There are many different methods for describing and understanding the health and resiliency of ecosystems. However, because humans rather arbitrarily create ecosystem boundaries, it is difficult to accurately interpret what is going on. It is unlikely that we will ever fully understand or appreciate the complicated interactions within and between ecosystems. It is beyond the capabilities of scientific investigation to fully understand the human impact on our surrounding ecosystems. In other words, the full implications of our actions.
This is the essence of our ethical dilemma.
Knowing that our limited knowledge of an ecosystem is, at any point in time, largely uncertain and unpredictable, we ask what can we do? In order to comprehend even the most fundamental significance of the complex relationships contained therein, an inquiring systems approach must be engaged that is compatible with the purposes, goals and objectives of our exploration and interest. An inquiring systems approach makes as few assumptions as possible, asking many questions with the ‘beginners mind’.
The following key ecosystemological principles are essential.
These principles outline how human beings may live in an ethical, responsible and compatible manner here on earth. “Ishi”, the last of the Yahi Indians, inspired these principles with his impeccable values and lifestyle perspectives.
- “Health”, in any ecosystem, is not the absence of disease or problems but rather the ability to recover from disturbance and disruption. This is the essence of sustainability. All ecosystems are constantly in the process of disruption and recovery.
- For any ecosystem to recover, it must be resilient. Resilience, simply stated, is the ability to restore oneself to a state of “health”.
- To be resilient, ecosystems must have available the full complement of their uniquely necessary resources from which to draw upon, in response to any disruption in their ecosystem.
- Therefore, biodiversity must be maintained and available for use when needed.
Additional key ecosystemological principles for humans:
- Take care of what you already have, use it wisely and well – to reduce the need to disrupt the ecosystem to obtain more.
- Be attentive to the difference between needs and desires…do you really need more?
- If you really do need more of it, take care in the extraction process. Extraction, by definition, is disruptive – potentially causing harm and havoc to the complex relationships within the ecosystem from whence it came. The full recovery of the ecosystem may be compromised in the extraction process.
- Cherish what you have – as many living things were sacrificed and ecosystems put at risk in the process of extraction.
- Respect the life force of all things natural, as they each have value and play a critical role within each ecosystem. As such, their wellbeing has critical implications for sustaining your own health, all human survival and the wellbeing of the planet.
- Be aware – Nature is not inherently interested in nor has any desire to assist or support the survival of human beings on this planet.
In addition to founding and leading ISI since 1978, Dr. Cole is an award winning keynote speaker, and author of numerous articles and papers. Among his many accomplishments his favorite includes the creation and development of the first systemic & interdisciplinary Environmental Undergraduate and Doctoral Program in the Conservation & Resource Studies Department at U.C. Berkeley. He also helped co-found the first urban recycling center in the US and the Berkeley Ecology Center.
Loren has also designed and built an active and passive solar home, raised hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients, and educated over 26,000 industry leaders in the area of Ethically Sustainable Ecosystem Management.