Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flipping the Switch

There is a lot of talk in many circles that one of the biggest unknown unknowns about our current ecological system is if a switch will flip. In other words, something like the last straw that broke the camels back, or the butterfly effect (basically a type of systems feedback loop). We see some of this kind of behavior with revolutions - think Tunisia and Egypt, were a long history of small things kept building pressure, building pressure, and then suddenly one small isolated event, or what appears to be an isolated event, suddenly triggers massive change.

One of the things that is going on in our environment right now is a massive loss of biodiversity, so a range of species and ecological environments are being destroyed and driven to extinction. While this certainly bodes badly for the continuance of the current ecological system, at least within the boundaries that support human existence, it certainly doesn't mean that the trend towards loss of diversity will continue.

My thought is, "Is it possible that we could see a sudden explosion in ecological diversity?", "Could the space created and the instabilities created through the loss of normal equilibriums result in nature being incredibly and explosively evolutionary?" "Could we see a massive series of mutations and new plants emerge in a way that we could never have been anticipated or expected?"

I am no ecologist, so I don't know that I can answer this question. What I do think is it is a possibility, and that this possibility could play out in at least three scenarios:

1) The sudden explosion in increased diversity is damaging to humans. This could mean an explosion in viruses and bacterias that we have no defense mechanism for. Or, a massive increase in invasive species that proliferate across almost all ecological environments killing our crops, taking over environments and generally being hostile to humans.

2) This increased diversity enables us to harvest new foods, discover new animals and other ways of harnessing the environment. In this scenario we are reactive.

3) We are able to co-develop this explosion through the use of new human knowledge of genetics and bio-engineering. This would help us to work and mold certain evolutions with an aim towards benefiting both humans and the overall sustainability and resiliency of the needed human eco-system.

In other words, could our massive killing off of the environment, coupled with our immense knowledge of the engineering of nature, allow us to counter-act and respond, positively, to the negative trends we have set in motion.

Could the loss of bio-diversity actually enable one of the biggest flowerings in diversity and evolution?

We know, based on the laws of thermodynamics, that what humans have done is transfer massive amounts of energy from one space (mostly fossil fuels) to another, releasing lots of stored energy into what could be seen as increasingly non-equilibriated systems. That energy is gonna produce something!

Just a thought!

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