The idea of balance in nature is ancient, but in the 1970’s it became a kind of cause for which biologists, conservation experts and ecologists rallied behind. The problem is, there may be no such thing as balance in the natural world. The term Chaos theory is employed, or dynamic equilibrium, to better describe how natural systems work.
That they work is both the problem and the puzzle. Yes, natural systems do operate with checks and balances. Flora and fauna do sometimes thrive for millions of years, but always there are external factors such as meteors, natural disasters, and more recently, humankind affecting the “balance.”
To quote John Hammond from Jurassic Park, “…These creatures require our absence to survive, not our help. If we could only step aside and trust in nature, life will find a way.” Despite a few hundred thousand years of man, life is still extant on earth, but human numbers are choking and impacting life as never before.
Life does indeed manage to survive against great odds, here on earth. But so far as science can tell, although humans have caused extinctions for millennia, the resources now at peril, among them the human beings, have never been impacted by humanity’s colossal footprint so much as today.
Strangely, there is a major problem with some of the more beautiful and soul-finding aspects of nature. When one looks across a vast mountain range, or a climax forest, one feels a kind of harmony, a right balance, which many call Wholeness or Oneness. It is thought that this uplifting sense of belonging and harmony is the source of wishful thinking that led many to believe nature, and by association the creator and creation, are somehow in a self-fulfilling balance of resilience and form. There are two issues that arise with such thinking. The first is that humans feel historical comfort at nature’s bounty. They then view the natural world as “designed” for them, and feel it is infinitely abundant. But the world is finite, and has not supported life for most of its existence. Complacency is not advisable.
The second difficulty is that although it is a truly spiritual and inherent joy of healing that one can sense immersed in nature, it is not true that Nature is “self sustaining.” Any amount of undo external pressure, such as the disappearance of just one species, will affect the rest in a cascade, perhaps of catastrophe. Conversely, such change may be in the long view, an advantage to some, such as, the rise of the mammals after the disappearance of dinosaurs. Critics of sustainability, then waste no time at all attacking those seeking “One-ness” in nature. They level charges of factual, hard statistics that frame nature as a severe adversary who cannot wait to wallop the human species again with tsunamis, earthquakes, ferocious predators, or worse.
The real problem seems to be that the human brain finds evidence to support whatever view they favor. Those thinking we bring loss to ourselves see self imposed suffering caused by holocausts, genocides, exploding refineries, oil spills, breaking dams, slavery, deforestation, epidemics and so much more, every where humans go.
Yet, as they do occur, those who blame nature/human nature, would have their “I told you so” moments to savor. They double down on efforts to control, contain, and manage resources, to thereby master nature. But this view is just as false, and based on arrogant entitlement. Sustainability is often invoked toward attaining balance, but sustainability means conservation despite imbalance.
It should be obvious to most by now, that humans do indeed impact the environments in which they come to dwell. It should also be observed that consuming nature carelessly causes harm to humans who need air, water, food and soil to live. The truth should be taught to children. And it is a difficult, but wonderful truth. Nature is not self-balancing, although earth has proven incredibly resilient. It is earth, after all that cleans up toxins, garbage, war scars, lost forests, and denuded habitats. However, Nature does have laws, no organism can violate them, and resources that sustain life, need to be protected.
It is precisely because humans upset even resilient systems, that they have the power and hopefully the mind and spirit, to want to heal in any small way they can to preserve those systems. If this is admitted, perhaps humans can appreciate and thrive in a greener abundance with nature, and the Oneness they feel in nature can be understood as not a given, but an earned gift.