Bare Bones Biology 038-Best Gift

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.

Bare Bones Biology Broadcast 038
KEOS 89.1, Bryan, TX
Transcript at
Podcast at