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.
As 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 your 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.
Pope 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.