Weeds to the Rescue

• Nathaniel Larson

What is a weed and what are we rescuing? A weed as commonly understood is an organism that we don’t want where it is. This definition doesn’t fit very well when we are talking about rescuing something, so lets define weeds for this article as opportunistic and expansive. Opportunistic and expansive organisms are generally (in this country) considered invasive destroyers of native ecologies. It is a great epistemological leap to go from invasive Gaian destroyers to opportunistic Gaian rescuers but one that is vital if we are going to transition our invasive, Gaian destroying culture into a permaculture to the rescue.

To undertake this great epistemological leap we need to understand the state of our planetary self-regulating system: Gaia1. We need to know her life story, something of her physiology and the nature of change and development.

The Nature of Change

Certain biologically human factors influence our perspective. Among these are our size, sensory capabilities and lifespan. To us 20 years is a long time. Indeed many of us have a hard time visualizing beyond the day to day let alone a human lifetime. Even to contemplate modest geologic time is mind numbing. We believe the Universe is about 15 billion years old, the solar system and Earth about 4.6 billion and life about 3.9 billion. It is hard to comprehend billions so here is some context. Counting to one thousand would take you about 15 minutes, to one million a couple weeks, and to a billion 50 years. If the history of life were condensed into 365 days humans would enter the scene on December 31 at 9:30pm, civilization on December 31 at 11:50pm, and one long (100years) human lifetime on December 31 at 11:59 and 40 seconds. In geologic time 10,000 years is a blink of an eye. Very few of us have as part of their paradigm a deep understanding of geologic time. Our perceptions and thoughts are not influenced by it. We see processes (we call them things) that are outside our timeframe, most processes, as unchanging. This is the level of the sea, this is the rivers course we say unable to see the river as a process, as a dance across the landscape continually creating its course anew. We take snapshots of landscapes, ecosystems and peoples and say this is how it is now, how it always has been, and how it forever will be. Even in this day of massive geophysiological2 change we have good-hearted people fighting and working in restoration biology, trying to restore land back to some anthropogenic picture of how it was. When we start thinking in geologic time we can start to see an ecosystem, a landform, a species as an evolving process.

If there is one thing constant in this universe it’s change. But the change is not constant either. There is change within change. A river constantly changes its course but the change is usually around a mean until a triggering event happens like an earthquake that lifts a portion of the river bottom forming a dam and a lake, forcing the river to find a new path to the sea. Species change around a mean until a triggering event like geographic isolation of a small community forces a reshuffling around a different mean and thus a different species. Climates remain pretty constant again changing around a mean until a triggering event like burning billions of tons of sequestered carbon forces a massive change to another set point and a different climate evolving around a different mean. Instead of constant change we see punctuated equilibrium, change of a system around a mean or set point punctuated by massive transformations to a different set point and thus a different system. Part or all or the reason we find punctuated equilibrium is that a system, whether an organism or a climate, has negative feedback processes that actively allow the system to stay within bounds. Systems resist change but when the disturbance becomes great enough it overwhelms the negative feedback mechanisms trigging a reorganization of the system around another set point. This reorganization of the system around another set point is exactly what’s happening now with the climate. We only know of one negative feedback process in the climate system right now. As temperatures rise hurricanes are more common. Hurricanes stir up the ocean significantly creating high nutrient and oxygen conditions. Great algal blooms follow paths of hurricanes. As these algae run out of food they emit dimethyl sulfide into the atmosphere, this acts as condensation nuclei for cloud formation. As these huge marine stratus clouds rise they pull in air from all sides again stirring the water adding nutrients and oxygen. Some of the algae get uplifted to the clouds where they will get rained out, hopefully to some greener pastures. These huge marine stratus clouds reflect sunlight back to space cooling the planet. Unfortunately these algae are much more fecund with a cooler climate and their decreasing numbers warms the planet considerably. Another reducer of global heating is not exactly a negative feedback, called global dimming. Industrial air pollution produced mainly by coal power plants reflects sunlight back into space. This is a serious reducer of mean global temperature. These air pollutants have a very short half life. This means that the full extent of climate change is being masked and if some industrial meltdown occurred we would experience the full blunt of global heating in short order. Whereas there is only one known negative feedback there are many positive feedbacks operating in the climate system. As the temperature rises polar ice melts exposing dark water that absorbs heat instead of the reflecting of light we get with ice. As the ice melts massive amounts of fresh water inundate salty waters, changing its density, possibly altering the gulf stream as well as compromising the integrity of very fragile methane hydrates. If these break and their vast store of methane is released a nightmare climate scenario will unfold; think green skies and still anaerobic oceans.3 And you can’t just re-melt the ice by lowering carbon dioxide levels to pre-industrial times, as it takes a tremendous amount more energy to change a mediums phase (ice to water) than it does to heat or cool within the phase. The list of positive feedbacks could go on and on. Climate change will not be a linear phenomenon with linear progressions of temperature or linear regressions of polar and glacial ice. Change is upon us. Gaia has seen other dramatic changes of climate. 11,600 years ago at the end of the last ice age, an event known as the younger dryas, the global mean temperature increased 15 degrees C in under a decade!

We don’t completely understand how the climate system operates and all the modeling done thus far is not able to predict the rate of change that we are seeing. These models are deemed adequate if they are able to predict the historical climate with the data entered. But the historical (last few thousand years) has been the change of the system around a mean. What we are witnessing now is the punctuation event. Also these models do not take into account biological systems and their great affect/creation on the climate system. For example, it’s estimated that over half of the rain that falls on the Amazonian basin is a direct result of the forests transpiration and cloud seeding. Once these forests are felled the conditions that allow for their existence are lost. This is one example of a negative feedback loop switching to a positive feedback loop. Biological control over the climate and other Earth systems is a fascinating subject and the examples could go on and on.4 It is amazing to me that none of the IPCC (international panel on climate change) models take biology into account. It’s no wonder that the best models are not able to map the territory we are headed towards. I feel its important for those of us who use IPCC models to guide our land-use decisions to understand that this institution is handcuffed by the powers that be. Governments and corporations, who have great interest in maintaining the status quo, have to agree to every word printed in their public documents. The fact that the IPCC is able to use as strong of language as they do is a testament to the situation we find ourselves in. Change is not a linear phenomenon and the climate system we are headed to will not be recognizable.

The Nature of Opportunistic Organisms

How anyone can hate any organism is beyond me. Organisms are simply fulfilling/expressing themselves and in so doing they co-create ‘other’ selves: emergent beings we call communities or ecosystems just as the organisms themselves are emergent beings co-created by organs, tissues and cells in a fractal pattern containing the whole universe: quarks, elements, molecules, cells, organisms, ecosystems, Gaia. That art thou. The basic pattern of the universe is so elegant: individual autonomy enmeshed in a functionally interdependent web. A tree can be seen as an individually autonomous being co-creating the emergent phenomenon forest or an emergent phenomenon itself co-created by individually autonomous cells. It just takes a change in perspective. No perspective is more right than another. Both the individual autonomy and web of functional interdependence are necessary to bring forth such a fecund and creative universe. Some would take this reasoning and surmise that opportunistic organisms are like a cancer killing itself. To see them as vital components of Gaia is to transition our understanding of ecology from competition based to cooperation based.

An early and fundamental problem in ecology was that of diversity. Why do we find such tremendous diversity? Why instead don’t some super-competitive organisms dominate? From an epistemology saturated with the competitive meme this question makes sense, a problem exists: why does diversity dominate? From a cooperative perspective there is no problem a priori, sure we should study diversity asking how but not why. This a priori assumption of competition has deep roots and has inflicted much pain to us humans and Gaia, it gave birth to invasive biology and is ubiquitous in our culture; we find it in politics, economics, inter personal relationships, etc. What we see in Gaia and the whole of the universe is cooperation. Even competition is seen at another scale as cooperation as Eugene Odum5 made explicit with his tripartite altruism: 1/3 rabbit energy to rabbit-metabolism, 1/3 of rabbit energy to higher order systems-foxes, and 1/3 energy to lower order systems-poo/soil. Cooperation is everywhere we look-its what we see. In a very real way that apple tree that flowers in May depends on the juneberry flowering in April and the chestnut flowering in June as the apple trees pollinators can not survive on two weeks of apple pollen. The Inuit knew well that if it were not for wolves’ predation both the caribou herds and the tundra would weaken and die.

If we see opportunistic organisms as invasive problems we need to ask ourselves with Mollison: how is the problem the solution? At the very least we can think of opportunistic expansive organisms as pulses of energy in a system. At a deeper level transitioning our epistemology from competition to cooperation based gives us a change in perspective so we don’t have a problem to start with. Us humans will probably always find problems and we are not creative enough to find solutions to every problem we see e.g. we try and manage reed canary grass right out of our gardens (welcoming it all the same on dam walls). I have no problem with humans’ actively co-creating ecosystems; we just need to be working from an epistemology that more aligns with how ecosystems work. Shifting from a competitive model to a cooperative one allows us to elegantly work with nature more often then not. I’d like to present a couple of examples from our land. When we first got here, 2006, we had a beautiful old red oak tree right next to one of our pond sites. Unfortunately it was splitting down the middle and dying. We figured she didn’t have very long so we planted a buartnut right underneath her as well as around the rest of the pond. We planted these walnuts right into black ash saplings. If we were working from a competitive perspective we would see those ash saplings as competing for water and nutrients with our walnuts. We would kill them; and simplify the ecosystem to ‘help’ our crop tree. From a cooperative perspective we would ask ourselves if these ash saplings would help the walnuts. Maybe the limiting factor is sugar and a healthy mycelia layer will share the photosynthetic goods. The ash also shades the soil keeping it moist, its roots keep the soil in good tilth, its leaf fall mulches and the density of the planting keeps all trees growing straight. We didn’t cut those ash and our walnuts are growing great, some 4’ a year. When it does come time to thin the stand we will harvest much bigger ash poles. Another example involves speckled alder, a nitrogen fixing early succession shrub. When we first bought the land much of it was old-field being reclaimed by alder. Our neighbors saw the alder as an invasive nuisance and we were encouraged to remove it. Offers to borrow brush hogs and bulldozers were politely turned down. We saw alder as a perfect nurse crop for fruit trees as she casts a light shade creating a moisture and temperature moderated microclimate all the while creating more fertility. So instead of bulldozing out the ‘problem’ we planted right into the thickets. Now every spring we cut the larger poles flushing nitrogen and getting good growth from our fruit trees with no imported inputs. We make sure to leave the smaller dimension alder so she stays strong. We need to find allies in nature instead of enemies.

The concept of succession in a competitive based epistemology is one of progressive development to a climax community. A teleological process akin to the idea of our postmodern culture progressing to some technological wonder world. Neither the technological wonder world nor a stable climax community will ever exist. Even ‘stable’ climax communities (self replacing communities e.g. sugar maple/basswood/hemlock forests in my neck of the woods) undergo a slow decline due to nutrient loss initiating a disturbance to an earlier succession fertility building community. I hope ecology changes its language when it deals with ‘succession’ as this word implies one community necessarily following another in a stepwise pattern. Perhaps ‘community dynamics’ would better describe the situation. Modern ecology has moved past this naïve conception of succession or community dynamics to a shifting mosaic model in which every ‘level’ of the dynamic is represented over a wide geographic area creating a mosaic that shifts based on local dynamics. One level does not necessarily ‘succeed’ to a next ‘higher’ level. Each patch of the mosaic is autonomous but functionally interdependent with the rest of the community. As conditions in each patch change, organisms are nearby to colonize/create new niches further changing the conditions. A vital element in this mosaic is organisms that thrive on disturbed/bare earth. These organisms import most of the fertility to the whole community as they pass through different regions of the mosaic. Nitrogen fixers, dynamic accumulators as well as animal attractors abound here. I always think of blackberry as a nitrogen fixer because of all the bird feces they attract to them. Most opportunistic organisms are fertility enhancing pioneers. These organisms are vital for Gaian well being…especially now. A tremendous volume of Gaia is now in early succession, her fabric now is less a mosaic then it is a whitewash. We need these opportunistic expansive organisms to change the conditions of these barren patches’ making them available to Gaian creativity. Agricultural fields, suburban and urban sprawl and monoculture forestry plantations are not the only ecotypes desperately in need of these opportunistic organisms; Gaia’s ecosystems that are structurally coupled to an anachronistic climatic regime are also in need.

Trust in Gaia

Just prior to the anthropocene6 Gaia was more diverse and fecund than she ever had been. If ‘invasive’ organisms really are a problem why didn’t we find ecosystems dominated by super-organisms gobbling up all the primary productivity like some Chevron or Monsanto gobbling up all the GDP? Organisms have always been on the move7 and Gaia has been through great disturbances before, always managing to come through it diverse and fecund. No biologist was pointing an invasive finger at lupine (even though they do on road cuts or old fields) when it was the first to colonize the blast zone on mount St. Helens. Lupine started to change the conditions making them inhabitable to others. Soon a relatively diverse ecosystem was spreading across the landscape. Climate change isn’t the only great disturbance for Gaia now. Acid rain, nitrification of soils, habitat loss, ubiquitous and persistent biocides (life killers)…..

Ultimately we must trust in Gaia. Trust that at her pace she can make it through this great anthropogenic transition. Trust that she can rebuild fecundity and resilience. Trust that these ‘problems’ so many of us see at the micro-scale, earthworms in North American soils, zebra mussels in the great lakes, kudzu etc. are Gaias way of resetting the system and recreating her organs in the heavier and more insulative air and hotter sun8 of the anthropocene. To gain this trust I feel like we have to understand the nature of evolution and development not only on Gaia but also in our greater home, the universe.

The Universe Story

It took 15 billion years to create you. There is no fundamental difference between you and the rest of life just as there is no fundamental difference between biology and chemistry or chemistry and physics. The same universal creative force that created the first hydrogen atom or the first star created you. The universe is continually reaching out into novelty. Rather than the slow cold death of thermodynamics9 proposed by some physicists we see the continued creation of elegant and brilliant new forms. You are one. So is Gaia. So then, you were born 15 billion years ago at a moment we call the big bang. All of the universes energy was involved in this moment. We will never know what happened before this moment. In the first millennia’s after the universe was born the temperature was so high that no hydrogen atoms existed, nor any quarks, just pure energy. We can look at hydrogen or any atom, quark, molecule, cell, ecosystem etc. as a relatively stable pattern or relationship of energy. There are three forces in the universe that allowed for these energetic relationships to form: gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear. If it was not for these three forces the universe would die a cold thermodynamic death, indeed it would never have been alive as all the energy would dissipate, evenly filling the void. Thanks to these three forces the affects of thermodynamics are nullified. Without these three forces you or I or Gaia would not, could not exist. We should name these forces and revere them. Their interaction has given rise to all of the vast creativity of the universe.

It didn’t take a western scientist/genius to ‘discover’ gravity, all apples fall. But perhaps it took one to remove the respect and awe of that force that we so mundanely call gravity. Actually not so much a force as it is a representation of the structure of space/time. Either way, gravity acts as the great gatherer of the universe, consolidating energy. At every scale in the universe we see lumpy texture; great clouds of galaxies separated by distances far greater than the distances between the galaxies within the clouds. And metaclouds of galaxies filled with these clouds of galaxies. And the galaxies, these aggregates of stars, separated by far greater distances than the stars are within them. The same holds true for the small scale with atoms in molecules or protons and electrons within an atom. Its as if after the big bang gravity brought together energy into great clouds. As the universe expanded and the distance between these clouds grew the internal dynamics of the clouds continued to partition and concentrate energy; clouds within clouds. If it were not for gravity no such concentration would take place. The void would be uniformly partitioned. Gravity acts instantaneously across the universe. As she pulls energy together she puts it into range of a far stronger force: the electromagnetic force. This force is what’s responsible for binding quarks into atoms and atoms into molecules. Depending on the circumstances it can be either attracting or repulsive. This force is very creative as it is responsible for all molecular and chemical evolution. Electromagnetism holds gravity at bay, not letting her crush atoms together. But when gravity concentrates enough energy she can overwhelm this magnetic force and bring energy into the much smaller yet exponentially more powerful domain of the nuclear force. As two hydrogen atoms are brought together by gravity the electromagnetic force attracts them together forming H2 but keeps each atom separate as their protons repel each other. With an increase in concentration of energy the pressure and temperature is so intense that the protons are forced close enough together to come into range of the nuclear force which forces them together forming a heavier element, helium, and in the process releases energy in the form of heat and light. The places where this concentration of energy exists are called stars. It wasn’t until energy cooled down enough to concentrate into vast clouds dense enough to form stars that the heavier elements were born.

There are two types of stars, smaller and larger. The small ones far outnumber the big ones and their life spans are much larger. Our sun is a typical small star. These stars fuse hydrogen into helium releasing heat and light but aren’t big enough to fuse helium. The big stars called supernovas are needed to create all the other elements. Their lifespan is much shorter and many have lived and died. As the hydrogen fuel is used up, the helium which is heavier than hydrogen, pools in the center of the star. As its concentration builds the electromagnetic force is overpowered by gravity bringing the protons of helium close enough together for the nuclear force to act and fuse them together forming carbon. The star takes on the form of an onion with different elements being formed in each level with the heaviest elements toward the center. This process continues until iron is formed in the center. At this point it takes more energy to overwhelm the electromagnetic force then is released by the fusion process. The center of the star loses its fuel and the whole star collapses upon itself and then explodes. This explosion is incredibly creative as it forms all other known elements. Many supernova explosions have been viewed by humans, the last one during the renaissance. It was visible during the day for weeks10. If a supernova exploded close enough to Gaia the force would be powerful enough to rip the atmosphere right off. Its not all so bad, our solar system is the remnants of a supernova explosion as all the heavy elements attest to. The real fun of chemical and biological evolution could play out only after the first supernova explosion and the creation of all the elements.

The same three forces that created stars and the elements have created all of chemical and biological evolution. Chemical evolution is not restricted to planets, it can happen in space. Space isn’t as empty as you may think. Vast clouds of water, ammonia, methane etc. exist in the universe, you just can’t see them because they don’t produce light. The real creativity happens in close proximity to an energy source e.g. a star. On Gaia we see the most elaborate (that we know of) creativity. Its not so far fetched that life would emerge from within the universe. I suppose it’s just as unlikely as hydrogen emerging from primordial energy or stars from hydrogen. Just as unlikely as water emerging from hydrogen and oxygen or methane from carbon and hydrogen. All it took was energy + time for the universes creative dance to create diverse and fecund ecosystems. Life is a continuation of this immanent creativity. All cell membranes are basically soap bubbles: bipolar lipid membranes. Soap bubbles spontaneously form in water because half the molecule is water loving and half the molecule is water phobic. Countless soap bubbles must have formed on early Earth creating billions of unique experimental environments for life to find a start.

The universe is inherently and imminently creative. No transcendent creator god or human manages or manipulates energy insuring continued creative evolution. This is true in the cosmos as well as Gaia. Creativity just is.

A Fresh Look at Evolution and Development

The Darwinian account of evolution holds three tenants as most important.

  1. variation exists within populations (copious, small in extent, and undirected)
  2. this variation is inheritable
  3. more organisms are born than will reproduce

The neo-darwin or received perspective holds that ‘organisms generate highly improbable structures that persist only because they are functionally useful, that natural selection holds organisms in these unlikely states by stabilizing genomes with genetic programs that guide the developing organism through dense thickets of possible states to those that are consistent with survival.’11 This perspective is born from and helps form our modern epistemology. Trained in this conception of evolution and a competition based climax community ecology it’s no wonder that good-hearted people find despair with opportunistic and expansive organisms. Thankfully along with ecology there is a different way to look at evolution and development.

Darwin writes in his notebooks that the eye made him go cold. The thing pops out all over the evolutionary map. The eye has developed independently in over 40 different taxa-both vertebrates and invertebrates. What is the adaptive advantage of ½ an eye? How could random variation ever fortuitously conspire to produce a functional eye? And in 40 different taxa! In the neo-darwin perspective organisms are constantly struggling, struggling in ontogeny to produce a form that is consistent with survival and struggling in life to reproduce. Organisms are always on the lookout, it’s very difficult and highly unlikely that they will produce adequate forms. With this perspective no trust is possible. How is a mother to trust that her baby will come out healthy with ten fingers and ten toes? How are we to trust that ecosystems will remain or become diverse and fecund? To regain trust in evolution and development-either in ontogeny or ecology we must gain a different understanding, one in which forms are highly probable robust processes.

Instead of seeing forms as perched precariously on top of a fitness peak, pushed and held up there by natural selection we can view forms as flowing naturally and inevitably to a basin of attraction. We just need to invert the landscape from one of highly improbable fitness peaks to highly probable basins of attraction. Switch the peaks for the valleys. The organism sets the initial conditions in a particular context and as long as the initial conditions remain within the watershed the rest happens naturally and inevitably. If the initial conditions stray far and go over a threshold the organism/ecosystem will be attracted to a different basin and have a different form. In evolution we call this punctuated equilibrium. We see the emergence of new order at critical points of instability. These bifurcation points in populations we would call speciation. This is the basic form of change that we saw earlier as internally coherent systems maintain relative homeostasis with negative feedback until these processes are overwhelmed and positive feedback kicks the system quickly into another homeostatic mean or archetype. The eye can be seen as an archetype. Given certain initial conditions and context the eye naturally and inevitably forms. The vertebrate body plan is another. Leaf patterns another, as there are only three archetypical leaf patterns.12

Whether we are talking about hydrogen, stars, organisms or ecosystems their creation is a robust natural process.

Set The Initial Conditions

Diverse and fecund ecosystems are natural and inevitable if the initial conditions are met. Gaia has seen many severe disturbances before and come out of it diverse and fecund. What sets this anthropogenic transition apart is the habitat fragmentation we find all over the planet that doesn’t allow for species migrations. One of the reasons that the flora of the eastern forests of North America is much more diverse then Europe is that the mountain ranges in America run north south were as in Europe they run east west. In America we have valleys running north south that act as corridors of latitudinal migration during climate change events. In Europe the valleys run east west so species on the move during climactic transitions must scale mountains to get to the next valley north. Today there are no corridors of migration. Habitats have been fragmented so severally that there hardly is any forest left. Also in prior climactic transitions each local habitat had unique genetics; that is there was a tremendous amount of in-species genetic diversity. A sugar maple in Georgia is vastly genetically different from a sugar maple in Main. These locally adapted species provided for the genetics necessary to cope with the challenges of dramatic climactic change. Today most of these locally adapted genetics are gone; ecologists call them ‘secrete extinctions’. The genetic stepping-stones of place no longer exist as a corridor of migration.

We humans are a good example of an opportunistic and expansive organism and like other weeds Gaia has a role for us. Gaia is at a critical point of instability and needs our help in the formation of new order. The pace and scale of this great anthropogenic transition is so intense that we humans need to facilitate the transfer of opportunistic organisms at speeds greater than and distances farther than they could otherwise move. 13 We need to set the initial conditions and let Gaia shake it out, as she always has.

  1. For more on Gaia; James Lovelock ‘The Ages of Gaia’. 

  2. Geophysiology refers to Gaia’s self regulating system. Students of geophysiology study how the Earth system has maintained relative homeostasis in the face of changing external conditions. 

  3. Peter Ward ‘Under a Green Sky’. 

  4. Stephen Harding, ‘Animate Earth’. 

  5. Eugene Odum, ‘fundamentals of Ecology 

  6. the next geological epoch initiated by modern human culture. 

  7. Please see; Tim Flannery, ‘The Eternal Frontier’ and David Theodoropoulos, ‘Critique of a Pseudoscience’. 

  8. Our star is a typical star that undergoes a pretty well understood evolution. What is important from a geophysiological perspective is that the amount of heat/energy that the Earth is receiving from the sun is increasing. The sun is 25% hotter then when life started 3.9 billion years ago. Earths geophysiological system has maintained surface temperatures within bounds suitable to life. The ice ages can be seen as a planetary cooling mechanism and the interglaciers as a failure of that mechanism. Most people look at ice ages as a low productivity portion of the Earths history. I believe that the glacial periods would be just the opposite. Cold nutrient/oxygen rich oceans would provide the ideal conditions for ocean life and the amount of land lost to glaciers would be gained by lower ocean levels-mainly between SE Asia and Australia. Long before the sun expands to encompass the Earth (about 5 billion years) we will be receiving too much heat to maintain surface temperature conducive to life as it has existed on this planet. In fact in 100 million years the sun will be so hot that a 0% carbon dioxide atmosphere will be necessary to keep thermal homeostasis. Obviously this is not possible with life as it exists now. This means that if Gaia were to live to 100 years she would be 97 and a half years old now. Gaia is a tough old girl but how she will react to our great fossil fuel party is hard to know. You see by our adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere we are exasperating an already overwhelming problem of excess heat. 

  9. Thermodynamics, second law; Entropy (disorder) increases with time. A veritable mantra for the cold calculating physicist. 

  10. For more on this see Eric Chaisson, ‘Epic of Evolution’. 

  11. Brian Goodwin in ‘Thinking About Biology.’ 

  12. Unfortunately there is no space here to defend this position. Please see; Brian Goodwin ‘How the Leopard Changed its Spots’, Stuart Kauffman ‘Thinking About Biology’, Ilya Prigogine ‘Order Out of Chaos’, and Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana ‘The Tree of Knowledge’. 

  13. Masanobu Fukuoka echoes this in his last book ‘Sowing Seeds in the Desert’. He plainly states that we must spread seeds of opportunistic and expansive plants on wounded areas of Gaia to set the initial conditions and let Gaia sort it out. 

Nathaniel Larson is a father, brother and husband at The Draw, a land-based community on the south shore of Lake Superior, where he does his best to live a life in service to Gaia.