related to food energy flow between species. Instead they evolve from the impact of one or more species on the environment or the impact of the environment on species within an ecosystem.

ChangesInNature-9497Ecosystems are in a constant dance as their components compete, react, evolve, migrate, and form new communities. Geological upheaval, evolution, climatic cycles, fires, storms, and population dynamics see to it that Nature is always changing. On Hawaii, volcanic activity wipes the slate clean on any given slope every few hundred years. Occasional new arrivals to the islands, washed ashore or drifting in on the wind, adapt to their new home and find space for themselves within existing ecosystems.

In a scientific paper titled “More Than A Meal – Integrating Non-Feeding Interactions Into Food Webs, the authors do a good job in describing natural changes in Nature that do not involve mankind. Here is a paraphrased description:   

” there is a great diversity of non-trophic interactions observed in nature. Kelp forests ChangesInNature-5255provide habitat for the survival of many species, desert shrubs buffer environmental stress and facilitate the persistence of other plant species  and many species engage in antagonistic interactions to defend their territories . Some non-trophic interactions are closely associated with feeding activities but affect species that are neither the trophic consumer nor the resource. For instance, whales, rays, sea otters, birds and many other large consumers dig, burrow, turn rocks or sieve sediment while feeding, negatively or ChangesInNature-2260245positively affecting many other species. Other interactions inherently involve a trophic and a non-trophic component between the same pair of species, such as pollination and fruit eating. A functionally important class of non-trophic interactions is ecosystem engineering by earthworms or beavers which directly or indirectly control the availability of resources to other organisms by causing physical state changes in living or non-living materials .  This activity determines the structure ChangesInNature-2403and fate of entire communities . The consequences of these non-trophic interactions are as diverse as affecting the ability and efficiency of feeding, survival, behavior, recruitment success and reproduction. In ecosystems, the entangled bank of species involves feeding as well as a myriad of non-trophic interactions which have long been recognised, but yet have hardly been studied in concert with trophic interactions in multi-species systems.”

All of the non-trophic factors just described affect and change the food web interactions that appear to be in equilibrium when one examines a static food web diagram. These non-trophic factors contribute to the chaotic states that exist in Nature’s ecosystems. These non-trophic influences help explain why ecosystems are complex, chaotic, and unpredictable. This means that any activities or changes imposed by mankind are folly because their outcomes are unpredictable.

Changes made by Nature prevent any successful predictIons made by mankind.

So, one can say that the normal, but random, changes that Nature imposes upon herself prevent any predictable success from changes made by mankind. Therefore, man cannot control Nature. For example, the culling of wildlife, such as predators, based on “calculations” of ideal population levels is a practice that doesn’t work. There are too many non-trophic factors at play to permit a predictable result. The Bee_Pesticidehuman induced application of pesticides (a change imposed by man’s “logic”) has severely affected the bee populations who are important plant pollinators. Again, results were not predictable even though man thought that he could successfully make a change to Nature.

Letting Nature take her own course, including the changes that she makes, may not suit some of we humans, but it is the only option that we have. 

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.

 

Visualizing Biodiversity

It bears repeating that the central theme of this blog site is that nothing in Nature exists in isolation. Everything is connected !!! Without interrelationships, the driving force of Nature, which is energy, would not flow. There would be no life. This is why visualizing biodiversity is so important.

This breathtaking picture portrays important interrelationships within Nature. The image portrays where I live in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico near Guaymas and about 250 miles south of Tucson Arizona. It is a picture of two highly interconnected ecosystems. To the left is the Sea of Cortez and to the right is a very important estuary known as El Estero del Soldado.

EsteroSoldadoHeader-7035

Many years ago, a study was performed on the energy flow within the Sea of Cortez. The fear was that the Hoover Dam and the resulting trickle flow of the Colorado River into the Sea of Cortez would cause great ecological damage. But, the study showed that the Sea of Cortez is a very resilient body of water because of two factors. First, the shape of the basin that holds the Sea of Cortez is such that the daily tidal flow results in vertical water currents on both sides of this body of water. The result is that a lot of nutrients are transported from the basin’s bottom to the photic (sunlit) water surface where critters feed and gain energy. The second factor is the estuaries along the shores of the Sea of Cortez. These brackish lagoons are known as “nurseries of the sea” because they are the birthplace of many creatures that ultimately reside in the Sea of Cortez. These estuaries are responsible for a rich web of life both in the lagoons and throughout the entire Sea of Cortez.

In a previous post , I described a food web as a network diagram that that portrays food energy flow from one species to another within an ecosystem. I went on to show how the food web diagram can illustrate the potential impact within an ecosystem if a species is eliminated by any means — either natural or by the activities of mankind.

Visualizing biodiversity comes in the form of food webs. Here is a food web diagram for an estuary which portrays the interconnected energy flow within the lagoon and surrounding area.

food-web-bio-revised-version

Like all of our earth’s energy networks, the lagoon’s primary energy comes from the sun. Solar energy is absorbed by plants such as the mangroves. Through a chemical process known as photosynthesis, the plant’s leaves combine the solar energy with carbon to store the sun’s energy in a form we know as chlorophyll. A byproduct is oxygen which the leaves expel as a waste product into the atmosphere. With time, mangrove leaves drop off into the brackish soil that surrounds the plant’s roots. EsteroSoldado-005The decayed leaves become the detritus that provides nutrients for the newly born creatures that live and hide among these roots. In addition, the daily tidal flushing in and out of the lagoon causes these nutrients to flow.

It is these energy flow processes that provide a very rich environment for many the diverse creatures that are portrayed in the food web diagram. Estuaries are described as one of the highest energy producing habitats on Earth. Acre for acre, they are considered to have greater productivity than farm lands.

Using the estuary as an example, let’s examine the idea of Nature’s interconnectivity as a way to look at one meaning of biodiversity. In future posts, I will write about how normal changes in Nature can affect biodiversity. I will also write about how resilience in biodiverse ecosystems becomes an important natural phenomenon during periods of change.

EsteroSoldado-17Since I am writing about both ecosystems and biodiversity, let’s take a moment to define these terms.

An ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. An ecosystem is a complex interconnected system of energy flow conduits. An estuary and the Sea of Cortez can be considered as separate ecosystems or as one massive super ecosystem that results from their inter-connectivity.

“Biodiversity” is one of those words, like “motherhood” and “hot apple pie”, that describe something that is always good but is rarely explained. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines biodiversity as “the existence of many different kinds of plants and animals in an environment“. I’ve read this definition many times and am always left with the feeling of “so what!” .

But, when I probe further and ask why biodiversity is a good thing, I’m told that more plants and animals in an ecosystem provide greater resilience. And, the removal of a plant or an animal from the ecosystem could cause some ecological damage.

This explanation helps, but we are not precisely told what “biodversity” is all about .

A more descriptive definition of biodiversity might be:

” the effect of the interconnectivity of life within an ecosystem”.

Biodiversity addresses the importance of interconnections between living things because biodiversity facilitates the flow of life giving energy in Nature’s ecosystems. The more energy conduits that exist, the greater the energy flow.

One term that you will find when searching for definitions of biodiversity is “Ecological Biodiversity”. Ecological Biodiversity is defined as:

“the variety of ways in which species interact with each other and their environment.”

ESteroSoldado_013So, when I use the term “biodiversity”, I choose to use it to describe the ecological value of relationships within and between species in an ecosystem.

Indeed, energy is the fuel of life. From the smallest cells in our bodies to huge elephant herds, every living thing, needs energy to live. The energy that is contained in the living cells of our bodies, in the food that we eat, or in sunlight, flows from one organism to the next.

Connections in Nature are the conduits for this energy flow. Wherever there is a large or a small group of living things, you will find that Nature’s communities are connected together in many different ways. It is these relationships that define biodiversity. If plants and animals within an ecosystem have many energy conduits we can say that they live within a biodiverse ecosystem. This means that if one energy connection were, within the group of many connections, destroyed, chances are small that this act would affect the entire ecosystem. But, if a creature that has many energy connections is destroyed, chances are high that many creatures will be affected.

ESteroSoldado_31We can sit in a kayak that drifts within the estuary’s lagoon and be surrounded by many examples of Nature’s connectivity. Of course the mangroves are an intense source of energy available to creatures in the lagoon. Then there are the fiddler crabs who are food for the birds. These crabs also facilitate energy flow by tilling the soil inside their burrows that are within the mangrove’s root structures.

Here is a short time lapse video of the tidal flow at El Estero del Soldado and the crabs that emerge from their burrows at low tide.

 

The fish and shrimp that are born within the lagoon and hide in the mangrove roots as juveniles ultimately become an energy flow conduit as they migrate to the open sea and become food for other creatures. The many seabirds that migrate to the lagoons to nest depend upon the protection of the mangrove trees as well as the rich food supply of fish and crabs.

EsteroSoldado_008Hopefully, you are beginning to see a more concrete description of biodiversity and its relationship to the interconnected flow of life giving energy on Earth. Biodiversity is the interconnectivity of Nature that defines the existence of every living being on Earth. This interconnectivity is the life support system of all life on Earth. High connectivity results in high biodiversity. High biodiversity comes from high connectivity. High connectivity within an ecosystem usually results in a ecosystem that is resilient to outside influences. This is so because the loss of some connectivity in a highly connected system will not result in irreparable damage.

Food webs, such as the one displayed in this blog, are methods for visualizing biodiversity. The food web is an important conceptual tool for illustrating the feeding relationships among species within a community. They reveal species interactions and community structure. They provide an understanding of the dynamics of energy transfer in an ecosystem. They show how plants and animals are connected in many ways to help them all survive. They provide a quantitative framework to link community structure with the flow of energy and material. In doing so, food web diagrams help reconcile biodiversity with ecosystem function. Food web studies explore how energy flow (feeding) relationships influence the stability of communities. Food web studies help predict how species losses propagate through communities as well as influence community stability and the functioning of an ecosystem.

By visualizing biodiversity and merging biodiversity research and food-web theory, new and important avenues for ecological research emerge with implications for biodiversity conservation. In particular, these studies help define the negative impact of eliminating highly connected species within an ecological community.

ESteroSoldado_34You don’t have to be a scientist to define what would happen to El Estero del Soldado if certain organisms were removed from the lagoon. The most obvious is the mangrove trees. These trees are so vital to the flow of the lagoon’s energy that their removal would have a highly significant negative impact on the flow of energy. Take another look at the food web diagram and mentally remove the mangroves from the picture. Yet, it was once suggested that this lagoon be developed into a marina.

North of El Estero del Soldado, estuary lagoons have been converted into shrimp farms. Using the food web diagram, assess the impact of these actions on the Sea of Cortez.

Indeed, the food web diagram is the architecture of biodiversity because it helps us identify the interconnections within an ecosystem. By defining these connections, we are able to define the flow of Nature’s energy and the impacts if these energy flows are altered or destroyed.

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post.

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. 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.

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.

Food Webs Portray Nature’s Energy Flow

You might be curious what connections in Nature actually looks like. Through the use of food webs, I hope that this blog post will give you that picture.

The main theme of this web site can be summarized with these three statements:

  • Everything in Nature in interconnected.
  • Connections in Nature are the conduits for energy flow within Nature.
  • Good conservation focuses on the identification, the understanding, and the preservation of connections in Nature

Energy is the fuel of life. From the smallest cells in our bodies to huge elephant herds, every living thing, needs energy to live. The energy that is contained in the living cells of our bodies, in the food that we eat, or in sunlight, flows from one organism to the next.

Connections in Nature are the conduits for this energy flow. Wherever there is a large or a small group of living things, you will find that Nature’s communities are connected together in many different ways in order to transport and process energy that is typically in the form of food.

It is these relationships that define biodiversity between living organisms. If plants and animals within an ecosystem have many energy conduits we can say that they live within a biodiverse ecosystem. This means that if one energy connection were, within the group of many connections, destroyed, chances are small that this act would affect the entire ecosystem.

We can learn a lot about connections in Nature by creating a food web diagram of any ecosystem that you might be studying. The food web diagram illustrates a network of creatures that are bound together in order to transport and transform the essential energy of life. The food web helps us understand the dynamics of food energy flow within in an ecosystem. It portrays the feeding relationships among species within a community. It illustrates species interactions and community structure.

This diagram portrays the food web for the southern Atlantic Ocean north of Antarctica.

antarctic food webs

This food web visualizes the energy flow within this ecosystem. It illustratess how food energy flows between creatures. The lines in this diagram represent the conduits that transport food energy from one organism to the next.

As you can probably see, all organisms in this food web have some role to play in the resulting ecosystem. Any change in the food energy flow between organisms can cause problems for the whole food web.

From microscopic organisms to the great whales, the image in this diagram portrays the complexity of the food web in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. The heavy line that runs through the diagram represents the direct energy links between the krill ( a shrimp-like creature) and other creatures. If you look carefully, you will see the energy network that starts with the microorganisms that are eaten by krill and ends with the large whales eating the krill. Throughout the energy network, other creatures also eat the krill. These creatures are then eaten by other creatures.

What would happen to this large, biodiverse ecosystem if the krill were to disappear because of reduced solar energy, climate change, or other changes in Nature due to man’s carelessness? Mentally, remove that heavy line which represents the food energy connection that krill provides. How many different species would disappear?

The humble krill is called a keystone species because it is a vitally important part of the chain of energy flow from small creatures all the way to the great whales. All of these creatures would disappear if the krill disappears.

Modern science is currently exerting a great deal of effort to fully understand the structural and functional details of food webs. While energy, in the form of food, is the key driving force that causes creatures to assemble in a network such as the one portrayed in this blog post, there are other factors that add to the complexity and help define the structure and function of food webs. These factors include the environment, the terrain, safety, predation, and mutual benefits resulting from species interactions. The result is a highly complex and unpredictable network of relationships. Nonetheless, this food web helps you identify important energy flow conduits. By identifying and preserving these conduits, you are conserving this ecosystem.

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post.

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. 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.

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.

Conserving Nature’s Relationships

I was recently privileged to present a webinar at the National Biodiversity Teach-In . My presentation focused on conserving connections in Nature . This amazing five day event is a collection of talks given by about 40 speakers on subjects that relate to biodiversity. The “teach-in” is produced each year by teachers and students at Elgin High School in Elgin Illinois. The goal is to “raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and inspire our participants to take action in its protection.”

I have produced my webinar presentation on a video which I hope you will take the time to view and enjoy.

 

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.

 

Your Interdependence With Nature Is Your Legacy

 

We humans have the power to define the future of humanity and our Planet.

As I write this blog post, I am sitting in a beautiful forest in the Chiricahua Mountains in Southeastern Arizona. The sun is beaming through the trees. Its light gives energy and life to everything around me, including myself. The gentle wind that rustles through the pine and oak forest reminds me of the gift of invisible energy that our sun has provided to our Earth. Everything around me is interconnected and is transformed. The air that I breathe is a vital part of my link to the forest. Branches and leaves reach into the atmosphere to receive and transform the sun’s energy. I am connected to these leaves and branches because these leaves absorb the carbon emissions from my breath. These leaves then emit oxygen into the atmosphere to be used by much of life. 

I am reminded of the wonderful video by Dr. Suzanne Simard  who describes the fascinating subterranean energy and communication networks that bind the trees, the plants, the soil, and the creatures together into a cohesive ecosystem.  These networks transport and transform Nature’s energy to all flora and fauna.

Since its inception, the theme of this blog  is “everything is connected“. This phrase can be interpreted in many ways depending on the worldview of the speaker or listener. “Everything is connected” is a spiritual statement. It also describes the aesthetic beauty of many things in Nature. This phrase recently achieved the status of scientific fact when the field of systems biology defined Nature’s connections in scientific terms. It is safe to say that connectivity and interdependence in Nature is the very core of our existence.

I am not simply an observer of all that is going on. I am an integral part of it. My life energy completely depends upon those things in Nature that I see and feel. I am dependent upon the energy bearing nutrition that plants and animals offer to me.

being connected Streams-9905As human beings, this highly complex network of interrelationships is beyond our full comprehension. The field of systems biology tells us that these complex networks are beyond our control. Modern science has proven that the deliberate or casual breaking of any connection in Nature can produce unexpected and unpredictable results.

Wildlife “managers” give lip service to the idea of an interconnected Nature and then try to “control” Nature. Our arrogance begs to differ with the facts of Nature despite having been proven wrong many times. We read about the effects of the killing of top predators such as wolves, the deforestation of the lungs of our earth, the culling of wildlife in an attempt to control Nature, and our own uncontrolled population growth.

Despite our inability to control Nature, The one thing that we humans do know is that the highly complex interconnections in Nature that we call “biodiversity” are central to ecosystem functioning and, hence, the existence and maintenance of all life on earth.

We are unable to comprehend all of the relationships between living things within an ecosystem. Yet, the conservation of biodiversity is very important because biodiversity is connectivity. This is why it is so very important to identify, to understand, and to protect any connection in Nature before we attempt to change or remove anything within an ecosystem. If we can’t identify, understand, and protect, we should do nothing.

Let’s examine the connections in a simple plant or tree leaf which you have found and are holding in interconnected leafyour hand. The leaf is obviously a physical pattern as we can see from its shape. But, we quickly see a second pattern – the veins in the leaf. These veins are shaped in a tree-like structure that we call a fractal pattern. These veins serve a purpose. They transport energy to the plant and transport waste gases to the leaf for release into the atmosphere. The leaf is also constructed from plant tissue called cells. These cells are directly or indirectly connected to the veins. They contain chloroplasts which convert the sun’s energy into useful energy for the plant. These cells also bring in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

So, through the processes of observation and understanding, we’ve been able to identify two kinds of connections within this leaf. We can continue by asking ourselves the same kind of questions about how the leaf is connected to the trees, how the tree is interconnected with the entire forest and with Earth. As we think things out carefully, we will ultimately see that the leaves, the trees, and the forests are the lungs of the earth that both supply life-giving oxygen and food energy to all creatures including ourselves. Our analysis results in describing a complex web of life in Nature.

We can then take our leaf and ask how each of we humans is connected to this leaf, how we are each connected to the forest and how each of us is connected to Nature and dependent on Nature.

There is a beautiful paragraph from a book called “The Still Voice” that I’d like to share with you.

“Among the many beautiful trees there is one tree, set beside the stream, which calls you. You sit down, your back against the trunk. You feel the strength of that tree as you rest against it. You gradually become absorbed into its life, aware of its roots reaching down to draw strength and sustenance from Mother Earth. Its branches lift toward the sun, absorbing the life force from the sun and the air. You become aware of the flow of life from earth to heaven, the inbreathing and outbreathing. You become the tree.”

The word “consciousness” is not just a philosophical, spiritual, “hippie”, or “tree hugger” idea. A consciousness about connections in Nature is essential to the survival of humanity on this earth. Consciousness means being aware of something. Consciousness means the humility of stewardship instead of the prevalent arrogant attitude of many humans (and government agencies) who wish to control and manage Nature.

A consciousness about interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself the question of how one creature, plant, or natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. In developing this kind of consciousness, you are automatically becoming a steward of your environment by becoming aware. You are then prepared to take your own appropriate action.

The secret to resolving our environmental crises is to develop a consciousness for connections in Nature within the ranks of young people. Many environmental organizations now realize that sustainability education is a powerful means to correct the ecological mistakes of the past. Instead of offering the common doomsday approach, environmental education uses stewardship to build a basic consciousness toward connections in Nature that will serve as a foundation for sound ecological decisions in the future.

being connected Pope FrancisPope Francis 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.

His question is: What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to children who are now growing up?”

Pope Francis is suggesting that, like the sun or a forest, you are an important connection in Nature who is passing your knowledge, your value system, and your energy to future generations.

The words of Pope Francis describe the challenge to all environmental educators and young people. You are an important connection in Nature because you have the power to affect the future of Nature’s environment by sharing yourself with the current generation of humans and helping this generation influence future generations.

You have the power to define the future of humanity and our Planet.

To each of you I say that this is your challenge and your legacy.

 

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.

 

Please Comment  Below

 

 

Free Study Guides For Environmental Educators

One of the most important conservation strategies available to us is the creation of a deep consciousness of Nature in ES_Quest-1052the minds and hearts of the world’s population – especially our  youth. In doing so, we environmental educators can leave a legacy for future generations that will serve to guide young people along a pathway of preserving and sustaining Nature for the benefit of all life on Earth. 

I would like to share some of my experience and resources as an environmental educator. I have compiled my learning guides into a PDF document. I invite you to explore and use my material and resources as you implement your own environmental education programs.

Please click here to view a description of this free PDF document and to download your complete set of learning guides. Or you may click the image of the PDF book at the upper right corner of this page.

It is my hope that those of you who are scientists, naturalists, teachers, docents, or mentors will work with me by guiding, critiquing, and contributing to the ongoing development of the material offered here. Please let me know of your interest by making your comments in the space provided below.

Dirt Lives And Breathes

It might seem that the subject of “dirt” is as boring as watching paint dry. That is — until one sits in a forest or a meadow and considers both the beauty of the moment and the basis for that beauty. Much of that forest or meadow resides underground in an invisible world that we can’t see without a microscope or some form of chemical analysis. Yet, that secret underground world is a vital connecting force that is essential for the maintenance and the survival of what we see above ground – including we humans. Dirt is of fundamental importance for global carbon and nutrient cycles that contributes to ecosystem functioning.  We can explain many of Nature’s patterns that we see above ground from what is happening in the soil. Indeed, we humans are connected to dirt. We need dirt to live!

 

Highly complex interconnected subterranean ecosystems are vital to life on this planet.

 

The plants of our forest or the meadow  reach outward and upward for air and for light energy from the sun. These plantsroots-31-728 also reach downward into the dirt to engage a highly complex interconnected subterranean ecosystem that supplies physical support, nutrients, and water. In turn, the network of organisms in soil receive carbohydrate energy from the above ground forests and meadows. It is another important example of interconnectivity in Nature.

Fifth Season Gardening describes this network in more detail:

Known collectively as ‘the soil food web,’  the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and everybody else living underground cycle the nutrients that plants need to grow.  It’s a friendly business relationship: plants secrete some of the sugars, proteins, and other compounds they make during photosynthesis through their roots.  This buffet attracts beneficial soil organisms to the root zone where they perform many jobs for the plants, such as scavenging for nutrients and water, fixing atmospheric nitrogen into plant-usable forms, breaking down organic matter, aggregating soil particles so roots can easily penetrate soil, and out-competing pathogenic microbes.

MyChorFungiFungal threads are the internet of the plant world. Research by Dr. Suzanne Simard, a forestry scientist, has shown that there are networks of mycorrhizal fungi in dirt that connect the roots of trees and facilitate the sharing of resources between trees. Simard’s research goes on to show that the underground mycorrhizal fungi networks serve to transfer carbon, nitrogen, and water, when the need arises, from older trees to younger trees. In effect, there is an electrochemical communication system between the roots of trees. She says that :

“…these networks bolster forest resilience against disturbance or stress and facilitate the establishment of new regeneration. This back-and-forth flux of resources according to need may be one process that maintains forest diversity and stability. The big trees are subsidizing the young ones through the fungal networks. Without this helping hand, most tree seedlings wouldn’t make it

A wonderful 5 minute video by Suzanne Simard entitled “Do Trees Communicate? provides us with a description of the mycorrhizal fungi networks in dirt. Two other Suzanne Simard videos are The Science, Art and Meaning of Forest Wisdom  and The Networked Beauty of Forests .

Maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving the underground mycorrhizal fungi links. In the article entitled Mother Trees Use Fungal Communication Systems to Preserve Forests , author Jane Engelsiepen states:

The concept of symbiotic plant communication has far reaching implications in both the forestry and agricultural industries. This revelation may change the way we approach harvesting forests, by leaving the Mother Trees intact to foster regrowth. In agriculture, undisturbed mycorrhiza systems enhance plant’s ability to resist pathogens, and absorb water and nutrients from the soil, bringing into question common practices that disturb these underground networks, such as plowing.”

The core idea portrayed in this blog site is that everything in Nature is interconnected. The engine of life is the linkage that transforms and transports energy. Conservation is the act of identifying, understanding, and preserving these links. The life giving connections afforded by subterranean ecosystems are no exception. Without these underground connections, we humans would not exist because we need plants to live. The plant world, at all levels, above ground and below ground, is responsible for capturing and transforming the sun’s energy into a form that is useful to all life on earth. Plants could not exist without dirt and its interconnected creatures.

Soil_food_webUSDA

 

Indeed, dirt is the living and breathing skin of our planet. It is a dynamic, highly diverse, interconnected super-organism.  Dirt is alive !!

Worth Your Extra Attention 

Dirt – The Movie

This is a 1 hour 20 minute video that is worth watching !!! It provides you with a comprehensive understanding of dirt from a biological and a social perspective. Very interesting !!!

 

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.

 

Nothing In Nature Is Isolated – A Video Essay

Nothing in Nature is isolated. 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 is defined by its connection to everything else because these vital connections transport and transform life energy within and between Her creatures. If any of these links were broken, Nature on any scale could be severely hampered or not operate at all.

 


This 4 minute video essay summarizes everything that has been presented within this blog site. If you are a parent, educator, or docent, feel free to show this video to your young people and your visitors. Help them probe into the three premises about Nature and why it is necessary that we humans must engage her. If you or the people you have touched gain something from viewing and discussing this video essay, I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments section below.

 

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.

 

Being Wolf – Lessons From Nature’s Tangled Web

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. … I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.”

— from Aldo Leopold  “Thinking Like A Mountain”

I rarely cry at movies. But, when the callous Army troops killed “Two Socks”, the wolf who befriended Lt. Dunbar in Kevin Costner’s Academy Award film   “Dances With Wolves”, my throat choked up and I cried. Likewise, when a native Alaskan told me how renegade hunters trespassed on her property and killed an aged wolf who had befriended her dog pups, I really got emotional.

The wolf symbolizes many things to many people. To some, the wolf is a haunting reminder of a beautiful Nature when he and his family howl in the moonlight. To those who study ecology, the wolf has been shown to be a valuable top predator who helps maintain a healthy equilibrium in ecosystems.  

TrophyHuntingTo others, the wolf is a tragic figure who is being slain in great numbers by trophy hunters. To the trophy hunter, his government legalizes and sanctions his need to boast about killing something in Nature. To the cattle rancher, the wolf is a threat to his economic well being. To the government employee who works with public lands, the wolf is simply a number to be controlled even though it has been shown that mankind cannot control Nature. That government official has the power to kill wolves ( they call it “harvesting” or “culling”) when the calculations suggest that a population is above some theoretical limit set by man.  Add to that the strong political will that is exerted on that government employee by congressmen and senators whose election coffers are filled by hunting groups, gun advocates, and a huge population of ranchers.

This confusing mixture of human opinions, emotions, and influence has resulted in many battles over who the wolf really is and his value in Nature. However, in 1995, a clarification of the wolf’s importance in Nature began to emerge. Wolves had once been the top predator at Yellowstone National Park. Due to man’s ignorance and greed, the Yellowstone wolf population was killed off in the 1920’s. This left the Yellowstone wilderness wolf-free for 70 years. A wolf reintroduction in the 1990’s at Yellowstone gave scientists a wonderful opportunity to study the changes that can take place when a top predator is introduced into an ecosystem. The returning wolves dramatically changed the equilibrium of the animal population, the rivers, and the forests. It is important to note that the wolf reintroduction was an act of passive restoration where mankind’s only role was in reintroducing the wolf. Everything else that followed was Nature taking her own course.

A key finding, already known by theoretical scientists, was that everything in Nature is interconnected. The Yellowstone wolf reintroduction was proof, in Nature’s own living laboratory, that interconnectedness in Nature is vital to the functioning of ecosystems. The wolf is a key connecting force in Yellowstone’s ecosystem. The removal of the wolf, and then it’s reintroduction, demonstrated the power and the value of the wolf’s role in Nature as well as the power of connections in Nature.

YellowstoneParkFoodWeb Interconnectedness in Nature starts with depending on the sun for our energy that gives us life. That solar energy is first received by plants (remember photosynthesis in our high school biology class?). We and other creatures need to eat these plants to get our supply of energy. Like the wolf, we also get our energy by eating other creatures who eat the plants who receive energy from the sun. Everything, including we humans, is part of this interdependent food chain that becomes the conduit for energy flow so that all living plants and creatures may live .

Interconnections of everything within all ecosystems can be defined as the energy flow processes that I just described. These connections are not always simple one-to-one relationships. Indirect interconnections that control entire ecosystems are known as YellowstoneTrophicCascade“trophic cascades”. At Yellowstone, there is a three-tiered trophic  cascade that involves wolves, elk, and the woody plants that the elk eat. When there are few wolves, the elk population increases and more of the woody plants along stream beds are eaten and become scarce. It has been noted that the reduction of these plants causes less soil stabilization along stream beds resulting in the re-direction of streams and rivers. In this process, the presence or absence of wolves can indirectly influence the routing of stream beds. When the wolf population is plentiful, more elk and deer are eaten. Consequently, there is reduced browsing pressure on these woody plants by the deer and elk resulting in fewer changes in stream beds.. Trophic cascades are the indirect and complex effects of changes in Nature’s energy flow.

There are two wonderful videos that describe what happened when the wolves returned to Yellowstone National Park. I strongly recommend that you view “Lords Of Nature”   and “How Wolves Change Rivers“.

The Yellowstone wolf story is powerful scientific evidence that supports the important idea of interconnectedness in Nature. The study emphasizes the value of all top predators, including the wolf. But sadly, mankind’s political will, the economics of ranching, and the sick need to kill something are very strong forces.  Government agencies continue to sanction these activities to the detriment of the wolf and the ecosystems that we humans are part of. Animals are being needlessly slaughtered and connections in Nature continue to be broken.

Despite the negative side to the wolf story, people from ranches and governments are now beginning to recognize and accept the influential ecological role of the wolf in Nature. Non-lethal predator control is beginning to be used by ranchers in some areas. This video summarizes the recent history of the wolf, its relationship to the human population, and the practice of non-lethal control methods. There are still many ranchers and government agencies who kill wolves to protect livestock or to “cull” the wolf population. Sadly, there are still many who think that trophy hunting is necessary to satisfy some inner pathological urge to kill a living being.

However, there is a side to this story that brings hope for the stability of our earth’s ecosystems. It is a story that comes from the wolf when he becomes our teacher and when we listen. It is the story of the wolf that can help us build a consciousness of how nothing exists in isolation — even a powerful predator like ourselves. We can learn this from the genius that surrounds us. Once we learn how and why we humans are connected to everything else, we build a “conservation consciousness” rather than becoming a destructive force. We become part of Nature, not apart from it.

I wish to share the credo that I offer on my blog site:

  • Everything, including ourselves, is connected to everything else.
  • Conservation is the act of identifying and preserving these interconnections.
  • Hope for mankind comes from instilling a deep connectivity consciousness in our youth.

This credo provides both challenges and directions that are illustrated in the wolf story. Our first job is to humble ourselves by recognizing that we are only one part of a very large and complex interconnected environment that includes a huge number of other creatures. Part of losing the arrogance that is associated with our concept of dominion is to see ourselves equal to everything else, including the wolf. We need to walk in the wolf’s shoes. Pope Francis, in his recent remarks at the United Nations and in Washington, DC said:

All creatures have inherent rights to exist on the planet … Man should not see himself as the dominant life form, but as a fellow creature on this ark we call home.

Like the wolf, we are a top predator who kills and eats. However, human predatory behavior is different. When there is less prey available to the wolf, he lowers the size of his family and his population to adjust for less food. The population of humans, on the other hand, continues to increase even when resources are less. Wolves exercise population control, but we humans do not.

In our indiscriminate wholesale killing of wolves (the government calls this “extirpation”), we have appointed ourselves as the top predator. We fool ourselves into believing that our hunting rifles that kill both wolves and their prey are adequate substitutes for an interconnected natural predator/prey system. But, wolves do not extirpate and wolves are selective in who they kill for food.

To survive on earth, we not only need to develop a consciousness for these interconnections, we must preserve these connections in order to survive. Top predators, like the wolf, help us preserve these connections by creating an equilibrium that allows everything to survive in a sustainable proportion that can connect to everything else. It is a sad fact that, as the most top predator on earth, we humans over consume and over populate. As such, we destroy Nature rather than achieve a constructive equilibrium. Wolves, as predators, do not destroy Nature. They achieve equilibrium in both population control and in consumption. The wolf teaches us the value of an interconnected and sustainable Earth.

The third item in the credo represents a consensus of many scientists and educators. We adults represent the most destructive force on earth. Unless things change, the human population will ultimately go extinct. The trophy hunters and the greedy ranchers are icons that represent the destructive state of mind of many adult humans.

EnvEduThe hope for we humans lies more with our youth than with our adults. Young people have fresh minds and a sense of awe and wonder. They have the potential to receive a positive message and build a consciousness. Like the wolf adults who mentor their pups, effective environmental education is a solution for a positive future. I believe that effective environmental education is hands-on and place-based where Nature becomes the living classroom. In my programs, I train the high school students to become the teachers of the younger students. Also, a section of this blog site is devoted to environmental education by providing numerous teaching resources.

A very powerful hands-on place-based environmental education program is operated by Deb Perryman in Elgin, Illinois. This video honors her work. In addition to her regular teaching/mentoring program, Deb mentors the student operated National Biodiversity Teach-In . As I continue to cruise cyberspace, I am discovering other powerful environmental educators.

My hope for a growing human consciousness of an interconnected Nature has increased a great deal while camping all over the Pacific Northwestern United States during two months of the summer of 2015. During previous summers, I returned home disappointed by seeing lots of people in Nature glued to cell phones and ATVs without taking time to engage Nature. Sadly, it seemed that the parents were encouraging this behavior with their children. But, this summer, things seemed different. Like the wolf parents mentoring their young, I saw lots of parents with their children on Nature trails. Campgrounds seemed to be full of families who were directly engaging Nature. And, the US National Park Service visitor centers and tours in the Pacific Northwest were full of families. I came home from this summer greatly elated and encouraged.

If only we were able to humble ourselves and pay attention, there are many fascinating facets to the wolf story from which we humans can directly benefit.

These ideas are not just a string of metaphors. They are facts from which we can learn important lessons.

Thanks to the scientists who studied the Yellowstone Park wolf reintroduction in 1995, real demonstrations of the WolfFamilyimportance of connections in Nature in any ecosystem or society became known. These ideas led to the important concept that good conservation means protecting connections in Nature.  In addition, the wolves demonstrated the positive impact of key predators in an ecosystem. As I read various documents on wolves and viewed a few videos, I became impressed with wolf behavior as a model for good living within a human family and within an ecosystem or a society. I found this anonymous “Wolf Creed” :

 

A Timely Message For All Beings“.

  • Respect The Elders
  • Teach The Young
  • Cooperate With The Pack
  • Play When You Can
  • Hunt When You Must
  • Rest In Between
  • Share Your Affection
  • Voice Your Feelings
  • Leave Your Mark

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post.

Recently, I was asked to write an article for an online Nature magazine about the plight of wolves and how human beings are needlessly destroying their families and populations. I decided to pull together some of the information that I’ve developed in some of my published blogs. Ultimately, for technical reasons, I decided not to submit the article. Instead, I am offering this work in this post to my loyal blog readers.

If some of the thoughts in this post are familiar to you, I am delighted and grateful because it tells me that you have been reading my other blogs on wolves as well as my thoughts on conservation.

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. 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.

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.