a new natural history of recognizing ourselves as a part of nature
There is a widely held belief that we are exempt from the laws of nature, that we can treat the living earth without regard to consequences. The sense of unease that many of us feel in our personal, societal and environmental lives comes out of a disconnection from nature.
My study of the natural world has led me to believe that all things, events, and processes are interconnected. The natural history I propose is based on the premise that commonalities exist on a broad scale in complex, ever-changing physical and biological systems, and, as well, in the structures and organizations that we have created. Generally true patterns are those that repeat themselves or behave in similar ways through dissimilar systems. It is possible to draw lessons from them that can provide guidance for our actions in the world.
Pattern recognition is deep immersion into how things, events and processes are connected. Patterns represent the dynamical spirit of nature in the forms of chance and creativity pushed forward by instability. The purpose of this book is to identify patterns that demonstrate our connection to the natural world, to replace the person/nature split with a person/nature connection. It is for those of us who have decided to take responsibility for decisions made in our personal and public lives. It is for anyone seeking a mutually healing relationship with nature.
These patterns are identified and explained in detail in the book.
1) Nature is characterized by generally true patterns: things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems. An overriding pattern is that all actions have consequences. This implies that what we do in the world matters, yet too often our behavior is contrary to this pattern.
2) Nature in its three realms is about relationships. Nothing is one thing alone. Relationships evolve over time. All things, events and processes arise in our perceptions from somewhere. A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or actual process of something. Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable. All things, events, and processes of the entirety change and evolve; the processes of reality are always in motion, regardless of time scale.
3) In any situation, as energy dissipates, the very occurrence of that dissipation creates disruptions. Energy moves through all systems. Instability within a system leads to change.
4) Everywhere we look in nature, we find a primacy of change. All situations of things, events, processes, and organizations exhibit motion and change. There is no situation of unchanging condition.
5) In trying to find meaning, we must look at relationships and the entirety. Change compounds change. Each emergent state includes the properties of the previous stages. As things, events, and processes evolve, so also all the relationships among them.
6) Patterns describe potential, generally rather than precisely. All agents within all systems operate with some degree of imprecision. All systems change and evolve over time. All systems of the three realms are ultimately, even if distantly, connected to all other systems. A functional system is one in which the inflow of energy is sufficient to maintain its operations. The vitality of any system depends on the free flow of information. As organizations (social, biological, physical) increase in size and complexity, differentiation occurs. Information (or energy) does not move in a vacuum but through an already occupied space. Information exhibits the quality of continuance over time. All production is associated with certain costs. Major changes in a system can come suddenly. A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment. Reciprocity is inevitable. Systems must be built through the necessary developmental stages. Evolution is a constant in nature. Longevity is subject to limitations. Agents, acting separately or collectively, claim a portion of physical space as their own. The closer a system gets to equilibrium, the less resilient it becomes to any changes in the environment; All systems are dynamic and evolving or in stasis and dying. Change compounds.
Systems follow natural processes of renewal to maintain themselves, including the ability to evolve into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity. Energy moves through all systems. Structures of organization are systems of signals expressed in the form of energy, matter, and information in physical and cognitive systems. Organizational structures adapt to fit needs (or events or situations) as need arises. An alteration or change in an agent or entity can send permutations through a system. Systems develop where movement of energy pushes the system to the edge of chaos, the place where creativity and adaptation to changing conditions takes place. Diminishment of energy into a system leads the organizational structure to resemble a closed system. A net gain of energy input is needed to maintain any system over time without running down.
7) Wild-nature pattern lessons are about transformation, including loss. Systems follow natural processes of change to maintain or transform into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity.
8) We and everything are connected.