Principles of Ecology

At all scales of nature, we find living systems nesting within other living systems – networks within networks. Their boundaries are not boundaries of separation but boundaries of identity. All living systems communicate with one another and share resources across their boundaries.

All living organisms must feed on continual flows of matter and energy fromtheir environment to stay alive, and all living organisms continually produce waste.However, an ecosystem generates no net waste, one species’ waste being another species’ food. Thus matter cycles continually through the web of life.

Solar Energy
Solar energy, transformed into chemical energy by photosynthesis of green plants, drives the ecological cycles.

The exchanges of energy and resources in an ecosystem are sustained by pervasive co-operation. Life did not take over the planet by combat but by co-operation, partnership, and networking.

Ecosystems achive stability and resilience through the richness and complexity of their ecological webs. The greater their biodiversity, the more resilient they will be.

Dynamic Balance
An ecosystem is a flexible, ever-fluctuating network. Its flexibility is a consequence of multiple feedback loops that keep the system in a state of dynamic balance. No single variable is maximized; all variables fluctuate around their optimal values.

These principles are directly relevant to our health and well-being.
Because of our vital need to breathe, eat and drink, we are always embedded in the cyclical processes of nature.
Our health depends upon the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and it depends on the health of the soil from which our food is produced.
In the coming decades the survival of humanity will depend upon our ecological literacy – our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly. Thus, ecological literacy, or ‘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 – from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities and the continuing education and training of professionals.

‘Hidden Connections, a Science for Sustainable Living’ by Fritjof Capra, Harper Collins Publishers 2002

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