George Monbiot : Environmental Thought Leader

I am a big fan of eco-journalist George Monbiot .  Many of his essays, (as well as “The Patterning Instinct” by Jeremy Lent ) have influenced and sharpened my world view of Nature and helped me develop the theme of this web site that everything  in Nature, including humans, is interconnected and interdependent. I recently read Monbiot’s book called  ” Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life

George Monbiot Is An Environmental Thought Leader

He is an advocate for changing mankind’s worldview about Nature. He defines the idea of “rewilding” in terms that are completely in agreement with the theme of this web site.  In this essay, I offer some of Monbiot’s quotes from his book and references to some of his essays. It is my hope that his words will stimulate you into thinking about your relationship with Nature in a way that will help build your legacy that passes on a deep consciousness of Nature and her interrelationships with others.

The classic definition of rewilding is large-scale conservation aimed at:

  • Restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas.
  • Providing connectivity and energy flow between such areas.
  • Protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.

 

Monbiot describes rewilding as a new human activity that promotes interconnectivity and interdependence in Nature.

 

Monbiot goes further. He uses the term “rewilding” as a metaphor to describe the necessary change in mankind’s  worldview about Nature if humanity is to survive. The dictionary definition of feral is: “In a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.”  Monbiot’s “Feral” metaphorically applies this definition to the hopeful escape of mankind from the damaging world views about Nature that possess and hold captive the lives and the future of human beings. Monbiot then goes on to describe rewilding as a new human activity that promotes interconnectivity and interdependence in Nature.

Amazon offers the following description of Monbiot’s book:

Monbiot takes readers on an enchanting journey around the world to explore ecosystems that have been “rewilded”: freed from human intervention and allowed―in some cases for the first time in millennia―to resume their natural ecological processes…. Through his eyes, we see environmental success―and begin to envision a future world where humans and nature are no longer separate and antagonistic, but are together part of a single, healing world.

Quotes from George Monbiot’s book “Feral: Rewilding, The Land, Sea,and Human Life”

.“Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way. Some people see rewilding as a human retreat from nature; I see it as a re-involvement.”

 

“The rewilding of natural ecosystems that fascinates me is not an attempt to restore them to any prior state, but to permit ecological processes to resume… Rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of a collection of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment.”

 

“The ecosystems that result are best described not as wilderness, but as self-willed: governed not by human management but by their own processes”

 

“Rewilding has no end points, no view about what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species looks like. It does not strive to produce a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef. It lets nature decide. The way they [the ecosystems] evolve cannot be predicted… While conservation often looks to the past, rewilding … looks to the future.”

 

“Rewilding is not about abandoning civilization but about enhancing it. It is to ‘love not man the less, but Nature more’.”

 

“The environmental movement up till now has necessarily been reactive. We have been clear about what we don’t like, But we also need to say what we would like. We need to show where hope lies. Ecological restoration is a work of hope.”

 

“The more we understand about how ecosystems work, the less appropriate certain conservation policies appear. As I have explored the powerful effects that some species exert on animals and plants to which, at first, they have no obvious connection, I have begun to understand the extent to which the farmed and managed systems, that many conservationists defend, are empty shells. They have lost not only their physical structure – the trees, shrubs and dead wood – but also many of the connections between the species which build an ecosystem. Most of the strands of the web of the life in these places have been broken “

 

“Rewilding is to restore, to the greatest extent possible, ecology’s dynamic interactions. In other words, the scientific principle behind rewilding is restoring what ecologists call trophic diversity. Trophic means relating to food and feeding [ energy flow]. Restoring trophic diversity means enhancing the number of opportunities, for animals, of life. It means expanding the web of life both vertically and horizontally, increasing the number of trophic levels (top predators, middle predators, plant eaters, plants, carrion and detritus feeders) and creating opportunities for the number and complexity of relationships at every level to rise.”

 

“Ecologists are not always aware of the extent to which the systems they study have been altered by humans: that the life they describe has been greatly simplified and diminished.” (Note: referred to as Shifting Baseline Syndrome)

 

‘Rewilding experiments are likely to present stiff challenges to current scientific knowledge. Many of the places ecologists have studied have been radically altered by human intervention, and many of the processes they have recorded, and which they assumed were natural, appear to have been shaped as much by people and their domestic stock as by wild animals and plants.” (Note: So what baseline do we use for a restoration project?)

 

Some Essays and Videos by George Monbiot

 

How Wolves Change Rivers (VIdeo)

For more wonder, rewild the world (VIdeo TED talk)

Stepping Back From The Brink

How Whales Change Climate (Video)

Everything Is Connected

Climate Breakdown | Clare Hymer meets George Monbiot (video)

Rewilding (VIdeo)

Breaking The Spell Of Loneliness | George Monbiot & Ewan McLennan | 

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.

We Humans Need An Ecological Civilization

Human beings must respect Nature, follow its ways and protect it

 

I came across the term “ecological civilization” when I read an article by Jeremy Lent about the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, proposing the idea of an ecological civilization before his congress. He said: “we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways and protect it”. 

 

Jeremy Lent defines an ecological civilization as: “a civilization based on the sustainable health of interconnected living systems”.

 

I am heartened when a world leader proposes a change in western humanity’s world view that will lead to the survival of the human race. Sadly, i cannot imagine a Donald Trump proposing such a thing.

 

While China has recently had a dismal environmental record, Jeremy Lent notes:

 

Within a larger historical context, it is not too surprising that this vision of harmony between human and nature should emerge from China.  Traditional Chinese culture was founded on a worldview that perceived an intrinsic web of connection between humanity and nature.”

 

Nature can live without we humans, but humans cannot live without Nature

 

From the Chinese culture, we can say that humanity’s idea of a sustainable flourishing of our earthly home, Nature, is not new. It has simply been ignored by our western culture. Domination and control of Nature is the westerner’s idea of existence. Yet, Nature operates in a harmony created by interconnection and interdependence that is necessary for life’s critical energy to flow between and through all forms of life. It is this unwillingness of we western humans to accept the physical reality of how Nature operates that could ultimately destroy our race.

 

Nature will continue to operate as a living system. Nature can live without we humans, but humans cannot live without Nature.

 

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.

Keeping Nature Connected To Herself

Recently, I wrote an essay that asked whether current environmental conservation strategies are misguided or on target I questioned the two most prominent conservation strategies suggested by the scientific community. I concluded that both strategies failed to address the preservation of Nature’s energy flow. I suggested that both strategies would fail to maintain a healthy environment. The result would be a degradation of Earth’s living systems.

 

I write the essays in this blog site to invite dialog and develop ideas. With this essay, I was richly rewarded with comments from Roger Eaton of “Voices of Humanity. He noted that:

” I have posted my thoughts at https://voh.intermix.org/items/2702/view. “

 

I believe that Roger Eaton’s thoughts are important enough to be repeated in a separate blog post. It is for this reason that I write this essay. Mr. Eaton says:

 

This is a must read article written by William Graham in his Web of Life blog in November of 2017: http://www.freshvista.com/2017/are-environmental-conservation-strategies-misguided-or-on-target.

 

Many people are understanding now that the straightline human economic system, where resources are pillaged from planet earth, used, and then discarded as waste, is a formula for a doomed civilization. And solutions, circular economy, multi level projects to draw down CO2 and so forth are coming into vogue.

 

But the fundamental insight that nature is a living system of energy flows is not sufficiently appreciated. We need to realize the central importance of keeping the natural world connected to itself so the energy can flow with the least possible interruption by the human economy.

 

All the efforts toward a circular economy and CO2 draw down and so forth can fit within a larger picture of maintaining and restoring the connections in nature. But we need to keep that larger picture in mind at every step. We need to understand that as a living system, Planet Earth is not going to be under our control. My own input here is to say: influence, yes, but control, no.”

 

In the course of our dialog, Roger Eaton suggested that he change the word “influence” to “positive steps”. As a result, his last sentence would now read “My own input here is to say: positive steps, yes, but control, no.”

 

I am very grateful to Roger Eaton for his comments.

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

 

Life on Earth exists because energy that originates with our sun flows from one creature or plant to another. Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. This movement of life’s energy takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. In order to function as a steward of Nature, one must possess a consciousness of this basic fact.

Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or 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.

If, after reading this essay, you find yourself embracing the idea that everything in Nature, including we humans, is interdependent, 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

 

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

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 weekly email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that have been 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 followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is “@ballenamar”.  With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that re-announce my old posts, you will also see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important. So, I strongly encourage you to become one of my 11,000+ Twitter followers.

Nature’s Relationships : What Is Life ?

What Is Life ?

 

 

If we could surrender to Earth’s intelligence, we would rise up rooted—like trees.”

~ Rainier Maria Rilke

 

What Is Life ? This is a question with many answers. A dictionary might tell us that life is a distinctive characteristic of a living organism that has he capacity to grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt, and reproduce. But, defining life requires a greater depth if we are to understand how Nature operates.

 

We can define living things by their structure:

  • Living Things are Composed of Cells
  • Living Things Have Different Levels of Organization
  • Living Things Are A Network of Systems

 

Or, we could define living things in terms of energy:

  • Living Things Transport and Transform Energy
  • Living Things Respond To Their Environment
  • Living Things Grow
  • Living Things Reproduce
  • Living Things Adapt To Their Environment

 

We can say that the essence of life is a process:

All life processes intermingle and are somehow dependent upon each other. Everything within Nature is interconnected and interdependent. More than mere interconnectedness, interdependence refers to the tendency of all life on Earth to be fundamentally linked and mutually dependent upon each other. Interdependence is a defining feature of all of Nature and Her ecosystems. Animals depend on plants for the production of oxygen, while plants absorb the carbon dioxide released by animals. Bees, butterflies, and birds assist in pollination and seed dispersal, enabling the reproduction of a multitude of plant species on which other organisms depend for food and shelter. And, of course, Earth’s connectedness with the sun’s energy is of primary importance because solar energy drives all life.

 

Life is a living system:

We can see that humans are also interconnected to and interdependent with Nature. Nonetheless, humanity fails to embrace the idea that every living thing on earth, including humans, is inextricably interconnected to every other living being. This refusal by humanity to accept our interdependence with Nature is a basic reason why the effects of human overpopulation and over-consumption exist.

 

Life is a collection of systems:

We will never understand life and we will be unable to resolve our population crisis until we recognize that life is a collection of systems. While we may not realize it, we encounter and connect with systems every moment of our lives. Our bodies are a large collection of interconnected, self-maintaining systems. Every person we meet, every organization we work with, every animal, every tree, and every ecosystem is a system.

 

Life is a continuum:

The endless complexity of life is organized into patterns which repeat themselves as they energize each hierarchical level of an ecosystem.  From the ceaseless streaming of protoplasm to the many-vectored activities of supranational systems, there are continuous flows through living systems as they maintain their highly organized steady states.

 

We humans need to embrace a systems view of life:

It is important to recognize that we need to understand systems and the systems view of life because systems are the networks by which life’s vital energy is transported and transformed. A thorough understanding of Nature’s living systems, as well as energy flow within these systems, is key to the development of conservation programs by human beings. When a conservation program developed by humans proves ineffective, it is usually because there was insufficient comprehension of living systems and Nature’s energy flow within these systems.

 

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.

 

 

Great Conservation Stories

 There are many silent conservation heroes who are making a difference

 

In between the government endorsed wolf killings and the negative environmental impact of off-road ATVs, there are many silent conservation heroes who are making a difference and setting examples for the rest of us.

 

As I do research for my blog posts, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that all is not gloom and doom in the world of conservation. Despite the wolf killings and the ATVs, there are many silent heroes who are making a difference and setting examples for the rest of us. I’ve already noted examples of positive conservation in previous posts. Rachel Carson, is probably the most well known conservation hero. But today, there are many silent and unsung heroes.  In this post, I offer some examples that offer hope and encouragement to those of us who are sometimes overwhelmed by a sea of discouragement.

 

Some of my conservation heroes are readers of this blog. A number of you, professionals in various fields of endeavor, have reached out to mentor me and encourage me as I write on various subjects. To those of you who are by my side, I am deeply grateful. Your efforts have resulted in a significant improvement in the material offered in this blog and on Twitter. Through your help, you have provided important information to a growing audience of readers and followers.

 

Non-lethal predator control really works

 

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of passive restoration where we let Nature do her own thing. In previous posts, I’ve been outspoken against the idea of killing wolves and other top predators either as a convenience to ranchers and farmers or by hunters who want a trophy. But, beneath the emotional rhetoric put out by the agricultural industry and hunting advocates, there are groups of conservation heroes who have emerged with successful stories about how ranching interests can be protected while preserving the top predators.

I begin by praising Yellowstone National Park for their reintroduction of the wolf as well as biologists Bill Ripple and Bob Bechta for developing the scientific evidence at Yellowstone that the great carnivores are revitalizing forces of Nature. Their work is chronicled in the wonderful video, Lords of Nature. From this work came the realization that these creatures are an important part of  Nature’s ecosystems. They warrant non-lethal human measures to protect top predators while protecting livestock.

Some ranches are having great success using range riders to protect their livestock. Take a moment to read this story about the success of using range riders to protect livestock from top predators. In part, the article states:

“Well, the cows did finally come home last fall—every last one of them, with no losses to wolves or, for that matter, any other predator. After weighing the cattle, the Dawsons were proud to report some of the best weight gain they could remember after any grazing season on their allotments.”

Here is another story from the White Mountains of Arizona where volunteers help manage the reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf. The article reports:

In 2000, commissioners in Marin County, Calf., developed a comprehensive non-lethal predator management program. Of the 29 ranches operating in Marin, 18 set aside lethal methods. Instead, they used a combination of 22 guard dogs, 19 llamas, 24.6 miles of electric fencing, 16 strobe light and radio devices, and a number of sheep bells. The cost was $40,000 a year. Over five years, County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen reports that the non-lethal strategies did a better job protecting livestock than Wildlife Services’ lethal methods: an average annual livestock loss of 2.2 percent [using non-lethal methods] versus more than five percent [ when Wildlife Services is killing wolves].

 

Building Wildlife Bridges

 

The uncontrolled growth of the human population, and humanity’s use of land without consideration for other species has resulted in highly fragmented ecosystems. The result is the “corralling” of once free-roaming animal populations. Even our public lands do not usually provide for animal migration corridors. There has been a growing effort by some conservation heroes to correct this problem. All over the world, we are seeing the construction of wildlife bridges that provide pathways for animal groups to roam from one sector of land to another.

One example is the construction of a number of wildlife bridges  on  interstate highway I-90 in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state in the United States.

 

Reintroducing Nature’s Engineers

 

At one time, humanity regarded the Beaver as a pest because it’s dams destroyed or altered mankind’s designs for the flow of water. The Beaver’s pelt was highly prized. Consequently, without the Beaver, many riparian ecosystems sustained damaging change.

The San Pedro River that runs south to north from Cananea, Sonora, Mexico to the Gila River in Northern Arizona suffered damage and change to its ecosystem as the Beaver population was decimated by mankind. The happy ending to this story is the reintroduction of the Beaver by the US Bureau of Land Management. 

 

Saving The Turtles

 

I’ve experienced conservation heroics in my own back yard. I recently wrote about the volunteer groups of local residents and visitors who rescue newly hatched Olive Ridley sea turtles on beaches along the shores of the Sea of Cortez near San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.

In order to survive, these babies must walk from the dunes that line the beach to the water line where they enter the sea. Their hazards during their walk are the desiccating heat of the sun and aerial predators such as vultures and gulls.

Despite the fact that this beach is a protected reserve where there are signs in English and Spanish prohibiting ATV activity, the ATVs are driven up and down the beaches endangering human beings and leaving deep ruts in the sand. These ruts, which run parallel to the waterline, prevent the newly hatched turtles from getting to the water from where they hatched.  The baby turtles are caught in the ruts and are forced to move parallel to the beach rather than to the water. The result is death from predators or from the heat of the sun. Our caring heroes create pathways so that the little guys can walk to the water and avoid certain death.

Working with government biologists and other professionals, our conservation heroes have received training and have organized themselves to patrol the beaches looking for new turtle nests and hatching activity. When a nest is discovered, it is protected with markers, stakes, tape, and signs. The volunteers also provide environmental education to people who are walking the beach. We believe that environmental education is a more powerful conservation tool than police officers.

 

Young People Providing Environmental Education

 

There is one group of conservation heroes with whom I am very proud to be associated. This group of high school students in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico offer conservation education activities to elementary school students throughout the community. The idea of developing a conservation consciousness in our young people is the primary goal of this group. These programs are offered outdoors where primary and secondary students can experience Nature while developing a consciousness for Her protection.

I’ve written about these heroes in a previous post. As of this writing, the program has been operating for five successful years.   It is a privilege for me to work with this young and energetic conservation team.  Here are some pictures of this group at work.

 

Annual Lists of Conservation Heroes

 

You might be interested in Cox Corporation’s web site where annual lists of conservation heroes are presented.

 

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

Thanks for reading this essay.

It is always a happy event for me when I write about conservation successes such as the examples I’ve noted in this blog.  There are plenty more great stories to be told about our conservation heroes. I would be honored if you would take the time to share your conservation success stories in the comments section of this essay. You are also invited to write a guest essay on some positive conservation event or experience. If you don’t have time to write much, simply put the URL for a good story in a comment.

 

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.

 

Nature’s Relationships : Fractals and Forests

“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,

And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;

While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.”

                                                                — Jonathan Swift:  1733

David George Haskell, in his book entitled “The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors ” says:

“Virginia Woolf wrote that ‘real life’ was the common life, not the ‘little separate lives which we live as individuals.’ Her sketch of this reality included trees and the sky, alongside human sisters and brothers. What we now know of the nature of trees affirms her idea, not as metaphor but as incarnate reality . Like the union of leaf-cutter ants, fungi, and bacteria below the ceibo, a tree’s root/fungus/bacteria complex cannot be divided into little separate lives. In the forest, Woolf’s common life is the only life. Outside the laboratory, the complexity of the relationships among trees and other species increases by many orders. Decisions are made in these networks based on flows of information involving thousands of species. The chickadee’s culture looks simple in comparison. It is therefore not just the balsam fir tree that thinks but the forest. The common life has a mind. To claim that forests “think” is not an anthropomorphism. A forest’s thoughts emerge from a living network of relationships, not from a humanlike brain. These relationships are made from cells inside fir needles, bacteria clustered at root tips, insect antennae sniffing the air for plant chemicals, animals remembering their food caches, and fungi sensing their chemical milieu. The diverse nature of these relationships means that the tempo, texture, and mode of the forest’s thoughts are quite different from our own. The forest, though, also includes humans, chickadees, and other nerved creatures. A forest’s intelligence therefore emerges from many kinds of interlinked clusters of thought. Nerves and brains are one part, but only one, of the forest’s mind. “

Much has been written and said about fractals – those intriguing and highly irregular shapes that portray Nature’s objects and processes. Fractals are Nature’s geometric images. They are described as “self-similar” because they are endless inclusions of similar patterns within similar patterns, systems within systems.  If a system is self-similar, there is some feature that is constant at all scales of magnification. An object’s pattern looks the same close up as it does far away. This characterizes most natural systems such as trees, rivers, mountains, and the structure of mammalian lungs. Walk outside and look at a tree or sagebrush. There, you will see real-life representations of self-similarity.

The trees we see in Nature are self-similar. A magnified section of its branches looks about the same as the unmagnified tree. To illustrate, we can create a tree on paper or on a computer. We start with a vertical line that represents a single tree trunk with a length equal to 1. We grow the tree with the rule that, at each juncture, two branches are formed that are, perhaps, 60 degrees apart and may be half the length of the parent branch. We carry out this iteration multiple times. While we have created an idealized tree using an algorithm, keep in mind that a real tree contains algorithmic information within its genetic structure.

The term “fractal” was coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975 and was derived from the Latin word “fractus” meaning “broken” or “fractured.” Fractal geometry is the geometry of irregular shapes that we find in Nature. It gives us the power to describe these natural shapes and to hint at unifying factors.

Self similarity is a very important aspect of Nature that provides unifying clues to the inter-connectivity that we see in Nature’s systems. Self-similarity means that as the magnification of an object changes, the shape or the geometry of the object does not change.

A fractal often has the following features:

• It has no characteristic size because it looks the same (at least approximately) at all magnifications. It is self-similar.

• A fractal is too irregular to be easily described in the traditional Euclidean geometric language that we learned in high school.

• Nature’s fractal structures are highly connected and hierarchical.

• While very complex, fractals can be defined by simple rules or recursive algorithms created by Nature’s genetic instructions.

Fractal theory provides a level of understanding about ecosystems because energy delivery systems within ecosystems are fractal. Energy transportation networks, like lungs, kidneys, and river systems, have fractal shapes because fractal shapes offer very efficient connectivity.

A good example is a mammalian lung. Alveoli are the tiny pockets in our lungs that store air for brief periods to allow time for oxygen to be absorbed into the blood-stream. In order to permit the absorption of sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream, the alveoli must have a very large total surface area. Human lungs contain 300 million alveoli with a surface area of 160 square meters — the size of a singles tennis court. The volume of a human lung contained in the chest cavity is only about 6 liters. So, this huge surface area is contained within this relatively small volume. This can happen only because the geometry of the lung structure is a system of convoluted fractal, self-similar surfaces. Much like crumpling up sheets of paper into balls and stuffing them into a bag. 

The efficiency of the lungs in diffusing oxygen from the inhaled air into the bloodstream is directly proportional to the available surface area. So, for a given volume of lung, it is highly advantageous to maximize the complexity of the structure so that the surface area is maximized. The highly complex fractal arrangement of the alveoli structures serves to maximize the surface area of the lung.

The same can be said about the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Think of a tree as an upside-down mammalian lung. Through the complex system of fractal branches and the leaves that are attached to these branches, trees and forests are highly efficient lungs of the earth.

Author David Haskell, in his quote at the beginning of this essay, describes Nature’s fractal, self-similar trees as “Nature’s Great Connectors”. His description is accurate and profound because self-similarity describes the strong relationship between the process of forming self-similar objects and the hierarchical connectivity of these objects. Self-similarity is connectivity. One segment of a self-similar system is created from a prior segment. A tree is composed of a hierarchical structure where a twig is grown from a branch, a branch is grown from a trunk, and so on. The result is a highly efficient system of energy flow conduits that bring energy from the sun and transport that energy throughout the plant. While this is going on, the tree transforms the sun’s energy into useful energy to be used by the plant and by the creatures who eat the plant. The fractal structure also serves as a lung that transforms carbon dioxide into oxygen for use by most life on Earth.

The fractal properties of these energy networks within any organism transcends all organisms. Without the fractal relationships that we have described, none of this could happen.

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

 

 

Do killing animals promote life?

“Conservation theater” is the dubious practice of killing predators in the name of conservation

 

Many of us who wait in airport security lines have serious doubts about the effectiveness, the benefit, and the actual protection offered by the invasive procedures that we are required to endure. Our doubts become amplified when we read that dangerous and illegal items are regularly smuggled past the inspectors during government sanctioned tests. We have come to call this whole process “security theater” . It is all just a big show without any benefit or protection forthcoming.

 

The same can be said about the activities of many conservation workers who, while well meaning, don’t really conserve anything. Dr. Phillip A. Loring  calls it “conservation theater”. Specifically he is speaking of the killing of predators in the name of conservation while the true culprit is mankind’s activities of habitat fragmentation. He says that “killing is a crude tool for orchestrating conservation theater“.

 

Much of conservation theater practices are based on human beings setting quotas. Many conservation practitioners perform calculations as they attempt to define expected results that should be forthcoming from some action. Hunting quotas are a common example. By some magic, our practitioners are able to compute how many elk need to be killed to maintain some defined ecological balance. Yet, for the last 20 years, systems science has shown that the actions of Nature’s ecosystems (which are complex systems driven the many interactions of many chaotic inter-dependencies ) cannot be predicted by mankind. There is no such thing as equilibrium or steady state in Nature. Yet our conservation practitioners incorporate reference points and targets that are based on human fabricated goals of equilibrium and steady state.

 

Mankind’s conservation theater is sometimes based on the idea of trying to prevent changes in Nature – an impossible task. But, the truth is that no ecosystem  will exist unchanged over time. With or without mankind, change is normal in Nature. In the world of ecology, the only constant is change.

 

The surprising thing is that, while mankind cannot control Nature or manipulate a steady state, Nature has demonstrated her ability to come to her own equilibrium without the help of mankind. In fact, conservation theater and the meddling of mankind has often prevented Nature from achieving Her own equilibrium. A famous example of this important point is the Yellowstone wolves. In the early 1900s, our conservation practitioners (who were driven by wolf haters) decided to allow the extirpation (a fancy word for ” killing off”) of the Yellowstone wolves. Over the following years, big, unpredictable, and detrimental  changes took place in the Yellowstone ecosystem due to this “conservation theater”.  Around 1990,  conservation practitioners relented and released wolves back into Yellowstone. The entire story is  dramatic proof that Nature can take care of herself without mankind’s conservation theater. In addition, as shown by the Yellowstone wolf story, conservation theater can be destructive. The drama is aptly described in a wonderful video entitled “Lords of Nature“.

 

In response to the fantasy of conservation theater, Dr. Loring  offers the following to us:

 

“I believe that if people are to develop new and transformative ways of living sustainably they need a metaphor that inspires not just restraint but creativity and innovation, a metaphor that casts people not as tragic destroyers but native and welcome participants in the natural order.”

 

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.

 

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.

 

Thinking In Systems – Debunking Wizards and Prophets

I have acquired a strong interest in following the ideas and the activities of those scientific, educational, and political groups that claim to have solutions to the problems associated with mankind’s huge negative impact on the environmental welfare of our Earth. I have this intense interest because:

 

  1. I truly care for a happy and sustainable future for human generations that include my own family and the students who I serve.
  2. I am frustrated when I see proposed future ecological conservation programs that have little chance of succeeding because key facts of life are being ignored.

What concerns me deeply is that the progress of effective conservation programs have slowed down or stopped because the conservation community is locked in a battle over ideology while a threat of ecological catastrophe in about 50 years exists because of human apathy, unsustainable human population growth, and unsustainable consumption of resources.

 

One group is very confident that we humans can prevent this crisis by applying our higher intelligence to create new technologies that will produce more food for humans, more energy, and other essential “services” that will assure our survival.

 

In his book entitled “The Wizard and the Prophet” , author Charles Mann calls this group “Wizards”. The other group is looked upon as predictors of a doomsday for humans because their calculations suggest that a limit in the food supply will be reached by about year 2100 because no more land will be available to produce food. Wars over land control will break out and the ethics of a productive human society will be replaced by survival ethics. This group favors restricting or controlling humans who choose to venture into Nature. Charles Mann calls this group “Prophets”.

 

Gus Spaeth, a US adviser on climate change, said:

 

I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

 

Gus Spaeth describes a Western worldview of apathy toward Nature that no conservation program, whether it be authored by Wizards or Prophets, has addressed. Spaeth implies that a cultural change in human beings is necessary to solve our current environmental problems. Neither the Wizards nor the Prophets suggest ways to alter this cultural crisis. The uniquely western mindset is set apart from Nature and is called upon called to dominate Nature. This worldview is manifested in apathy toward Nature, unsustainable capital growth, and overconsumption.

 

A part of resolving humanity’s cultural crisis is in accepting the interdependency of all life on Earth. Interdependency is manifested in “living systems” where everything in life is interconnected. The Prophets and the Wizards make little mention of the importance of living systems even though the systems view of life has been a mainstay in scientific thinking for a number of years. No conservation program can succeed without accepting the idea that Earth, its flora and its fauna are all part of a living system.  Discoveries from modern systems science has made us realize that everything on Earth is interconnected and interdependent. Everything is part of a network. Nothing lives in isolation. Systems science has also shown us that we humans cannot predict  the processes or pathways of our Earth’s living systems. This fact has been well established. So, the “Prophets” cannot accurately  predict any upcoming crisis, and the “Wizards” cannot predict the outcome of their proposed new technologies.

 

In my view, the key to resolving the current ecological crisis is to:

  1. Find a way to modify the “dominion” and “control” worldview that humanity possesses about Nature.
  2. Humanity accepting a systems worldview that includes Nature’s interdependencies of all living things including mankind.

The issue of modifying the Western worldview about Nature has been addressed in another blog essay entitled Environmental Educators Have The Power To Change Humanity’s Inaccurate Worldview About Nature. This essay suggests that our center of influence should be on our youth who represent one half of our population.

 

The worldview and the message that must be communicated by our youth is the systems view of life where humans must recognize that all life, including ourselves, is part of an interconnected and  interdependent system.

 

In April of 2018, the Ecologist Journal published an essay by Fritjof Capra entitled “The Way To Sustain Life Is To Build And Nurture Community. Capra is well known as one of the fathers of modern systems science. Capra and Pier Luisi are well known for their 2014 textbook entitled “The Systems View of Life”.

 

Capra’s essay is a wonderful summary of modern systems science thinking that has been completely ignored by the Wizards and the Prophets. What follows is a series of quotes from Capra’s essay that suggest a new way of thinking about conservation work that sets aside the feud between the Wizards and the Prophets and offers a solution.

 

“Today, it is becoming more and more evident that concern with the environment is no longer one of many “single issues.” It is the context of everything else — of our lives, our businesses, our politics.”

 

“The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities, designed in such a manner that their ways of life — businesses, economies, physical structures, and technologies — do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life.”

 

“The first step in this endeavor, naturally, must be to understand how nature sustains life. It turns out that this involves a new ecological understanding of life. Indeed, such a new understanding of life has emerged in science over the last 30 years.”

 

‘The systems view of life requires a new kind of thinking — thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context.”

 

“One of the most important insights of the systemic understanding of life is the recognition that networks are the basic pattern of organisation of all living systems. Ecosystems are understood in terms of food webs – i.e., networks of organisms; organism are networks of cells, organs, and organ systems; and cells are networks of molecules.”

 

“The network is a pattern that is common to all life. Indeed, at the very heart of the change of paradigms from the mechanistic to the systemic view of life we find a fundamental change of metaphors: from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. “

 

” Today, it is becoming more and more evident that concern with the environment is no longer one of many “single issues.” It is the context of everything else — of our lives, our businesses, our politics.”

 

” Sustainability, then, is not an individual property but a property of an entire web of relationships. It always involves a whole community. This is the profound lesson we need to learn from nature. The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community.”

 

“Today, it is becoming more and more evident that the major problems of our time — energy, environment, climate change, economic inequality, violence and war, and so on — cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent. They require corresponding systemic solutions — solutions that do not solve any problem in isolation but deal with it within the context of other related problems.”

 

“Unfortunately, this realization has not yet dawned on most of our political and corporate [and scientific] leaders who are unable to connect the dots. Instead of taking into account the interconnectedness of our major problems, their so-called ‘solutions’ tend to focus on a single issue, thereby simply shifting the problem to another part of the system — for example, by producing more energy at the expense of biodiversity, public health, or climate stability. Moreover, our leaders refuse to recognize how their piecemeal solutions affect future generations. What we need is solutions that are systemic and sustainable.”

 

” ‘ecoliteracy’ and understanding of systems thinking in relation to nature is vital to sustainable living. “

 

“In the coming decades the survival of humanity will depend on our ecological literacy — our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly.”

 

“This means that ecoliteracy must become a critical skill for politicians, business leaders, and professionals in all spheres, and should be the most important part of education at all levels — from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities, and the continuing education and training of professionals.”

 

“We need to teach our children, our students, and our political and corporate leaders the fundamental facts of life — for example, that one species’ waste is another species’ food; that matter cycles continually through the web of life; that the energy driving the ecological cycles flows from the sun; that diversity assures resilience; that life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, did not take over the planet by combat but by partnerships and networking.”

Mankind’s Worldview of Nature – A Resource List:

Online Resource List – Humanity’s Inaccurate Worldview Of Nature

 

Environmental Educators Have The Power to Change Humanity’s Inaccurate Worldview About Nature

http://www.freshvista.com/2018/environmental-educators-have-the-power-to-change-humanitys-inaccurate-worldview-about-nature/

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Is There A More Important Education? Solutions to our environmental dilemma rest in environmental education and behaviors that manifest our environmental understanding

http://trib.com/opinion/columns/keown-is-there-a-more-important-education/article_e28f3659-2a7b-5ef8-b889-b2fec4a6ddfd.html

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Stepping Back From The Brink – An astonishing new field of enquiry explores the deep changes that could avert a planetary disaster

http://www.monbiot.com/2018/01/31/stepping-back-from-the-brink/

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What Will It Take To Avoid Collapse? Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice.

https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/

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A new history of cultural big ideas looks to the East for solace. Our planetary predicament demands the broadest and deepest perspective to guide our actions in the middle of what would otherwise be an enervating horror show.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2131994-a-new-history-of-cultural-big-ideas-looks-to-the-east-for-solace/

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Our values will decide our destiny. Each unique culture shapes its values, and those values shape history. By the same token, the predominant values of our civilization are what will shape the future.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/our-values-will-decide-our-destiny_us_595fea6be4b085e766b5129e

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A House on Shaky Ground: Eight Structural Flaws of the Western Worldview

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/a-house-on-shaky-ground-eight-structural-flaws-of-the-western-worldview

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What Does China’s Ecological Civilization Mean For Humanity’s Future?

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/02/10/what-does-chinas-ecological-civilization-mean-humanitys-future

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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.

 

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