Understanding Our Earth
“Spaceship Earth” is a term originated by Buckminster Fuller who characterized our planet as a closed, self-contained system capable of recycling life-sustaining materials, not unlike a spaceship or space station. The field of ecology is an attempt to understand this closed, self-contained relationship between living things and their environment. Some say that ecology is both the oldest and the newest field of inquiry into the workings of our world.
Ecology can be considered the oldest field of human inquiry into nature because our early human existence depended on how nature worked from the more practical view of what was needed to survive: what we could eat, (or what would eat us), and how to survive in nature using what nature gave us. In other words, our survival depended on our understanding of the way things worked. We understood our connection to the earth and nature because were literally part of it. The earth’s resources appeared to be inexhaustible. Partly because our population numbers were small, and our technology lacking. We never took more than what the earth could give us. Like living within a budget, it was easy to live within the earth’s resources.
Ecology can also be considered the newest field of human scientific inquiry because we have finally reached a point in our history where, by our sheer population numbers, we have made such a great impact on the earth with our demands on her resources that humans are upsetting the balance of the very same closed system that we depend on to nurture us. In our drive to gain control over our environment, we have separated ourselves from it and have lost sight of our connections to nature. Because we still believe the earth ’s resources to be never ending, and we view ourselves to be outside the laws of nature, we are headed for trouble. What we term “natural disasters” is the earth’s way of reminding us that we are NOT in control and are still subject to the natural laws that govern this planet and that we are still very much a part of nature, not apart from her. So now again, it appears our survival will depend on our reconnecting to nature and renewing our understanding of the way things work. Just as we must live within our means financially we must learn to live within the earth’s resources…or risk facing the ultimate bankruptcy.
EARTH, WIND, FIRE, & WATER
Modern science studies the environment by examining the structure of the ecosystems within it. An ecosystem refers to all the organisms (the living or biotic), their environment (the non-living or abiotic), and all their interactions. Because the earth’s ecosystems (the biosphere) are so massive and complex, we’ll look at our ecosystems and resources much as the ancient cultures of many parts of this world looked at Mother Earth. Everything around them consisted of various combinations of the 4 basic elements: EARTH, WIND, FIRE, and WATER. Maybe by viewing nature from an old/new perspective we can develop a new understanding and respect for the planet and our place in it.