Bare Bones Biology 130 – Community IV

I believe a human community is a group of people who interact with each other in emotional and social ways very much like the organisms of a biological community interact among themselves in biological ways. The function of biological communities is to promote the welfare of Life Itself – the whole living ecosystem that is the earth. The valid function of human communities is also to serve Life — so that Life may provide for us the earth, air, energy and water that we require to maintain our human communities. The question is: How do we build a human community that nourishes the biological community. It’s a hard question.

Life sustains itself by maintaining the balance of the cycles of life. Plants and other green organisms collect energy that can be distributed, throughout the whole body of the living earth, in the form of food. By digesting the food, all organisms use the food energy to do the work of staying alive, and at the same time breaking apart the food so that the materials recycle to continually revitalize our air, water and soil. These processes are necessary to life, and Life is sustainable only when these processes remain in balance with each other.

To remain balanced, as I just said, the system requires energy. Energy cannot be recycled. The system also requires materials that can be recycled. Molecules and atoms are constantly recycled in all living things. Because energy cannot be recycled, the whole system requires a constant input of energy (ref. Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook). We must keep eating to stay alive, therefore the plants must keep on making food all the time, and they do if there is enough light reaching the plants.

The second major requirement for Life is to recycle the materials of life in the form of atoms and molecules that make up our air, water and earth. The millions of different jobs that are necessary for this recycling are done by millions of different species of organisms, all interacting within the entire system so that the tissues are broken down into molecules and the molecules into smaller molecules and atoms that are released and then recycled.

It is green organisms that make food energy for the entire system. Different species of green organisms live in different niches of the environment. For example, cactus plants only can live in certain kinds of desert niches. The more different kinds of plants there are, the more niches they can fill, and the more food the earth can produce. This is also true of the other kinds of organisms that do other jobs in the cycle of life. The more different kinds of organisms there are, doing all the processes that are required to stay alive, the more likely it is that Life on earth can sustain itself — the climate, the soil, the food.

In the world today, and especially in America, our community structures are not organized to serve Life, so much as to serve the corposystem. The corposystem is the complex of interacting corporate and political organizations that harvests the materials from the ecosystem and sells them to us. The corposystem uses us to do this work, and so it feeds us and trains us to grow the corposystem; and so we design our communities to serve the corposystem, rather than the ecosystem.

The explicit goal of the corposystem is to make money, not to nurture Life — and the way to make money is to grow the system so it can sell more things. The corposystem grows by taking away and selling to us the food and materials that are required by the millions of species that do nourish Life.

So by now the corposystem has destroyed a huge number of species, thus changing the balance of air, water, soil and food, energy and materials – thereby causing climate change. So many things we do not understand, but we do know that we cannot build sustainable communities by nourishing the corposystem to the detriment of the ecosystem.

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing
this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at

Recommended References:
On right side of page look under “chapter” and download the pdf…-127-community/…28-¬-community/

Categories: Bare Bones Biology Transcripts, Community

Bare Bones Biology 097 – Climate Change-So the Earth is Alive, So What?

Probably I’ve convinced you, or you already knew, that the climate of the whole living earth can change, and that the life forms of earth make your food, air and water, and the whole earth ecosystem functions as a living thing, a giant super-body that has characteristics similar to those of all other living things. First among these, it can adapt to changing conditions by changing itself. That is one of the standard definitions of life.

So how can there be a debate over climate change? At least I thought that was what the debate was about because that’s what they kept saying, so I thought – Duuuh, how could it not change, it’s a living thing? But maybe this is another case of people not saying what they mean. Maybe the real question is – why should we care?

Mostly we should care because we are part of that living super body known as the earth ecosystem. What happens to it happens to us. Think of yourself as a flea on the backside of the ecosystem. What happens to the flea when the dog dies? No, we can not jump off on the moon. We tried that.

The life of the earth consists of millions of different species of organisms. We are one. The life cycles of all these organisms interact in ways that maintain the life cycles of each other. I have described the cycle of carbon and oxygen and water as it relates to people. That cycle also relates to all the other species of organisms that use oxygen to burn carbohydrates, so we are all interconnected in that way.

Some bored mathematician once figured the odds that we are breathing in the same oxygen atom that Cleopatra breathed out, that has cycled around through the biological system all these years. The probability was surprisingly high. If he had been a biologist he probably would have figured the odds that we are breathing in the oxygen atom those fleas breathed out. We are all connected to life by the necessities of life, and most organisms have very strict requirements for staying alive. Organisms, individual organisms, cannot “evolve.” They can change, for example their temperature, but evolution requires a change in the genetics, and it takes multiple generations. Therefore, only species can evolve. And only sometimes, if the changes are slow enough.

So these millions of species of organisms, plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms, that create the circulatory/respiratory system of the living earth, the species that clean up after us, worms, buzzards etc, the species that make good rich soil. Every one of those species requires a particular climate to stay alive. For example, good rich soil, in just one spadeful are millions of different kinds of organisms and micro-organisms. These organisms interact with each other and they interact with plants that are growing there.

The different plants also have special requirements for staying alive. Soil and plant relationships are delicately balanced to local conditions of climate. All the parts of the climate, the temperature, amount of sunlight, airflow, amount of water, everything interacts with the organisms and the organisms interact with each other. Every kind of organism has very specific requirements to stay alive, and it has taken millions of years for all these relationships to evolve to the point where we can see that the earth has come to function almost like an organism, with all of its internal parts helping to keep it alive, in a parallel way to how our internal parts keep us alive.

Some people believe that organisms, including, people, can adapt, and that adaptation is the same as evolution, so we could adapt to a higher temperature by evolving, but that’s not how evolution works. What will happen is happening, the species will die because they cannot live in the rapidly changing conditions. They will die and new species will evolve over the future millennia. In God’s time = ecosystem time. Not human time. Way too late to help us maintain the climate we need to stay alive.

Huge numbers of species have already died. This is not a computer-game fantasy, and there is nothing to debate. We do know how we are causing these problems and how to stop causing them. But we don’t want to stop causing them — we like things the way they are. Or I should say the way they were.

Bare Bones Biology 097 – Climate Change-So the Earth is Alive, So What?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended References: BBB093 – Climate Change II Bare Bones Ecology Evolution Handbook is available for download near the lower right corner of my blog

Butterflies, Bugs and Birds

ButterflyThe butterfly, symbol of our own awakening life, the first to find the first yellow blossom that pushed up out of the mud at the edge of my pond.

The pond teems with life this year after the long drought. Enough to feed the huge white heron, enough to feed the butterfly, enough to feed whatever it is that breaks the surface to slurp up some unwary bug or baby bird and drag it back below. And when I drove in I knew immediately the baby killdeer had arrived.

birdinflightIn their effort to drag us away from their babies, the mother and father flashed their white wing patterns and their orange rump feathers as they swooped — across the surface of the pond and over the new-mown grass along its edges — around our advancing threat to their young, just far enough away to tempt, and not close enough to get caught. They settle onto the grass, looking back over their shoulder, they squat and flag the orange rump feathers, flutter their wings and roll over on the ground as though maimed and unable to escape, but if we approach they do escape, again just out of reach, time and again until they have lured us away from their new hatchlings, and then soar into the morning sun. This works with the dog, who dashes across the pasture in pursuit.

“But you can’t fool me,” I say, turning my back on the birds and scanning the shores of the pond. “I’m the one with the brain!” And sure enough, this time I spotted them, two babies, but then I remembered these birds have been living here for about five years and produced several sets of eggs each year. I have looked before, but this is the very first time I have found the babies, and that’s probably because I just mowed the grass where their nest has been — wherever that was.
So who is smarter here? How do these birds “know” what to do to protect their chicks? Why do Killdeer behave this way and other birds choose other methods of protection? When we ask those kinds of questions, we are asking about the information component of the ecosystem. The information the ecosystem needs to survive through time and across the different sorts of environments of which it is composed.

The survival information is encoded in every cell of every organism that exists in the ecosystem. The plants know how to do photosynthesis, the cells know how to do cellular respiration, the muscles know when and how to contract, the eyes know how to see, everything knows how to breath, though everyone does not breath in the same way. Fishes are rather different from us, but they get what they need.

The brain knows how to think, and Killdeer birds know how to draw predators away from their babies. How does the heron know to fish? The flower to attract just the right butterfly that will carry its male fertility to the appropriate female flower? How does the butterfly know which flower is the right flower? How did the flower know that the right kind of butterfly would be available just when it opened?

The kinds of behaviors that are involved with survival inside the ecosystem are encoded in the genes of all the organisms, each kind of organism with it’s own instructions. This information flow includes genes, and is studied by geneticists, but it is more than only genes. It includes predator/prey interactions, parasite cycles, and all of the other elements of the ecosystem reality as it is this day in this year, and the interaction of all those factors with the genomes of all the other organisms that live in the ecosystem and with the inorganic environment.

If I were to refer to it as the intelligence of the ecosystem, you would immediately want to give it an IQ test and compare with human intelligence. That would be a misleading metaphor, and so I will not. But it is a very real flow of information through the ecosystem from the origin of life on earth until this very day. It is in you; it is your heritage; and you are in it.
Look at those little legs go, faster than mine. The parents are having fits, off to the side, trying to distract me, and I will back off as soon as I get a picture, because I know there are big fish and turtles in the pond, I doubt the little thing knows how to swim, and a Copperhead roams the shore. I don’t want to be responsible. The parents, I think, can do a better job without me.