Ecologists almost always seem to be generalists. It’s a field of study that focuses on the global, worldview and necessitates an understanding that things simply do not happen in isolation of other things. It’s all connected. And ignoring this – and especially working against it – is what gets us in trouble. Envoronmentalist David Suzuki reminds us of this in a three–part series of columns he wrote over the holidays.
Until now. Today, most of us live in a shattered world. A world of disconnected bits and pieces, so it is no longer easy to recognize our place. And when we can’t see the connections, we fail to recognize causal relationships and therefore feel no responsibility.
Scientists focus on a part of nature, separate that part, control everything impinging on it and measure everything within it, thereby acquiring insights into that part of nature. But in the process of focusing, we lose sight of the context – the rhythms, patterns and cycles – within which that fragment exists and functions. So we fragment the whole into isolated bits and pieces.
No one wants to stop progress, but when it is so narrowly defined, we never ask “How much is enough?”, “Why do we need all this?” or “What is an economy for?”
As an aside, the brilliant intellectual synthesist Jane Jacobs wrote a wonderful book on the topic called The Nature of Economies. It’s definitely worth a read.