Earth Eyes by Juergen Faelchle

How Ecological Succession Compares to People’s “Social Succession” with Special Warning?

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle

Ecological succession is the process of gradual change in a community over time. It is based on organization that can predict the sense of a new development in any habitat. In some ways, nothing can remain the same except adapting to change itself.

With nature, if we had a 100 years to spare, we could objectively watch ecological plant succession in action adapting to an altered environment in predictable ways starting from grasses, bushes, small trees and larger trees over time to restore balance and order.

Nature’s ecosystems are complex, dynamic and adaptive with inbuilt resilience and capacity to cope with environmental disturbances or stress and return to former stability.

What about a community’s systems or social succession to survive a severe uprooting of normal life? Is there anything about nature’s ecological principles that can help people to pass through any such a disaster to a level of sustainability again?

Social succession relative to a community’s survival has yet to be defined in a dictionary, but the comparison can be made to nature’s ecological succession. The case is made in 3 parts with a few supporting details:

  1. Common principles relative to both nature’s and people’s communities
  2. What if a global disaster undermines social systems and foundations?
  3. Warning about never losing the collective will

Part 1: Common principles relative to both nature’s and people’s communities

One consequence of living is to change and adapt as one’s environment is altered. The main issues become how to help manage connections, maintain diversity, broaden participation, and foster adaptive systems thinking.

  • we live in an interconnected world and need to think and act globally
  • as environments change, adaptations are small and doable by everyone … example, wear a mask
  • transitions are long term and require tolerance and patience
  • a diversity of participants are needed as facilitators to help the common goals of survival
  • front-line workers become the essential links to survival from the janitors, drivers, cashiers to researchers, doctors and bureaucrats
  • a democratic system assures every member steps beyond private rights to common good

Part 2: What if a global disaster undermines people’s foundations and systems?

How can a society survive when people are impacted economically, physically and mentally? On a planet of 7.5 billion people, nobody is immune to this novel respiratory virus, CoVid 19, that can destroy lungs and other organs without natural immunity.

In many ways, this viral pandemic will challenge the important principles of ecological or social succession because of one reason … stay isolated for safety.

Individual isolation is recommended as the main way to stop infections but lock-downs inside homes and social distancing are NOT the norms for Nature’s principles of change and adaptions. After a forest fire, the inhabitants draw together even more to support each other’s life-cycles. Unnatural situations can arise:

  • individual communities are easily fragmented into fears, scapegoats and self-defensive behavior
  • several socio-economic dysfunctions are displayed between racial and ethnic inequalities
  • economic recession can follow loss of jobs, displacements, future employment
  • virtual reality grips a stronger hold on online retail monopolies that suppress individual small businesses
  • specialized e-learning for in-house groups removes group problem solving and decision making
  • virtual relationships are objectified without working and building together
  • emotions rely on sensory experiences to feel empathy, sense of fairness and equality may atrophy
  • leaders seek ways to integrate technology into every aspect of civic life like surveillance and vaccinations without democratic approval
  • autocratic dispositions that promise instant solutions or panaceas to placate the helpless, hopeful believers
  • wearing a simple face mask to protect everyone from breathing in a viral disease, symptomatically or asymptomatically, as advised by scientists, becomes a political football.

Over time these less-than-normal routines can evolve into divisive anti-social problems with serious loss of natural affinities by developing more tribes, partisanship and nationalization instead of common cause and effect within globalization.

Think about Nature that doesn’t set leadership roles … just common affinity for each organism’s right to exist. Nature does not offer miracles … just logical progressions from single cells to complex beings and systems. There is no personal blame or false dichotomies — save lives or save economy. Only holistic systemic fixes can return to some kind of reciprocal normalcy.

Nature offers the only solution that it is only the collective will, that can make lasting changes.

Part 3: Warning: Never lose the collective will

In times of such overpowering disruption of normal standards or routines, the opportunity is availed to make changes and adaptations for a more inclusive and successful community within a better environment for all citizens, including nature’s rights.

  • plan a different economy that is kinder to the climate and the planet
  • form cooperative societies worldwide to pursue interests in science, artisans, entrepreneurship, culture
  • be resourceful in new developing new technologies and skills while protecting ecological balance and nature’s rights to exist, regenerate and restore.

Most importantly, no crisis should ever reduce the people’s sense of belonging to and functioning as a community. We must never regress to living each for himself or revert to living within an isolationist policy. As intelligent human beings, let’s choose to follow Nature’s presence as prerogatives to man-made declarations or regulations.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist

Imagine the pandemic like wind currents in our global community

In summary, I understand there is more philosophy here than practicalities in making a living or reacting to how the economy survives to run the country. The hope is that a few new seeds may be considered in a different world of adaptation, recovery and stability to what really matters.

To that end, this solitary birch tree personifies how ecological succession could work in single human terms through his experiences.

…Care for your own small space, no need to aggrandize.

…Look after basic needs of others in your community, weak to strong.

…Be true to yourself based on your actions, not appearance or others’ opinions.

…No need to compete, stay content, maintain calmness within imitations.

…Understand there is a beginning for every ending, as well as social succession for recovery.

…Whatever else, enjoy nature’s communion. Take time to smell a flower and watch a tree dance in the breeze and wonder how nature connects and protects us all.

Questions and comments are always important and appreciated. How do you feel about nature’s principles to help us through this health and environmental crisis?


“Nature is full of rules to help sustain each other but there is one great law whether it is written or not. This greatest law of nature is we are all connected … when we change our seeds we change our biology … when we pollute our food, we pollute ourselves. It is impossible to alter one strand without changing the others.”

Excerpt: Ecological Succession of Birchum Birch

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