We could learn a lot from nature, if we would just take the time to stop and pay attention. For too long, we (humans) have believed ourselves superiorly wiser than the natural world. We can do more, we can be more, we can think more. When, in fact, we are really no different than other creatures who manipulate their environment (often to their own detriment), thinking they know better what's best.
I mentioned recently that this year's potato harvest was a little disappointing. I harvested only a third of what we would need for the winter (and we'd need even more than what I estimated, if potatoes were a daily fare). Yes, the potatoes were huge, but is bigger really better?
As it turns out the answer is no. Bigger just means bigger, and at some point, things get too big, and too often too big results in illness and disease ... and in this case, rot from the inside out.
My potato is actually a pretty good metaphor for the state of our world. We were so interested in perpetual growth that we didn't stop to think, perhaps, some things should not get so big.
The housing market with its inflated values is a good example. I knew, many years ago, that my three-bedroom, single-story house, in a fairly desirable location would never be worth the $300,000 price tag a similarly situated home in my neighborhood sold for, but that's the direction so many wanted me to believe things were going. I just knew, intuitively, that there was no way (and more, no reason) why a house for which I paid less than $100,000 would triple in value when no significant improvements had been made. It's not like I added granite countertops, maple floors and gold plated bathroom fixtures. Nothing changed about my house ... and yet.
It just didn't compute for me, and the housing bubble bursting was no surprise. The surprise for me is that it went as long as it did, and more so, that there are still people out there who believe the bust is the anomaly and that the growth is the norm. Really?
The same could be said about most of the institutions that govern our lives these days. Nearly everything we are and all that we live is simply too big. Our houses, our cars, our incomes (and the flip-side, our spending habits).
When I was unearthing the potatoes, taking care not to skewer them with the shovel, what I found was that the plants attached to the gargantuan potatoes grew *one* potato. I kept gently scooping out the earth around the base of the plant, hoping to find more, but for most of the plants, there was just the one potato. It was a biggy, but the plant had put so much energy into growing this *one*, humongous potato that it was all it could grow.
I also grew a red potato variety, and those plants had several, much smaller potatoes per plant. The red potatoes are not good for storage potatoes (unfortunately), but they're healthier than the white potatoes that grew too big, because they understood a little something about diversity.
I think, as a society, we're doing the same as the white potato plants. We put all of our energy into this *one* thing, and that *one* thing (growth) will be the end of us. I'm going to eat that one potato, and there won't be any left for seed next year. If I'd had five small potatoes, I'd have eaten four of them and saved one, but with only one big one ....
In essence, because the plant put all of its energy into growing as big as it could get, it doomed itself.
We could learn a lot from nature, if we would just stop and pay attention, and the first lesson is that perpetual growth is not possible. At some point, everything gets too big and stops growing. The starker lesson is that, at some point, everything dies - it gets as big as it's going to get, and then, it *simply* dies. This year's white potatoes from my garden will have no offspring, because the few potatoes I harvested will all become fuel for my family.
That's the lesson that we are just beginning to grasp as our society, as our culture, starts winding down. Historically, all large civilizations eventually disintegrate, and ours is no different. The only difference is that our civilization is now global, rather than regional, and when *it* finally collapses, the reverberations will be felt across the entire earth, on every continent, in every country, by all people (with, perhaps, some very few exceptions of people who never became dependent on the global economy). We got too big, and now we will consume ourselves.
And, hey, did anyone notice that the price of gasoline per gallon is over $3 ... again? I'm not surprised :).