Ben Newman, July 12, 2018


Human Ekology. What does that mean to you? I mean besides the fact that ecology is spelled incorrectly….

What images does it inspire? Which uncomfortable spaces does it conjure?

Human Ekology is an attempt at figuring out some of the challenges that humans pose to our natural ecology here on earth by simultaneously creating systems that mimic nature, and facilitate the human ability to thrive.

To be human in this day and age is a challenging feat. On one hand, we’re animals, we always have been. Creatures of habits; formed by the sun, seasons and our geography. Our genes have shifted and changed due to these stressors, and our patterns have become norms. We share these patterns with almost every creature on the planet and they’re known to those in the scientific community as “circadian rhythms“.

Prior to the industrial age where we humans mechanized our food production, these patterns were also influenced by the foods available to us. These foods were also in sync with these natural cycles and they shared this relationship with us in a dance we call ecology (spelled correctly….).

The dictionary definition of Ecology is:

the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

The challenge with the name Human Ekology is that it defines an outlying parameter; an edge to ecology… a statement which we know simply not to be possible. For each organism involved in an ecological system there are a number of elements, organisms and other environments with which it interacts, ad infinitum.

The phrase “everything is connected” is thrown around heavily in spiritual circles, but not usually in Science. Science looks at the world through a reductionist viewpoint, but it holds true when looking at the world through an ecological lens (or what is often now referred to as “systems thinking”).  The true study of ecology is the study of how everything inter-relates. Systems thinking, albeit somewhat still reductionist, is a way of re-hydrating the pieces to form a strong ecological set of understandings. At we then use these understandings to find solutions to niche ecological problems. For the sake of simplicity both terms are used somewhat interchangeably here.

Recently I moved to Spotted Moose Farm in Celista, BC. Run by geneticist, Chris Pisesky, Spotted Moose is an interesting mix of old school ecological farming, new school permaculture, community collaboration, education and future innovation.

I moved here to study, bring my expertise in permaculture, development and business, as well as to increase my understanding of how deeply we interrelate. By living in community and working collaboratively towards “group reliance” whilst living inextricably linked to my surroundings and at mother nature’s mercy I am growing my Living Systems knowledge.

I trod carefully when I wrote the words “group reliance” above because I realize that competition outperforms collaboration in the capitalist system we live in almost every time. It’s not “trending” right now, and in our consumerist system it doesn’t sell the most individual units. Strangely, as far as community values go, there are few who are credited with changing our view of the world more than Charles Darwin. The one saying credited solely to Mr. Darwin is “survival of the fittest”. Interestingly it was not him who coined the term, but Herbert Spencer, a Sociologist.

“Darwin uses the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ in chapter four of On the Origin of Species to describe the process of natural selection. But he did not coin the phrase. It was borrowed from English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who first talked about survival of the fittest in his Principles of Sociology.”

It’s not uncommon for us to hear a child say “I do it”, but rarely “let’s do it”.  We ‘re taught in the West that being independent is a great feat, but rarely are group accomplishments lauded nor is asking for help seen as strength.  In school we are educated about great individuals, but not the groups of heroes who changed history.  We live in a world of Anthropocentrism which is to say a human-centered world. In fact we’ve even coined the term “the Anthropocene” (the age of man) to describe this current blip in our planet’s history by relating it to a single creature: us humans.

Strangely, Darwin refers more often to collaboration and community than anything else, and that species survival is almost always inextricably linked to mutual support. In fact he even talks about inter-species collaboration….

Alas, history they say, is written by the marketer, er… marketer hired by the “winner”.  Speaking of that, you can buy a Collaborate-and-Conquer hat here.

Human Ekology is a play on all of this. We’ve realized that the way we think is skewed by history, by reductionist minds, that we’ve made mistakes as a species (sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of greed) and that our future generations are going to need to solve some very large problems so that we (as a species, not as individuals) can be strong enough to survive.

Human Ekology is a way to help us survive.

Pollution requires remediation, hunger requires better food production, and wars will soon be fought over fresh drinking water. (Did you know at least 2 major cities in the world — Cape Town, South Africa and Sao Paolo, Brazil — have run out of water already?)

According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth.

We believe that human-centered ecology is what has been creating most of our problems, could Human Ekology be the solution?

Come visit us and find out:

Food, water, shelter and power solutions…

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