Those who are savvy about ecology know, there are trophic levels that exist in nature. Cow eats grass, man eats cow. One is the primary producer of "food" and the other occupies a place on the food chain whereby they consume or prey on the lower trophic level. The grass that the cow feeds upon is technically a sort of prey or "lower" trophic level. This theory is great in some senses, but the totality of the cyclic nature of the food chain can elude us. there is no "higher" life form...some may differ in complexity, but no part of the cycle can be made inferior, no part really occupies the base. Microbes can, and often do, have more validity or beneficial affect on the environment than do the larger organisms, like mammals. The primary decomposers, who science deems the "lowest" forms of life are in many ways the pinnacle of importance, without them, all other trophic levels are forced to live out of balance.
People who have studied the environment speak of the Tragedy of the Commons, it has been recognized since the first herdsmen found their territories overlapping. Anytime everyone gets to use the same resource, no matter what that resource is, the majority of the benefits go to the people who have the most access to that resource (largest herds) and the majority of the costs fall upon everyone else (those who have smaller herds). This fact has existed for so long that the people who have the most access to all resources have a get big or get out philosophy. Resource extraction is cutthroat. The truth exists in our blind spot. We have known the way of the world long enough that those who choose to abuse and enslave us have developed whole tapestries of ;lies to obscure the truth. We now have a condition on earth that exponentially increases the disparity of wealth between the oligarchs and their slave class. Bernie Sanders, a democratic candidate for President of the United States of America recently outed the ten worst companies as far as taking massive government tax refunds on top of obscene earnings. Keep in mind, many of these corporations have been receiving tax subsidies, welfare, for decades. GE General Electric, the same folks who built most of the nuclear electric generating stations across our nation (which saddles U.S. taxpayers with the burden of 10K years of "safe storage" of millions of tons of hazardous waste) Over the most recent five years we have data for, they paid -9% tax. Boeing 2% tax rate, Verizon -2% and the list goes on. Bank o' America, Citigroup, Pfizer, Fed Ex, Honeywell, Merk, Corning. we all subsidize their activities directly, simply by allowing our government to carry them to even greater heights in their pursuit of wealth. Have they not ravaged our world enough? We are making it lucrative to do so?
My first law of Trophic interaction states that when we de-stabilize any natural system, the biomass filling each and every niche of each and every trophic level will remain the same. The biomass may seem to be displaced, but the niche will be filled with equivalent biomass, perhaps by another species. In cities we often see people who some call wolves and sheep. This may be a reaction to a very hard and real law of nature. I saw this when I was first beginning to understand dumpster diving. I was filling a niche in my efforts to reduce the waste stream while simultaneously gleaning my living. It seemed parasitic at first, until I realized that for every ton of waste that I diverted, it saved the dumpster owner disposal costs. I lost track, but when I was following the cost per ton for tipping fees closeley, the last number I heard was eighty dollars per ton. I was actually symbiotically existing as part of a mutually beneficial interaction/relationship with the wasters. The recent upgrades that we have done to our physical plant were accomplished with over 80% salvaged, reused, repurposed and ecologically the most benign materials. The other 20% were locally sourced as much as possible, high efficiency appliances, or the result of the need for having contractors do parts of the job we could not get done by our own hand. We have filled niches of primary decomposers, salvaging material from the "waste stream" (even hundreds of pounds of fasteners got recycled from this one project) this is like creating a negative ecologic impact at a mine somewhere on the planet. We used far less metal in the new configuration of resources than the old facility, opened up the space so more air and light make it into the space, plus by eliminating several walls and poorly laid out closets and halls, we gained over 100 square feet (9.3 square meters)! We were primary producers and primary decomposers when we used waste wood that was unsuitable for building, but safe to burn to make biochar. Some of the wood used to construct our facility in the 1920s was used to build and enrich soil of today, rather than getting buried in a landfill. I tried to consume everything as efficiently as possible, create the least waste and create a far more efficient living condition for occupants of this property for decades into the future. In many ways, my activities have emulated soil organisms, insects, grass, the cow and indeed, I do like a good steak from time to time, so part of me filled the niche of top predator.
As we wipe out entire populations of microbes, somehow the work that they would have done will be done somewhere else, or by something else. The cannibalism of small farms by bigger ones over the past five decades resulted in huge acreages being abused and neglected. In some countries, like New Zealand, if you own more than a certain number of acres, you must hire a land manager who has devoted their life to understanding natural cycles and management strategies for large acreages that protect the environment so that we might all benefit from the resources. Healthy relationships between the organisms that exist around us are essential to our own health and welfare.
I started by mentioning how Darwin got it wrong and those who read my writing a lot should scroll though this paragraph quickly, I've said this before. It is survival of the luckiest, not the fittest. Darwin was absolutely living the most privileged life imaginable. He only thought he was among "the fittest". We must understand that the most fit antelope or gazelle can be crushed in a landslide, or have a tree fall on them. When the fittest person alive lives downstream of a facility that spills toxic chemicals, poisoning the water, you die. It is by sheer luck that some species are allowed to continue evolution unmolested by human activity, however across the entire surface of the planet, the effects of human activity have changed forever the entire ecosystem. 400 new, never before existing compounds are released into the environment each year. Corporate welfare whores have made sure that the innocent until proven guilty rule applies to these new compounds. After all, without proof that they harm the environment, they must certainly all be considered benign until proven dangerous.
We may want to slow our headlong run into riskier and riskier behavior, our luck may be running out.