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2 charis loopez island beach

Lopez Island

After almost three months to the day of a very special collaborative genesis, I’m back with Part 2 of the ‘Edge Effect,’ one of my favorite explorations of all time for a wide variety of reasons. Hang in there, this is going to be a bit more scientific than my typical blog.

Permaculture, TEK and Pattern Literacy

Permaculture design at its core is about creating right relationships amongst living things.  As humans, we do this by creating meaningful connections with the flora and fauna of our environment.  And, naturally, with one another.

TEK (traditional ecological knowledge) at its core, is about cultivating a deep connection with the land that supports us so as to carefully tend it for long-term fructification.  So where do the edges come into play?

When we observe patterns in the landscape, we can recognize that edge ecosystems (my favorite type of ecosystems) perform and demonstrate the same extraordinary functions as the ‘Four Bs’ of the earth’s flora fertility do—that is, birds, bats, butterflies and bees.  Like the Four Bs, edge ecosystems offer opportunities for cross-pollination so that plants have the resilience they need to weather change, and have the fertility they need to reproduce, grow and create food.  The end products of plants and animals are what we’re generally most familiar with, but don’t let that stop you from connecting these dots…

Here is a convergence of human intelligence with nature’s intelligence.  It is the ultimate expression of life.

Like fertile seeds, these connective patterns are absolutely key to creating a healthy future.

What comes alive in edge ecosystems is deep ecology in action.

Deep Ecology in Action

One of the greatest things about the natural world is that it is a reflection of our thinking.  Where healthy ecosystems exist, so do its caretakers.  Where it doesn’t there is unawareness of impact—and therefore room for personal and, by extension, planetary growth of a healthy sort.

For example for some, war is analogous with humanity.  For many of us, war is an anomaly—a reflection of our species’ inability to move beyond the limitations of our own thinking.  It’s where ‘taking the higher road’ means acting out of the recognition that “…the distinction between ‘life’ and ‘lifeless’ is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged.”                      (Joanna Macy, The Council of All Beings)

300px-Tropical_hardwood_hammock_on_Everglades_National_Park_Mahogany_Hammock_Trail

Hardwood hammocks, Everglades, Florida

Fructification and the Edge Effect

Diving back into the world of ecosystems, consider this fascinating example of edge ecosystem fructification: the coastal forest hammocks, like those that grow in the Everglades of Florida, a 2-hour drive from where I spent my childhood.

Shaped by the slow-moving brackish waters of the Everglades, these coastal hardwood forests exemplify a beautiful blend of stability and complexity found in these hammocks. Like most forests, coastal forests not only prevent erosion via the web of tree roots, but also by slowing wind speeds to reduce wind-caused erosion.

Each tree acts as a sediment collector, wind break, apartment house for birds, food source, and…my favorite…a nursery for literally hundreds of thousands of water-born creatures including amphibians and naturally, their predators, like raptors and virtually all reptilian descendants of oceans and rivers: birds, insects, alligators and a host of other water-loving flora and fauna.

Given these components—and we’re not even touching on the special and unique talents of the mangroves themselves; nor the bacteriological or atmospheric aspects—the fact that our species has sent people to the moon and back, put satellites into space and instantly communicate anywhere in the world—why is our human impact on the earth so ecologically destructive?

The Exquisite Beauty of Non-Linear Thinking

I believe it has to do with four aspects of the human mind:

  1. Our minds—both individually and collectively—must develop the ability to flex with complex, non-linear systems.
  2. From this, we must discover and acknowledge the intangible (as well as the tangible) aspects of how ecosystems assemble themselves.
  3. Through this, the qualitative aspects of life reveal their fragile value, leading us to…
  4. Engage our hearts so as to inform the head.

Of course, coming from your heart doesn’t need to go in this order!  This is simply a connective arrangement to illustrate the deeper aspects of nature we can find meaning within.

The beauty of engaging both heart and head in the direction of earth-centric healing is that the mere existence of complex, non-linear ecosystem functions requires mechanisms of stability.

We can become that mechanism.  We can change the way we think to support the health of our planet.  Just imagine the benefits….

Got some ideas?  Let me hear from you!

Want more inspiration?  Check out what my colleagues at Odyssey Earth are up to!

never let reality get in the way

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