ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wholistic Approaches

Too frequently, our scientific approach leads us to compartmentalize our thinking. This piecemeal approach to our lives neglects the most important parts of any system, the synergies brought about by interaction. When we developed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, it was clear that we were missing the point. Air cannot be separated from water, nor can water be isolated from air. In fact the three major phases or states of matter, solid, liquid and gas are just temporary states, allowing many transformations of each to occur. Rather than creating Venn diagrams that seek to isolate different parts of the environment from one another, what we need is a regulatory framework that is based on items being regulated, not the realms into which they can be released. Imagine how our ecological thinking would have been different if we had cut to the chase right from the start, attacking the sources of pollution rather than developing strategies based on an undesirable current state. Had we made a few lists for guidance, based on science rather than what had been contaminated, things may have progressed more quickly. Regulators could have made one category for all known carcinogens, these would have been eliminated from any discharge as a vital first step.

Over the years, there have been more and more chemical compounds that are added to that category and as science progressed, we could have expanded the scope of our protections. Instead, we let most carcinogens continue to be put into the environment, just at a marginally lower rate. Most sophisticated people understand that dilution is not a solution to pollution, because natural processes concentrate materials that may well be at infinitesimally small concentrations approximately tenfold per trophic level. Let us take a slow walk through the biological world and investigate how many of those there are. In water, phytoplankton, zooplankton, tiny fishes, smaller fishes, larger fishes, top predators (this could yield a million times the concentration in the water which supports this system.) On land, we have the soil microbes which are basically the same as in water, some converting sunlight directly to food, other microbes feeding upon them, as well as fungus, then insects and critters that feed upon them, or other tissues (left over from living creatures). Moving up the food chain, we have tiny creatures, their predators and perhaps luckily, just a couple steps between the prey and the top predators. Stemming the flow of toxic compounds into the environment is easiest at the source, but we didn't even consider that when we decided to regulate chemicals out of the environment. We focused so myopically on how they were being released that we forgot to ask "Why?". Frequently, clamping down on one sort of release, say to keep it out of our water, just increased amounts going somewhere else, often to our air because we frequently burn our dried sewage sludge, either that or it was land filled creating a different sort of problem.

One hard and fast rule in nature is that there is no away.

Similarly, we must find ways to become whole in spite of our cultural impetus to cleave and dissect our realities just as aggressively as science dissects us. I am not separate from my mental life, my spiritual life or my physical body. all of these "realms" exist in a complex interplay, just as the winds lift solids into the sky and as surely as the deluge can transport tons of dirt or soil (solids) elsewhere via a (liquid) phase change, my own states of being can morph into something much more profound. Who I am, who you are, we all are, in fact, ecosystems, microcosmic niches for complex biological and chemical interactions. In our gut and on our skin; up our noses and inside our ears, bacteria, fungus, molds and viruses make their living, or try to. Luckily, 85% of the bacteria are good, or at least do no harm. Even under our fingernails there is a delicate balance of life.

Many of us wear our psychic scars as a badge, as if the pain validates our existence. Like picking a scab, it only reinforces the power of the past. Healing is multidimensional and exactly the same as nature cannot be surgically approached. All things are connected and the infections that can manifest from abuse, disuse or misuse of natural abundance has distinct repercussions. One reason that I have frequently mentioned the Environmental Working Group is that their "skin deep" program allows people to understand the toxic mix of treatments that are sold in endless combinations and preparations for slathering on your skin. This is just one route that toxic compounds have into our lives and true to form, ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. must stand in league with others who combat brutality to humanity by those who seek to capitalize on "just business" (which is wholly and utterly unjust!) The reason I mention it again here is that the topic of individuals being microcosmic ecological systems recognizes that true beauty comes from the soul level and radiates outward, nearly like having a sun inside you. Our very metabolism is a solar furnace running on complex molecules that act as storage batteries. When we begin to honor the food (fuel) that we put into our bodies, sanctify the water we wash it down with and clean the air which we breathe, the rest will take care of itself.

We do not exist in isolation. Together we can thrive, but only if we can stop the madness of exploitation, carbon fueled "development" and the abuse and neglect of both the planet and her people that passes for "economic imperative" around the globe. The reasons that people flock to relatively untouched places is to know that such places still exist somewhere, but it is crucial to "green" every inch of the planet as well as putting an end to the oppression and extractive methods of the failed system. The crucial thing to realize is that when we do visit other places, that the best way to protect them is to practice Leave No Trace Ethics. Recognizing that peak oil has come and gone will be the first step to healing our addiction to oil and coal. Funny how the Leave No Trace folks have a car on their homepage. Until we stop denying that our carbon addiction has destabilized climate and create reasonable rewards for carbon sequestration as well as penalties for blasting it into the atmosphere, there will be those who will not reign in their assault. We need to understand that our invisible footprint, generated when our actions in nature are mediated by petro-carbon fueled energy, rather than human energy, it is still an assault on pristine, no, sacred beauty.  I plant trees as part of my healing as much as to heal the planet. I urge others to join me. Together we can create a desired future state capable sustaining human life, a planet worth living in.

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