Last week we overviewed the relationship between the corposystem and the whole earth ecosystem. The earth ecosystem is the unique unit of life that consists of the sum of all the other units of life on earth and the climate they generate. The ecosystem uses light energy to make food energy (Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook*). It then uses the food energy to do the work of staying alive – that is, it keeps all the earth organisms alive by making food for them. Then it recycles the products of life, that we think of as waste products; but the ecosystem puts the products together with more energy from the sun to make more life. The ecological miracle of life is that it is sustainable, as long as the products are recycled and there is light energy from the sun.
The corposystem is the modern corpo-political culture. It uses the food energy from the ecosystem to feed the humans who do the work of making money. That work includes withholding from both the human community and the biological community any services that are not profitable. In other words the corposystem retains the money and also, for the most part does not recycle its products.
The problem the corposystem is now facing is that money (despite the clever misuse of the term by some authors) money is not energy. No matter how many clever games we use to make more of it – money cannot grow food energy to feed the humans who do the work of the corposystem. Only the process of photosynthesis can energize life on earth, and we can’t do photosynthesis. Even if we could, we would just unbalance a different node of the web of Life.
It is people working and living that drives the corposystem. It is the resources from the ecosystem (food energy and other resources) that feed the work of humans, and it is the work of humans that drives the corposystem cycle. Not money. Money is a product we play with.
This is good because it means, whenever we take a mind to, we humans can stop the insanity of competing with the ecosystem. We can change our culture to one that collaborates with the work of the ecosystem and so is more sustainable. Whenever we decide to, we can use the work of our hands, minds and bodies to support the cycles of life that actually do feed the welfare of the whole of Life itself. To do this, we need to understand how the corposystem generates a human culture of fear, anger, hatred, greed and dominance, in spite of our normal human need for the kind of a compassionate community that I have described in earlier blogs in this series (beginning with Bare Bones Biology 092).
The cycle of human roles that drives the work of the corposystem is shown within the corposystem cycle in the diagram on my blog. The culture diagram is my perception of our modern American culture: It can be a guide to ourselves, and a hope for the future if we can understand what we are doing to ourselves.
First let’s remember that a cycle is not me or you as individuals. A cycle is more like a set of job titles, or life-styles. I claim that our modern American corposystem culture limits us to three available over-all life styles: Victim life style: Villain life style: Good Guy-Hero life style. Some individuals choose to become very good at one or other of those life styles, but we aren’t specifically stuck. If you are raised with all the life skills of a Victim you can choose, and if you work very hard to figure out what keeps you in that life style, you can change to another lifestyle. But in our culture you will not be recognized, understood or rewarded if you try to choose any lifestyle that is too far apart from the available three. This is really difficult to explain, so I have placed a personal example on my blog directly below the transcript of this podcast. (http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-heads-up/).
Photos by Lynn
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play
next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely
nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_136_-_Corposystem_CommunityF.mp3
Bare Bones Biology Ecology Energy Handbook
Go to the right side of the page under Chapters and download your free no strings PDF.
Bare Bones Biology 135 – http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/
A Heads Up – http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-heads-up/
Question for Discussion
Most people who read this blog are aware of the concept of Yin and Yang. For every earthly action or event, there is the possibility of both a “good” and a “bad” result. If we are really paying attention to the results of our actions, we can observe that this is true in our human experience. Why do you think this is true?
Try this for an Idea
Watch your actions for a whole day. You will be happy with some things you do and not happy with other things you do. Why is this? Is it because of peer pressure or because of some negative or positive responses of other people? Or is it because you have really considered the right or wrong of your actions? Ask yourself, why are they right and why are they wrong?
Whole Earth Ecosystem = All the species of organisms on earth and the environment that they generate to live in.
Corposystem = The modern American corpo-political system including its international entanglements.
Filed under: bare bones biology, Bare Bones Ecology, BBB Audio Transcripts, Chapter 01-Energy Flow, Community, Power of Good Information, Power of Learning, Power of Reality, Rule of Law | Tagged: Anger, biological_community, compassion, corposystem, dominance, ecosystem, fear, food_energy, greed, hatred, hero, Human_community, life_style, money, photosynthesis, product, sustainable, victim, villain, web_of_Life, work | Leave a Comment »
My question still is: how can we be aware of our human ego, and all the negative, painful behaviors that it generates — how can we use that knowledge to grow a more positive, life-supporting human community? Our efforts to treat the symptoms of ecosystem dysfunction — our hubris — are humane, admirable and heroic – variously they include: teach compassion, feed the hungry, build a fence and keep ‘em out, war. However, the painful truth is that these efforts will not solve our problems, because they are based in what humans want, without regard to what Life needs to stay healthy.
To solve our problems, we cannot continue to do our behaviors that caused the problems in the first place. Instead, we must change our behaviors to give back to the whole of Life what Life needs to maintain itself. To do that, we must study what is needed and why. If we really do want to do more good than harm, we need to stop playing corposystem games and listen to and understand what we the human community are doing that is harmful to the biological community.
By the time this program is broadcast, the transcript will be posted, and above and below the transcript a diagram http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/5456/
that attempts to describe the most basic way that our corposystem of today is, in the overall, causing more harm than good to our life systems. Our job is to change the nature of the corposystem to conform to the needs of nature. That is, to make it sustainable. For people who only have the audio, I will try to describe.
On the left is diagrammed the cycle of Life. The function of Life is to transduce light energy into food energy and then to use this food energy to nourish all the interconnected processes that keep the whole of Life alive. This is rather similar to our individual lives, except that individually we eat food energy and transduce it into chemical energy that we use to nourish all the processes that keep our own bodies alive.
Perhaps the biggest difference between individual lives and all of Life is what happens to the materials that are left over, after we individuals do all the work of living. We think of these materials as waste products of life; materials like carbon, oxygen, proteins, feces and dead bodies. That sort of thing. But they are not waste products; they are essential components of the cycle of life that uses them over and over again to sustain the processes of Life.
Life is miraculous in the universe. The second miracle of life is how it recycles, gives back to the cycle of Life the materials of which it is composed, so that the materials are used again for another cycle — always available to maintain the body of Life – things like cells and trees and people. The relationship among the food energy and the work of recycling materials and the heat energy is essential to Life as we know it.
The first miracle is the way Life uses energy (1). Energy cannot be created or destroyed or recycled, but so long as the sun is shining, the plants can use that light energy from the sun to make food. After the food energy is used to do work, it changes into heat energy and is released into the body of Life.
The third miracle of Life is the genetic information that keeps all this in balance — but that is a story for another day. For now we must recognize that all the processes of life must stay in balance in order to maintain Life.
The cycle of our corpo-political human system, the corposystem, is shown on the right side of the diagram, where you can see that the corposystem unbalances the cycle of Life. The corposystem takes what it wants but does not “give back” proportionally to the cycle of life. That’s your life I’m talking about, and more your grandchildren’s.
The ecosystem, the left part of the diagram, generates food (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids etc.) using recycled materials plus energy. Burning energy (any kind of burning, including metabolism in our cells) releases the original materials, which are mostly in the form of carbon dioxide and water. This is the energy cycle, but it is much more than only energy. The balance between the photysynthesis by the green organisms, and the recycling of the materials, also creates our atmosphere; and the relationship between the atmosphere and the sunlight maintains our global climate. The sunlight is important to photosynthesis and photosynthesis and sunlight are important to our climate. This is only one example of the essential multifactorial balancing act of life.
The corposystem unbalances these essential functions in more than one way. First, it burns fossil fuels, in addition to the food energy provided by today’s ecosystem, thus unbalancing relationships between photosynthesis, production of heat by combustion and by the atmospheric conditions, the generation of materials, and their use.
In addition, of course, the ecosystem consists of billions of other cycles – life cycles, chemical cycles, atmospheric, you can list more. The function of the ecosystem is to provide the energy to all these activities, including: (1) to provide food energy so the organisms can do the work required to keep the ecosystem – and now the corposystem — cycling; (2) to operate machines and energize technologies, especially computers, that it uses to organize people and other machines; (3) to make things to sell, often things the corposystem cannot use or recycle, such as poisonous or non-degradable substances, computers, television sets, etc. In short, the corposystem takes food energy and materials from the ecosystem and uses them to make stuff to sell. The product of corposystem cycle is to make profit — not to nourish Life. The system is evaluated largely, in our culture, by who wins, rather than by the balance of factors required to maintain Life.
The obvious end point of a cycle that is taking out more than it is giving back is – it will run out of resources. Since 1997 the corposystem (that is us) has been taking out from the earth ecosystem more than the ecosystem can replace (for examples, download on my home page, right side, Planetary Stewardship). The ecosystem can tolerate a lot of unbalancing and rebalancing but there is indeed a tipping point beyond which it will change itself in ways that will not permit human life.
So to restate the original question here: “How can we become aware of our place in Life so that we can give back to Life what it needs to give us what we need?” I know that a simplistic, egotistical human effort to dominate nature, whether for compassion or for war, will not save nature. We must bow to the needs of nature if we want to survive. To do that we need to learn what those needs are, and nearly all of our leaders are much too busy winning to know, learn or care about anything else. It’s up to us.
Photos by Lynn
This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at
(1) Energy is defined as the ability to do work. All the processes that keep us alive are work. They can be recognized in the simplest way by the fact that things move and processes happen because they use energy. Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook explains in more detail.
Question for Discussion:
How can you develop a small, local, life-supporting community that seeks information about the real facts of Life, while at the same time making our human lives less competitive and more compassionate?
Look at the two pictures in this blog. How many things do you see that cannot be recycled by the corposystem. Don’t forget the flyspray they used on the horses ☺
Bare Bones Biology Ecology Energy Handbook
Go to the right side of the page under Chapters and download your free no strings PDF.
What Won’t Work – http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/
Corposystem Games – http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/
Diagram – http://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/5456/
human_community, ecosystem_dysfunction, symptoms, compassion, fence, war, starvation, problems, give_back, what_is_needed, corposystem_games, biological_community, corposystem, Life=All_Life, food_energy, materials, recycle, energy, sustainable, interconnected processes
The ecosystem is more important than anyone, isn’t it. That’s what climate change is about. But you know as well as I do that we will also lose our America if we let people just do whatever they want to do with our commons — our air, water, soil, oil, all were produced by the living earth, in times past, and our corposystem is illegally destroying them — for money.
So — my suggestion for your action today is to go to Tom Dispatch, which is always good, but never better than when it addresses the very things that we must have if we want — whatever it is that we want.
Photo by Lynn at Brazos Valley Farmer’s Market
My little house wren is singing in the rain, green things are sprouting, and I have received the best New Year gift ever, the January 2011 National Geographic Magazine with an excellent article about overpopulation (pictures and link on Huffington Post . For more than ten years, several problems have stood in the way of us dealing with this greatest challenge of our age.
First problem, we’re biological organisms, living inside a biological ecosystem, and our “fuzzy bunny” style of education has distorted our image of reality until most people don’t understand how the ecosystem functions and how we must relate to it. The ecosystem is not a fuzzy bunny. It is an awesome, immutable, powerful miracle. It can be as bountiful as it is beautiful, if we let it. If we obey the forever laws of life on earth. But when we don’t follow the rules, the ecosystem is as awful as the Indonesian tsunami or the Haitian earthquakes – or massive starvation, genocide, pandemic – or even worse.
Fortunately, modern basic science does know quite a lot about how we need to behave inside our ecosystem. That’s why I tried to make this information available in the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook that you can download from the right side of my web site.
The second reason we’ve had a hard time responding to our biological challenge is that our communications media take such delight in making political footballs out of serious issues that we all need to face together. The result is we’re inundated with mis-information, hate talk and fight talk that have nothing to do with a healthy ecosystem, but only with human greed and temper tantrums. Not qualities we want to hand down to our children.
The third problem is that the whole mess is so complicated we don’t know what to do, and the available information mostly has been of the “do as I say and all will be well” sort – or sometimes lies, or only the good news so people will like us and buy our books, or — they don’t know either. For all you folks who want real information that can help us fix the system, I get that, so I’m very happy to refer you to three other sources of solid information, published by various people competent in their fields who tell it like it is. These are also linked on my web site: the Crash Course; the Post Carbon Reader; and a little book published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.
A fourth reason we have trouble coping is that our culture has separated us from using our best qualities together: science and technology and politics are in one compartment, where we are evaluated according to how strong or how clever or intelligent we are. Religion and compassion and spirituality are in another, where we are evaluated according to our basic positive human values. And beyond that, the media use compassion as a tool to sell things, until we no longer trust our best instincts and are afraid even to talk about positive problem solving.
Well – Happy New Year to us! Senior Editor for the Environment, Robert Kunzig, writing in the January 2011 issue of National Geographic, has given us not only permission but also the responsibility to talk about our greatest human challenge – to combine our smartest ideas with our most positive human values — to deal with the population problem that he has very accurately summarized for us.
And so now we have it all together. Everything we need, right? Except us. Individuals, groups and communities working together to deal with our common challenge. And that part must be up to you, because your contribution is your own responsibility.
But while we’re doing that please remember – this cannot be a competition between us and the ecosystem. If we try to win, we will lose. The ecosystem is bigger than we are. And it does not function by survival of the fittest. It functions by survival of those that do the least harm to the system as a whole.
So, if species grow and succeed on the basis of survival of the fittest, meaning they are doing something that is good for the ecosystem — then how come the ecosystem pitches them out later and they go extinct?
I think the answer to this is that species succeed on the basis of something they are doing that is “fitness” within the ecosystem. That is, it is useful or at least not harmful within the multiple variables of the whole system. And what the ecosystem needs to survive is “resilience” (that is, the ability to change when conditions change) and “sustainability” (that is the ability to stay in balance by adjusting it’s parts, which is almost but not quite the same as resilience). So if a species does not upset the balance — and it increases the resilience of the system — then it is a happy camper within the system.
So why would it then go extinct, I mean barring the occasional mega-volcano or meteorite? I think most species are good at something, better at something than other species. Humans, those who don’t think the problem through, tend to believe this is “fitness.” Being better. They think being better and better at some little thing, like winning, for example, is fitness, and in a way it is, because it allows the species to fill or create a new niche in the system. Up to a point where it can no longer maintain its balance, a system with more niches will be more resilient than a system with fewer niches.
Most species are therefore good at something that is different from the other species that live in the same space. As time goes by and generations follow generations, and selection pressures of the surroundings tend to continue or increase, I think most species develop whatever is their advantage until it passes a balance point and becomes extreme.
For an example, think of the giraffe. And then if conditions change or they continue to develop the same trait to absurdity, they can’t cope in the system any more. For example, if all the tall trees died as a result of global warming (or anything, tree diseases, whatever) the giraffe would have to compete with everyone else at ground level and would probably become extinct.
Humans, now, have developed their definining characteristics to an even greater absurdity than giraffes. Humans in the USA, young people that I talk to, they actually believe they can control their environment (ecosystem) with the power of their brain, either directly or through creating technologies.
The trouble with having a really good brain as a defining characteristic is that it can go crazy and do absurdly harmful things to its own environment that lead to its own extinction. This is not fitness; it will not survive.
But we do have that brain, and we could use it for something useful if we wanted to.
Letter to Tom Englehardt on the occasion of his imaginary graduation speech.
Of course, everything you say in your graduation speech is true; the problem is that all the little graduates, to the extent that they lack the drive and enthusiasm you admire — they know you are beating a dead horse. Only they don’t understand why, how or what to do about it. Of course there remain those outrageously energetic ants among the graduates, who still try to move rubber tree plants in the belief that high hopes can trump physical facts (or if you don’t get Frank Sinatra, try tilting at windmills). The fact is that nothing can change physical facts. That’s why they are called facts.
“How can it be that these fine people don’t hear the most straightforward facts?” I kept thinking, over the past ten years, as I tried to engage them in a logical discussion about the facts of ecosystem life and got back only stock denial phrases of one sort or another.
“Why can’t they listen to the facts? It’s not rocket science.”
So I looked all around the world and in my own community, where there are a goodly number of youthful clones of the failing American belief system, and I watched TV (aaaaacccchhhhhhhhh) and public TV, and read the media. And I found — surprise or no surprise — that our people have not been told the facts of life on earth; the real physical facts are not available in a logical, believable form, to people in our new world. At least I could not find them.
So I took care of that problem, and now they are available. Here attached is (if you are reading the web page, I am sending you) the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook. Please read it and educate yourself as you ask the graduates to do.
To the best of my ability this little handbook contains the logic of the illogical battle we are fighting against the whole earth ecosystem. If you are willing to believe what I say, you can skip the 2 chemistry sections and still get the logic. This logic, based in well-established real facts, is missing from our fights and debates and discussions about the energy problem, climate change and the ecosystem. It is absent from all sides of these debates. So I stopped engaging those debates. What is the point of fighting about opinions and propaganda, when the real facts have been available since before I was born?
You are a good reader. It won’t take more than an hour or so to read this.
Telling students that they should do something, and not telling them what will work, is not useful. Our graduates do not need to be exhorted about hopes and efforts and actions. I have lived a generation longer than you, and I have never seen so much frantic, fragmented, ill-advised action. What our people need is good advice about the behaviors and technologies that might actually succeed, because it is not helping the situation to continue behaviors, no matter how romantic and self-sacrificing, that caused the problem in the first place. We need to step outside of our dream and give the people the facts of life and tell them what they CAN do that might actually work.
Stopping war is a good thing, but it will not stop the problem, because human war (at least in the present day) is a symptom of a much larger attack on our ecosystem life support. We are no longer fighting only with each other. We are now fighting against the ecosystem herself, and against the second law of thermodynamics that rules the whole of the universe. We will not win this fight. Fighting wars is not the best way to win anything, as you know. But it is especially ill advised when the thing you are trying to bring to its knees is the living earth ecosystem within which we all have our life and breath and being.
Politics can be a good thing, and is in any case necessary, but it will not solve our problem until we recognize the problem. No human person can politic the laws of physics into compliance.
After the past few years, I don’t need to explain that our economic growth ethic is a Ponzi. Or maybe I do. It is.
But the greatest of our denial gimmicks is our sad, sad belief that we can use technologies to change the universal (and I do mean universe) laws of physics, while we have in our hands exactly the technology that is needed to help ourselves. But we won’t make it available to the people who need it.
NO kind of human political or economic power or technology is more powerful than the first and second laws of thermodynamics as they apply to life on earth. No kind of human power is more powerful than the power of the living ecosystem. A friend once told me I don’t have to worry about the ecosystem. She said: “God gave the ecosystem a set of checks and balances so it can take care of itself. “ That is true. We will conform or we will go extinct. It’s not so very sad once you get used to the idea, because it is the law of life.
The tragedy is the extent to which we human people are willing to let other people suffer rather than to change our win/lose worldview so that we can begin to use our power and our brains and our technologies to really help those who are suffering as a result of our misdeeds — as we help the ecosystem to survive in some measure of health — so that our children may have some measure of hope. That process will require good politics based in real facts.
Until we figure that out, no matter our flailing efforts, our position will continue to worsen as we use more and more of our children to feed the wars and starvation engendered by our American denial dream. It is indeed a tragedy because it was preventable, but in my mind now it’s more like criminal, because we do know the cause of the problem and the actions that must be taken if we are to fix it.
So please read the attached Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook. I wrote it for you.
The overall theme of this series of six discussions is that we really are in deep doodoo with regard to the whole world ecosystem (and I am not interested in specific examples, such as the gulf, but the overall function of the ecosystem). We cannot resolve our human issues by fighting a battle with the ecosystem that we have no chance of winning.
For the first two sessions, Bare Bones Ecology will be very factual and also very much to the point: what is an ecosystem in relation to us, and how does energy really function in the ecosystem. Importantly, I want to spend some time explaining the basic laws of nature that nobody can change, because we are butting heads with them when we should be devising work-arounds. I will not spend a lot of time debunking myths, but will talk about the reality. One reason for asking a diverse audience is that I expect the reality will disturb some world views. This is a good thing that we can discuss. I believe all world views are logical, but not all are well aligned with the facts. If we mutually understand the real, measurable facts of our lives, and we use the same words to mean the same things, then our discussions and our behaviors are more likely to have positive results, no matter what other things we do in life.
The four following sessions, or any among them, are open to people who come to the first two. The topics to be discussed will be, in this sequence:
1.Political implications of our impacts on the ecosystem
4.Technological and economic implications