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Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Ah, what a wonderful, oft overlooked quality and yet one that holds so much [promise for the future of humankind. So many conditions can hem in this state of natural abundance, we forget that it is achievable, sustainable and that exponential growth and abundance are actually a rule in natural systems, rather than an exception. Imagine, if you will, a forest. To make it a bit easier to fathom, try imagining a single acre (.6ha). In my part of the world, the temperate region, a common estimate for trees per acre is between three hundred and three hundred and fifty mature trees in a climax forest. To the average casual observer, it would appear to be in a relatively steady state. However, if each tree is growing a ring of new tissue each year, the number of board feet of wood in that acre would be increasing perhaps only by what seems like a small percentage, but multiplied by several hundred trees, it is quite a large amount.
Healthy ecosystems always have a certain rate of death and destruction as well, but in each and every case, the death of one organism provides habitat for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of other organisms. There is no trash in the woods, unless humans put it there. Each bit of living tissue becomes food or shelter for other living creatures upon death, sometimes in epiphytic relationships, the habitat that is provided by living organisms is mutually beneficial, or at least the death of the host organism is not necessary. There are thousands of mutually beneficial associations in nature and both creatures can flourish in the presence of one another. Forests are again a ready example of how this can work. billions of spores waft on the wind, in search of just the right moisture, temperature and conditions to make their life process possible. A single spore can ultimately become a non-plant, non-animal organism that stretches miles, if given optimal conditions. Fungi produce food for creatures, are primary decomposers and are often completely forgotten by casual observers because they spend the majority of their life cycle hidden amongst leaf litter and forest soils. the actual fruiting body is just a temporary phenomenon, peculiar in that it only lasts for time periods on the order of days, whilst the mycelium that the fruiting body (the part we see) grows from can live hundreds of years.
I know that many of us are anthropocentric, so finding ways to help our children flourish, as well as ourselves is perhaps slightly more important to most people than helping the creatures who also live in our environment to do well. One of my recent lessons came from an educational researcher who reminded me of the need to switch up a bit in child rearing. for decades, people have taught their children that they are smart, often repeating that mantra tens of thousands of times over the child's lifetime. This can actually handicap the child later in life because when they run up against challenges that do not fit into their skill set, they wonder why, if they are so smart, they are haviung a hard time solving the problem. Instead, we should take the time to use phrases like, "I like the way you approached the problem in a creative way." or "I think it was good to ask for help before you got frustrated.", phrases that instill a sense of curiosity in the face of adversity, adaptability over mastery. I used to tell my children frequently that they had good ideas, but that often the best ideas come from just taking a break, doing something different and coming back later so that they would have a fresh eyes to view the problem at hand.
Part of flourishing is to adapt, change and grow into new situations and that is something that natural systems excel at. Some things that we can all do to enhance the ability of one another to flourish is to stop consuming rampantly, step back from all that is sold to us, on every level. The only thing that flourishes under the current power and control structures are the wealth of the ruling class. We can see this at work in virtually every aspect of our "modern" life. NASCAR for instance encourages us to put the pedal to the metal when what is needed is a featherweight foot on the accelerator. millions are spent telling our daughters that they are overweight and unattractive when what they desperately need is self confidence. Politicians tell us that there is a one size fits all educational scheme that can be imposed on our children when individualized instruction has been proven to be superior on every level, save cost. There are even those (and you know who they are in your area) telling the fiction that government needs to be run like a business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Flourishing requires access to healthy food, water and shelter. Beyond these things, our species, as well as many others, require love and affection, the understanding and meaningful communication of other beings.
I have often said that I speak for the trees, but they are dependent on pure, clean water so I find myself speaking for the water as well. As we adapt and change in ways that help us in a single area, we find proficiencies in other areas as well, as long as we continue to pay attention and integrate new knowledge. Human beings are meaning making machines and we can do nothing else. If we accept what we are told, it will lead to the demise of not only our own selves, but the entire species. Well-funded interests are fighting to stay in charge, wrest the last of everything out of the Earth to make a profit for themselves. nothing will flourish under these conditions but the proliferation of lies that they will concoct to keep us out of their hair while the dirty work is done.
The Earth is in the balance and if we are to flourish as a species we must make peace with the natural systems upon which we depend.

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