Bare Bones Biology 136 – Corposystem Community

Last week we overviewed the relationship between the corposystem and the whole earth ecosystem. The earth ecosystem is the unique unit of life that consists of the sum of all the other units of life on earth and the climate they generate. The ecosystem uses light energy to make food energy (Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook*). It then uses the food energy to do the work of staying alive – that is, it keeps all the earth organisms alive by making food for them. Then it recycles the products of life, that we think of as waste products; but the ecosystem puts the products together with more energy from the sun to make more life. The ecological miracle of life is that it is sustainable, as long as the products are recycled and there is light energy from the sun.

Earth Systems Final2 copyThe corposystem is the modern corpo-political culture. It uses the food energy from the ecosystem to feed the humans who do the work of making money. That work includes withholding from both the human community and the biological community any services that are not profitable. In other words the corposystem retains the money and also, for the most part does not recycle its products.

The problem the corposystem is now facing is that money (despite the clever misuse of the term by some authors) money is not energy. No matter how many clever games we use to make more of it – money cannot grow food energy to feed the humans who do the work of the corposystem. Only the process of photosynthesis can energize life on earth, and we can’t do photosynthesis. Even if we could, we would just unbalance a different node of the web of Life.

It is people working and living that drives the corposystem. It is the resources from the ecosystem (food energy and other resources) that feed the work of humans, and it is the work of humans that drives the corposystem cycle. Not money. Money is a product we play with.

This is good because it means, whenever we take a mind to, we humans can stop the insanity of competing with the ecosystem. We can change our culture to one that collaborates with the work of the ecosystem and so is more sustainable. Whenever we decide to, we can use the work of our hands, minds and bodies to support the cycles of life that actually do feed the welfare of the whole of Life itself. To do this, we need to understand how the corposystem generates a human culture of fear, anger, hatred, greed and dominance, in spite of our normal human need for the kind of a compassionate community that I have described in earlier blogs in this series (beginning with Bare Bones Biology 092).

HeroVictimVillain copyThe cycle of human roles that drives the work of the corposystem is shown within the corposystem cycle in the diagram on my blog. The culture diagram is my perception of our modern American culture: It can be a guide to ourselves, and a hope for the future if we can understand what we are doing to ourselves.

First let’s remember that a cycle is not me or you as individuals. A cycle is more like a set of job titles, or life-styles. I claim that our modern American corposystem culture limits us to three available over-all life styles: Victim life style: Villain life style: Good Guy-Hero life style. Some individuals choose to become very good at one or other of those life styles, but we aren’t specifically stuck. If you are raised with all the life skills of a Victim you can choose, and if you work very hard to figure out what keeps you in that life style, you can change to another lifestyle. But in our culture you will not be recognized, understood or rewarded if you try to choose any lifestyle that is too far apart from the available three. This is really difficult to explain, so I have placed a personal example on my blog directly below the transcript of this podcast. (

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

Recommended References:

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Energy Handbook
Go to the right side of the page under Chapters and download your free no strings PDF.
Bare Bones Biology 135 –
A Heads Up –

Question for Discussion

Most people who read this blog are aware of the concept of Yin and Yang. For every earthly action or event, there is the possibility of both a “good” and a “bad” result. If we are really paying attention to the results of our actions, we can observe that this is true in our human experience. Why do you think this is true?

Try this for an Idea

Watch your actions for a whole day. You will be happy with some things you do and not happy with other things you do. Why is this? Is it because of peer pressure or because of some negative or positive responses of other people? Or is it because you have really considered the right or wrong of your actions? Ask yourself, why are they right and why are they wrong?

Whole Earth Ecosystem = All the species of organisms on earth and the environment that they generate to live in.
Corposystem = The modern American corpo-political system including its international entanglements.

Bare Bones Biology 071 – God, Energy, Me

OK, Let’s say there is a God and the Kingdom of God is THIS BIG! As big as this whole piece of paper. Or the room, or whatever. You can make it smaller if you want, but my God is a very big God who generated the whole universe that we know about – and much more that we don’t know about. He’s a busy God, so he set up rules for the universe, so it can run more or less by itself. I mean he does not sit there waiting for a stone to loosen from the wall of the mountain so he can push it on down to the valley. He’s probably busy over on the other side of the universe. So he invented gravity for that sort of thing. And the same with energy. All kinds of energy, the kinds we do understand and those we don’t.

So everything that God understands is this whole piece of paper. Everything that science (I mean real inquiry, not technology) everything that science understands is inside the green line I’ve drawn here. These spaces of course are not proportional, or it would be enormously smaller. Everything that science understands would include some things about some of the kinds of energy. So let’s make a pink line to represent all the kinds of energy that there are, and it overlaps science a little, where science does understand some things about energy. Now let’s add up every person on earth and everything that everyone together understands about everything, and make an orange line. The orange line will overlap all of science and a little bit of the energy space.

And then there is me. I would be a black dot too small to see, but I’ll have to make myself a black line to represent that I know something about all of those things. How wonderful it is that humans have been given the ability to share information. We can know more than any other species on earth. So I overlap the human knowledge space, I know many things about science, I have experiences with energy and with the unknown, so my line overlaps all the other spaces, just a tiny bit.

If I would put a line for my horse, you would see that I know much more than she does. She understands things inside her fence, where to find food and water and what to look out for. And she understands her responsibilities. I once saw her teaching her new foal to stay away from the fence. Things like that. I know more than she does. I know where my food energy actually comes from through photosynthesis, and I know some things about formalized human cultures, and so on.

Now we are halfway through this spot and I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know. But the reason for all of this is to compare myself, in a way, with the horse. I’m wondering, what is my personal responsibility within the giant system that covers this whole page? The system runs by itself; obviously it’s not my job to run it. There is not much I could do to make it function properly; no more than the horses do. What other responsibility could I have? It must be that my personal responsibility is to not mess it up. I should not interfere with its ability to do what God made it to do.

Is that possible you say? From my little smaller-than-dot in the middle of the page? Could I actually mess up the system? With this enormously powerful God out there, and all those spiritual powers that can come and put it back to rights any time they want to?

The answer is, yes it is possible, at least for us all together, to damage the ecosystem so badly that we can no longer find a home here.

And so now the question is – why would any other entity – any God or entity — want to save us when we won’t even use what we already know to save ourselves? And why would we want to wait and see if they do save us, when it would be so much more pleasant to get together with other people and figure out how we can save ourselves.

Bare Bones Biology 071 – God, Energy, Me
KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at
Audio later this week at


Note added on 10/11/11-We are getting a lot of hits on this site. Just want to say the book that this post came from, the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook, is available as a free download on the right side of the blog.

You can easily find books that describe all the hundreds of chemical reactions that are required for the two overall processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration that support life in our earth ecosystem, for example Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry by David E. Nelson. Biochemistry is the chemistry of living things that focuses on organic molecules and their interactions in cells. It’s not so easy to find an explanation, as we have developed, of the importance of the flow of energy that supports the emergent property of life at all its levels within the earth ecosystem.

The overview, of course, you have heard in almost every post of this internet project. For life to exist in The Creation as we know it today, it requires many things, but we are talking about energy and. And it requires that the energy be available to every living part of the ecosystem. We have used the term “flows through,” because the energy comes into the system as light, a higher form of energy, and leaves as heat, a lower form that can not recycle back to light.

The energy that can be used to sustain life is distributed throughout the system is in the organic molecules that we use as food, (and in the case of humans also fuel and raw materials run our economy.

Molecules are atoms that are joined together by energy bonds. Organic molecules are very large molecules, such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils) and nucleic acids, that are made inside living cells, including all of our cells. Organic molecules make up most of the structures of our bodies and also direct most of the functions, such as thinking, moving, breathing, all the things we do to stay alive. The energy bonds of molecules are the energy that is used to sustain life; therefore we have referred to this kind of energy as organic energy, as a type of energy, because there are quite a few different sorts of energy bonds.

Plants and photosynthetic bacteria, and also phtosynthetic one-celled eukaryotic organisms (protista), can do photosynthesis because the cells contain chlorphyll to absorb most of the energy from light, and then they can use that energy to make organic molecules in a process called carbon fixation. None of these processes is just one biochemical reaction. Each consists of a series of dozens or hundreds of chemical reactions. To cause these chemical reactions to happen at the right time in the right place, the cells contain a set of enzymes that are required to direct specific chemical reactions. An enzyme is a protein that functions as a catalyst. A catalyst is a anything that causes a reaction to happen but is not used up in the reaction.

A chemical reaction is a change that happens among atoms or molecules. Each kind of atom or molecule is unique; therefore the ways in which they can or can not fit together depend their unique characteristics. That is a subject for chemistry and biochemistry. We generalizing about chemical reactions.

Enzymes direct most reactions. Because the enzyme is not an integral part of the reaction, it is not permanently changed during the reaction. Therefore it can be used again to cause another of the same kind of reaction. Enzymes are specific to reactions. Each reaction requires it’s own kind of enzyme. By controlling the enzymes, the cell can control the reactions. We will discuss that fact later when we cover the second major requirement of life.

Photosynthesis is a multistep biochemical process that includes the absorption of energy, as described in the previous post, and carbon fixation. Carbon fixation is the uphill process of taking carbon dioxide from the air and using it, along with water and energy, to make glucose, as diagrammed below.

The overall process of photosynthesis and carbon fixation involves a complicated pathway consisting of many small steps during which small changes are made as energy is transferred under the direction of multiple enzymes. In eukaryotic cells, one kind of specialized organelle, the chloroplast, is responsible for organizing the overall process of photosynthesis. Organelles are composed of membranes (lipids) that contain all the necessary enzymes (proteins), organized in the best way to cause these complicated reactions to occur. The glucose product is then made available to the entire cell, and all the cells of the body of the plant (because plants also have circulatory systems). The oxygen product is released into the atmosphere. We need the oxygen to breath and we need organic molecules for our food/energy.

Glucose is a carbohydrate. The plant makes other carbohydrates from glucose. It also can make lipids and it can add nitrogen and other kinds of atoms to make proteins and nucleic acids and other organic molecules that it needs to survive.

The organic energy is then distributed throughout the ecosystem by animals eating plants, other animals, cells, tissues and dead organic matter. By eating, animals (that would include us) obtain the glucose and other organic molecules that they need to survive. These are mostly proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and carbohydrates. Every living thing in the ecosystem gets the energy and the molecules of life, either second or third our fourth, handed on from photosynthesis. (Except a very few really odd bacteria the live in strange places.)

At every step in the network of energy transfer from one creature to another, about 10% of the energy is wasted. It goes away as heat without doing any life work. Except of course to help keep us warm. The more work we do, the more heat is released in our cells. If we are very cold, we run around flapping our arms and we wear clothing to trap this released heat next to our skin. But eventually all the energy that was in the original plant is lost and we get more energy by eating.

But in the meantime, while the organic materials are circulating in the ecosystem, all the plants and animals of the entire ecosystem are keeping their bodies alive by metabolizing the organic molecules. Metabolism is the process — actually it is thousands of processes — of changing those organic molecules around to make all the different parts of our bodies: muscles, heart, eyes, all the structures of our bodies are made of organic molecules or they are made by organic molecules.

That is a lot of work!

The energy to do this work comes from breaking down the glucose molecules in the tight control of the cells so that the released energy is captured, still in the form of chemical bond energy. The energy is taken from the glucose to energize some other important cellular function, possibly your muscle movement, or perhaps the light receptors in your eyes, and so the glucose atoms are no longer bonded together and are released from the cell as carbon dioxide and water. Oxygen bonds with carbon or hydrogen because it is a downhill reaction — the energy bonds (added together) contain less energy in the carbon dioxide and water than they did when these atoms were bonded in the glucose molecule. Notice that it requires oxygen to burn glucose, but it wouldn’t be correct to say that we are burning the oxygen because the oxygen itself is going from a smaller molecule or atom to a larger one with more energy bonds. The energy is released from the glucose – just as energy is released from the organic compounds in wood or gasoline when these are burned in the presence of oxygen. The oxygen is required to remove the waste products (carbon and hydrogen) of the reaction so the energy can be released and used to make other molecules in the body.

The formula for breaking down glucose can be written:

But of course it is not just one reaction. It is a series of dozens of reactions that are catalyzed by enzymes. The overall process is known as Cellular Respiration. Cellular respiration is the intracellular process of breaking down glucose to release energy, carbon dioxide and water. In eukaryotic organisms, these reactions are organized in organelles known as mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles that are specialized to direct the process of cellular respiration.

You probably already know that plants release oxygen that the animals require to breath, and the animals release carbon dioxide that the plants require to “breath.” Almost everyone knows this, but did they tell us why we need to breath? Or did they let us believe the plants are here on earth so that people can breath oxygen and eat?

No Way. Our lungs and heart are helper organs. They help to get the oxygen to the cells so that the cells are able to release energy by doing cellular respiration. One-celled animals don’t need the lungs and heart, but they do need the oxygen in their environment.

Plants “breathe out” oxygen, because it is a waste product of photosynthesis and carbon fixation. They need to get it out of the way so they can do more photosynthesis and carbon fixation.

Animals and plants “breathe in” oxygen so that each cell of the body will have the oxygen it needs to do cellular respiration to release the organic energy it needs to stay alive.

Animals and plants “breathe out” carbon dioxide because it is a waste product of cellular respiration.

Plants “breathe in” carbon dioxide because it is a substrate in the process of carbon fixation the process that provides food for the whole ecosystem.

It is the miracle of life that life supports life and life requires life. Nothing dominates, not even that lion in the diagram below; everything interacts so that all may survive, so long as the balance is maintained.

”One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of ‘science’ are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death on a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” Aldo Leopold