Thailand jungle informationThailand jungle systems theory: the interdependence of all life

Humans have, for the most part, taken themselves out of the "natural" world. We often overemphasize technological advances at the expense of the environment. Rapid exploitation of finite natural resources and uncontrolled waste are acceptable in many businesses as the only way to grow. The price of this way of thinking is starting to come into the light. Modern high-tech lifestyles are competitive instead of communal and cooperative. An effect of this competition is the human-created deserts in place of once lush forests. We have polluted virtually every corner of the planet. Instead of taking just what the environment can replenish, we tend to take it all--right now!

Most scientific concepts involve breaking living organisms into parts, labeling those parts, and treating those parts as something somehow separate from the whole organism. Most people believe that the universe is comprised of boundless building materials from which technological progress can flourish. In contrast, in the systems theory, the basic principle underlying life is processes. In a process, one thing depends on another. If one step in the process doesn’t occur, then the subsequent steps cannot occur. The system comes to a halt.

Thus, in the systems theory approach to nature, the world and its inhabitants are seen to be interdependent. Everything relies on everything else for survival and prosperity. In contrast to many human institutions, the functioning of ecosystems is to establish cooperative relationships. The relationships promote the harmonious integration of systems.

In a natural setting, the competitive struggle for existence might at first glance appear to be mere brutality (whereby one animal eats another animal). However, the overall scheme is a sort of cooperation. Some species of fish, for example, swim in massive schools. This is perhaps a part of the acceptance by this species that some fish are sacrificed for the good of the whole species. The predator usually captures the weak and the old fish. If you follow evolutionary theory, this is good for the species, because it strengthens the species’ genetics. In other words, the stronger fish will survive and they will produce stronger offspring. This is actually one of the underlying themes of evolution.

The systems theory is also seen in the mangrove forests. Everything depends on everything else for both survival and prosperity. For example, the immature shrimp rely on the decomposing leaves of the trees for food. If there is an abundance of leaves, the shrimp flourish. If there is a shortage of leaves, the shrimp population decreases. If the shrimp population decreases, it is likely that the other animals that rely on the shrimp for food, such as the kingfishers and many species of fish, will decrease in numbers. Looking back even further, another example in the mangrove is the relationship between the mud and its many dependents.

The mud is made up of decomposing leaves, bark, and other sediment that comes into the mangrove forest during the tides. The mud is food for bacteria and plankton. The bacteria and plankton is food for immature crabs. The immature crabs are food for small fish. Small fish are food for bigger fish. Humans are at the top of this food chain. They eat the fish. However, if the mud is not in the mangrove forest, many species suffer the loss, such as the crabs, fish, and humans.

In sum, everything in the world, no matter what it is, depends on something else for its existence. If you understand and accept the systems theory you see the need for a balanced ecological view of the world, the need for changes in the manner in which we do business with each other, and the need for a general shift in technology toward a more friendly use of the limited supply of natural resources.

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