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Disequilibrium Ecology and Ecological Nihilism

DISEQUILIBRIUM ECOLOGY AND ECOLOGICAL NIHILISM

Published by Williams Michael Manja ,at Shakespir.

© Copy right 2016: Williams Michael Manja.

 

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DEDICATION

I want to dedicate this book to all Ecologists and conservationists who believe that there is no stable state in the Ecosystem, and change is constant.

 

CONTENTS

Meaning of disequilibrium Ecology

Critical look at Equilibrium Ecology

The sixth Mass Extinction Crisis of Wildlife Organisms

Human Rapid Global Population Growth and Equilibrium Ecosystem

Speciation, evolution and disequilibrium

Disequilibrium and Bio-Chemical Cycles in Nature

Climax community and disequilibrium

Ecological Debt and Man’s Ecological plight

Ecological Nihilism

Does Equilibrium Exist in the Ecosystem?

References

 

 

DISEQUILIBRIUM ECOLOGY

Meaning of disequilibrium Ecology

First, we can understand disequilibrium Ecology by first understanding the concept of Equilibrium Ecology. Equilibrium Ecology is the study of the relationship between organisms and their environment in which under normal circumstances, species addition and loss are balanced in such a way that changes or displacement from the equilibrium value results in changes in speciation or extinction rate that tend to restore the system to its equilibrium state, Equilibrium theory (2008). It is a system in “Equilibrium,” which when disturbed, will return to its condition prior to the disturbance. By implication, an “equilibrial” system contains self correcting and self repairing mechanisms, Ernest (2005). This means that, organism and their environment can change interdependently, but they tend to return to their former state or condition exactly as they were. For example, equilibrium grazing systems, are characterised by relatively high levels of climatic stability, resulting in constant levels of primary production to support certain number of herbivores. If there is a change in the climatic condition, which affects the primary productivity, the population of the herbivorous animals will be affected or compelled to change too. This kind of change, is only temporary, as when the climatic conditions improves, the primary productivity will bounce back to its former quantity, or position which in turn makes the number of herbivores to also bounce back to their former number of population; equilibrium is maintained in each level. The proponent of equilibrium ecology holds that, no any change in the environment is permanent. Any change is just temporary and will never be permanent under normal or natural circumstances. To them, “nothing is permanent except equilibrium itself.” For example, when a lion feed on zebra continuously, the population of the zebra which initially was higher than that of the lions, has to reduce because of the intensive feeding upon them by the lions. The population of the lions will increase, and when it is higher than that of the zebra (its prey), their population will begin to reduce until it returns to its former population or even less, such as supported by Lotka-Voltera predator/prey equations. The organisms’ population always return to a state of equilibrium.

Disequilibrium Ecology is a term used to describe systems that do not tend toward a stable balance. It holds that, when there is a change in the ecological system, it is not possible for the system to return to any equilibrium state. it is very hard to attain an equilibrium in any state, except when a person is considering equilibrium as a relative term. There is no perfect condition or state in existence anywhere, and it is same in ecology. There is no system that can return as it was as exactly as it should be; there will be little or major changes that can be noticeable or unnoticeable to an ecologist.

 

Critical look at Equilibrium Ecology

I have calmly observed the view of the old ecologists that were the proponents of the equilibrium ecology, and I realise that, to stick to the view that equilibrium exist in ecology, is a great mistake in itself. There is no such thing as “equilibrium,” in true sense except in theory which when put to test, will not be what it means. To agree that equilibrium (stable state) exist, is same as agreeing that “perfect” conditions or state exist too. There is nothing that is perfect except, disequilibrium or change. This means that, organisms and their environment can change interdependently, but they do not tend to return to their former state or condition exactly as they were. The equilibrium ecologists were so marred by erroneous theories such as the ten percent law of ecology or feeding relationship, which we shall look at later, and they hold firm to such believes without divergent view which perhaps might had led them to the truth that, disequilibrium rather than equilibrium exist in the ecosystem.

The understanding of the disequilibrium is crucial for making accurate predictions, planning, and the perception of the changes that occur in the ecosystem. Many predictive studies that focused on equilibrium end-points with little consideration of transient trajectories end up with just true-like results that misled the world in to a serious ecological problems, that is ravaging our ecosystem today. For example, most early scientists or equilibrium ecologists held that, despite environmental changes such as deforestation, pollution, land conversion etc that were pioneered by man, the ecosystem will still remain the same. They believed that, even if there was change, with time the ecosystem will return to its former equilibrium state and everything will be normal naturally again. Most ecologists, streamlined their researches and others had their knowledge bequeathed to them from those with such erroneous view, and today after man reclined on his seat thinking that the changes ongoing in the ecosystem will naturally return to its former position even without any conscious effort, realised today that, it was just a grave mistake, to have accepted that view. The climatic changes that have links to man’s day to day’s activity were not going to be brought back to equilibrium without conscious effort.

 

 

The sixth Mass Extinction Crisis of Wildlife Organisms

It is frightening but true; our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, the extinction crisis (n.d). We are currently experiencing the sixth wave of wildlife extinction in the past half-billion years. Many species of organisms are ding off since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The extinction, which is a normal natural phenomenon, is increasing almost unpredictably. Scientist estimates that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literary dozens going extinct every day. It is normal to have one to five species going extinct every year, but to have dozens going extinct every day, is an abnormal situation that might have been triggered by man’s misconception, greed, materialism and believe in equilibrial state of the ecosystem. In the past, mass extinction was caused majorly by natural phenomena such as; asteroids strikes, volcanic eruption, and natural climate shift, but the present crisis is caused largely by man. 6,300 known species of amphibians are at risk of extinction. Frogs, toads and salamanders are disappearing because of habitat loss, climate change, water and air pollution, diseases, introduction of exotic species, ultraviolet light exposure etc. A report in 2009 and 2010 shows that 192 species of birds, 1,851 species of fish, 9,526 species (30 percent) of different sorts of invertebrate, 50 percent of world’s mammals, 12,914 species of plants, that is, 68 percent of evaluated plants species, 21 percent of reptile species are threatened with extinction, the extinction crisis (n.d). Since 1970, we have lost 52% of the earth’s birds, mammal, fish, reptile and amphibian populations, Linsay and Karl (26th June, 2015). These are facts of our wildlife conditions today. They are actually going extinct with man doing less to protect them, because the number of people harming the wildlife consciously or unconsciously is more than the number of conservationists trying to protect them from the harm.

Why am I bringing the above factual statistics? What has equilibrium ecologists said about extinction? They held that, after every change, the species would bounce back to its former population (equilibrium state). How true is their opinion? If it were true that, changes in the ecosystem were temporary and will always return to the equilibrium state using their own mechanism, then we would not have had many species of organisms going extinct. Someone may say, the recent extinction of organisms is not natural or is largely as a result of man’s interference with the natural environment. Well, that is true, but how about the extinct dinosaurs? Was it because of anthropogenic activities? No, it was because of natural occurrences such as asteroids, food scarcity because of the animals’ increased population. If ecosystem which consists of the organismic system and the environment, can bounce back to its former state of equilibrium after dynamic changes, then the dinosaurs and many organisms, would not have extinct. They extinct because, disequilibrium rather than equilibrium, exist and led to their extinction. The earlier, man comes to the realisation that believing in the non existing equilibrium state in the ecosystem, is a blinding contest that he will never win, the better, if at all we want to see clearer, to tackle our ecological problems before they become too late as is witnessed with the climate change and its consequences on man’s existence. Those things that change in the ecosystems do not return to their previous state of ‘equilibrium,’ and they will never do, without conscious effort by man to manipulate them.

 

Human Rapid Global Population Growth and Equilibrium Ecosystem

During my undergraduate, in one of our demography and anthropology classes, our lecturer had posited that, no matter what, the human population would remain the same because mortality and natality will always check each other. He said, as someone die to reduce the population in a community, someone is born within the same community and the human population will always remain the same. I remember disagreeing with that position in totality, but he held firm that even when the population increases, a natural phenomenon or human caused factor will occur to reduce the population back to its former size. Sure, if someone looks at this apparently, he or she shall align himself or herself to this way of seeing changes in the population. Many children are born every day, and many people die from disease, war, crisis, or accidents thereby dragging the growing population back to its former state. As much as there is truth in this population equilibrium view, there is a serious flaw or mistake in this view that most population experts still holds firm to like religion. This view is more or less a belief system than factual science. It is an ancient non-working theory especially when it holds that changes in population re-adjust absolutely. It is true that many factors in an ecosystem or society increase or reduce population. It is also true that in virtually all creatures, there is organism and its opposite, or there are positive and negative factors that antagonise each other to correct escalation of an event, or occurrence, but it is not true that changes will always exactly return to its former state. there is no equilibrium in true sense within the ecosystem, but there are factors that tend to return changes to their former state, and state of equilibrium will never be attained absolutely by any ecological happenings or changes.

I want us to observe human population growth over the years. In 1804 human population in the world was, 1 billion. In 1927 (i.e. 123 years after), human population grew to 2 billion. 33 years later, in 1960, the world’s human population grew to 3 billion. In 1974 (14 years later), human population in the world increased to 4 billion. In 1987 (ie 13 years later), the population increased further to 5 billion; in 1999 (12 years later), the human population increased to 6 billion and finally in 2015, the human population increased to 7 billion, the world at six billion (1999). In relation to the growing human population, if there were any state of equilibrium, which can be attained, then human population would not have kept exploding to its current size today. The factors correcting the population increase, would not have allowed the human population to keep increasing without reducing even for a year ever since the present human species (Homo sapiens) evolved roughly 130,000 to 160,000 years ago. There is no single practical truth in equilibrium ecologists’ view of stability in the ecosystem due to natural balance’ mechanisms that will tend to correct all excesses within the ecosystem. This erroneous position that has been widely believed like religion without so much to practically see than the theoretical misguidance, is partly the contributing factor to present human problems that emanates in line with the population growth. The struggling on resources, social amenities, power, survival etc took man unaware because, he was misled by the epistles of ecological stability to belief that the population in the first instance will be reduced by other antagonising factors to bring it to a normal state. Rather than accepting the reality presented by disequilibrium ecology to adjust and fit in to the reality and challenges of the population growth, man was lured in to his present predicaments and regretful hue and cry.

Natality/Mortality and Immigration/Emigration=zero?

To hold that birth rate and death rate within a population, will absolutely correct each other or immigration and emigration will always exert absolute correcting influence on each other, as the equilibrium ecologists believe, is same as saying:

Natality-mortality=0 (‘equilibrium’) or immigration-emigration=0 (‘equilibrium’)

Zero (0) or any other number, is an absolute number, and there is no such absolute attainment in nature. Elasticity of a population will not always return it to its exact former number or size. If it were true that death rate can absolutely counters birth rate within a given population of organisms or human at a particular time, human population would not have grown from 1 billion in 1804 to 7 billion in 2015. You can now begin to guess what the population will be in some fifty years to come looking at its increase almost in a geometric rate. Should we then fold our arms and wait for nature to use its mechanism to exert change that will reduce the population back to 1 billion as in 1804? Did you answer, “NO”? Ok, that is what the pro-equilibrium ecologists were advising us to do, and are still suggesting we do. There is no way if not per chance that birth rate will equals death rate or immigration equals emigration in a given habitat or society. Birth rate equalling death rate is a salient law holds firm by the equilibrium ecologists. That is the part of the problem affecting the world; apart from the religious view that religion conservationists holds firm that God has commanded man to, “Go, and multiply,” and the Medicare that increase longevity which most countries see it as an opportunity to win the population “race” that attracts market and encourages productivity and consumption of goods and services.

 

Speciation, evolution and disequilibrium

A speciation considered as the process in which a new species is produced from a particular existing species of organisms. It is a lineage-splitting event, which produces two or more separate species. John (2015) defined speciation as the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution. Speciation involves the splitting of a single evolutionary lineage in to two or more genetically independent lineages. Speciation can be caused by many factors which include Geographic isolation (Allopatric speciation) in which the same species of organisms are separated by geographic barrier and each in adapting to the environment, gradually develop different characters, feeding mode and type, and are prevented from interbreeding with each other. Speciation starts when population are prevented from interbreeding by geographic isolation. With long time of separation, the organisms cannot interbreed even when they are joined together due to developmental and genetic divergence between the two separate, but formerly same species. Allopatric speciation is considered, as the dominant form of speciation among organisms that engage in sexual reproduction. For example, Erasmus Darwin’s finches on the galapagos Islands, which may have speciated allopatrically because of volcanic erruption that divided populations, is a famous example. It may not necessarily mean only physical barrier like mountains or river that separates the organisms; it might just be unfavourable habitat between the two populations that keeps them from mating together. They gradually develop distinct characteristics, which evolved due to adaptation the nature of the environment. Eventually, new species of organisms can evolve.

Speciation leads to the evolving of a new species of organisms. There will not be evolution without speciation if a new organism is to evolve. Disequilibrium, which causes divergence among the same species of organisms, support speciation and evolution. In eukaryotic species (organisms with clearly defined nucleus), two important processes occur during speciation: the splitting up of one gene pool in to two or more separated gene pools (genetic separation) and the diversification of an array of observable physical characteristics (phenotypic differentiation) in a population. A controversial alternative to allopatric speciation is sympatric speciation in which reproductive isolation occurs within a single population without geographic isolation. In general, when populations are physically separated, some reproductive isolation arises, John (2015). There is no doubt that gradual divergence among organisms in an ecosystem lead to the formation of new species hence, evolution of present day human, Homo sapiens, is caused by environmental and genetic disequilibrium within the ecosystem. Disequilibrium within and outside of an organism, leads to the visible changes that are noticed on the organism. If it were true that changes within the ecosystem will always return to its previous state or position, then a new species would not have evolved from already existing species and there will not be evolution among organisms including man. If the equilibrium ecologists were right that every change can eventually be compelled back to its former state by certain mechanisms within a habitat, then there would not have been any speciation or evolution of organisms, because divergence from allopatric isolation would be controlled by a converging factor which can return the changes in or on the organisms to its previous species characteristics, so that no new species will be formed. Since there were no such compelling factors that reverse speciation and allow divergence to lead to a new species of organism, then it is clear that equilibrium exist only in idealised theories and not in ecosystemic realities. The divergence (disequilibrium) among organisms is constant. That is the reason that, speciation and evolution occur. If we are to hold firm to the view of the equilibrium ecologists, then perhaps we should be expecting the present species of human (Homo sapiens) to return to the characteristics, future and behaviour of their previous primitive ancestor; Homo habilis, which is the earliest documented representative of the genus Homo, that evolved around 2.8 million years ago, or Homo erectus or Homo ergaster, which are all the ancestors from which the present man evolved. Is that not hilarious to expect such a return to our previous existence, or to expect changes among other species of organisms to be reversed? Why then should we clinch to the view of equilibrium ecosystem or ecology when we know that there is no practical truth in equilibrium within the ecosystem than the idealised theoretical misguidance?

Disequilibrium supports speciation and evolution, because every change within the group of organisms which shall either be genetically motivated or physically influenced, is as a result of divergence from the genetic makeup of a particular species of organisms, or a divergence from characteristics of isolated organisms. Independent assortment during the metaphase of meiotic divisions, and the random separation of chromosomes to opposite poles, leads to differences among organisms even from the cellular level, and this achieved differences, would not be reversed to any equilibrium state or position. The differences are sorts of disequilibrium which support variation within a family, community and an entire population of organisms.

The flaw of the 10 percent ‘law’ of energy flow in Trophic levels

Raymond Lindeman (1942), introduced the famous ten percent law of energy transfer. The ‘law’ holds that, during transfer of energy from organic food, from one trophic level to the next, only about ten percent of the energy from organic matter is stored as flesh. The remaining is lost during transfer, broken down in respiration, or lost to incomplete digestion by higher trophic levels. This means that, when primary producers utilise the sun light and produce their food, when herbivores consume the plant, it is about ten percent of the total energy absorbed by the plants that is transferred to the herbivores. When the herbivore is consumed by carnivore, only ten percent of the energy obtained from the plants is transferred to the carnivore. This continues to reduce in the trophic level, up to the final trophic level. For example, when plants absorb 100,000J of energy from sun, they tend to transfer only ten percent (10,000J) of the energy to the herbivore (zebra). The zebra uses the energy for respiration, movement, reproduction etc, but it has ten percent (1000) of the energy fixed in its flesh which when a carnivore (Lion) prey upon it, it transfers it to the Lion. When the lion is consumed by an omnivore (man), only ten percent (100J) of what was obtained from the zebra will be transferred by the lion to the man. This keeps diminishing to the final trophic level should the food chain continues in the ecosystem. This try to explain how energy continues to diminishes from the base of a trophic level, to the top.

Now, let us look at the flaw of the ten percent ‘law’; the reason that I put the law in quote, is because there is nowhere this issue was discussed by scientists and generally accepted it as a law. It is not easy for a law to be made in science, because it has to pass through rigorous stages of test and retest, discussions and observations before it can finally be passed to law if the panel of scientists find it worthy base on certain criteria, to be called law. No one knows its origin, hence I do not think anyone should consider it a law. Lindenmann’s opinion on the issue of trophic transfer efficiency is good in pointing how energy is reduced or loss from its 100% of efficiency, according to trophic levels and functional groups. Ecthortherms are generally more efficient than endotherm. It seems to accept a fixed percentage of energy that is transferred to the next trophic level. This is a big mistake to say that, about ten percent of energy is transferred whenever there is a feeding relationship among the organisms. It may be true with an organism, but not all the organisms. To agree that about ten percent of energy is always transferred to the next trophic level of a pyramid is just supporting the non existing equilibrium in the ecosystem. It is trying to say, no matter how much energy an organism obtain from a primary producer, about ten percent is certainly fixed in the flesh of the primary consumer, and so is in other subsequent consumers. This is in line with the equilibrium ecologists’ view about occurrences in the ecosystem, since the change will always return to a particular point of equilibrium (ten percent) before continuing.

This ‘law’ goes against the actual occurrences that are known in feeding relationships among organisms in the ecosystem. For example, if one organism consumed an animal and it moved around for twenty four hours in search of its next food, and it did not get before it is attacked and consumed by another predator, passing the ten percent of the energy it had already fixed in its flesh to the new predator; and another separate animal consumed its prey and just slept to rest, but within five minutes of its feeding and resting, it is attacked and consumed by another predator. Now, does that mean that the animal that fed and roamed about in search of another food, and the one that went to rest immediately after feeding, passed the same percentage of energy to their predators? That is what Lindenmann is trying to make us to believe, which is not true. He cannot tell sane ecologists that, the organism that fed and slept, and another that fed and ran about for a long time, transfers the same ten percent of energy they obtained to their consumers in the next trophic level. Some scientists proposed that the value of energy is more than just ten percent, some said ten to thirty percent, others said about seventy percent, what so ever, I know that there is no any fixed percentage of energy that can be transferred to the next trophic level by organisms. Nothing is perfectly constant within the ecosystem, except disequilibrium. Therefore, to say a particular thing is fixed in the ecosystem is an error that can mislead ignorant or shallow thinking individuals.

Disequilibrium and Bio-Chemical Cycles in Nature

There are many chemicals cycling in nature, but it is true that balance equilibrium and resilience are never perfectly exemplified in nature. Example, nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle, oxygen cycle water cycle etc, never depict stability that most ecologists thought of. Most conservationists thought that, as there is evaporation of water, condensation takes place in the atmosphere, followed by melting and precipitation there by returning the exact water quantity that escaped from the ground or the land back to the land from the atmosphere. They think that evaporation reduces the water quantity of the land, but precipitation returns the same volume of water back to the land from the atmosphere, hence the quantity of water in the atmosphere, and the one on the land, remains the same. This is not true; it will never be the exact quantity of water that left the lithosphere to the atmosphere that is returned to the lithosphere. The system strife for equilibrium, but it has never attained the equilibrium, and it will never attain it at any point in time. In the world today, there is vociferation against the atmospheric pollution that brought about the global warming that in turns affects man negatively, and it is threatening man’s existence on earth. If the changes in the atmosphere have the capability of balancing naturally, then there would not be any clarion call for control of pollution or the need to reduce the amount of carbon and other dangerous chemicals from the earth’s atmosphere today. We would have been expecting the bio-chemical cycles, to be balanced, since they have the mechanism of doing so as the pro-equilibrium ecologists view it. It is because man was misled by the theory of ecological equilibrium, that he kept on observing the atmospheric hazardous chemical changes, but folded his hands hoping and believing that the situation will be corrected naturally without any reaction towards correcting it by man. You can tell by yourself what has happened to our environment and the atmosphere today. Today, the air in Beijing and many other major industrial cities is un-inhalable or poisonous. Breathing the air in Beijing today is equal to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, Mathew (2015). Many people in China are killed by the poisonous nature of the atmosphere. The most important for breathing, is 2.5 microns in diameter. Anything more than this, leads to more respiratory problems that occur due to particles clogging up people’s lungs, and killing man gradually or quickly. Today, the atmospheric pollution is causing serious respiratory disorders and diseases to man, there by killing him quickly. If the ecosystem has a self-replenishing mechanism to the absolute level perceived by the equilibrium ecologists, today man would not have been bothered by the possible self-destruction, because of the inability of the ecosystem to bounce back to its former condition of a “healthy atmosphere” as when man’s population was around one to four billion alone.

When nitrogen from the atmosphere, is fixed in the soil on land, the quantity released to the soil from the atmosphere, can never be the same quantity released back in to the atmosphere from the land after the dead of the organism, because certain sinks, trap and store some of the nitrogen and other chemicals such as the carbon, thereby causing imbalance in the quantity of the gases that can return to the atmosphere. More so, the amount of carbon dioxide, or carbon monoxide in the atmosphere cannot remain static or at a state of equilibrium because equilibrium does not exist but in theories; imbalance (disequilibrium), exist in the ecosystem and keeps on causing both positive and negative changes among biota and their environments. If the same quantity of water that leaves the water bodies and rivers is the same quantity that is returned to the water bodies from the atmosphere, then why are most lakes disappearing? For example, the famous Lake Chad known and seen several years ago is not the same size as the present Lake Chad we have due to several factors. The Lake Chad has shrunken to the level that made me wondering if we can still call it a lake. If there were certain balancing mechanisms that reverse ecosystem’s changes back to its previous state (state of equilibrium), then we would not have had the disappearing water bodies as it is the case today. The truth is, disequilibrium is the only existing phenomenon in the ecosystem, which leads to significant changes that will never ever return to their previous state or conditions.

 

Climax community and disequilibrium

Succession is defined as a step-by-step or systematic replacement of one biological community by the other, at a particular time and in a given habitat until a state of climax is attained. It is looked at as consisting of series of stages, which results to a “climax” community. Many stages that lead to replacing one community by the other, occurs before the “climax” community is established, and this ends the process of succession. The ‘’climax’’ community represents the combination of plants and animals which makes the most efficient use of the available resources and conditions to resist being replaced by another community. In ecology, climax community or climatic climax community is a historic term that expressed a biological community of plants, animals and fungi, which through the process of ecological succession, the development of vegetation in the area over time reach a steady state. “Steady state’’ is same as state of equilibrium, which I have already pointed out, that it never existed. “Climax” community does not exist, because to term a community, a climax community, is agreeing that the organisms that made up the community are “super-organisms” that do not experience any form of changes among them. It is erroneous to look at organisms as super-organisms or to claim that ecological communities could be homologous to complex organisms and sought to define a single ‘’climax’’-type for each area. Climax community exists only in idealised set of environment, but never in this world of real ecological occurrences.

Whitaker (1953) observed in his experiment that, plants’ species distributed themselves along nutrient and other environmental gradients. This is true, and it is the more reason that ecologists term some communities as climatic ecological communities. There are many factors that act against the true attainment of a climax community in an area, because even among the “stable community,” many changes occur among them causing intra changes among them. Just as demonstrated by Robert Whittaker, the “stable” community of organisms in an area are affected by climatic and other environmental factors that cause a constant change among them. Therefore, there is no stable community or ‘’Climax community.’’ External disturbances and environmental changes occur so frequently to the extent that the realisation of a climax community is certainly, unrealisable. I want to put it forward that, I am certain that disequilibrium exists in the ecosystem, because changes are constantly present; if at all “equilibrium” exists, then wherever disequilibrium exists, equilibrium will never be found existing there. Therefore, since disequilibrium exists constantly in different extents within the ecosystem, then equilibrium does not exist in the ecosystem. Hence, there is no equilibrium in the ecosystem.

 

Ecological Debt and Man’s Ecological plight

Accion (1999), defined ecological debt as debt accumulated by northern industrial countries towards third world countries on account of resource plundering and use of environmental space to deposit waste. In the same manner, in 2009 the Centre for sustainable Development (CDO) at Ghent University as recorded by Paredis et al (2009), proposed as working definition that, Ecological debt could be seen as:

1. The ecological damage caused over time by a country in other countries or to ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction through its production and consumption patterns,

2. the exploitation or the use of ecosystem (and its goods and services) over time by a country at the expense of the equitable rights to these ecosystems by other countries.

Ecological debt was coined to consider the plight of the poor countries or developing countries in the hands of the developed countries. It is true that, the developed and industrialised countries such as China, USA, Europe etc, have been causing untold hardships to the under-developed countries such as Africa and some parts of Asia. Most scientists within the developed countries did not see or rather refused to put in to cognisance the fact that the wastes produced in the course of production of goods in the industries, accumulate and crossed country or continental boundaries to affect the defenceless poor countries. The believe that nature has a way of returning the effect of pollution to a stable condition blinded the eyes of most conservationists to continue to act in error for not blowing the warning whistle to alert the world that it is going beyond a healthy world. Most of the developed countries had foreseen the danger, but kept quiet because they would not be the people to be affected most, than the developing countries. They have the money, resources, and the best brains to divert the effect caused as a result of their productions in line with consumption demands. The poor countries in the other hand have no means to control the effect of the pollution caused by the aggressive industrial activities taking place in developed countries. More aggressively to the detriment of the developing countries, most industrialised countries ship bulk of dangerous industrial wastes to be dumped in the developing countries. For example, in 1987, Italian businessmen had shipped toxic waste from Italian factories to Nigeria for storage in the backyard of a Nigerian business man, Sunday Nanna who ignorantly described them as miscellaneous construction materials. It was the alarm raised by an Italian newspaper on the toxic waste scandal, that the government of Nigeria took urgent steps to ensure that the wastes were cleared, Paul (2014). How many of such systematic illegal dumping has succeeded without detection? No wonder, the developing countries now surfer from severe pollution related illnesses. There is need for the developing countries to be compensated for the pollution calamities caused to them by the industrial countries, and such compensations should be used by the developing countries in combating or reverting the global warming effects through the control or minimising of the sources of pollutions within their countries. All these environmental problems engulfed man due to his allowing the ecological equilibrium theory and its “prophets” to blindfold him.

Now, I want to look at Ecological debt with a general consideration. Every nation has its share of ecological deviance that manifest in to man’s way of life today. When man is using ecological resources, or is depleting the environmental resources, which for sure will have repercussion on man in future, that is an ecological debt. The today’s man is paying squarely for the mistakes of the past (past ecological debt), which its repercussion manifest in the depletion of the ozone layer thereby causing global warming and its consequent effects which does not spares man’s life. In the same manner, man’s actions of refusing to repent from owing the ecological debt, will surely have a more devastating effects and consequences on posterity, because man is consuming or using what must be paid back in the future. We are consuming today, what we should consume today, and what we need not consume until tomorrow. Man should understand that the ecosystem has no equilibrium mechanisms that will perfectly avert the ugly imbalance existing in the ecosystem without man’s conscious and potent efforts.

 

Ecological Nihilism

Nihilism, simply refers to an extreme skepticism which maintains that nothing has a real existence. It has its bases in a Russian anarchistic revolution doctrine of 1860 to 1917, which held that condition in the social organisation were so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake, independent of any constructive program or possibility. Ecological nihilism is a movement which Sought to refuse to accept the existence of ecology and its role in sustaining human life informatively. There are many conservationists who pretend to accept the role of ecology, but they tend to disregard certain important aspects of ecology thereby causing retardation in the move towards concretising ecology that is playing significant role in human existence. A lot of ecological nihilists contradict the reality found in ecology; most of them seem to be supporting it, but in true sense, they are just trying to accompany it to its grave yard, if that can be possible. For example, Sagoff concluded in his discussion of ecosystem, that “the ecosystem…is just a pointless hodgepodge of constantly changing associations and organisms,” he further went on to say that, “there is no truth about ecosystem organisation, ’’ Sagoff, (muddle: 901, 931) in Earnest (2005). He meant that, ecosystem is a pointless (senseless; having no meaning, purpose or effect) hodgepodge (heterogeneous mixture) of constantly changing associations and organisms. If you look at Sagoff’s view apparently, it will seem he is supporting disequilibrium owing to the fact that he accepts that, ecosystem consist of constantly changing events and organisms, but in the true sense, he is an ecological nihilist. Ecologists cannot refer to ecosystem as pointless, or senseless or having no meaning or purpose. There are many people that hide under the umbrella of being ecologists or conservationists to fight the ecology, such an act is an ecological nihilism. To say there is no truth in ecosystem organisation, is like not accepting that there is no significant interrelationship among organisms and there non-living component in any given habitat. To have this view, is same as refusing to believe that ecosystem exists. Many people do not believe in ecology, they do not believe in the organisational structure of the ecosystem. Though, the ecosystem does not have a specific structure, but its organisational roles cannot be overlooked especially when interaction among different organisms, keep life to continue to flourish within an environment. There is interdependency among organisms within an ecosystem; what affects one organism, affects the other organism directly or indirectly. This is to say, there would not be any organism, or life without other organisms. This is the reason that the presence or absence of keystone species in an ecosystem affects the population of other organisms either negatively, or positively. The keystone species has significant impact on the ecosystem, as it is considered essential in maintaining optimum ecosystem or structure. Only the non-living component of the environment that can exist without other organisms or other non-living organisms, but organismic system in an ecosystem, will cease to exist without other living components. For instance, antelope cannot survive without plants in general, and lion or tiger cannot survive without herbivores around etc. If there are no plants on earth, there would not be any life except the bacteria that can chemosynthesis. This is to say that, the ecosystem has an organised form in which organisms live successfully. Without plants, man will certainly die.

Ecological nihilism, is a movement towards betraying man to believe that everything is going normal, while things are going abnormally wrong. To believe that equilibrium exist, is just an effort towards contradicting the truth in ecology, and that in itself, is a form of nihilism. It is true that numerous mechanisms try to return a change back to its former position within the ecosystem, but those mechanisms have never returned any event or change back to its exact former position (“equilibrium”) in the ecosystem. The mechanisms exist, but equilibrium does not exist. It is because of ecological nihilism, that many giant countries or politicians tend to play with the truth opened by ecology to help man to escape his contrived doom. The more reason that fighting global warming is hard, is because many rich people or countries that are suppose to play true roles in correcting the problem initiated by the environmental instability, are paying lip service with the serious matter. Most rich people are using it as an avenue to be in to business and to make money from it. There are many companies that are respected due to the fact that, they have something to do with controlling pollution. When you establish a company that has a name or parts of its name contain pollution control, or aim at reversing the ugly climate change, it will receive the decisive attention worldwide, that is how, many rich people and business men are in business today. Most politicians due to their myopic views due to ignorance turn to be silent ecological nihilists, who use the hue and cry over the global warming as a call for them to be popular, by just pretending to be concerned and putting modalities on ground to solve the problem. Most meetings over climate change by politicians who usually sponsor some few-gagged scientists to play expert roles, are mere meetings that are not different from party political rallies, where people eat, drink and make big political promises and leave without any tangible solution. Why they do so is because they do not want to be out of business; solving the climate problem, will mean certain big companies gaining from the problem to be out of business. Why am I saying so? It is simply because we all know that, only 20 percent of people are responsible for 80 percent of the contamination of our atmosphere or the environment. Those 20 percent of the people I am referring to are the few rich people or countries; if those people are ready, they can take pragmatic decisions that will reverse the deplorable condition of our environment to the benefit of both rich and poor people. This will be a very hard thing to do because they do not want their income from the problem to be thwarted. Therefore, ecological nihilism, is a movement toward resisting ecology, because it usually foresee and fore warn the world about eminent danger that awaits man should his attitude towards the environment does not change. This is the more reason that most people think that ecology is only scaring people from enjoying life in its fullest without fear of any environmental repercussion. Most ecological nihilists see ecology as the prophet of doom, and they are doing everything to overtly or covertly, do away with it. They have their supporters in different fields including the field of environmental conservation.

 

Does Equilibrium Exists in the Ecosystem ?

Equilibrium does not truly exist in the ecosystem. There are mechanisms that tend to return events or occurrences back to their former position or state, but they have never returned any change back to its exact position or state in the ecosystem. Those mechanisms are present in the ecosystem and are constantly working toward reversing changes to an equilibrium state, but they have never achieved that, and they would not likely achieve that in the future, because the mechanisms of disequilibrium in the ecosystem are stronger than the mechanisms of equilibrium. Disequilibrium occurs in every little time within the ecosystem. The equilibrium only exists in the theories of pro-equilibrium ecologists, but not in the ecosystem. Balance and imbalance, do not occur together in the same time and place, that is, if balance exists. What most conservationists and ecologists consider as balance or equilibrium, are not exactly what they think, but a near equilibrium, because equilibrium can never be naturally achieved within the ecosystem without man’s conscious effort in experiments where he sometimes sort things out with his hands.

I want to put it forward that, I am certain that disequilibrium exists in the ecosystem, because changes are constantly present; if at all “equilibrium” exists, then wherever disequilibrium exists, equilibrium will never be found existing there. Therefore, since disequilibrium exists constantly in different extents within the ecosystem, then equilibrium does not exist in the ecosystem. Hence, there is no equilibrium in the ecosystem.

 

REFERENCES

Equilibrium theory (2008). Disequilibrium theory. Retrieved from 21/12/2015, from www.ecologydictionary.org/equilibrium_theory

Ernest Partridge (March, 2005). Disequilibrium ecology; Much Ado about nothing: presentation at the group meeting of the international society for environmental ethics, pacufic division, American philosophical assertions, Sanfrancisco, California, Retrieved 10/01/2016 from: www.gadfly.igc.org/papers/much_ado.htm

 

The extincion crisis (n.d). The Extinction Crisis; centre for biological diversity. Retrived, 22/12/2015, from, www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversit y/extinction_crisis/

 

Lindsay Deutsh and Karl Gelles (26th June, 2015). 6th Mass Extinction? Jaring stats on wildlife today; USA today news, retreived 22nd December, 2015 from www.usatoday.com/story/news/nationnow/2015/06/26/wildlifestatistics- extinction129245459/

 

The world at six billion (1999). The world at six billion: United Nations Secreteriat, Department of Economic and social Affaires, p.8

 

John L. Gittleman (2015). Speciation: Biology; Encyclopedia Britanica, inc

 

Lindeman, R.L (1942). The Tropical Dynamic aspect of ecology. Ecology 23:399-418.doi:10.237/1930126

 

Mathew Humphries(2015). Breathing Beijing’s air is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day: science.

 

Whittaker, Robert H. (1953). A consideration of Climax theory: the climax as a population and pattern. Ecological monographs, 23:41-78

 

Accion Ecologica (1999). No more plunder, they owe us the Ecological Debt! Bulletin of Accion Ecologica: Qut Equador.

 

Paredis, E., Goeminne, G., Vanhove, W., Maes, F., Lambrecht, J. (2009). The Concept of Ecological Debt: Its meaning and applicability in international policy. Academic press scientific pub.

 

Paul Osuyi (July 6, 2014). Koko toxic waste: Indigenes still live with nightmare 27 years after; The Sun News, retrieved on the 6th January, 2016 from: www.sunnewsonline.com/koko_toxic_waste_indigenes_still_live_with_nigh t

About the AUTHOR

WILLIAMS MICHAEL MANJA, studied Biology/Integrated science in Federal College of Education Pankshin , Plateau state , Nigeria, and was the overall best Biology student among 2002/2003 graduating regular students. He obtained his B.Sc. Ed. in University of Jos where he studied Biology Education, and graduated as one of the best students in 2012.He is currently undergoing masters degree in Biology Education, in University of Jos, Nigeria. He studied and accomplished extended courses on, “Critical thinking in Global challenges”, with University of Edinburgh, UK, “Astrobiology and the search for Extraterrestrial life”, also with the University of Edinburgh, UK, “Drugs and the Brain” with California institute of Technology (CALTECH), all on the platform of coursera. He has been teaching Biology and Integrated science for more than ten years; and received several awards in 2012 and 2013, for hard work. He held different positions including the Head of the Department (HOD), sciences, and JETS patron for his input in Integrated and functional science. The Author is a young and curios writer, who has interest in both fictions and nonfiction works.

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Disequilibrium Ecology and Ecological Nihilism

Correcting the misunderstanding some ecologists and conservationists have about ecosystem and the operating mechanisms in the Ecosystem.

  • ISBN: 9781311328861
  • Author: Williams Michael Manja
  • Published: 2016-01-30 23:40:13
  • Words: 7994
Disequilibrium Ecology and Ecological Nihilism Disequilibrium Ecology and Ecological Nihilism