Ayres Knowledge Center Learning From Nature | Page 3

1 3 RULES OF NATURE 1: PRESERVATION OF ESSENCE Nature values places and systems that are capable of change over time without a material loss in essence. Think of a prairie. Over hundreds of years, the species composition of the prairie would have been dynamic, but the function and essence remained consistent. Nature invested a lot of energy into making the prairie, as a system. It doesn’t want to lose that investment right away (see Rule #2) so it values preservation of essence in the face of change. Human beings also tend to value places and systems that are capable of change without a loss in essence. Imagine that really cool old house you’ve passed on your drive that needs a little bit of work to make it a great house. If someone were to come along and sink some money into that house and keep it a house it typically (not always) retains more value to us as a culture, than if someone comes in and sinks the same amount of money into the house and makes it a swanky restaurant. In my experience, we are culturally more likely to justify razing the house that has been converted to a swanky restaurant to make way for a new building than we would be if it were still a great house. All things being equal and the house as home or restaurant was in good shape, we are more likely to accept razing the house that became a restaurant because it lost its essence. It might be a really nice restaurant but it’s not a home – its essence – and it’s much harder to undo the house as a restaurant and make it home again than it would be to put up something new. Even if that new thing was another house or condo. A prairie that becomes a savanna, and savanna, woods, has lost its essence. It’s no longer a prairie, now it’s woods. Fortunately, Nature has a way to stop the progression from prairie to woods (or it did until human settlement largely suppressed the technique 5 ). Prairies are grasslands, and most grasslands are maintained by fire 6 . In the United In the United States today we have much more woods today than was historically present, largely due to the suppression of fire for settlement purposes. Estimates of the amount of prairie in the United States varies, many historical ecologists describe prairies from coast to coast, across the United States. All historical ecologists agree we have significantly less prairie today than existed even 50 years ago. 5 6 Drought or low rainfall is another way to encourage graminoid (grass) dominance in the absence of fire. AYRESASSOCIATES.COM | 3