Bare Bones Biology 268 – Systems

I capitalize Life to represent the emergent property of the Biosystem. And life is used represent individual living things.

 The green bits were edited out of the podcast because of time restraints.


How to say it, that’s the problem, and in five minutes or less, it’s difficult. So today I will need to strain my brain and yours, because I want to talk about systems – real natural systems. I will reference a “A Systems View of Life,” co-written by one of the speakers at a previous Bioneers, that I have not yet read, and a book entitled “Linked” that I have listened to about 5 times and benefited every time.


A naturally evolving/evolved system is a set of objects /nodes/things linked together in all or nearly all dimensions by processes or other manifestations of energy. The nodes and links of an  evolved system work together to generate a unitary emergent property (properties/characteristics/phenotypes) that is/are useful to the environment within which the  system evolved/evolves by natural selection.

Implications of this definition follow:


  1. 1. Every kind of system has unique characteristics (emergent properties) that were of value to the environment within which the system evolved. For example, you are a system that consists of subsystems, your emergent properties are Homo sapien. You are a subsystem of our current social system, the corposystem, that is a subsystem of the Biosystem. The defining emergent properties of the corposystem are growth by domination for profit. The corposystem is a subset of the Biosystem, whose defining emergent property is Life.


  1. Every kind of system is unique because its unique emergent properties permit the system to fill or define a new and useful niche within the environment of its origin. If there were no unique niche available that contributes to the welfare of the parent system, then there would not be that subsystem. For example, your kidneys evolved as a subsystem of you because they are necessary for your survival. Your brain also.
  1. In this modern world we need to use that brain – all of it — both the logical, critical faculties and the emotional, instinctual understandings — if we are to survive. That’s what it’s for.

For example, if we reject basic science in favor of humanities – or if we reject humanities in favor of basic science (which is NOT engineering), then we are not using all of our brain power in the effort to survive within the Biosystem.

  1. Each system interacts with its environment through its emergent characteristics.   The emergent characteristics of our corposystem as it has evolved, no longer align with or enhance the welfare of the Biosystem. This means the corposystem is in competition with the Biosystem. Competition is not the natural order of success. Competition leads to extinction of one or other of the partners. Success in the Biosystem requires balance among the parts (think again of your kidney).

Because the corposystem and the Biosystem are not aligned, and in fact are in competition, therefore they cannot both survive unless we decide to use our brain to force a change in the emergent properties (the behaviors) of the corposystem.

5 – The function of a system is to perpetuate itself. If it can’t do this, it will die. One implication of this reality is — if you have been raised within the corposystem — then you have been trained to behave in ways that benefit the corposystem, and our evolved human social system will induce or force you, in many and subtle ways, to behave in ways that promote growth by domination for money.

 For example, one of the ways the corposystem exerts this pressure is to start an argument over some issue of great importance, and then refuse to pemit us to discuss it because it is “controversial.” Especially if it is NOT controversial but factual, the corposystem is afraid of it. If we don’t discuss it, then we cannot align it with the needs of the Biosystem, and our behaviors will support the corposystem world view rather than sustain the Biosystem. It would be like the kidney competing with the rest of your body.

 Ocamora-ASC_8563RLSsTake climate change for example. There is no doubt about climate change. It’s a fact. The only doubt is what we will do about it. To defend itself from this fact (that would require the corposystem to shrink rather than grow), the corposystem first created a fake controversy. But facts always trump propaganda in the long run, and now the corposystem has been forced to take that issue seriously. So the new corposystem propaganda seems to be revolving around schemes intended to make money by promoting climate-change-related growth of businesses and charitable organizations.   The corposystem is based in growth. The growth of the corposystem destroys the Biosystem as we know it.

The Biosystem is changing in effort to maintain its viable balance, and as a result the productivity of the Biosystem is falling and will continue to fall, no matter what we do. Unless we can stop corposystem growth. That is how the Biosystem stays balanced. It is now out of balance and changing to a different climatic form. That’s how the Biosystem gets rid of problem subsystems.

My goal is to help grow a NEW human social SYSTEM to replace the corposystem. The emergent properties of the new system must be sustainability and resilience (at least). This can only be accomplished if we align our behaviors (not our emotions or our beliefs, but our behaviors) with the needs of the Biosystem.

And that is what basic science (not technology) is for. As for systems, our understanding of systems will not save us any more than our understanding of gravity or thermodynamics can save us, nor can technology within the corposystem, because technology serves the emergent characteristics of whatever system is using it.

Systems is just another fact of Life. It can help us align our behaviors – that’s what basic science (not technology) is for.

The corposystem will die in any case, because it is dedicated to overcome the Biosystem using domination and growth. The questions now are: 1) Will the corposystem damage our Biosystem to the extent humans cannot survive in it? And 2) Will we be able to step outside the corposystem world view and grow a new human social system that is sustainable?


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas.


A copy of this podcast can be downloaded at:



The Systems View of Life, by Fritjof Capra and Peter Luigi Luisi, Cambridge University Press. 2014.

Linked by Albert-László Barabási. Perseus, Cambridge, MA, 2002

Chama Days Parade

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Earth Day in College Station with in partnership with AND a lot of other people.

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The Power and The Glory


Bare Bones Biology 139 –

Bitsy is always up for anything, y’all know that, and so this weekend we bundled up for the weather and headed for training camp in the Piney Woods of Texas.

130107-Bitsy-asc_1658SsBare Bones Biology is ready to stop talking theory and begin to observe community development in practice, including the Occupy model, as well as the basics of community so well documented by Helena Norberg-Hodge and Rob Hopkins, Richard Heinberg and the Post Carbon Institute, community radio, for example see, and individuals and small groups of people who are working to change our toxic corposystem environment. For example, Chris Martenson’s Crash Course and the annual conference in Los Alamos of Nuke Free Now, with Father John Dear‘s Sackcloth and Ashes protest and many, many anonymous others.

The fatal flaws in trying to grow sustainable communities – the biggest ones I see – are: 1) trying to work within a failed system that is blocking ethical and rational discussion; and 2) trying to change the biological environment that has functioned for millenia to provide food, water, air and shelter for all the life of earth.

130108-TarSands-asc_1887SsThe most important questions seem to be: 1) How can we change the system without reinforcing the system? And, 2) can we make changes that relieve rather than intensify our environmental crisis. Over the decades, I have seen mostly knee-jerk approaches to change. The result is that the good work of one generation is lost or thrown out or forgotten by the next generation that is focusing on different problems. This approach looks like change but it is NOT CHANGE. That is why good education, stressing the mistakes and successes of the past, the difference between facts and opinions, and the fact-based needs of our biological community, are essential to sustainable human community.

130108-TarSands-asc_1772LSsWe need real change, or we will just bounce back and forth from one extreme to the other making the same mistakes our grandparents made and fighting over everything. If we continue in this mode, without understanding the hard facts of our biological reality, the result will be fatal no matter how compassionate and honorable we try to be. And the corposystem isn’t trying logical, compassionate discussion; this rules out most of the honorable methods of change-building. So that’s why Bitsy and I, spent the night in the back seat of our little car, surrounded by a colorful tent camp, learning about community development on the ground.

I was just scraping the ice off the INSIDE of the windshield when, at an unexpectedly early hour, I realized that all the cars were lining up in the dark, ready to go. Go? Go where? Nobody knew. But eventually, maps were passed out and the caravan headed south. You can learn about all the activities at, with video and commentary as the actions happened and as they continue to happen daily.

130108-TarSands-asc_2020LSsThe Occupy movement has interested me because it seems to represent real democracy, similar to others that have been popping up around the world. I also know what happens when you try to use negative force to squash a real and/or factual truth, and I’ve been waiting for it to happen ever since Occupy was violently squashed last year.

130108-TarSands-asc_2064LSsTo me this weekend looked a lot like the beginning of the new. I hope so, because: 1) I know that “change” within the old model is not going to happen, for reasons discussed in previous blogs; 2) this seems to be real change, and it is nonviolent; and 3) it is based in solid biological concerns.

We elders watched in agonized awe over the past decade or so, as our youth pandered the American Dream for which we worked, in exchange for an iPod and a pretty construct of television lies. What I saw in this action was real adult responsibility. Responsibility to the future and a dream of sustainability, using a new set of technological and political tools. And then we were asked to also take part of the responsibility for the planning and goal setting for that future. The first time I encountered this type of political behavior was with Amnesty International USA.* I was well impressed.

So this morning, home again after an exhausting two days, what we saw on the Tar Sands Blockade web site was not only what we did, but what a lot of people did at the same time in a lot of places around the countries. The action that I photographed was indeed a rolling portion of a set of “rolling actions.” And the Tar Sands Blockade promises more.

130108-TarSands-asc_2093SLsI still say the next thing that we must do if we want to survive on this earth (and this is advice from a PhD basic biologist) is to learn the facts and talk among ourselves about the issues. We won’t find the facts on mainstream TV (or, unfortunately, on public TV). The issue is survival with a sustainable, reasonably rewarding life-style). For facts you could start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook that is downloadable, completely free no strings, on the right side of this blog under Chapters. Next you should understand the material in Christ Marsterson’s Crash Course. I’ve been recommending this course of action for 13 years. But, you continue to say, what can we DO?

Right, if you can’t get “them” to discuss the issues. As a PhD basic biologist, I will tell you clearly there may not be much time to stop “them” from destroying life, that is, food, water air climate and shelter. If they only want to talk about money, then right now I know of no better action than http://www.TarSandsBlockade. But there are other approaches to the problem that I will discuss in future.

Lynn Lamoreux
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

*That experience is discussed in a chapter of my upcoming book “Outside the Circle.”

Recommended References:
Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook,
Post Carbon Reader,
Helena Norberg-Hodge, movie,
Chris Martenson: video Crash Course. Available on the web
Father John Dear, A Persistent Peace –
Bare Bones Biology 137 – Human Hubris.
William deBuys, A Great Aridness,

Question for Discussion: What is the technical meaning of democracy? The American political system does not fit that definition; the constant use of the term seems to be one of those television lies. Is it really a TV construct, or is it a reality? If it’s not a reality, then why do we keep talking about democracy all the time, and what kind of political environment do we want to grow for our grandchildren? Leave it to George? Participatory? If the latter, what kind of participation do we want to develop?

Bitsy’s Dog Park Diary – 120920

And on the final day, which was very long, we left the dead Llano River, and the pleasant Junction Good Sam trailer park – excellent internet access – and drove, and drove, and drove from the arid lands into the hill country forests that now consist mostly of dead oak trees. Well, maybe not mostly, but it does grab the eye, hundreds and thousands of big beautiful old dead oaks. I would have stopped several times to take pictures, but the road was only two lanes with no shoulder. One in particular I would have taken. I noticed a big “get Obama” sign in front of a forest of mostly dead oak trees, and I remembered whoever said that Obama “wants to help the ecosystem but I will help you.” Here is this poor guy who really believes that his politician can help him — while the only thing that could REALLY help him is those dead oak trees (well, symbolically and truly, the oak trees represent the bios that is the only source of our earth, air and water). His have mostly died.

In fact it wasn’t until Johnson City, all the way through Fredericksburg, that we found a place where Bitsy could stay in the car under a tree while I ate, so we made all that long first half with no stops. Nice little friendly place with a tree out one side and another tree on the other side they changed the building rather than cut down that oak tree.

Isn’t it odd, in Silver City, a place where trees basically don’t grow without help, there were plenty of easy parking places with wonderful huge old trees hanging right over Bitsy when she was parked in the truck, while in the original forests of Texas, we drove about a hundred miles before we could find a decent place to park.

Austin is a much worse mess than the last time I tried to find my way (it’s a straight shot, but four or five lanes in each direction and my – well we give thanks to the fine mechanic in Chama who installed the extremely inadequate right side mirror that I had bought to improve upon nexttonothing.

Next time I go anywhere with the trailer it will not be anywhere near a city. It’s Google’s fault. I assumed at least some common sense. Maybe I should take the other little trailer. It drives a lot better, but it has no toilet facilities, and it turns out the trailer parks are getting uptown and some won’t take little trailers anymore. Anyhow, it was theoretically not bad at all, I didn’t get lost and I didn’t run into anyone, and the road mostly went where Google said it would — but I had to do a heads-up on one guy who was riding my right rear in spite of my signals.

As far as I can tell, Dripping Springs has been all eaten up by the beast. Too bad, was a nice little town. On the other side, the beast rages almost all the way to Elgin – well, Manor, really, but all that gorgeous agricultural earth between Manor and Elgin is mostly no more.

Someone is raising the ugliest building I’ve ever seen on the outskirts of Elgin. Why would anyone spend all the money to build a big new building that is terminally ugly? Again, no place to stop for photos.

And then it was nothing but to come home. Altogether about 8 hours driving time. On state highways, our safest speed is about 50, plus or minus, because the little trailer jumps around like a grasshopper when we aren’t on the interstates. The truck is capable of a much bigger load, but probably not such an opinionated one, and we don’t want to be in a position where the trailer drives the truck.

The Brazos and the little Brazos both have water in them, and not quite so many dead trees on this side of Austin.

We came off the Brazos River Bridge into a cloud of agricultural chemical smell – not sure what but some kind of poison – maybe a pesticide or an herbicide – and on home to the standard Bryan sunset at the Studio.

Bitsy’s been basically on leash for months, so she joyously examined her acre, but it wasn’t very long she was at the door to the truck, asking for another ride. Today we’ll see if the car still runs. Got to find internet access and the company is mad at me because I had to refuse payment to get them to finally disconnect the IN in the clubhouse. Actually they never did listen to me; it went into collection and they turned it off then – for spite I guess.

Does that make sense? It’s a strange strange world we live in, where most of the people think the corposystem makes more sense than the biosystem.

Silver City Farmers’ Market

Los Alamos Demonstration

At Los Alamos


And I was just thinking about writing a population story for my next newsletter.

Still, I think I should go ahead with it, because reporters simply do not process all the parameters. For one thing they are not scientists, nor historians (what was the first thing I noticed here? The populations exploded at and following the time when the major new religions formed and grew.) Does that mean religion is bad? No way. I think humans require religion to implement our instinctual social values. HOWEVER, I also believe that these ancient religions have been changed dramatically from an ethic that paralleled the laws of nature TO an ethic now that sees its mission as overpowering nature.

Of course, it won’t work, will it? Our earth, water, food and air come from nature. If we kill nature (and that would not be impossible) we kill ourselves. Keep these thoughts in mind as you check out the below that came to me from Population Media Center (PMC).

Ken Weiss, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and editor for the L.A. Times, emailed me yesterday to announce a major special feature report, which is the result his travels with staff photographer Rick Loomis. The two men traveled across Africa and Asia to document the causes and consequences of rapid population growth. They visited Kenya, Uganda, China, the Philippines, India, Afghanistan and other countries.

I have yet to fully explore the numerous stories, maps, photos, narrated graphics and videos on the L.A. Times website, but the content certainly seems worth your time. I have pasted below the text of the first major article, which is merely the first of a five part series. I strongly encourage you to click through, however, because numerous videos and graphics are embedded in the story on the website. The remaining articles will be published in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and wrapping up next Sunday, July 29.

In the meantime, you can access the main L.A. Times web-portal here: