Mission Statement: Humans in an Ecosystem Context

In Olympic NP about to bond with a Doug Fir

Well hello!  You are here, and I’m so glad.  I love reading blogs for two reasons.  First, I might literally be the nosiest person alive and I love to hear people’s stories.  I feel we can learn so much by looking at the experiences of others.  Second, I love the freedom of information that comes with blogs, but, as a lover of critical thinking (who isn’t really?) I also love reading an entry and thinking “that’s crazy talk.”  For this second reason, I’ve always been a little hesitant to start my own blog.  I do a whole lot of crazy talking.  But I think I have finally settled on a topic about which I can mad gab with some authority. 
The idea of viewing myself in an ecosystem context was born a few years ago when I was attempting to read Jim Merkel’s book Radical Simplicity.  He talks about equitable living and how much land space would be available to support each human life if the productive land on Earth was shared equally (spoiler alert, it isn’t).  That was about 4.5 acres*.  These 4.5 acres would have to produce everything to meet an individual’s needs:  food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.  At this point, I wasn’t too freaked out by the idea.  I like to share and I live a pretty simple life, so 4 acres should be more than enough for me!  Then Merkel points out the obvious flaw in this plan… that’s for 4 acres for each human.  Just people.  My mind was literally blown.  What about the orangutans (my faves), walruses, clown fish, fruit flies, and guava trees!  How many resources should we be leaving for them?  I literally couldn’t believe I had never thought about this.  Certainly, my personal choices have been influenced by social justice and environmental issues, but seeing the two paired in such an explicit way was shocking.  What was a little hippie-ecologist to do?!
Sea kayaking and viewing some human/wildlife interactions
What I did was put down Merkel’s book and stressed about it for around 3 months.  Then, I decided I needed to make some serious changes in my life.  I want to figure out how we can have enough World to support human populations and all the beautiful biodiversity that makes the Earth so truly special.  In my mind, the only way to do this is to view ourselves in the context of the ecosystem in which we live.  Humans have to stop trying to act outside of the constraints of the natural world and start acting with it to solve our increasingly extreme global challenges.  Dang Rachel, that’s heavy, right?  Yeah, it can be sometimes, but challenges can also be fun.  I love coming up with a new idea and thinking, “Why haven’t I always been doing it this way?”  We should never be afraid to challenge our preconceived notions about the world, because, in the process, we usually find some notions we long held about ourselves become outdated as well.   
Catching birds in the marsh 
At this point you are thinking:  Who is this crazy person?  Here are my vitals.  I’m a graduate student attempting to earn a PhD in ecology.  I study salt marshes ecosystems generally, but I like to focus on food webs and their impacts on ecology and conservation.  That’s a really snazzy way of saying I watch thing eat and look at a ton of bugs under a microscope.  I’m a vegetarian (sometimes vegan), and I’ve probably blocked your way down the grocery isle because I was engrossed in reading the ingredients to Raisin Bran (did you know that the second ingredient is sugar?  Seriously!  Raisin Bran.).  For years now I have been an obsessive traveler, and I can never see enough!  I love my cat and two turtle babies.  And I’m not perfect.  I’m just learning, like everybody else.  But I’m enthusiastic, which is always half the battle.
Garcia (aka: the best kitty eva’)
So, what is this blog about exactly?  The answer is nothing and everything.  This will be a lifestyle blog detailing how and why I live my life the way I do.  The twist being, I will attempt to explain the ecological impacts (or my perception of said impacts) of these actions.  I’ll tell you what I’m struggling with, and I’ll let you know when I come up with solutions.  And I’ll probably post lots of pictures of my cat.  Let’s start that now. 
*Merkel’s book was published in 2003 when the global population was significantly lower.  This number has likely changed.

2 thoughts on “Mission Statement: Humans in an Ecosystem Context

  1. Disclaimer–I haven't read Merkel's book.

    Wouldn't the 4.5 acres per person have to include some other life, even if it's not the stately walruses? At the very least, there'd be the pollinators and scavengers, and then you have all the plant life that would serve as a food/shelter/transportation/clothing source. And I don't think the clown fish would need to claim too much productive land. 😉

    P.S. Garcia has a challenger in the form of Woodstock!


  2. You are totally right on several counts. Haha, and clown fish was maybe not the best example! The idea, from my understanding, is land used for the calculation is all the productive land on the globe surface. So, that means that only animals that live in the same available land as humans (so not alpine, desert, or ocean spp. etc.) are actually considered. It's not super realistic idea in that way; takes out cross ecotone energy flow. Otherwise, I'm thinking the things living on the land, other than the person, would really depend on how the land was tended. So, the soil ecosystem and the pollinators directly interacting with whatever chosen food crops would be fine. Decomposes, probably also doing well to a certain extent.

    I think I portrayed it as an absolutely realistic metaphor, which it is not. It have a lot of utility for explanation and thought, but the logic can only be extended so far.

    Also, Woodstock is adorbs and if I had pictures of him, they would totally be posted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s