a new understanding of nature
Continuous Improvement Dynamics
Beginning, apparently, with molten rock, and using only the sun to provide heat and light, nature manages to create water, atmosphere and a totally interactive, life-enhancing, continuously improving, living ecology.
Nature takes this living matrix through a succession of progressive changes. At every level of existence, from bacteria up to bioregions, myriad life forms participate in a highly intelligent, systematic co-operative venture, always towards greater biological richness, diversity and resilience, the ultimate expressions being, on land, the rainforests, and at sea, the coral reefs. Some examples of the process of succession are:
- breaking down of surface rock through the expansion and contraction effects of changing temperatures, including the expansion effect of penetrating water as it freezes into ice;
- weathering of rocks by weak acids, created out of atmospheric gases and carried in rains, as an initial step towards the creation of soils;
- further dissolution of rocks by mosses and lichen growing on their surface, and the breaking up of rocks by penetrating plant roots;
- invasion by weeds to assist building up soil,
- a movement towards longer lived, and wetter climate trees through a succession of plant species, from weeds and nitrogen fixers such as acacias through to pioneer trees such as eucalyptus and thence to rainforest species such as red cedar;
Nature expresses itself in the myriad species of existence, and within each species, endless subtle variation is constantly being created and re-created, most often via the process of sexual reproduction. This is a way of ensuring a unique genetic makeup each time two individuals within a species, combine their genes in a unique combination each time, to create another individual of the same species. Subtle variations also lay the foundation for continuous improvement, as some variations will be more suited to a given situation, and will be more inclined to flourish. During this present time of climate-change, variation may help ensure survival of species as some variations may be more suited to, or more able to accommodate or adapt to changes in temperature, rainfall, soil fertility etc. Thus, nature ensures greater survivability under variable or changing conditions.
Adapting to new or changing conditions has been vital to nature’s success. Seasonal changes can be easily seen in the growing and flowering cycles of plants, reflected in the massive migrations of herd animals. Nature also has ways of adapting to new or changing conditions. The Exon Valdez oil spill was ultimately cleaned up by a form of bacteria that thrived on the oil and flourished. It is now used in the industry. This may have been by a bacteria that was dormant, or adapted its diet, or mutated, or some other way entirely, or perhaps all of the above.
Creating abundance is another fundamental principle of nature. Many plants and animals will create thousands of times more seeds than will actually sprout and survive. Often they are scattered widely to ensure that some with fall in highly suitable places and will more likely sprout and grow well. During the pioneering phase of succession, plants most suited will grow more abundantly and flourish. Rampancy reigns! Herds of bison, flocks of birds, shoals of fish, etc can become highly prolific, creating immense populations, in response to abundance of food, without damaging their environment. Nature optimises by producing the maximum abundance that a given situation will bear. Exuberant abundance, such as a glut of fruit, quickly turns to fertiliser, to enrich the soil for greater growth and future abundance. Water is Australia’s great constraining factor, and lack of topsoil, which is a consequence of the lack of water.
An application of variety, in that greater diversity of all biological life in any given area works better than lesser bio-diversity. It packs in more total biomass, has greater resilience, uses inputs more efficiently, breaks down waste quicker. The biological family needs all of its friends and relatives to do best.
Cooperation is natural and predominant in nature. For example, root tips have intensely cooperative arrangements with benevolent soil bacteria, and secrete solutions that the bacteria thrive on as they make plant food as a by-product. Many micro-organisms and insects play complementary roles in processing the ingredients of soil. At every level of existence, from bacteria up to bioregions, to continents, to the planet as a whole, myriad life forms participate in a highly co-operative venture that has as its goal always-greater abundance, diversity, resilience, stability and sustainability.
- increased rainfall through the humidification and seeding of clouds by transpiring trees, which release pollens, micro-organisms and other particles, to become raindrop nuclei, and make rainwater richer for plant life;
- stimulation of soil microbial activity by the release of plant food solutions by plants at their root tips.
Everything in nature recycles, nothing goes unprocessed, nothing goes to waste. Everything is food for something else. An oversupply of some form of waste will provide an excess of food for whatever feeds on it, which in turn breeds more of those feeders to deal with it. Nature is continuously adjusting and rebalancing. The culling practices by carnivorous species of feeding on weaker and dying animals, provides a cleaning up roll that enables perpetuation by the more fit and healthy.
- reduction of carbon dioxide by ocean-borne phytoplankton and land-based plant life to stored carbon, and the release of oxygen into the atmosphere, providing life support for the insect and animal (including human) world, for which it also provides food;
- culling of weaker species of plants and animals for food, promoting the continuation of healthy specimens;
- conversion of dead and discarded animal and vegetable matter into plant food by insects, earthworms, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic organisms, eliminating waste and ensuring increased bioactivity.
Survival and Perpetuation
Everything living seeks to survive, yet everything living ultimately dies and becomes food for other living species, which enables a process of increased enrichment. Survival is of the group, not merely the strongest, via elimination of the weakest, often through culling by carnivorous animals who feed of the oldest, weakest and slowest of the group, which enables the wellbeing and perpetuation of the group.
Until then, surviving requires food, which brings out appropriate territorial and hunting behaviours, which brings out appropriate defensive behaviour in intended victims.
- Shrubs release tannins into their leaves when being browsed, to keep herbivores moving on to other plants, and not devour and destroy any whole plant.
The drive for perpetuation via sexual reproduction brings out competitive and possessive behaviours, which are usually to do with perpetuating genes and protecting the young. Nature will reproduce with great abundance, when conditions are right, and will naturally restrain reproduction during adverse conditions.
Self-Regulation and Balance
An overriding principle of nature is that it self-regulates at all levels, seeking a balance, from the micro to the macro, and at all scales; from an ecosystem to a bioregion, from an island, to a continent, to a planet. At times, different species will dominate – such as certain weeds, according to the needs of the soil, which will vary over time, etc. Different herds of herbivores will pass through an area, grazing on the grass, in order of their eating habits, eg long grass, short shoots, etc, and move on as conditions change according to the annual climate cycle. Carnivores will occupy a fixed area and cull the older and weaker animals as they pass through. More rain can mean more grass, more herbivores, more carnivores, more fertility, with the balance maintained. Left to its own devices, nature will gradually move towards more even temperatures, more stable weather, and a more balanced climate.
Nature applies the tools of succession, variety, adaptation, abundance, cooperation, recycling, perpetuation, self-regulation and balance to the living, interactive, biological matrix, to form increasingly stable and resilient bioregions of ecosystems, of increasing biomass density, and biological diversity. At every level, the biological and the ecological work together, as one, bringing the bioregion towards greater ecological integration and resilience through dynamic optimisation, where nature continually produces the optimum outcome for the given inputs at any time, even as those inputs are interacting, developing, growing and improving. So that over time, the overall optimum outcome keeps growing, developing, maturing, regenerating and improving.
Soils are the foundation of virtually all plant life, and are another biological wonder. Nature’s final expression of soil is humus, a jelly-like colloid contained in topsoil. It contains amino acids, minerals and other nutrients, which plants can directly assimilate and convert into proteins, etc. It is nature’s ultimate plant food, made by bacteria and earthworms, from plant and animal remains. Humus purifies water before it passes into streams and rivers.
Complete recycling of all waste ensures the ecological miracle. What is waste for one species is food for another species. The less robust examples of any species, become food for another species, ensuring the best examples perpetuate their own kind. This process ensures continually improving enrichment.
As forests move towards wetter species, trees are able to retain more water in the soil, with their shallower, more densely packed roots. This forest lake is gradually released as nutrients are extracted for tree growth, eliminating erosion and providing a more constant supply of clean creek and river waters. And as plant life increases, more oxygen is produced, making the planet more conducive to the oxygen breathing species, which includes us humans.
If a part of a natural forest is disturbed, nature introduces protective plants, such as stinging trees or nettles (which also fix many nutrients). If the soil is lacking in certain nutrients, other appropriate weeds will be inclined to grow that will add appropriate nutrients to the soil. Short-lived trees, such as wattles, which add nitrogen to the soil, will follow these. Then, longer-life eucalyptus, or gum trees grow. As trees breathe, they exhale moisture, micro-organisms and pollens, which seed clouds, and promote rainfall. More permanent, moister species grow in their shade, working towards true rainforest species, as the fall of water increases. Nature always works towards moister, richer, more abundant, more permanent expressions of itself.
Oceans serve many purposes. They shift waters and temperatures around the globe in an intricate pattern that ensures the entire aquatic globe acts as continuing improving, living ecology. These currents also assist many species of fish and other marine animals to travel to where they need to for feeding and breeding purposes. Various forms of plant life in the oceans are understood to soak up more carbon dioxide and release more Oxygen into the atmosphere than do the rainforests. The oceans are the planet’s thermostat.
Ecosystems are ecologically integrated communities of animals, plants and other organisms, together with all the non-living components, such as light, warmth and moisture, all interacting to form a stable community. Nutrient cycling also occurs within ecosystems. All life depends on the ecosystems of which they are a part. Ecosystems can be of almost any size, from a single drop of water or a small puddle right up to forests, valleys, lakes, continents and even the whole planet. The term Gaia, has recently been reapplied to the planet in recognition that, in its entirety, it acts as a living, improving, self- regulating ecosystem.
Ecologists consider that diverse numbers of species organisms (biodiversity) in existence gives the world its richness. Diversity also contributes to stability and resilience in natural ecosystems. This is because over time a balance has developed whereby some plant, animal or organism is able to utilise every output or contribute to another’s needs.
Nature tends towards manifesting biologically integrated regions, or bioregions. Bioregions are integrated areas of linked natural phenomena including ecosystems, often centered on a common water catchment and bounded by ridges and valleys to form a distinct yet integrated ecosystem. Each bioregion will tend to develop in the direction of greater species diversity and increased abundance within species, within the limits of light, moisture and warmth available.
Families of ecosystems form bioregions within natural catchment areas, and the planetary family of bioregions interact together to form a planetary super-organism, recently named Gaia. Nature gradually forms a clean, life-promoting atmosphere; rivers and streams of fresh, clean water; rich, fertile soils; widespread forests and grazing lands; and an abundance of diverse plant and animal life. Nature appears both wise and compassionate in that development is always towards optimal manifestations, climaxing in rich, stable, resilient and sustaining expressions of wholesomeness, beauty and bountiful magnificence. Some people see this as teleology: an invariable growing towards a more complete expression, a more highly evolved state.
For the human population, nature has created a mostly hospitable environment, including:
- pure, non-poisonous, life-supporting atmosphere;
- clear, clean rivers and lakes of pure, fresh water;
- healthy, life-promoting food;
- domesticatable animals;
- generally favourable weather, etc.
Similarly, our natural biological drive is always towards ever more enriched, harmonious, resilient and fulfilled expression of ourselves.
Use of Natural Processes and Manifestation
The regenerative, continuously improving powers of nature lie at the heart of sustainable communities, and all organic forms of gardening and farming, including and especially Permaculture, which is able to encompass all useful nature based technologies.