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 096 – Climate Change V

We can not help the earth maintain a habitable climate by growth, either of the corposystem or of the population because it is not possible to cure any problem by doing more of what caused the problem in the first place. You cannot cure alcoholism with more alcohol. You cannot cure the biological reaction to too much growth by growing more.

The whole of life and all its parts consists of processes that work together to form networks of cycles. The most amazing thing about life is the way all these interacting networks stay balanced. Well, most of the time they stay balanced. If they aren’t balanced the result is sickness or some sort or death. Mostly the balance is maintained quite literally by the availability of the resources. Does that sound familiar? Yes indeed, it sounds just a little bit like classical economics. Not the modern Ponzi economics, but the old fashioned kind where – if you didn’t have carrots, you didn’t sell carrots, and you didn’t eat carrots.

If you don’t have enough resources, for example, if the earth is not capable of making enough food energy to feed all the people – then the delicate balance among all the networks becomes unbalanced. If there is not enough to eat, then people die. If that unbalance leads to shortages, climate change, economic downturns, war, any kind of difficulty – then you can not cure the difficulty by doing more of what caused the unbalance. You can’t cure Ponzi economics by more Ponzi economics because sooner or later you run out of the resources that are necessary to keep the whole scheme growing

You can’t cure climate change by pouring more toxic compounds into the climate, either from people eating and breathing or from corporations and other machines eating and breathing the products of the earth until there are not enough resources left to provide the food energy to drive the interacting networks of nature that keep us alive.

We know these things are facts. And yet we have come to the point where our knowledge about genuinely omnipotent realities is no more respected than your next-door-neighbor’s uninformed opinion. This is too bad, because the technologies to prevent a dreadful end are now available while we are fiddling around with the same technologies that have been causing our problems in the first place.

And while we are talking about these things, let’s consider a couple of more false assumptions that run along the same lines.

1. That there is no climate change, but there are too many people in some other parts of the world, and so if we build a fence around the United States and keep everyone else out we will be OK. This one boggles the mind. You can’t fence out climate change. The earth’s climate goes all the way around the earth from the top to the bottom and all around the middle parts. No fences will stop air.

2. That overpopulation doesn’t exist, apparently it can’t exist (how do they prove that?), and we would be better off to save every human cell. Then, every person will have a better life. We have measured the facts (for example), and they tell us that the earth is losing both its resilience (because of species extinctions) and its sustainability (by what I will refer to as overgrazing). From here on out, if we continue to grow, the more people we have on earth, the more people will suffer starvation and genocide and war and similar fates as the economy crashes because we are running out of resources. Bottom line, if there is not enough to eat, then we cannot provide the good life for more people, and we need to find a solution that will work before more people are victimized by our growth ethic.

3. Then the other side of the coin is the phrase I just heard yesterday again, that there is plenty of food on earth to feed everyone, it’s a re-distribution problem. You know I have heard that old saw my whole long life, and we have more than doubled in numbers of people during that time. Furthermore, every time we destroy another species in our efforts to feed humans – every lost species is a broken link in one of those networks that function to keep the earth alive and healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 096 – Climate Change V
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended References: Post Carbon Reader,; Networks, by Barabashi; Beyond Ethics by HH The Dalai Lama; Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

BBB088 – Evolution and Creation
BBB022 – Population
Earth Policy – http://

Bare Bones Biology 095 – Climate Change IV

We can think of the climate as part of the physiology of the earth very similar to our own physiology that requires us to breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Except that’s only half of our cycle and the rest of our breathing cycle happens outside of our bodies as part of the whole living earth. The whole of the creation is made of networks connected to networks inter-connected with more networks. It’s too complicated to understand, and so I don’t, but I’ll tell you some important facts.

First there is physiology – networks of molecules and water and hydrogen and carbon in your cells and your organs and your bodies, and also in the whole earth, all of them interacting. And they keep cycling because of energy. Human physiology and the physiology of the whole earth and all its parts are all connected. They all use food energy to do all the work of continuing the cycles of life.

Every living thing uses energy to stay alive. In all our cells, all the time, energy is released by burning sugars and other carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are made up of carbon and oxygen and hydrogen. The energy to stay alive, food energy comes from burning the carbohydrates. Your body uses the energy and discards the carbon and hydrogen and oxygen in the form of carbon dioxide and water. These are released into the air or possibly the toilet.

Plants breathe in the carbon dioxide. They use the carbon, and then they take energy from the sun, and some water, and they put it all together to make carbohydrates. The plants breathe OUT a lot of oxygen that is left over from the process.

The plants get the water and the carbon dioxide from the air – the water comes from the earth and the clouds. The carbon comes from the carbon dioxide that we all breathed into the air.

These cycles and networks of cycles of animals and plants, and the whole earth physiology, have been going around and around and around for millions of years. They are perfectly balanced for us to live in – air, water, soil, plants and temperature. It is these networks that make our clean air, water, rich soil, and they can adapt to changes – the water and the carbon dioxide and the carbohydrates and the oxygen and hydrogen are all balanced. Sometimes they cycle together, sometimes separately, so when one bit changes the other bits also must change to maintain a viable balance. If you think of an old-fashioned watch, cycles are connected to cycles, but in living things the cycles can change themselves to adjust to changes outside themselves. Changes in the carbon cycle or the oxygen cycle or the hydrogen or water cycles must affect our climate because they make up our air, and the air interacts with the sun and the plants and animals in many different ways.

Energy is released by burning, using oxygen, like a fire in your yard, or burning in engines — burning any kind of energy source – anything that burns with oxygen produces carbon dioxide and water that go into the air and become part of our climate.

So, when we are burning and burning and burning carbohydrates from fossil fuels and also from 7 billion humans breathing out – and from coal, oil, gas, wood, dead bodies, incense, cigarettes — and at the same time we cut down the trees that breath IN the carbon dioxide – the whole vast cycle of life on earth must change or die. We don’t exactly know how it will change, and we want to know more. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in climate change.

Bare Bones Biology 095 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended Readings: Post Carbon Reader,; Networks, by Barabashi; Beyond Ethics by HH The Dalai Lama; Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change III

Oh, and yes, all these physicists who believe that they understand life because they have some convenient information about the basic laws of the universe. As far as anyone knows, life is not the center of the universe, and while life does operate according to the laws of physics, it is not studied by the science of physics. As far as anyone knows, life is the whole of the reacting, breathing, interacting earth, and physics says nothing about the higher Levels of Organization (and) beyond the properties of energy and matter. Well, not nothing. Physics is very important because it informs us about fundamental natural laws like gravity and energy that everything must obey.

Life couldn’t exist if it did not obey the fundamental laws. But of course, EVERYTHING obeys the fundamental laws, or it wouldn’t be here. That’s what fundamental means. And everything is not life. The purpose of biology is to learn to understand what is the difference between life and everything else.

Everything must obey the law of thermodynamics, so biologists study that. But all the non-life also obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is not what makes life alive. It is necessary but not sufficient.

Biology is the study of life, and therefore biology is the study of the whole earth ecosystem and how the living earth and all its parts is different from non-life and – more importantly — how we can stay alive without causing harm to the whole earth ecosystem that gives us our lives.

The ecosystem stays alive because of interacting cycles of functions and properties, of energy and matter, because of the ability to transmit information by genetics so that the ecosystem can respond to change, and because of the ability to flow energy from the sun into plants and from plants into every other living thing. And the ecosystem also stays alive because of the ability of itself to recycle the key materials that it needs to stay alive – like carbon dioxide and oxygen and water. Carbon and oxygen and water recycle through the living earth just as they recycle through our own bodies. They are a part of life. They are the climate – the respiratory system – of the living entity we call the earth ecosystem. If they didn’t change – if the climate didn’t change – the earth would not be alive and we would not be here.

There is no debate among biologists about whether or not living things change. There would be no life if it couldn’t change in response to what is happening around and within it. That is the foundational necessity of being alive, and all illness, disease and death are the result of not being able to change in response to one’s environment. Climate change is real, the fake debate is about politics, not about life. And the function of the fake debate is to prevent we the people from figuring out what to do about it, because what we must do about it would diminish the preposterous wealth and power of the corposystem.

So what can we do to give a gift of fitness to our human future within our living earth? We have three options, at least. 1) We can do something useful to help humans — that is, to help the earth maintain a climate that is suitable for human life. That’s what most biologists prefer to spend their time thinking about. 2) We can do something that is harmful to the health of the living earth. That will cause devastation to the future of humans on this earth. Or 3) we can do nothing and let the climate rebalance itself without regard for our needs.

The trouble with doing nothing is that it will result in unimaginable suffering because of the vastly greater number of people, animals, plants and other living things that will be affected, and that’s why I prefer option number one, do something useful to help humans.

And the way to do that is to find a way to stop the growth that is causing the ecosystem to rebalance and readjust all its millions of cycles of life, in response to our waste products.

Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended Readings: Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

Bare Bones Biology 093 – Climate Change II

Relax. Sit down or lie down. Don’t go to sleep. Don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. Think about your breath. Breathe in. Air comes in through your nose to all the little channels of your breathing system. That is your respiratory system. The air ends up in your lungs.

Breathe out.
Breathe in.

Air contains oxygen and carbon dioxide and some other things. The delicate tissues that line the inside of your lungs. The tissues are so thin the oxygen can go across to where there are blood vessels and red blood cells waiting to carry the oxygen to every cell in your body. Without the oxygen, you die.

Breathe out.
Breathe in.

The cells use the oxygen to burn carbohydrates. The carbohydrates come from your food, but that’s a story for another time. The oxygen burns the carbohydrates and that releases energy. Just like in your fireplace burning carbohydrates (wood or coal or gas or oil) releases energy. But the wonder of cells is they can capture this energy and use it to do the work of staying alive.

Breathe in.
Because you won’t be alive if your cells are not alive.

When carbohydrates burn, there are waste products. All this happens inside your cells. The waste products are water and carbon dioxide. The water cycle is a story for another time. The cells then release the carbon dioxide into the blood that is on its way back to the lungs. In the lungs, the carbon dioxide crosses the other way, from the inside of your body to the inside of your lungs, across the very delicate moist tissues that line the inside of your lungs. The carbon dioxide then is a part of the air that is the climate inside your lungs.

Breathe out.

The air that is inside your lungs goes out into the space around you, which is the air of the whole living earth. Seven billion people on earth are all doing this at the same time. It makes a difference in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air of the earth. Also all the cars are burning carbohydrates and blowing carbon dioxide (and other things) out into the air. And also all the factories and everything that releases energy from carbohydrates by burning the carbohydrates.

Breathe in. Listen to your breath. You are breathing in the air of the earth.
Breathe out. Listen to your breath. You are changing the air of the earth.

Meantime, the plants are breathing in carbon dioxide from the air of the earth. The plant cells unhook the oxygen from the carbon. And the plants use the carbon, and the energy from sunlight – to make carbohydrates. And then the plants use the carbohydrates to make food for the entire living ecosystem, including you, sitting there on your cushion. And then tell me that you are not connected to the living earth. Tell me you don’t need pure air. Tell me you don’t care if the air has too much carbon dioxide or too much carbon monoxide or too much of something that will damage a cell in your lungs and make a cancer grow in there.

You breathe in.
You breathe out.

The air cycling within your body depends entirely upon the air cycling outside your body. The air that is cycling outside your body is the breathing system of the whole living earth. You are alive because your respiratory system is able to maintain a healthy balance between your body’s internal climate, and the climate of the whole living earth. In fact, the inside of your body is part of the climate of the earth. No mystery. No debate.

Breath in.
Breath out.

The whole living earth — stays in balance by constantly changing.
If the climate of the earth could not change – the earth could not stay alive.
There is nothing to debate. The only question is how it will change and what will happen after that.

Bare Bones Biology 093 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Suggested Reading: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook at, Post Carbon Reader at

Bare Bones Biology 089 – What Can We Do?

So we evolved (or if you want to know more about that see BBB 010 through 019 and 088). What’s that got to do with what we can do for the future of humans on this earth? (check out New Dimensions – Creating the New Dream

The answer is, we can and DO affect the welfare of future generations by our behaviors now. We can improve the human condition, if we put our faith in the reality of our obligation to the future, and change our lifestyles according to the needs of the ecosystem to maintain its health and ours. Some people make small changes, others make big changes, depending on our situation. But we all can place our faith in the heart of the process that created a Jesus and a Gandhi and a number of Buddhas and a Mohammed, and you and me. And stop placing our faith in humans and human works. For the simple reason that the whole of the process and system and creation that is the living earth – it is too much for humans to understand. There are too many interacting parts. That’s why it sounds so complicated, it is. And we should not be tinkering with the most basic components of something we don’t understand, and believe me, those guys who say they do understand, they don’t understand either. Nobody does.

Many people believe that all scientists have faith in technology. This is too bad, because I don’t know any good basic scientist whose faith is centered in their technology. Technologies are intensely human, and a good basic scientist would look at the world, examine the cause and effect of the devastation that has been wrought by human technologies. Technologies are invented with the specific purpose of trying to force an end-run around the reality of the system and the process of nature.

A good scientist would see in our current devastation a failure of human technologies. A good basic scientist has faith in the process. She would not try to tinker with the very thing that gives her life. She would not experiment with the welfare of the grandchildren when we already know what they need. They, and we, need clean water, clean air, good rich living soil, and food energy that is generated by healthy growing plants. And we know it is the earth itself that creates these things for us. The very complexity of the earth. The earth can do this work of creation if it is healthy, and our job is to stop tinkering and help the earth to be healthy. The very reason that a basic scientist loves the ecosystem is because it is a way to study the process and the systems of the living earth that are NOT controlled by human fallibility.

The corposystem, on the contrary, was designed by humans who do not understand the system or the process. I know they don’t/didn’t understand either the system or the process of how the universe evolved from subatomic to solid and from solid to alive and from alive to human. I know they don’t understand this because nobody does. Because the creation cannot fully understand its creator. A lot of the ills of the corposystem are caused by its reverence for human technological power. Human technological power, or even human compassion or spirituality are not enough because there is no way humans can change the natural laws that permit the system to survive.

The creator is not human. Humans are not God. That’s why humans require faith, and that’s why we cannot enjoy a sustainable presence on this earth unless our faith is placed in the basic laws of the process and system that permitted the creation in the first place. That’s the natural laws, the laws of nature. Regardless of who created them and how.

What we can do is to believe in this fact and learn to understand how we are causing harm. There is nothing on earth that we can do to change this very moment. What we can do is give the gift of life, the gift of fitness, to the future by living inside the belief and understanding of the reality of what the earth needs to be healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – What can we do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Bare Bones Biology 085 – What Can we Do?

“But what can we do?” It’s the most commonly asked question in any serious discussion about our cultural and biological problems as humans on this earth. I say serious discussion because all the “aint it awful” talk is mostly about finding reasons to not do anything. And the debates are usually about some kind of power game and, again, they’re usually an excuse not to talk about the real problem. Let me give you an example that I heard yesterday.

The debate is: “Which method can feed 7 billion humans – organic gardening or modern assembly-line methods exemplified by Monsanto?” You will find my answer in the December Peach Clubhouse newsletter that is available at But the bottom line is, it’s a fake debate. One of the corposystem efforts to control us. It’s a fake debate about something that does not answer the important question that the corposystem does not want us to think about. I mean we could debate forever, but if we ever found the answer, it would be too late to matter. There are ALREADY MORE than 7 billion humans on this earth. The real question is why don’t we do something to stabilize our populations before it is too late? Our numbers are growing exponentially while we are debating a useless question.

To understand exponential growth you can think about how long it took the number of people to double from 3.5 billion to approximately what they are now, which is 7 billion. Then, so long as the population is growing exponentially, it will take HALF as long to double the next time, because there are twice as many people. And then half again the time after. That’s hardly enough time for humans to adjust themselves to learning how to garden, and the earth, big, and slow, also needs time to adapt to every change.

So the question is a ruse. It doesn’t matter. We already have more than 7 billion people on earth, and these people are already consuming more of food energy than the earth can give us on a continuing basis. That’s because all the food energy to feed all the people, and the ecosystem, comes from plants. And there is only so much land and water and air on earth for growing plants.

So, bad questions keep the television networks buzzing but they don’t give us useful answers. As for the question of how many people the earth can support, that question is very important, but it’s still a historical question. You can figure that out as well as I can, and when you get the vetted answer please let me know. I don’t care very much because I know the earth can not support exponential growth for very long. I mean it’s obvious. Just put four cows in a pasture with a bull. Cattle also get their food energy from plants, just as we do. Give them all the water they want, and see if they can continue in that pasture forever, year after year with no re-supply. First year five cattle, next year 9 cattle, two years later its – well you can do the math better than I can. It won’t last forever. So then let’s ask the real question. Can any form of agriculture on this earth grow enough food for an infinite number of hungry humans?

Of course not. And we don’t have all the water we want.

You don’t need math, you only need your own common sense and your love for your grandchildren to know that we should stop with the fake debates and the hand-wringing and the foolish questions and begin right now to do something useful that will help to make a better future.

Oh, yes, the question was – what can we do? Hmmmm, I’ll think about it and let you know next time.

Bare Bones Biology 085 – What Can We Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week at

Photo from Bare Bones Ecology, in press.

This morning Bitsy and I spent half an hour picking up sweet wild plums. Butterflies landed on my arms. Flies buzzed. The smell created a vivid memory of the time I picked fruits professionally, apricots I think, and saw them loaded onto a truck to go to market.

On this day, Bitsy ate some, I ate some, I’m cooking down quarts of them — no sugar, no chemicals — to slather on home-made bread throughout the year.

This is how animals survive. By eating plants. But then you have to wonder — the trunk, the leaves, the flowers, the fruit. How does this tree know to make the fruit in the first place?

Sitting for Half an Hour

Most plants are able to manufacture their own food. Therefore they have little need to move about. Animals must find or catch and eat their food. So most of them fly, run, walk, swim or crawl.

Bio-Milk, Bio-Ethics

“We had a professor at Stanford who thought milk was manufactured.” Dr. Paul Ehrlich.

(For all you city folks, our commercial milk comes out of cows, and cows eat grass or hay to get the energy they need to stay alive and make milk, and the grass or hay gets its energy from the sun. The important point here is that we can not eat sunlight — all animal life on earth gets the energy it requires to live – that is food – from plants. The number of plants is limited.)


The subject of this blurb is ethics, the ethics of scientists who have not been telling people these important facts, and I want to quote Dr. Ehrlich because I agree with him:

” . . . I prefer to think of ethics simply as shared values, and one of our ethical tasks should be to try to speed the evolution of the values of biologists. I think the vast majority of my fellow scientists already share the value that we should give our fellow citizens the benefit of our best counsel on issues at the interface between science and society. That already fits under one dictionary definition of ethics—“the principles of conduct governing a profession.”

(Some references are omitted here that appear to no longer be available on the web, see modern versions below. LL)

“I’d like to see bioethics evolve further, toward all biologists considering it their duty to report to the public (which supports them) the essential findings of their research—and toward training their graduate students accordingly.”

Additional references:

You can get the entire letter above, in pdf format from Dr. Ehrlich’s web site:
Ehrlich, P. R. 2004. Values and bioethics (letter). BioScience 54: 484. [pdf]

The letter was written to and published by American Institute of Biological Scientists (AIBS)

It was a response to a discussion of “Scientific Integrity in Policy-Making” on the web site of Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS