The Earth is not only our home, but also home to many complex interacting networks of plants, animals and microorganisms called ecosystems. The totality of these ecosystems, where all the living things on our planet reside, is referred to as the biosphere . Providing the conditions necessary for the biosphere is the thin layer of air around the planet (atmosphere), the liquid, ice and water vapor areas (hydrosphere), and earth’s crust and upper mantle where nutrients, minerals and e.g. fossil carbon reside (lithosphere). Life is sustained on our planet due mainly to two interconnected factors: 1) the ongoing solar flows of high-quality energy, and 2) the (constant) recycling of elements, powered by both the sun and the heat of the earth’s core. These processes happen every day and, to greater or lesser extent, have done so for billions of years. For free . TaaL: Quite right: it’s free... and also priceless . Unfortunately, your current societal organizing paradigm – neoclassical economics – considers it to be “free but worthless .”. That’s right, the E arth’s ecosystems and all they do for you are literally assigned a dollar value of zero and treated accordingly in public policy and culture. Since the advent of ubiquitous fossil energy, the general attitude towards the environment seems to be “what have you done for us lately?” In this context, it makes perfect sense to burn rainforests to get a decade of low-grade hamburger, to create exponentially-rising amounts of various pollutants which are then unceremoniously dumped, to suffuse the oceans with bits of plastic that will outweigh fish within a generation, to blasting those oceans with powerful sound waves looking for enemy submarines, to eat away the ozone layer which protects your biosphere from sterilizing UV radiation, and thousands of other such insults which are perceived to add, in some way, to Gross Domestic Product and what “feels good” to nascent human minds. These days, it may be rare to run into a person who is illiterate, for your society places value on basic reading. It is more common to find people who are functionally innumerate and have no real sense of mathematics, because one can “get by” without numeracy in a wealthy society. Yet you rarely meet anyone at all who is truly ecolate because your societies now believe that ecolacy is irrelevant to the human pursuit of quarterly earnings, reproducing, and ultimately going to heaven. (Indeed, have you even heard the word before?) This is more than a shame, for ecology is the science of what happens to living systems, what they can and can ’t do, and how conditions allow and influence the cans and the cant’s. Inasmuch as Earth’s ecosystems underpin all you ever have been or will be, perhaps it would be good to start teaching ecolacy in kindergarten.
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