Let us revisit this idea of flows once again.
The reality of our existence is that we are each a temporary pattern of organic molecules within the flow of nutrients through the ecosystem. The ecosystem cycles energy, materials, nutrients and information. It is this cycling through the individuals of the many species that provides what each individual needs.
Each of the cells in your body is a cycling of energy, materials, nutrients and information. It is a pattern within the pattern of your body. Your body is a cycling of energy, materials, nutrients and information within the ecosystem. The cycling must feed back on itself in order to maintain coherence. When the cycles stop feeding back on themselves the pattern dissipates.
Everywhere we look in nature
we find this pattern of cycling within a pattern of cycling. Nature is fractal. The cycling at the largest scale is a reflection of the cycling at the smallest scale. The larger pattern does not exist without the smaller pattern. Your body requires healthy cells. The ecosystem requires healthy individuals of a diversity of species. The cycling must feed back on itself at the level of the cell, at the level of the individual and at the level of system.
Visualize a tree.
Starting at the ground the roots go down and the branches go up. The branching of the root tips mirrors the branching at the ends of the branches. The branching pattern is the same at the tips as it is for the tree as a whole. The health of the tree is a result of the cycling within the root hairs and branch tips. The work occurs at the tips . . . the photosynthesis and the gathering of water and nutrients. The trunk of the tree is support for the connections to the tips and the phloem and xylem transporting the materials to where they are needed. Your heart and brain cannot do their work without the work of the alveoli in your lungs and the cells lining your small intestine.
Our human economy is another pattern of cycling of energy, materials, nutrients and information.
The economy is a cycling on a par with ecosystem and it is made up from smaller cycling patterns leading to larger cycling patterns. The planetary ecosystem is based on regional ecosystems based on local ecosystems based on the cycling of nutrients in soils. The planetary economy is based on regional economies based on local economies based on the cycling of resources at the scale of neighborhoods.
In the same way that a healthy ecosystem is derived from the interactions among the individuals at the scale of soil a healthy economy is derived from the interactions among individuals at the scale of neighborhood. A healthy society participating in a healthy ecosystem will include healthy soils and healthy neighborhoods.
Trying to solve the problems of poverty, environmental degradation and climate change at the scale of national or planetary government is a futile effort.
That is like changing the trunk of the tree to fix problems at the root and branch tips. If the cycling is not feeding back on itself at the scale of root and branch tip the pattern of tree will dissipate. Nothing we can do at the scale of trunk will help.
Every reader knows this pattern. Environmental degradation is a failure of the flows to cycle back on themselves beginning at the scale of soils. Poverty is a failure of the flows to cycle back on themselves beginning at the scale of neighborhood.
Why are the patterns dissipating at the scale of soils and neighborhoods and what can we do about it?
There is no one to blame for this dissipation. Every individual involved in the pattern is doing the best they can with the information they have in order to provide for themselves and their families. However, we can see where the pattern bypasses soils and neighborhoods. Markets reward reduced costs. As we reduce costs in the production of those things humans need to thrive we reduce the number of individuals participating in the production. As a result production is done through bigger and bigger business organizations and bigger and bigger farming organizations. That results in fewer and fewer individuals of the many species participating in the production. That means fewer places where the flows cycle back on themselves.
These individuals of the many species that no longer participate in the production of the flows are what we call environmental degradation and poverty. These individuals with no place in the market are the human and biological potential latent in our soils and neighborhoods.
It is not necessary to change the way the market works to tap into that potential. As we discussed in Discretionary Time and Money, we only to need to begin investing in the capacity for our neighborhood to provide for itself. We can invest in integrated production systems that cycle nutrients locally using these latent human resources. This reestablishes a cycling that feeds back on itself at the scale of soil and neighborhood.
We can still benefit from the efficiencies we have come to expect from the market. Money is a measure of market value. Money is not wealth. The wealthy do not have money in the bank. The wealthy own the capacity to produce value. In a market sense the wealthy produce things that people with money are willing to buy. In a biological sense wealth is the capacity to produce what we need for our family to thrive. When we invest in producing food, clothing, shelter, education and health care for ourselves at the scale of soil and neighborhood, we create a basis for a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy at all larger scales. It cannot be done otherwise.
We will build the world we want when we learn to cycle the flows back on themselves at the smallest scales . . . healing neighborhoods while healing their soils.
These first six lessons are the why of the Living Systems Institute . . . why we do what we do . . . These next lessons will be focused on the how. How do we create a cycling of energy, materials, nutrients and information at the scale of soil and neighborhood? How can that form the basis for healing nature, ending poverty and abating climate change at all larger scales for the benefit of our great grandchildren? We will be exploring the ideas that we are researching, testing and prototyping at the Living Systems Institute to design and build the patterns of interaction that will give our descendants a long and happy tenure on the planet earth.
This is the great experiment of our time. We are all engaged in a design project to make a life for ourselves. Once you understand the fractal nature of the system you can begin to design ways of interacting to improve your own life by improving your habitat.
We hope to empower you to do just that.