Complete Society

Ideas and strategies for a sustainable world

Save the little guys – everything is connected

During Presidio orientation Hunter Lovins made a simple statement that sounded at first like just another in a series of climate change warnings but thinking about it a little more, I think it does a good job of capturing how the whole world is an interconnected system:

“If we kill the phytoplankton, all life ends”

Take the first part of the this sentence and focus on the “we”. If you just hear that the phytoplankton are dying, you might say, that I’ve got nothing to do with that, let the marine biologists and oceanographers figure out who’s doing that and get it fixed.

But, by saying “we”, this actually states that everyone is responsible in some way. The phytoplankton are probably dying from a variety of causes, including climate change, fresh water mixing in the oceans, temparature drop in the Atlantic current, toxic chemical releases, etc. Since all of us in our current way of living contribute to these effects, we all take ownership of consequences. And remember that’s its not just the effects we know about – its likely that that cup of coffee you’re drinking is killing phytoplankton halfway across the world in some way you don’t understand.

And btw, notice the active verb “kill”. It’s not just that the phytoplankton are dying, we are actively killing them.

Now, look at the second part of the statement, “all life ends”. The fact that the phytoplankton are dying off is more than just an isolated event, it impacts everything living.   This emphasizes again that everything is connected, that even the smallest living organism that you may never have even heard of before can make the difference between life and death for human beings.

Now for me this doesn’t mean you have to think of everything in the world for anything you do every day – that’s an approach that keeps you from getting stuff done.  But I think it’s important to keep that awareness and understand that nothing happens in isolation.

Again, whole systems thinking and when it comes to a biology and life, the whole system is the whole planet.

Exercise for the reader:  Pick anything you did today.  Think about it’s effects at one or two levels of bigger scope than just your life.


August 23, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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