That ecosystem is still going strong after over a century.
I think this is an amazing case study for permaculture.
This was one of the world's pre-eminent botanists, with family connections to an excellent botanical garden and working within the greatest imperial navy that era had ever seen.
I think he did think in terms of system design, even if the word ecosystem hadn't been coined. Also, there was almost certainly ongoing labor to maintain the food-producing plants that had been introduced.
One of the important features of permaculture, is that it is intended to be a method that people can implement without tremendous amounts of formal education, wealth, or access to the dominant system.
My understanding, though I am limited to memory of a book that I checked out from the library years ago (and a book which I cannot remember the title or author sadly, I feel like such a horrible reference), was that the British planted what amounted to monoculture fields of each. They had the customary native population that Imperial Britain used as workers to tend to them. There were various different species that were attempted and simply did not make it through the rough/half-hearted/uneducated care. There were reportedly also various types of annual plants attempted (grains mostly), some with success at the times, but none of them survived the passage of time. Tea was tried several times with limited success and finally given up. Vanilla orchids were also attempted, but without their native pollinator they simply don't reproduce.
So that leads me to conclude that the experiment, which was a success of sorts, was also an abstract failure were it looked upon as a designed ecosystem. The initial design did not hold up, but nature righted itself as best it could with the best suited flora available and took hold.
Mollison says that by adding variety nature creates systems. Adding an element of design to that, you can use these natural systems to the advantage of all.
I think that in the long run this very story got me thinking about permaculture before I had ever heard of the term. I really wish I could remember the book title so I could share but it's been at least fifteen years. Its a history book mostly about St Helena. The history of Ascension was a single chapter, and the story I am summarizing made up about four pages.
At any rate, I think this story strikes a chord among us because who wouldn't want to try and start with a stark environment almost devoid of plant and animal life and create our own self-suiting garden?
Like I said earlier, Pacific atolls could be interesting with introduced species. As a matter of fact I may start a separate thread to discuss such an idea. As always, my ramblings are mostly subject to my own opinions, so I may be incorrect somewhere through that lengthy monologue. All that does not diminish my desire to see a similar experiment, using the design principles of Permaculture on an equally stark environment, which was my initial point. I firmly believe that wherever humankind is involved, there is always room for improvement.
Nicholas Covey wrote:Valid point Joel on the prestige...
Please don't take this as nit-picking, but I intended to use the word "privilege" in the lefty-academic, jargony sense of the word.
A privilege--etymologically "private law" or law relating to a specific individual--is a special entitlement or granted by a government or other authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. (Wikipedia)
The notion of a law that applies to one family but not others is pretty central to the way I was using it. It's almost an antonym of "justice."
My social circle often uses the term "white privilege," and that is a part of what I meant here, but I was also referring to the special systems that empowered British aristocrats.