Bare Bones Biology 015 – Ecosystem Values


The wren that lives under my house probably does not spend a lot of time thinking about human values. We don’t expect him to. We expect him to have his own kind of diet, his own sorts of talents and skills (have you ever tried to make a wren nest?), to have his own song to sing. And he is only the tiniest part of the ecosystem. So why do we believe the whole ecosystem espouses human values? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know that we do expect the ecosystem to need whatever we humans think it should need, and we continually try to force this strange point of view upon her.

The modern robber barons tend to think: “survival of the fittest.” Of course they believe the fittest is the most powerful. Sorry boys, but that’s not what the ecosystem means by fittest. The fittest organism in the ecosystem would not be the one that destroys more than his share of resources, but the one that contributes most to the viable balance of the ecosystem.

Even worse is the idea of “survival of the most” which was expressed by a Japanese politician several years ago when he exhorted women in his overpopulated island, to have more babies because “there are a lot more Africans than there are Japanese.” I have heard similar views expressed by Americans with regard to muslims, and my mind flashed back to Hitler. More and more of anything does not contribute to the viable balance of the ecosystem.

The fact is that Japan could not support herself with the food and other energy sources that her population needs today, much less with an increase. I asked a number of people in Japan if they really WANT to experience the results of overpopulation that are so painfully obvious in Africa. I got blank looks and no answers. But the reality of life is that fittest is never the biggest or the most. The ecosystem requires balance for her survival, and sooner or later she punishes overpopulation with starvation, war, political collapse, disease and genocide.

Other people believe (whatever the problem) that it’s only a cycle and all of life is cycles, and that’s just the way it is and that’s the way it always will be. We have no control. Again – this is not how the ecosystem works. Yes life does cycle over and over and over again. The cycles are essential to ecosystem survival, both to maintain the responsiveness of its evolutionary information highway and, once again, to maintain a viable balance among all of its parts and processes. But the cycles of every generation are different from those that went before, because of the behaviors and interactions of all the components of the ecosystem during that passage of time. Bottom line is that our behaviors now influence the next coming cycle of life more than they influence our own.

Some people believe that human technology can change God’s natural laws — like the laws that direct gravity, energy, cause and effect and evolution. Stop. Think. No way. We do not WANT to change the laws that make life possible on earth. And fortunately we can not. So why are we wasting our lives tilting at windmills?

The fact is that the ecosystem does not care about what we want, any more than my wren cares about my song. And there is no way that we can change the ecosystem to suit ourselves. If we ever finally decide that we want to actually survive in this incredible place, we will have to give the ecosystem what she needs to survive, not what we think she ought to need. Why aren’t we talking about that?

The ecosystem requires three basic things to survive, besides a place to live. It requires energy to flow from the plants to every part of its self. It requires materials to recycle. And it requires the genetic information that directs the energy flow and the materials cycles while at the same time keeping the millions of life processes of the ecosystem in a viable balance. Evolution is the process that fulfills this last requirement

And we haven’t even begun to think about balance. I guess we can’t, with our minds filled up with growth propaganda, but we can not have everything at the same time. It’s physically impossible to have both balance and growth. It’s either balance or growth. The choice is life or death. So it’s probably worth thinking about.

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