There is an abundance of cooperation in nature.
On a genetic and cellular level all living things have one thing in common: the overwhelming impulse to survive. Then thrive. Up close, small evolutionary adaptations in a single species appear to be efforts to ensure their own survival. The old paradigm is that life, evolution, is driven by competition. Take a broader perspective however, and we discover that individual species and their small adaptations are a part of a larger cooperative systemic adaptation that reaches across the entire ecosystem to ensure the survival of everything.
Ecosystems adjust and adapt too.
The new paradigm stresses the cooperation necessary to sustain life. All life. Individual species are adapting in small ways to further the regenerative processes that are necessary to sustain life as a whole. Its the bigger picture. Its necessary. We’re in this together. Cooperation is everywhere. This is the magic of the natural world.
Systemic Cooperation drives adaptations.
A wonderful example of systemic cooperation amidst individual adaptations occurs following a forest fire. Ecosystems have adapted to respond to forest fires in dynamic ways. So have individual species. Fires not only often kill all the trees and plants they encounter, but they also destroy seed and much more. Very hot fires kill all the microbial life in the upper layers of the soil. The soil becomes sterilized, and thereafter often resists water infiltration. No life without water. Ever. A sterilized lifeless blight does not support any life. The earth cannot tolerate bare ground. It is detrimental to the system as a whole. Nature, as a whole, makes adaptations to prevent this.
The earth must be covered.
In Michigan the Jack Pine is a pyrophytic species whose serotinous cones protect seed until the tree comes under attack by fire. The Jack Pine is also the only tree in the whole world that the threatened Kirtland’s Warbler can nest in. The seeds of pyrophytic species have adapted, slowly over time, to not only survive fire, but to require fire treatment before germination. Pyrophytic trees are often the first to repopulate after the apparent devastating effects of fire. Without the disaster specific adaptation of pyrophytic plants, ecological regeneration after a fire would be slow and painful and the system as a whole would suffer. Life needs life to thrive. Everywhere. Always.
After pyrophytic seeds germinate, their roots infiltrate and loosen the soil helping water to infiltrate. These pioneer species immediately begin performing ecological services that kick start the regenerative process. New seeds travel into the disturbed areas carried by animal and wind. This is their own very special adaptation. Numerous species are nursed with the help of the ecological services provided by others. The once forested canopy, now opened, allows plants that cannot tolerate shade to flourish. Many animals and important insects thrive on the new growth of these young succulent plants. They flourish and perform their own ecological services in the “devastated” area.
Life needs life. Everywhere. Always.
The system seeks the balance and cooperation that is essential for all life to survive. That immediacy, the urgency of the regenerative process, is at the heart of the pyrophytic adaptation. Look closely and we see that nearly all adaptations are designed, not to ensure the success and survival of a single species, but to cooperate with the regenerative process of the system as a whole.
Humans are the only species whose evolutionary adaptations have been turned against the natural world and threaten the vitality of the system as a whole. The only species. One species. Us. Turning against ourselves and everything else. We see this now. It must end. Gently. Life needs life. We need each other. We need everything else too.