Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ecology: systems work better as a WHOLE unit.

6:58 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments

I LOVE Ted Talks. In fact, Ted Talks are what helped get me through some of my more patience required days of field research in California. I watched, or rather listened to, this video while sitting in a tent monitoring cameras set up on stationary rattlesnakes. Some, not even bothering to come out of their burrows. Thanks to Dan Barber, I still learned some important things about ecology that day, and it has stuck with me ever since. 

I love every message he delivers in this video. Feeding the world, better tasting food, reducing pollution, increasing sustainability, these things are not up to the farmer. They are determined by the basic principles of ecology. Every system works better as a whole. This farm lets nature do its thing, and the fish taste amazing. How about that.

Let me a give you some other examples.
  1. In our own bodies:
    I've been watching a lot of health documentaries lately. My family doesn't exactly have the greatest track record with cancer, and what better prevention is there than proper diet and exercise? What I've heard over and over again is that there is nothing better for you than a WHOLE food, plant based diet. For example, what I mean by this, is that we know that beta-carotene is an essential nutrient in carrots and other vegetables, but when we extract it and put it in tablet form, our bodies do not get the same benefits from it as when it is paired with the other organic compounds found in the vegetable.
  2. Predator-Prey Dynamics:
    Wolves were hunted to near extinction because they were considered to a be a threat to our food source. When they were reintroduced, scientists were pleasantly surprised to find that their existence in the food chain not only helps keep ungulate populations down, but in doing so, it improves water quality which of course benefits our local freshwater fish. Because ungulates are now weary of the wolves' presence, they do not feed along the banks of rivers and streams, which allows for young vegetation to grow and thus prevents erosion. There are also fewer direct deposits of feces. 
  3. Agriculture: 
    We took cows off of pastures and gave them corn instead to supposedly feed more people, quicker. But because they are ruminants, the lack of grass produces and extra acidity in their stomachs which hosts a higher amount of E. Coli (the harmful kind) and creates all kinds of other health problems to the cows. So, we solved this by pumping antibiotics into their systems, which in turn goes through our systems, which leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and washing beef with ammonia. And let's be real, that's just gross. 
I like to point out examples in ecology that we can all easily relate to, e.i. the things we eat, so that when conservationists talk about our oceans' and forests' biodiversity crashing, or a certain species dying out, maybe we'll pay closer attention. 

This fish "farm" in Southern Spain knows what's up. 


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