Bare Bones Biology 008B – Balance

I just spent nearly a whole year writing a book that explains that the earth ecosystem is alive and what it requires to stay alive (just like every other living thing) is balance. Balance between hot and cold and balance between birth and death, but that’s our human simplification. Balance among all of the cycles of life.

130702-MillerCanyon-asc_4565RSsAnd now someone has redefined the word balance. So let’s be clear. What I mean is sustainable balance. Balance is when things stay where they are – because all the cycles keep on interacting with each other as they evolved to do — without anybody pushing.

If someone pushes, what you get is an unbalance, and the amazing thing about life forms is that they then usually can rebalance themselves – if it’s not too hard of a push. But after they rebalance – they are different. The best example right now is climate change.

Balance through time. Like the teeter-totter that sits gently on the midpoint, or if you don’t know teeter-totter, think of the scales of liberty. That woman is holding the scales away from her body and they are completely free to move, one side down or the other side down. They don’t move, of course, because she’s only a statue — or a picture — but if those scales were real and they stayed even, through all of time, that is balance. Or maybe I will refine my definition, since the business folk have undefined it, by saying sustainable balance. Balance means balance — sustainably. Two ounces of gold at sea level at a certain temperature is perfectly balanced by two ounces of gold at sea level at a certain temperature, or by anything else that has exactlt the same weight. Or we could do as Rob Hopkins has done and change the words. He likes to talk about resilience, which is a very important and related concept, but not quite the same thing as balance, and balance is what I mean, so I’ll stick with it. Sustainable balance.

A primary function of the ecosystem is to sustain a balance among all the things that are part of the ecosystem, including:
Carbon dioxide
Carbon compounds
Palm trees
Slugs, and
Fire ants,

And a million million other things that are made inside the ecosystem and all are a part of how she stays alive.

How she does this is too complicated for humans to understand. I’m sure if we could make life, we could make our own ecosystem and the moon would be blooming with life. But in spite of what you may have heard, humans cannot make life. We can change it but we can’t make it, because the ecosystem is so much bigger and more complicated than we are that we can’t even think of all those parameters, even with computers, and basically there is no life outside of the ecosystem. At least none that we know about. So, how can we humans claim to understand something that is more complicated than the number of nerve endings in our brains? And if that is true, how come I claim to understand it?

earth.jpg-sizedI do not claim to understand all of it. However, the living earth ecosystem runs by natural laws that do not change; these include the law of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics. Humans did not make these laws; humans just gave them names. The problem for anyone who wants to understand the ecosystem is to clear away the clutter of all the details, to see what is consistent, as we did very successfully before there was science — or better use all the details in a repeatable, measurable way to understand the basic laws of nature as they apply to life. That would be what we do in the science of biology – which is the scientific study of life. Or better yet, use both approaches to understand the ecosystem, and doing that we know all that we need to know to begin giving the ecosystem what she needs to survive in balance. Sustainable balance, not some idiot corporation’s idea of sustainable growth, which is often Ponzi economics, and which always crashes.

There is no such thing as sustainable growth. You know that as well as I do. Everyone does. You can’t raise ten horses on one acre of land unless your neighbor raises hay. You can’t grow sustainably without resources, and sooner or later you run out of resources.

Look out there. Post up that lovely picture taken from the moon of the beautiful living earth. There aren’t any neighbors raising hay, and no human technology can change that fact, no more than airplanes modify gravity or no more than our prayers can change the way God made the universe to function. So, if we want to do something that really will help human kind to survive into the generations with some kind of reasonable quality of life we will have to stop pretending that we can tell God how the world should be, and start changing our behaviors to conform with how the world really is.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of KEOS radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas, and To download a copy of this program go to: