On Being Human and Nature

How To Awaken Our Ecological Psyche

Feb 16, 2021

“Do you think crows are the smartest animals? What are the smartest animals? I bet it’s parrots, or maybe dolphins. No, no, it’s gotta be some kind of dog, Mama.”

This volley of questions from my 7-year-old son about a group of crows on a nearby power line early one morning caused me to reflect on how we are bathed in a human-centric worldview from the very start of our lives.

“What does ‘smart’ mean exactly?” I said. “Perhaps every animal, every being has its own unique genius. Do you think any animal is smarter than another, the way a spider weaves its intricately patterned web, the way an owl sees a mouse in the dark, the way a squirrel flies from branch to branch? It seems to me that there are so many ways of expressing intelligence in this world.”

Somehow we can only understand intelligence from a certain cognitive ladder that exists to always put humans on top. It is this human-centrism, I believe, that is at the very core of our ecological catastrophe. In addition to it being deeply problematic psychologically, when we do not value the lives of all beings, they become unfeeling and expendable resources for our ceaseless human consumption.

There is no doubt that practical, actionable changes to our everyday way of life are essential to creating an ecological civilization. Continuing to shift how we are commuting, shopping, eating, and farming is clearly essential. But beyond these physical acts, what are we doing to create an ecological civilization within our psyches? If our minds cannot conceive of it, we surely will not act to make it a reality.

We must begin by confronting how entrenched beliefs in human ownership of all places and things keep us foreign to and outside of the living world. We are not the Earth’s keepers or savers, just as we are not the Earth’s landlords or masters. The Earth provides for and nurtures our very existence—we must stop perpetuating the harmful illusion that we are separate from and superior to nature’s ingenuity. Clearly recognizing this human-nature split within our mindset is the gateway to other beneficial ways of knowing.

From there we can practice seeing ourselves as one kind of being within a much wider field of living kinship. At its foundation, developing an ecological psyche means that we are reclaiming and diversifying this sense of relational intimacy.

We can engage in simple rituals of reciprocity by finding a daily communion with the creatures, waterways, and stars that remind us something vibrantly alive exists beyond our limited knowledge and understanding.

Perhaps you are already in a loving relationship with a pet, a special tree, or a nearby river. Let us legitimize the way these things nourish and comfort us, and then seek out an even larger web of connection.

Beginning with the place where we live, we can practice rousing our fullest attention by learning its Indigenous history, both past and modern. Bringing a presence to the ground beneath our feet, we can study its slow, ever-changing geology, as well as the names of the plants and animals of the place we call home. We can engage in simple rituals of reciprocity by finding a daily communion with the creatures, waterways, and stars that remind us something vibrantly alive exists beyond our limited knowledge and understanding.

We can regularly seek out experiences that offer a greater perspective, reminding us of our small but unique niche within the mix of all creation. This is what draws millions of people to National Parks every summer or what puts us behind telescopes at 3 o’clock in the morning—the opportunity to feel humbled and awed, put back in place by the immensity of it all.

We no longer need to believe in the story of our separateness—shifting our belief of individualism into a life-affirming sense of belonging with all beings. Earth-honoring ethics are the wisdom teachings of Indigenous cultures around the world. But all of us are on the hook. It is the birthright and responsibility of all humans to come back into relationship with the Earth.

With an ecological psyche we awaken something essential within ourselves. Listening to our quiet biophilic longings, we find that our bodies and spirits are hardwired for wilderness and our cells, our muscles, our lungs have a memory of this: We are more sunflower, more thunder, more ocean tide than we are concrete. We have to rekindle this deep memory of where we come from. We are nature breathing, moving, trembling in human form.

Kendra Ward has been an acupuncturist and herbalist since 2003. She lives with her family in rural Vermont on traditional Abenaki lands.
from:    https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/ecological-civilization/2021/02/16/awaken-our-ecological-psyche/

Problems in the Ocean

S. California fishermen ‘skunked… haven’t seen a squid’, usually 10,000+ lbs/day — ‘Complete crashes’ at oyster hatcheries — Sardines, mackerel missing in areas — Pelican sites alarmingly deserted — Record # of sick sea lions — Ultra-rare whales appear after decades — Mammals, birds, fish in odd  places

Junw 11, 2014: Unusual Fish Catches Off San Diego Signal Large-Scale El Niño […] “We’ve already started to see very unusual fish catches here,” [Tim Barnett, Scripps Institution of Oceanography said.] “Yellowfin tuna was caught in May — that has never happened before to anybody’s recollection [and] dorado Mahi Mahi — first of June […] has never happened” […]

Pete Thomas Outdoors, June 13, 2014: Unusual catches, whales in odd places, pelican woes could be signs that impending El Niño will be significant […] mammals, birds and fish showing up where they don’t typically belong […] Earlier this week two Bryde’s whales [were] off Huntington Beach […] Sightings off California, however, are extremely rare. […] between 1991 and 2005, there was only one […] Less than a week earlier, a large pod of pilot whales showed off Dana Point […] nearly 20 years since they were last spotted off Southern California. In late March, false killer whales, another ultra-rare visitor [were] off Orange County. […] Sam Anderson, a UC Davis biologist […] would typically encounter tens of thousands of breeding pairs of pelicans, there were only sparse numbers. Some nesting sites were alarmingly deserted. […] Anderson, however, was reluctant to place all of the blame for the pelicans’ plight on the developing El Niño.

Wall St. Journal, June 7, 2014: Record numbers of distressed sea lions have washed ashore in California for a second straight year […] a record 367 California sea lions have been admitted to the Marine Mammal Center here just north of San Francisco, nearly five times the average. […] The problem may have implications for humans, researchers say. “Sea lions are living and feeding on the same resource as humans are.” […] Evidence suggests a problem with one of the animal’s major food sources, sardines […] Some researchers suggest rising toxicity […]

Mark Rayor (Baja California’s East Cape region), April 13, 2014: The bait situation is still very grim […] with sardines and mackerel nowhere to be found.

Marin Independent Journal, June 16, 2014:”We are seeing an issue of availability of (oyster) seed […] There have been complete crashes at these hatcheries.”

Long Beach Press-Telegram, June 13, 2014: The squid boats that net the market squid commercially get an average of six tons nightly […] This year the boats are getting “skunked” and haven’t seen a squid for the last three nights.

See also: “Weird things” seen on California coast: Previously unknown toxic algae proliferating; Unprecedented mass of oxygen-poor water nearshore — TV: Mystery strandings of large squid covered miles and experts baffled… “killing themselves, it’s just really weird” (VIDEO)

from:    http://enenews.com/very-unusual-fish-catches-never-happened-before-california-fishing-boats-havent-squid-recently-10000-pounds-day-complete-crashes-oyster-hatcheries-sardines-mackerel-be-found-ultra-rare-wha

Technological Delusions

The Technological Fix Delusion

intelligent earthEnvironmentalists and concerned citizens are increasingly beginning to recognize the delusion of the ‘technological fix’ – the use of technology to remedy problems caused by previous technology.

It is increasingly obvious that a new pesticide won’t finally eliminate the superweeds that evolved to resist the previous pesticide, that new and more powerful antibiotics won’t bring final victory over the superbugs that evolved to resist previous antibiotics, and that massive geoengineering projects like seeding the stratosphere with sulphuric acid or the oceans with iron (to combat climate change) will likely cause horrific unanticipated consequences.What is less obvious is how pervasive the mentality behind the technological fix is. In the United States, we respond to the failure of metal detectors, lockdowns, and other forms of control in our schools by calling for even more control. European countries unable to pay their debts are lent even more money, with the proviso that they try even harder to pay their debts. Imperialist powers apply military violence to fight the terrorism that is a response to previous imperialism and violence. Doctors prescribe drugs to address the side-effects caused by other drugs. Urban planners address traffic congestion by building more roads (which leads to more development and more traffic). And millions of people manage the emptiness of a life of material acquisition by buying more material possessions.

Underneath the technological fix is a way of perceiving ourselves and the world. More than a mere mentality of separation and of control, it comes from a disconnected state of being that is blind to the indwelling purpose and intelligence of nature.

For example, a skilled organic farmer might see weeds or bugs not as interlopers but as a symptom of imbalance in soil ecology. To address them holistically, she must believe there even is such a thing as soil ecology. In other words, she must believe in the wholeness and interconnectedness of all beings that make up soil. She must see soil as a collective, emergent entity in its own right, and not an inert, generic substrate that plants grow in.

Conventional agriculture, on the other hand, sees weeds as kind of an outbreak of badness, similar to the way we have seen terrorism, or violence in schools, or disease. To see it otherwise, as a symptom of a deeper disharmony, presupposes that there is such a harmony, an integrity, a beingness, and not just a senseless jumble. The technological fix addresses the symptom while ignoring the illness, because it cannot see an integral entity that can become ill.

I don’t want to gloss over the profundity of the paradigm shift we are accepting if we are to see nature as intelligent and purposive. To do so is to abdicate the exclusive domain to which we have appointed ourselves: the sole intelligence of the world. It is to humble ourselves to something greater, and seek our place not as Cartesian lords and possessors of nature, but as contributors to an unfolding process beyond our selves. This inescapable conclusion is, perhaps, the reason why teleology is anathema to orthodox science. Purpose was supposed to be our domain! And the king of that domain was the scientist, wielding technology to enact its dominion.

The idea of an inherently purposeful universe is far more radical than religious notions of intelligent design, which agree with mechanistic science about matter and cede intelligence to an external, supernatural being. Such a narrative offers no compunctions to limit the despoliation of nature. It asks us to humble ourselves to nothing of this world.

To be so humbled, we must see that the soul of nature – its purpose, intelligence, and beingness – comes not from without but from within. It is an emergent property borne of non-linear complexity. In non-linear systems, small actions can have enormous consequences. The technological fix is based on linear thinking. The alternative is to develop sensitivity to the emergent order and intelligence that wants to unfold, so that we might bow into its service.

What might that look like? Technology in service to Earth includes things like regenerative agriculture and permaculture to heal the soil, replenish the aquifers, and sequester carbon. It includes green energy technologies, conservation technologies, bioremediation, wetlands restoration, zero-waste manufacturing, anything that contributes to the health of the planet and its ecosystems.

Today, painfully, we are becoming aware of the folly of the delusion that we can, with clever enough technological solutions, avoid the consequences of what we do to the world. We are learning that we are not separate from nature, and that it bears a wholeness that we ignore at our peril. Our techno-utopian dreams and basic scientific paradigms are unraveling in tandem with many of our social institutions, because the underlying narrative of separation is unraveling as well.

These converging crises – social, ecological, and intellectual – are expelling us from our old story. As that happens, none of our fixes, technological or otherwise, are working anymore to control the pain: the grief, the rage, the loneliness we feel as we gaze out upon what we have wrought. Thus begins the healing journey into a new narrative of cocreative participation in the unfolding destiny of our planet.

Source: “Technology and the Intelligence of Nature,” by Charles Eisenstein, from theecologist.org

from:    http://theunboundedspirit.com/the-technological-fix-delusion/

Wolves and Adaptation

Yellowstone Wolves Show How Animals Change With Nature

Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 01 December 2011 Time: 02:00 PM ET
animals, Yellowstone wolves, wolf reintroduction, environmental changes and survival, evolution in action, Yellowstone population changes, population modeling, response to climate change, evolutionary changes, population characteristics,
Sibling members of Yellowstone National Park’s Druid Peak Pack engaged in play.
CREDIT: Daniel Stahler/NPS

Environmental changes have a profound effect not only on animal populations but on traits of the animals themselves, in ways that are difficult to understand and predict, new research suggests.

By studying the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, a group of researchers has developed a new model for understanding how both ecological and evolutionary traits of an animal population change as the environment does.

The researchers recorded and studied data from Yellowstone for more than 15 years, including the body size and coat color of wolves as well as their sharply fluctuating population, which last year stood at 97.

“The conclusions that we have been able to draw is that biologists should stop treating population size independently of population characteristics. As  changes, it invariably changes the ecology and evolution of species,” study researcher Tim Coulson, of Imperial College London, told LiveScience.

The study appears in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Science.

Yellowstone wolves

An international group of wolf experts, geneticists and statisticians began collecting data from Yellowstone when, absent from the park for 70 years, wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996. The reintroduced population of 40 grew to nearly 180 wolves within seven years. Then the population fluctuated before sharply declining starting in 2008.

Researchers put this data together with genetic information and other characteristics about the wolves.

“Biologists and people who study wild populations in animals have been noticing over the last decade or so [of studies] that when you change the environment around a species — climate change, introduction of new species, disease epidemics, etc. — you don’t just change the size of the population, the number of individuals living there, you often change the characteristics of the animals,” Coulson said.

“It’s a fairly general phenomenon, but they haven’t had an ability to understand how and why it’s occurred.”

The researchers used statistics to determine whether years were “good” and “bad” in terms of the wolves’ survival, growth and fertility rates. These were driven by environmental changes, including food availability, competition, disease and weather, Coulson said.

They used these survival rates to understand how these environmental conditions impact the various characteristics of the wolves. The researchers say they learned several big things, including that the population did worse when bad years came in series than when bad years were interspersed with good years.

“One bad year, yes, it has a short-term impact, but if you end up with a long string of harsh conditions, it’s worse for the population in the long run,” Coulson said. “We haven’t got enough data to work out exactly what it is that makes one good year or bad year,” he added, although availability of food and prominence of disease play roles.

The researchers also found that these changes can have varying, and even contradictory, effects on the life cycle of the wolves, or other animals being studied. “Survival, reproduction and individual growth are three key characteristics of a population, and they can all respond very differently to environmental change,” study researcher Daniel MacNulty, of Utah State University, told LiveScience. “Depending on how they respond to change, it will influence the dynamics of the population.”

Predicting future changes

The same model for how wolves react to changing environments can be used for other animals, and even insects and plants.

“Environmental change doesn’t affect simply the ecology or the evolution of the population, it affects both of them simultaneously,” MacNulty said. “Both ecological and evolutionary changes can happen rapidly and in a population that’s subject to environmental change.”

For example, researchers could model rodents and other pests over time to determine how they might react to replacing a city green space with a parking lot. “You can’t just assume that environmental change is going to lead a decrease in a population; they can increase as well,” MacNulty said. “They may respond to a particular environmental change by leading to an overabundance of a particular pestspecies.”

from:   http://www.livescience.com/17263-yellowstone-wolf-environment-change.html

Saving Trees in Tasmania

Tasmanian Forest Deal Brings End to a Conflict While Saving Trees

by Nicklas Karlsson | August 05, 2011

The federal Australian government has signed a deal with Tasmania which ensures the preservation of, at least, 430,000 hectars of ancient high conservation value forests.

The 430,000 hectars will be immediately protected from logging, while an additional 142,000 hectars will be set aside for eventual needs to fulfill existing logging contracts.

The conflict which has been unfolding for nearly 30 years between the federal government and state government circulates around issues of financial dependence upon logging rights. $276 million has been pledged, of which $85 million is earmarked as an exit package for forestry contractors, and some $120 million for the purpose of diversifying the economy of towns dependent on forestry over the next 15 years.

to read more, go to:   http://www.greatnewsnetwork.org/index.php/news/article/tasmanian_forest_deal_brings_end_to_a_conflict_while_saving_trees/

Ecological Effect of Loss of Predator Populations

Loss of World’s Top Predators Is Pervasively Changing Ecosystems

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 14 July 2011 Time: 02:01 PM ET
coral reef sharks
A healthy coral reef ecosystem with sharks off Jarvis Island, an uninhabited island located in the South Pacific Ocean. A loss of these large predators can alter the patterns of predation and herbivory, ultimately leading to an coral system where reef-building corals and coralline algae lose their competitive advantage.
CREDIT: Brian Zgliczynski

The loss of top predators, such as lions, wolves and sharks, is causing unpredictable changes to food chains around the world, according to a review written by 24 scientists.

These animals, called apex predators, play a crucial role in ecosystems, and their disappearance — often due to hunting by humans and loss of habitat — can lead to changes in vegetation, wildfire frequency, infectious diseases, invasive species, water quality and nutrient cycles, according to the authors led by James Estes, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

to read more, go to:    http://www.livescience.com/15051-apex-top-predators-loss-food-chain-ecosystem.html