Over billions of years of evolution, the Earth‘s ecosystems have evolved certain principles of organization to sustain the web of life.
In the coming decades, the survival of humanity will depend on our ecological literacy – our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly.
Ecoliteracy must become a critical skill for politicians, business leaders, and professionals in all spheres, and should be the most important part of education at all levels.
We need to teach our children, our students, and our corporate and political leaders, the fundamental facts of life – that one species’ waste is another species’ food.
That matter cycles continually through the web of life; that the energy driving the ecological cycles flows from the sun; that diversity assures resilience.
And, that life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, did not take over the planet by combat but by networking.
All these principles of ecology are closely interrelated. They are just different aspects of a single fundamental pattern of organization that has enabled nature to sustain life for billions of years.
Nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities.
No individual organism can exist in isolation. Animals depend on the photosynthesis of plants for their energy needs; plants depend on the carbon dioxide produced by animals.
And together plants, animals, and microorganisms regulate the entire biosphere and maintain the conditions conducive to life.
Sustainability, then, is not an individual property but a property of an entire web of relationships. It always involves a whole community. This is the profound lesson to learn from nature.
The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community. A sustainable human community interacts with other communities – human and nonhuman – in ways that enable them to live and develop according to their nature.
The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. – Chief Seattle
The web of life. Let me try, from the first, to indicate the point that we’re aiming at. The point is this: that Human Consciousness is – at the same time as being a form of Awareness, and sensitivity, and understanding – it’s also a form of ignorance.
The ordinary everyday Consciousness that we have leaves out more than it takes in. And because of this, it leaves out things that are terribly important. It leaves out things that would – if we did know them – allay our anxieties, and fears, and horrors, and if we could extend our
Awareness, you see, to include those things that we leave out, we would have a deep interior peace.
Because we would all know the one thing that you mustn’t know. You know, according to the rules of our particular social game, the one thing you mustn’t know; that’s really not allowed, that is the lowdown on life – and that the lowdown, on the one hand, means the real dirt on things. But the lowdown is also what is profound, what is mysterious, what is in the depths. And the something left out.
And our everyday Consciousness screens this out in the same way that, when you say you have weaving, you have – say, on this rug here in front of us – when the black finishes here the black threads will go underneath, and then appear again over here, then they’ll go underneath the white and they’ll appear again over here, you know? So that the back will be the obverse pattern of the front.
Now – the world is like that. Our sense organs are selective. They pick out certain things; they are receptive. For example, we have a small, small band of what you might call a spectrum of light, of sound, of tactile sensation, and so on, to which the Human organism is sensitive.
But we know that outside that small band there is a huge range of vibrations to which we have built instruments that are sensitive – things like cosmic rays, ultraviolet rays, gamma rays, hard x-rays, and so on – they’re all outside the band of our spectrum.
And obviously, there are things that are outside the range of our instruments. We may build new instruments someday, which will evoke – bring into our Consciousness – other orders of vibration altogether, that, as yet, we don’t know about them.
So you could imagine, you see, the universe as a vast, vast system of vibrations; and has infinite possibilities.