What does stability mean? How do you provide for it? If you are student of ecology you see patterns of disturbance everywhere. Stability comes from dancing through the inevitable disturbance. Functional integrity comes from a position of accepting change and maintaining the capacity to renew, and renew, and renew again.
I’ve crawled over the pick-up-sticks of 2000 hectares of Mountain Beech wind-throw caused by some wild wind whipping over the main divide and down the dogleg course of the Poulter River before it meets the Waimakariri. Seen the burst of life with bush lawyer, supplejack and two metre tall beech saplings that had two years before been bonsai in the shade. There *is* stability here! It is the stability we get from that capacity to renew.
I’ve woken to the sound of a forest podocarp giant fall not 300 metres from our camp on a wet night without a breath of wind. Not a sigh. A thousand square metres of thrashed undergrowth and dismemberment. Glorious chaos amidst the human silence – standing atop the horizontal trunk, in awe.
We live within patterns of flux where the merest straw collapses the house of cards we delude ourselves will be forever. Was it some straining tiny root finally letting go?
In neither of these disturbance events were we present. We studied them after they had happened. We learn a little more about the flux of the ecosystem, but did not presume to model the next wind-throw or that last stretched and weakened root. We cannot know where and when and how bad. We cannot know on that day the battle for succession has already commenced what struggling sapling will make it to the canopy decades hence; which of the 70,000 per ha will become the 2,500 left standing at the end, or what will topple them next.
We cannot evacuate Kaikoura a day before the midnight quake.
It is our particular and oh so Modern arrogance to believe we can predict complexity. It is the big delusion of the men in suits. And because they believe they can control, they design the world as a factory with human and natural cogs obediently turning, and they destroy the very capacities of renewal – of foresight, diversity of thought, robustness, adaptability, knowledge flows and cooperative wisdom – upon which our world and our very species depends.
Tom Wessels writes beautifully about how to read the landscapes of change around us. And the change and diversity and surprise and unpredictability is a beautiful thing. It creates chaos and beauty, mystery and dance. Better that than the ordering of marching lines, following some idiot over the edge of the next abyss.
I know it’s a theme I keep referring to – that the world is far more defined by complex and interconnected functional verbs than a world reduced to a few structural nouns – let’s call them resources to create the illusion that we have any idea what we are doing.
Within that reality of complexity, you cannot control stability by marching in some predetermined, never-to-be-varied path. That is rigidity. That will always fail. You have to learn to dance. Tom Robbins understands.
And yet we live and think within a false materialist and reductionist view as if the world in all its complexity – its geology, meteorology, ecology and sociology, to name a few – is better represented by some metaphor of a certain and controllable machine.
Technocratic delusion. Obsessive and baseless belief wrapped up as order and the blesséd rigid and the often insufferable pretentiousness of the expert. They are blind to Alfred North Whitehead’s Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness – confusing an abstract belief with a real concrete thing.
Many applied STEM (and economics) subjects do not deeply question their metaphysics because they claim ‘objectivity’, and metaphysics is apparently beneath them. They are right in a way; their metaphysics is the very base of everything they do, buried deep within their own minds. So best not look unless your belief be shaken. From Whitehead’s fallacy flows a torrent of nonsense and the danger of our world slipping into a totalitarian functionally obedient hierarchical state – the most fragile and stupid of things.
The geologist cannot think like that. Nor the meteorologists. Nor the ecologists. Nor the sociologists. They better understand the home within which we live because the systems they observe are so defined by change and thresholds you can only examine after the event. They understand the ‘eco’, the home. The public health professional responding to the outbreak which came from who knows where. The educationalists who know that a child can go many ways in life, irreducible to nonsense assumption of ‘rational choice’ and educational achievement of some rigid and baseless standard. He can count, so he should be ok then. They want to build capacities in children to live in a society and a world. The government think you do that by building obedience and standardised order.
Those that live within the complexity of life understand that the world is largely uncertain and uncontrollable, and so they focus on resilience and do their very best to avoid the worst of order, uniformity and control.
Hell, the local dustman gets that things will surprise you! So revere those at the sharp end of life, the artist, the poet, those that shine a mirror and question the status quo. Those that feel. Those that dare to be different. Those that dare to *be*.
This is my particular beef; that those that hold the most sway in how our world is overexploited and abused are the least equipped to understand that world – the dull financiers, corporate psychopaths, narrow and shortsighted technocrats, doctrinaire economists of rigid mechanical belief. And I cannot understand for the life of me how they hold their apparent appeal as worthy governors of our planet and community home.
They do not get that we need to revel in the guaranteed disorder and rebuild the capacities to renew. Your standards and reduction of life to measured and ordered things will eventually kill us all. Trust the poet economists and the musician financiers; those that have some semblance of a soul.
Insist they read Tom Robbins.