It’s All Connected

First published 31 Jul 2013

I remember sitting by the side of a field years ago and gently unfurling a leaf. Inside the curled up leaf there was an orange, slightly translucent earwig with nasty-looking pincers.

I opened more leaves and there were more earwigs. Some leaves had several earwigs tucked inside them.

Wriggling, segmented, translucent orange insects with big pincers were not top of my list for beauty and I remember thinking that the earwigs were invaders. That was in the days when I saw everything as disconnected.

And yet I saw myself as a keen nature lover. I often went out and looked at birds and trees and plants and fungi and insects, and at just about everything from the clouds to the sea to the earth and the rocks. I could see myself as a keen nature lover and yet dislike certain parts of it.

That wasn’t so strange, was it? After all, some parts of nature are definitely unpleasant for humans if they come in contact with them. But reflecting on how I saw things it is also true that I saw nature as disconnected.

Now, over the years I have come to see that the leaf depends on the earwig and the earwig depends on the leaf. I see that there will be something – a microbe, a bacterium, a process – something that dictates that the balance is preserved as long as there are leaves for earwigs to curl up in, and earwigs for leaves to curl around. It’s a connected world.

I see that the balance will be broken if there are no earwigs. If that happens then somewhere down the line there will not be any leaves.

All of which leaves me with another question, which is to wonder how finely balanced the balance of nature is. We see every day that nature is resilient and able to recover. But maybe it has weak points where a small change would tear it apart. I shouldn’t walk around fearful of that tear in the fabric of nature, but we humans do seem like the kid with a stick, poking at something and surprised when it breaks.