It's All Connected!
The new big idea in environmental science is interconnectedness. The idea is that air, water, land and the living things in and on them are all connected in ways obvious and subtle. In our view this recognition (very slow in coming to many) is the underlying truth, which once more fully understood and absorbed, will transform how we address not just 'the environment' - but every aspect of our lives. Scientists are, in a few cases, working with other scientists across disciplines.
This understanding has already transformed the way many deal with their own wellness - as the interconnectedness of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health has come to be understood more and more clearly. The idea of separation, or dealing with parts individually, is actually a view introduced by the west. Eastern medical practices, health programs, and spiritual paths have long understood this reality. The approach of dealing with individual issues as isolated events - whether they be in the environment or in our bodies actually reflects an early stage of maturity in whatever field being considered.
For example, particularly in the earlier days of environmentalism the battles were waged over specific narrow issues. But often the bigger picture of how those individual issues fit into the large picture were not fully grasped. Sure it's good to save the Spotted Owl - but the owl is largely a symbol. The true issue is saving the system by which earth maintains her own health.
For many years now the Nature Conservancy has understood interconnectedness and has worked to support Mother Earth by saving entire areas and environments to protect ecosystems. As their understanding has grown, they have come to realize more and more that we humans are a part of those ecosystems, and how we fit in is a critical question. If all environmentalists ever do is act as though humans shouldn't exist - they are on a doomed path. So the Conservancy engages, along with a growing list of other organizations, with native people, local people, businesses, ranchers, loggers and farmers.
Western science got its start by isolating and studying events. Certainly, as with environmentalism, much can be learned through these efforts. But as science matures, it is realizing (at least some scientists are realizing) that the interconnectedness of everything means that isolating events by definition means that you aren't considering all the factors having an effect. The Butterfly Effect, applied in the context of weather modeling, recognized that small pieces of weather rapidly deteriorate any predictions. Uncertainties multiply. This means weather patterns won't hold over the long term, and therefore predictions will be inaccurate based on earlier data. (The usual understanding of the Butterfly Effect - a butterfly in Japan will cause a storm in New England is an oversimplification, but makes the point effectively.)
The Newtonian view of the world was part of the movement that saw the world as a big machine. In classical physics and determinism people believed that by isolating and understanding all the parts, one would come to an understanding of the whole. But over a century ago, discoveries in physics led to a revolution in scientific thought. In 1900 Max Plank let us know that the old theory needed a quantum jump. His discovery had to do with discontinuous motion, but it started a new direction of thinking that lead a great number of steps forward in understanding - including the recognition that matter is energy - and everything is made of the same stuff. Literally the same stuff. It has to be all connected because it's all made of the same ingredients!
Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, built on the work on Jay Forrester, demonstrated the interconnectedness of everything and how to deal with that in the work place. The essence of systems thinking as explained here is to see interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect chains, and to see processes of change rather than snapshots. Every decision or action has consequences - seen or not, intended or not. Everything is connected. Businesses that try to fix one area of the company without consider the others will not achieve success. Divisions are part of a greater whole. But it goes beyond that. People must individually develop if a business is to sustainably grow.
We in the west have only just begun. The great rishis (experts of the sacred) long understood this interconnectedness, and explained and expounded on it in the great sacred texts. The hindu tatvas exposed the basic ideas of vibration, wave theory and the fact that matter is made of energy long ago.
Consider these truths in our daily lives. Our health is dependent upon the health of where we live - in the large scope, Earth, and in the narrow scope - our homes and work places. And this is true on all levels. If you are eating foods that are not nutritious, and you are drinking water with poisons in it - your health and potential will be greatly limited. If you work in a place where the culture is negative, your spirit will be depleted - which will cause your energy and health to decline. The examples are limitless - think about a few examples yourself before you move on.
Everything is connected. How you live your life effects all other life. Consider the Butterfly Effect: What you do will dramatically effect what happens next. Put yourself in good environments. Help create good environments. Be a positive influence - it is all connected.