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Do Humans have an ecological niche?

 
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About religion leading to conflict; I'd say this says a lot more about people then about religion. People tend to take any excuse for a fight. But, and this is a big but, people always like feeling superior and having the moral high ground in a fight, otherwise they will feel uncomfortable. Thus if they can cloak a fight in religious terms, they really win!

The fighting between the Protestants and Catholics in Europe is a case in point; a political and economic fight, partially due to climate change induced crop failures, but cloaked in religion. Lords professed new religions so they could strip wealth from the established church, or professed the old one to preserve the status quo. Many of them were probably not religious at all.

In another related point, the Lords at the same time drove off the land the crofters, the horticulturalists, and replaced them with extensive sheep raising for export; agriculture being forced on a horticultural land.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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@Gilbert F.: "Does nature need humans?"

Personally, I feel that the minute we separate "humans" from "nature" we are going down a very slippery slope.



Good point.
 
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On the anti-sacred side, an author named Paul Levy has written a book called "Wetiko". It uses a term that some of the Native American groups at the time of the invasion of White Europeans used to describe the "virus" that would make the Europeans kill to stockpile bars of gold while their countrymen were starving, instead of sharing. He then goes on to show how in his belief, this cultural disease, which is similar to a philosophy of greed (and is currently taught at most US business and economics schools) has gone on, like a virus, to damage us severely, and prevent us from even seeing the damage that it is doing to us. Much of the corporate marketing and lobbying efforts, plus keeping up with the Jones' could be considered part of this disease.

In his view, this is what is essentially stopping us from filling our rightful ecological niche, which is harmonic cooperation in a sustainable relation to the planet.

If one could overcome this Wetiko virus, one could see the Earth as sacred land, and treat it like a garden, rather than a means to personal wealth.

I find the virus analogy quite compelling, especially in light of the behavior of some of the activities of the derivatives and other investor classes during the 2008-9 depression.
John S
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Gilbert Fritz
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Still thinking about all this. Obviously, we don't have a niche in Antarctica, or probably on some small islands, where we seem to make a big mess of things.
 
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William Gillis wrote:...Humans are at present a weird inseparable jumble of Pleistocene creature and radically new stuff; we are a number of contradictions physiologically with no underlying objective directive baked in.

Those who can conceive of nothing beyond a very superficial naturalistic fallacy might say that humans are defined by serving some niche role as gears in a broader machine/ecosystem. But how do we go about determining what that role is from the vast variety of possible reads on it?

The ‘purpose’ of humanity might equally well be taken to be to serve as a cleansing virus — getting in a long-overdue mass extinction event so evolution can be sped up (there is after all no ecological imperative towards equilibrium). Or maybe the neotenic arc we’ve taken in retaining our childlike inquiry and creativity is an evolutionary catastrophe utterly at odds with the broader biosphere and we should all stop thinking, stop exercising our childlike inquiry, or even just kill each other off! Or maybe we’re the whole point of the sudden singularity of this Phanerozoic eon, a way for life to jump off this planet in a kind of ecological succession on the grandest scale, spinning up asteroids, seeding comets, rebuilding Mars from desolation, and turning the stars green.

Or maybe the relevant category isn’t what mere ecological niche we fill, but our existence as striving minds, dynamic neural networks modeling the world around them — as children struggling not to be vanquished by the sedentary, dying circuits of adults. Honestly I think this one rings the strongest...

Excerpted from William Gillis' A Quick And Dirty Critique Of Primitivist & AntiCiv Thought
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Since this is in the ulcer factory, I can say that my Catholic faith gives me a good answer as to the purpose of human life, which I would be willing to share with anyone interested. But that is not quite the same thing as whether we have an ecological niche.

I guess the niche thing comes from this question: can we IMPROVE things by gaining our livelihood? Or is human use always second best?

 
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@Gilbert F: "I guess the niche thing comes from this question: can we IMPROVE things by gaining our livelihood? Or is human use always second best?"

Can you offer a few examples of what you mean by 'improve things'?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Improve the ecosystem. For instance, all species benefited when wolves were reintroduced to yellowstone. The wolves didn't intend that, they just acted like wolves, and the ecosystem got better.
 
John Weiland
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@Gilbert F: "....all species benefited when wolves were reintroduced to yellowstone. "

While it certainly looks as though many if not most species benefited when wolves were reintroduced to yellowstone, I'm thinking no one really polled the coyotes. The supporting article is a bit dated, so hopefully the observation was not nullified by subsequent study.

https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Animals/Archives/1996/No-Longer-Top-Dog.aspx

Irrespective of the general increase in range that coyote enjoys these days, in the Yellowstone example per se, they probably weren't too overjoyed to see the return of the wolf. But it's a tough issue to be sure, not least of which because of the dynamic nature of both the phenomena under investigation as well as the terminology.
 
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late to the game again

on two other posts here
https://permies.com/t/56242/uf/Hawaiian-birds-fate
https://permies.com/t/56438/uf/group-altering-land-interfering-evolution

I entertained somewhat the same question
It was in reply to the "1/2 of land should be off limits" and "the carbon farming solution"

a lot of talk of past mistakes (yes, there are many)
but as I put forward "wouldn't it be better to fix the mistakes before leaving the land to nature"

and also, the thought that degraded land, whether desert, moors, tundra, or tropical isle
ought to be allowed to stay that way doesn't make sense to me.

the tundra isn't some pristine place, it was flattened by glaciers during the ice age
and has been struggling to recover since then
fossils of plants and animals show a different environment at one time
If nature allows foxes to mess with it, why would nature object to our help?
just follow the pattern set up by the fox of building hummocks of fertility scattered about
(and why should people think this desolate place so special?)

we may not be able to return the original prairie ecosystem
but which "original" one, of 1800's, or 1400's or 10,000 bc, would you choose to return to?

http://www2.nau.edu/~alcoze/for398/class/pristinemyth.html

the fact that man hasn't been very good at fulfilling his "ecological niche"
doesn't mean he doesn't have one.



 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hello Duane,

Another bunch of questions. For instance, of people went into a wild land and mimiced the arctic fox or the beaver, there would be outcry from everyone, and even I don't know if it would be a good idea. But certainly humans could improve any area that we have already degraded. Maybe human habitat is anywhere humans have messed things up? But that is circular.

Anyway, about other wild lands, yes, some of them might actually be degraded by non-human forces. Deserts, tundra, stony barren land. Is this degradation, or are these unique habitats?
 
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"wouldn't it be better to fix the mistakes before leaving the land to nature"



To be so, this statement requires two things:
1. that we have enough knowledge to 'fix' what's wrong.
2. that we are separate from nature.

I suspect that neither of these presuppositions prove to be the case, yet.

Do Humans have an ecological niche (aka, the topic of this conversation)? Of course we do. We are lifeforms living in this world. Unfortunately, we can choose what that is... and referencing the above, we seem to have insufficient knowledge on how to do that in a way that benefits the majority of life on this planet.

Sometimes acting to fix a mistake is beneficial, other times it makes things worse, wisdom is knowing the difference. As a species, we have yet to display such wisdom.
 
duane hennon
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hi Gilbert,




Another bunch of questions. For instance, of people went into a wild land and mimiced the arctic fox or the beaver, there would be outcry from everyone, and even I don't know if it would be a good idea. But certainly humans could improve any area that we have already degraded. Maybe human habitat is anywhere humans have messed things up? But that is circular.



Is the arctic tundra changing ..(increasing in biodiversity)
a good thing
or a bad thing

to evolve
or not to evolve
that's the question


Anyway, about other wild lands, yes, some of them might actually be degraded by non-human forces. Deserts, tundra, stony barren land. Is this degradation, or are these unique habitats?



well, I guess that's a fair question
like rust, evolution never sleeps
these "unique" habitats aren't the "intended end result"
they are just the result of a number of factors coming together
"uniqueness is in the eye of the beholder"
and evolution has no eyes

a change in earth's orbit
caused a change in weather patterns
that caused the expansion of the Sahara desert
it went from forest to grassland to desert
should we just leave it alone in order
for it to continue to expand its unique habitat?

so should we help move nature and evolution along
or let it blindly stumble on alone
the trilobites, the dinosaurs , the megafauna and humans have already pushed it
what's another nudge






 
duane hennon
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o be so, this statement requires two things:
1. that we have enough knowledge to 'fix' what's wrong.
2. that we are separate from nature.

I suspect that neither of these presuppositions prove to be the case, yet.

Do Humans have an ecological niche (aka, the topic of this conversation)? Of course we do. We are lifeforms living in this world. Unfortunately, we can choose what that is... and referencing the above, we seem to have insufficient knowledge on how to do that in a way that benefits the majority of life on this planet.

Sometimes acting to fix a mistake is beneficial, other times it makes things worse, wisdom is knowing the difference. As a species, we have yet to display such wisdom.



so what do you propose?
 
r ranson
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duane hennon wrote:

o be so, this statement requires two things:
1. that we have enough knowledge to 'fix' what's wrong.
2. that we are separate from nature.

I suspect that neither of these presuppositions prove to be the case, yet.

Do Humans have an ecological niche (aka, the topic of this conversation)? Of course we do. We are lifeforms living in this world. Unfortunately, we can choose what that is... and referencing the above, we seem to have insufficient knowledge on how to do that in a way that benefits the majority of life on this planet.

Sometimes acting to fix a mistake is beneficial, other times it makes things worse, wisdom is knowing the difference. As a species, we have yet to display such wisdom.



so what do you propose?



What I usually propose. Take the time to observe and learn before acting to 'fix' something. What we perceive at first to be a problem, might be, like you said, merely a natural stage in evolution. Or it might not be.

Each situation is different, there is no one answer, one proposal, one 'fix'.

In simpler terms, I recommend we apply the answer 42*

*For those who do not get the reference, it means that humanity hasn't figured out the question yet.

 
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duane hennon wrote:we seem to have insufficient knowledge on how to do that in a way that benefits the majority of life on this planet.



I'm not convinced of that. I think if people study the science of ecology, actually learn about it, maybe even for years, in concert with the kind of observation that Ranson mentions, we can come up with some pretty clear ideas of how to behave.

And observing the example of humans who lived on the planet for a million years without wrecking it (hint: they didn't practice agriculture).

http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html
 
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duane hennon wrote:a change in earth's orbit
caused a change in weather patterns
that caused the expansion of the Sahara desert
it went from forest to grassland to desert
should we just leave it alone in order
for it to continue to expand its unique habitat?



If we do nothing, then 11,000 years from now, the orbit will have
changed again, and the Sahara can be expected to be wet again.

If we do something, then 11,000 years from now, the orbit will have
changed again, and the Sahara can be expected to be wet again.

I'm pretty much of the opinion that it's hubris to pretend like we have
any knowledge at all about what is good or bad for an ecosystem,
or for the Earth.

I love being an animal primate: fully integrated with the natural
world in all ways. I can no more separate myself from nature than
I can separate my bones from my flesh.




 
evan l pierce
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R Ranson wrote:Of course we do [have an ecological niche]. We are lifeforms living in this world. Unfortunately, we can choose what that is.


I don't think that having this choice is unfortunate at all.

Furthermore, I think that humans, as a species, (thanks to our development of technologies that enable increasingly accurate and precise observation and recording, and communications technologies like the internet that enable the rapid dissemination of this new information,) are becoming increasingly aware of our impact on the earth's ecosystems. I think it's increasingly evident that certain activities (covering huge swathes of the earth's surface in asphalt and cutting up the biosphere into tiny pieces, for example,) are more likely to cause harm, (to the complex and dynamic systems on which life depends,) than other activities, (many of the things we call permaculture, for example.)

It is my hope and belief that eventually this expanded awareness will compel, and our expanded capacity to act will enable, humans to move increasingly more of our most polluting industries and potentially dangerous experiments outside of the biosphere. Rather than mucking about in the thin, relatively fragile, highly complex and dynamic living surface of this planet, I'm of the opinion that the most natural habitat for humans (or post- or trans-humans, if you will,) is spread out among the lifeless chunks of rock hurtling through the endless void: asteroids, where there's no ecosystems for us to accidentally fuck up with our externalities, and the only ecological changes we can make are positive ones.

Gardening asteroids. How's that for site repair?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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The meaning of life, the universe, and everything is not 42. One answer down, 10,000,000 more to look through.

On a more serious note, I think that all the animals fit into their niche by instinct. We don't have instinct.

I think that even though we don't have hard answers on ecosystem health yet, even from those who have studied it for years, most would agree that a landscape where the beavers or wolves have been removed is a poorer one.

I'm now reading Tending the Wild, which is making the case that a landscape where horticultural humans have been removed is a poorer one.

Tyler's links, among other things, have sent me down an interesting rabbit hole of research. Seems like "farming" tends to lead to ecological destruction and empire (I'd use the term empire instead of civilization) whereas horticulture seems to keep the balance of nature and lead to lasting cultures.

So, if our niche is gardening, where is this a bad thing? Every animal would cause harm somewhere, where its niche does not fit. Rats were native to Asia, and I'm sure they had some niche there, but on Pacific Islands they were simply a menace.

One more thing to throw out there; most people seem to be assuming that Gaia/ Life force/ etc. does not make mistakes. I'm quite sure God does not make mistakes. But some people might think that we are a mistake; that is the alternate position to our having a sustainable niche.
 
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Joseph, so do you think any human can behave "non-naturally?" I agree that we can be pretty arrogant at times; first it lead to destruction of the environment, but out well meaning attempts to "help" the environment might be even worse!
 
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Tyler, finally got around to following all the links you have been posting, thanks so much.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Evan,

If we are running out of oil, how will we get to the asteroids?
 
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@Joseph L: "I'm pretty much of the opinion that it's hubris to pretend like we have any knowledge at all about what is good or bad for an ecosystem.... "

Hence the Genesis suggestion that it would be unwise to eat from the tree of the *knowledge* of good and evil. If humans want to go about claiming to have knowledge of anything else,...fine...entertain yourselves. But feeling that one *knows* the difference between good and evil (bad) is always cause for concern.

And yet the passage attached below from Pirsig's "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals" has always intrigued me.....
Goodness.JPG
[Thumbnail for Goodness.JPG]
 
evan l pierce
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:If we are running out of oil, how will we get to the asteroids?



Some of them will come to us. Well, quite close anyway, far closer than the moon is to us. In 2020, an asteroid called 3554 Amun is scheduled to swing by our doorstep carrying enough precious metals to completely devalue the world's financial markets. Cheap metals means cheap solar power.

Energy from oil will become increasingly irrelevant, but if we can divert even some of that energy from the wasteful and destructive ends to which it is currently funneled as a result of the perverse incentives of capitalism and the state, then we'd have plenty of energy to get to the asteroids.

Some of the asteroids out there have ice, which means that not only will they make establishing life in space easier but they can also be broken down into rocket fuels: hydrogen and oxygen, thus facilitating further asteroid mining and settlement, especially once we're out of earth's gravity well.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Jason Godesky wrote a series of essays about it: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/jason-godesky-thirty-theses


William Gillis wrote some essays too: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/william-gillis-15-post-primitivist-theses
 
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grumbling about the past and "what coulda, shoulda been" is pointless

how about what to do now (except for those who think everything is pointless)

everyone here is here because of civilisation and farming
unless we're going to "depopulate" the planet, we're not going back to hunter/gardeners

but we may be able to adopt some of those concepts to modern life

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/may/23/stone-age-cities-modern-urbanites-learn-paleolithic-humans

Stone age cities: what modern urbanites could learn from paleolithic humans
However ‘civilised’ we may now consider ourselves to be, biologically we remain much as we were before we began farming and moved into cities. Can we create a healthier future by returning to our paleolithic past?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Well, I wonder. I don't know that gardening couldn't support a large population; if that is our niche, then we will have to go back to that, much as any other creature that outgrows its niche is forced back into it. But I'm not sure that intensive gardens couldn't outperform extensive farm fields. Modern agriculture tries to maximize productivity per hour, not per acre. Instead of 3 percent of us farming, 90 percent of us could be gardening. And really, most of the ugly parts of preindustrial life were due to a lack of knowledge of sanitation. We could have sanitation in a horticultural society; it wouldn't look like the precontact native Americans, but it could function the same way.
 
John Weiland
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@duane h: "unless we're going to "depopulate" the planet, we're not going back to hunter/gardeners "

It seems that this has rarely been under our control. And if it is under our control, there's no reason why it could not be achieved through reduced birth-rate.....it just hasn't proved globally possible to date.

From the article: "An urban street gang is basically a paleolithic hunting group, with powerful bonding and adherence to a very particular territory."

I guess I would argue that the 'powerful bonding' and 'adherence to a particular territory' are pretty much the only things such an urban gang might have in common with paleolithic hunters/gatherers, but the latter are not around for an interview. Modern hunter gatherers (dwindling in number) are about the closest approximation of that lifestyle, these too having evolved since the paleolithic. I'm guessing the cosmology of urban gangs is pretty different from that of paleolithic or modern hunter gatherers, a few fundamental differences influencing this being the age-diverse integration of tribal life (for the latter group), the differences in sources of food, and whether or not the bulk of one's environment is natural or human constructed.

Ultimately, I agree that "...biologically we remain much as we were before we began farming and moved into cities" and this notion good to keep in mind as new paradigms, urban or otherwise, are envisioned.
 
Tyler Ludens
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duane hennon wrote:
unless we're going to "depopulate" the planet, we're not going back to hunter/gardeners



No, but we can go forward to permaculture.

 
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from my point of view, this whole discussion leads to the concept of HUSP.
paul talked about it. i m not sure if there s a thread that explains it indepth. if you know of thread/articles about that, please post them.
but heres what i remember.

the question is, what if Pocahontas would have send the settlers back to europe and the native people would have formed the
united
states of
pocahontas ?

what would their horticulture (H) have looked like? what if they would have valued sustainability and quality as highest? and that in every part of their society? what if they would have shared knowledge with other cultures on the planet, experimented and just adapted as needed to produce high quality food and other products in a sustainable way, in touch with nature?

and even further... what if the knowledge of the HUSP-people would have spread around the world to heal the damage that other civilizations caused to the land? what if they would send people around the world to green the deserts?

what if that s the niche (and calling?) of mankind?

btw this is how i see it in the bible. mankind just messed it all up by eating from the wrong tree, getting all head- and ego-centered and starting to abuse things, nature, other people because they themselves lost the spiritual connection to god and became full of greed, self-centeredness, envy, pride, hate, lust for power and fame etc.

mankind is made to be caretakers and creative makers of beautiful things. but they messed it up. and their ego-head created system (like seen in most of modern society, economy, agriculture etc.) that messed up things even more and created genereations after generations of (mostly) messed up people that mess up the society, the planet, themselves and other people... what a mess.

but we all still have the choice and free-will to turn ourselves around. and so to turn society, the planet, nature etc. around. and HUSP and permaculture are concepts to describe that and to give tools to actually express that and get things done to make this planet a better place again.
 
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