Jan. 27, 2008
Ever notice how more often than not, folks tend to refer to nature as a thing they are apart from rather than a part of? I am talking about both sides of most environmental arguments here. For people on the political right the environment tends to be something that must promote the making of money in one way or another, an annoyance that tends to be in the way of economic growth and golf courses.
On the left they pray to it as if nature is some benevolent god that must not be trespassed against for any reason. Both sides are flat out wrong as they can be. Human beings are a part of nature; we are part of this great abundant environment called planet earth. On this beautiful ball of mud we call home there are many, many systems. Some systems are man-made: our economic system, political systems, and healthcare systems. Other systems are natural systems or cycles: hydrologic cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle; you get the point.
Regardless of being natural or man-made, they are all connected. They are interdependent. Look at the natural carbon cycle. For centuries as carbon was released from one place, say the burning of wood to keep people warm, it was taken up in another, maybe a peat bog or more forest growth. In the pre-industrial past natural events, such as volcanic eruptions, pumped out excess carbon into the atmosphere.Over time, nature found ways to sequester the extra carbon and remove it from the cycle. Over time, some of the carbon became sequestered in coal, oil, and natural gas.Once we found ways to burn fossil fuels for energy we began working against the natural carbon cycle, by releasing what nature had put away. Due to this imbalance in the natural system there is a change i.e. global climate change to be exact.
I am not here to argue that mankind’s over use of fossil fuel is the lone gunman in the climate change scenario. It appears at this time to be one contributing factor and most likely the only one we have any control over. Global climate change is an example of a natural system out of balance. Another important example is the nitrogen cycle. I live in a part of the US where we have a high concentration of commercial animal feeding operations or CAFOs, especially for poultry. One thing we have been battling for some time is the balance of nitrogen in our soils (I should mention that when I say “soil” I really mean “rocks and red clay”; black dirt is a pretty scarce commodity in these parts). Funny thing about rocks and red clay is that no matter how much nitrogen you apply to it only takes up a finite amount.
Once our local poultry farmers land apply the waste from their birds and the local rocks have absorbed their fair share. One good rainstorm pushes all that excess into the local streams, which promotes massive algae growth and the lovely green tint many of our once beautiful and beneficial streams and rivers now have.
It really is simple folks: If you knock something out of balance, it is going to strive to regain its equilibrium. Until it does, other systems will be negatively impacted and thrown out of balance as well. We all must understand we have a place within nature. We do not exist separate from it. Regardless of your living in a concrete jungle or 100 acres of forested land we each rely completely on the natural systems around us being able to do what they do. Be aware of your part within the natural system, and your impact on them, because believe me, when they stop working you will know their impact on you.