“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money” Cree Indian Proverb.
Wise words spoken such a long time ago, and yet it means more today than ever before. But are we listening ? We continue to ignore the warnings, we do not listen to those who offer alternative ways to live. We have achieved many technological breakthroughs, yet we continue to live isolated lives, separated from ourselves and the environment around us. We continue to compete with one another to achieve great materialistic wealth and possessions which we use to try and fill a void within us that can never be filled, so we consume more resources at an alarming rate for profit without the concern for what it’s doing to the ecosystem of the planet. We still think of everything as just things, trees are used for wood, animals are used for food, land is owned, sold or purchased, water must be paid for. We then fight with one another over these resources and go to war, causing more cycles of hate, loss of life and continuing the destruction of our planet. There is no winner of this game, it will continue unless we break the cycle and change it. We must be the change we wish to see in the world, it all starts with self. If we can change ourselves the system must change with us, we can start this by informing ourselves of what the truth is.
The truth is that we are far more connected to each other than we know, we are not separate from this world we are part of the universal thread of life. As Leonardo Da Vinci once quoted “Learn how to see, realise that everything connects to everything else”. In this article I will present to you what I have found, I will present to you proof that the very things in this world that we take for granted are actually tied together with a very fine thread that holds the ecosystem together and by just pulling on one of those threads will see it all come tumbling down around us. The earth, the ecosystem, all the life on it and within it are deeply connected. The very survival of many animals depend on the survival of others, that includes humans. Some of us might feel disconnected and isolated from nature but that does not mean nature is separate from us, there are many animals we rely on for our very existence. Many animals actually assist humanity by performing their natural roles in their environment. These are just some of the animals and plants that are critical for our very survival.
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving strength to our people”. Franklin D. Roosevelt 1882 – 1945
Trees are seen as an important commodity to many, they are used to build furniture and homes that can then be sold for profit, so there is a lot of money being made by cutting down trees. However do we really understand how important they are to our lives and the world around us. The trees provide the very oxygen we need to breath, so technically we are very slowly suffocating ourselves – and yet it continues. Life on earth could never exist without trees as they produce most of the oxygen that humans and wildlife need to breathe. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen using a process called ‘photosynthesis’. There would be no rain without trees, this is because trees absorb water from the soil and release it through evaporation. The water vapour released is the major mechanism by which air is remoistened. Forests are like giant air filters for the planet. Trees purify the air by absorbing pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, reducing pollution. Trees prevent topsoil erosion because they break the force of wind and rain on the soil, their roots bind the soil, and their decayed, falling leaves are absorbed by the earth.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man”. Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955
Bees are very important in maintaining the ecosystem of our planet, and without them we would not be here now. Bees feed on pollen and nectar produced by plants. Female bees collect pollen to feed their larvae, storing it in pollen baskets in their legs or on branched hairs on their body. As they go from flower to flower they inevitably lose some of the pollen they have collected. Some of this pollen may land on the female parts of other flowers of the same species, resulting in cross-pollination. Bees and honey bees provide over one-third of our food supply as a result of their pollination which is essential for the reproduction of plants. The honey bee is a major pollinator of many of our food crops, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops. So if honeybees disappear then foods that we take for granted will cease to exist. If the honey bees do not pollinate the crops, the crops do not grow and produce the food that gets harvested which feed our families. So bees play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystem. However bees are dangerously in decline, Bees are losing their food sources due to rural and forested lands constantly being developed for housing and other projects, this reduces the flower sources bees feed on, while pesticides we use on crops are also killing many bees.
“The threat of extinction is more real than many realise, and the damage done to elephants directly leads to the destruction of the ecosystem”. Li Bingbing Actress and Singer
Elephants are among the most intelligent creatures with whom we share the planet with. Often nicknamed “the gardeners of the forests”, they inspire respect from the people they share the landscape with, giving them a strong cultural significance. They are an important species, playing a pivotal role in maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live. During the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water. This not only allows the elephants to survive in dry environments when droughts strike, but also provides water for other animals that share harsh habitats. When forest elephants eat, they create gaps in the vegetation. These gaps allow new plants to grow and create pathways for other smaller animals to use. They are one of the major ways in which trees disperse seeds; some species rely entirely upon elephants for seed dispersal. Wherever they live, elephants leave dung that is full of seeds from the many plants they eat. When this dung is deposited the seeds are sown and grow into new grass, bushes and trees, boosting the health of the ecosystem.
Bats often nicknamed “farmers of the tropics” provide a number of essential services; for example without bats many crops such as bananas, mangoes, dates and tequila would fail. Bats are exceptionally important to our ecosystem. Insectivorous bats, which make up 70 percent of bat species, perform nocturnal insect control services by consuming millions of pest insects each year. In many places of the world, mosquitoes are vectors of deadly diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. A single brown bat can eat up to a thousand mosquitoes in one hour, so without them we would have more disease. Guano, or bat droppings have significant roles for plant dispersal. Unlike other seed-dispersing animals, bats travel far distances, helping plants to grow and survive in a variety of locations. Due to their effective seed dispersing of plants such as avocados, figs, cashews, dates, and their aid in restoring forests, they are considered very important in many tropical and desert ecosystems, meaning the survival of other species. The Earth without bats would be a very different place. Bats are indicators of general health and monitoring their populations provides us with early warning systems of irreversible damage.
Birds also keep things in balance, they pollinate plants, disperse seeds, scavenge carcasses and recycle nutrients back into the earth. They eat bugs, mosquitoes and just like many species this world would not be the same without them. Birds like bats are indicators of general health and monitoring them will indicate the general state of the environment.
Ants aid in decomposition and turn up more soil than earthworms. When ants dig tunnels, they aerate the soil and recycle nutrients. This activity is crucial in maintaining healthy soil for plant and food growth, they help clean up rainforests and keep ecosystems in balance.
Frogs also act as indicators for the general health of their ecosystems. Frog skin is very porous and permeable, allowing substances present in the environment to be absorbed within their fatty tissues. Since these amphibians have the ability to live terrestrially and aquatically, they can indicate contamination dilemmas for both habitats. Since frogs will most often be the first animals to react to biological hazards. Though not as effective as bats, frogs do help in insect control. They are also a food source to many carnivorous species and are needed for maintaining balanced ecosystems.
Spiders help keep the home free of pest insects, by limiting the population of unwanted pests around the household, spiders can actually decrease the risk of many common diseases, just like bats and birds spiders consume mosquitoes which reduces the risk of spreading malaria. Spiders are also a food source for other animals further adding to their importance to the ecosystem.
Plankton is a collective term for a myriad of bacteria, viruses, plant-like microbes and small animals that drift at the mercy of the winds and the ocean currents and wind. They are the base of the whole food web that lives in just about any body of water you care to imagine: from your bird bath in the garden up to the vast oceans that cover most of the planet. Temperature extremes hold no bounds and plankton survive being encased in ice in our Arctic and Antarctic oceans and can survive near boiling waters in hot springs. Not only that, but plankton cells can be carried large distance in aerosols in the wind, and some people even believe they can survive in space. They not only fuel aquatic ecosystems, but some release gases that can influence cloud formation and our climate.
Some whale populations have declined by 90% in the past 300 years, nearly 3 million whales were wiped out in whaling last century in what is likely to be the largest cull of any species in human history. Despite their ‘endangered’ status, over 700 of these majestic creatures have been killed since 2006. This again is suicide by human beings, the removal of whales from the ocean worldwide is essentially agreeing to increase carbon emissions, whales play a significant role in marine ecosystems and their removal is no more sustainable than deforestation in the Amazon. Just as plants and trees need to be fertilized to survive and produce the oxygen we breathe, similarly in the ocean there are microscopic, plant-like organisms called phytoplankton which produce approximately one-half of the earth’s oxygen. According to Nicole et al. (2010), whale faeces are rich in iron, an essential nutrient for phytoplankton colonies to reproduce at a rapid rate. This faecal iron is a direct result of the iron-rich krill on which whales feed. Through the process of digestion, the iron is “freed” from the krill and made available as nutrients to phytoplankton, on which krill themselves feed, creating an endlessly positive feedback loop for a healthy marine ecosystem.
Sharks have evolved in a tight interdependence with their ecosystem. They tend to eat very efficiently, going after the old, sick, or slower fish in a population that they prey upon, keeping that population healthier. Sharks groom many populations of marine life to the right size so that those prey species don’t cause harm to the ecosystem by becoming too populous. The ocean ecosystem is made up of very intricate food webs. Sharks are at the top of these webs and are considered to be “keystone” species, meaning that removing them causes the whole structure to collapse. For this reason, the prospect of a food chain minus its apex predators may mean the end of the line for many more species.
Rodents are the largest group of mammals in the world. These diverse creatures live on all major continents except Antarctica. They adapt to life in most any habitat and can be found from swamps and tropical rainforests to deserts. Rodents play an important role in our ecosystem. Nearly every kind of animal preys on rodents to some extent, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, other mammals and even fish. Biologists have long known that tropical forest rodents play a key role in spurring growth of new trees in the forest by spreading seeds. Many rodents such as ground squirrels, pocket gophers and prairie dogs bury underground, digging extensive burrows and tunnels. These tunnels not only create habitat for many other underground species, they also provide important benefits for the soil. Digging tunnels turns over the soil, mixing the top layers of litter and faeces with the deeper layers. This process fertilizes the soil and buries carbon, essential for plant growth. The tunnels allow water to flow deep into the soil rather than running off, and also carry oxygen through sediment layers, aerating the soil to encourage root growth.
play an important role in the tropical forests in which they live. They help disperse seeds throughout the forests and create places where seedlings can grow and replenish the forest. This is vital to the other animals that share their habitat, as well as humans who live in and around the forest and rely on that regrowth to sustain their environments.
When you start looking at all the threads within our ecosystem, it is so very clear that everything has an impact on everything else even if not intentionally. What I have presented to you in this article is merely a grain of sand in this enormous ecosystem which is teeming with life, even at the most unlikely places on the planet. The web of life is so finely balanced and interconnected, when you realise this it’s a magical feeling, the veil has been lifted and you now begin to see the world with new eyes. But then it hits you, everything is in balance with its surroundings, except for us, why? because we are under the illusion that we are separate from nature and therefore we have no respect for it, we continue to act like we are masters of a great empire and nature is only another resource which we can control and use. There should be no surprise either then that the earth will continue to change, bringing more natural disasters which in turn will lead to more fear. We are victims of our own circumstance, yet if we awaken to the idea that we are actually right in the heart of this ecosystem and our existence is intertwined with all life, all will become clear. The universal law of cause and effect states that for every action there must be a reaction, therefore nature and the web of life has only been responding to our own actions. As we continue to live out of touch with nature, cutting down trees, hunt and kill many species of animal to the point of extinction, it has impacted the environment and our ecosystem, this could then be influencing the natural disasters that also affect us. How can we change all this? we can start by simply changing one person at a time. Change yourself, change your thinking, this has an effect on the collective consciousness that we are all connected to. When we change ourselves, the system will change with us. We must also change how we respond to each other, instead of competition – cooperation, there is an African tribe saying that states “I am because we are” if we bring this philosophy into how we embrace life, nature and each other, we can change the world. equally when we settle down nature and the earth changes will also respond and settle.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed”. Terence McKenna
By Stephen Metcalfe-Davies