The foundation of modern ecology is based on what scientists call the trophic cascade, and is not what we loosely think of as “the balance of nature”, which is a cliche that belies the truth and reality of what actually happens.
What we want, as participants in our ecosystem and in our societies, is equilibrium–a state of rest or balance due to the equal action of opposing forces, or what in government is called, “checks and balances”.
The trophic test:
When I think of trophic in the context of the communities in which we humans live, I realize it’s relevance: Trophic can refer to nutrition, but also relates to its cousin, tropic (attracted to or acting upon something), and it also relates to the food web relationships of predators to prey. It’s not hard to see that this applies to how we cope in society. I believe our ecological survival is built deep into our DNA, regardless of how much we deny it and pretend we know better.
“But you have to know when to take, so you can give back. You can stop the grabbers, like Naomi Klein said, stop them from grabbing land and water rights and human rights. Grabbing women. People. You have to do things that don’t seem right, but you do them because you respect Mother Earth. The bay and the ospreys matter. It’s all connected.” ~ Excerpt from The Drowning Bay.
But, here’s the thing about trophic cascades: they require a species to intercede between predator and prey. Otherwise, there’ll be too many or two few of either. This interaction chain involving two or more adjacent links is what mediates between predator and prey, and is a natural phenomenon called a cascade. Like gravity.
You might have heard about how otters control sea urchins that impact kelp, or when wolves eat beavers, so they can’t construct ponds, or, if you live in the northeast, how Lyme disease spreads because of the breakdown of the wolf–coyote–fox–small rodent trophic cascade.
In his stunning book, The Nature of Nature, (National Geographic Society. Kindle Edition), scientist Enric Sala states that “One empirical proof of this hypothesis is that Lyme disease is rare in western New York, where foxes are abundant, even though the region has a large deer population.” He points out that the trophic cascade can be reversed (called rewilding) and shows that in a decade the predator/prey equilibrium can be restored.
BUT DO WE HAVE ENOUGH TIME, EVEN IF WE START TODAY?
The problem with our superior intelligence is that we thought we could bypass the interaction of interceding species. So we end up with cows, pigs and goats that are 60% of the land mammal biomass, because of lax environmental justice policy. And the human race allows the trade of animal parts that upsets the trophic cascades, and so we end up with H1N1 influenza, swine flu, and the coronavirus.
“After many plot twists, and moments of hope and despair during their heroic fight to save an important environment under assault, this book left me with hope for the future.”
~ Alana Coghlan.