- each member receives their needs from society,
- each member provides for the well-being of that society through their work.
As good parents we all want our children and grandchildren to have a better life than we did. That desire represents the essence of a sustainable society. According to Fritjof Capra, PhD (physics), “a sustainable society is one that is able to fulfill its needs without diminishing the chances for future generations”. For the perfect example of a sustainable society we need only to look at nature, whose ecosystems represent sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms. The Center for Ecoliteracy has identified six of Mr. Capra’s principles for a sustainable community as core ecological concepts, which are:
- Networks – All living things in an ecosystem are interconnected through networks of relationship. They depend on this web of life to survive. For example, in a garden, a network of pollinators promotes genetic diversity; plants, in turn, provide nectar and pollen to the pollinators.
- Nested systems – Nature is made up of systems that are nested within systems. Each individual system is an integrated whole and, at the same time, part of larger systems. Changes within one can affect the sustainability of the others that are nested within it, as well as the larger systems in which it exists. For example, cells are nested within organs within organisms within ecosystems.
- Cycles – Members of an ecological community depend on the exchange of resources in continual cycles. Cycles within an ecosystem intersect with larger regional and global cycles. For example, water cycles through a garden and is also part of the global water cycle.
- Flows – Each organism needs a continual flow of energy to stay alive. The constant flow of energy from the sun to Earth sustains life and drives most ecological cycles. For example, energy flows through a food web when a plant converts the sun’s energy through photosynthesis; a mouse eats the plant; a snake eats the mouse, and a hawk eats the snake. In each transfer, some energy is lost as heat, which requires an ongoing energy flow into the system.
- Development – All life, from individual organisms to species and ecosystems, changes over time. Individuals develop and learn, species adapt and evolve, and organisms in ecosystems co-evolve. For example: Hummingbirds and honeysuckle flowers have developed in ways that benefit each other; the hummingbird’s color vision and slender bill coincide with the colors and shapes of the flowers.
- Dynamic Balance – Ecological communities act as feedback loops, so that the community maintains a relatively steady state that also has continual fluctuations. This dynamic balance provides resiliency in the face of ecosystem change. For example, ladybugs in a garden eat aphids. When the aphid population falls, some ladybugs die off, which permits the aphid population to rise again, which supports more ladybugs. The populations of the individual species rise and fall, but balance within the system allows them to thrive together.
By its own definition a sustainable community and an ecosystem share the same structure. Therefore, what causes one to flourish or perish will have the identical effect on the other. Taking all of this into consideration, it is evident that we must act more responsibly as stewards of the family resources if we sincerely want a world left for our offspring.
By Angela Moore Duck