Old-growth cultures

The key to success is to get more of everything than your neighbor, and to get it faster. That life strategy works when resources seem to be infinite. But pioneer species, not unlike pioneer humans, require cleared land, hard work, individual initiative, and numerous children. In other words, the window of opportunity for opportunistic species is short. Once trees arrive on the scene, the pioneers’ days are numbered, so they use their photosynthetic wealth to make babies that will be carried by birds to the next clear-cut. As a result, many are berry makers: salmonberry, elderberry, huckleberry, blackberry.

The pioneers produce a community based on the principles of unlimited growth, sprawl, and high energy consumption, sucking up resources as fast as they can, wresting land from others through competition, and then moving on. When resources begin to run short, as they always will, cooperation and strategies that promote stability—strategies perfected by rainforest ecosystems—will be favored by evolution. The breadth and depth of these reciprocal symbioses are especially well developed in oldgrowth forests, which are designed for the long haul.

Industrial forestry, resource extraction, and other aspects of human sprawl are like salmonberry thickets—swallowing up land, reducing biodiversity, and simplifying ecosystems at the demand of societies always bent on having more. In five hundred years we exterminated old-growth cultures and old-growth ecosystems, replacing them with opportunistic culture. Pioneer human communities, just like pioneer plant communities, have an important role in regeneration, but they are not sustainable in the long run. When they reach the edge of easy energy, balance and renewal are the only way forward, wherein there is a reciprocal cycle between early and late successional systems, each opening the door for the other.

braiding-sweetgrassch. 4.7

sound familiar?

pioneer species ~ humans over the last 10k years

competition / "bellum ominum contra omnes" works well in newly disturbed territory, when resources seem to be infinite. not so much later on in the course of ecological succession.

compare with kropotkin via gould in http://teias.org/tal/en/s/sj/stephen-jay-gould-kropotkin-was-no-crackpot.pdf


braiding-sweetgrass Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. ↩︎ 1