Greetings Family and Friends!
Lee Kaiser here, community member and resident ecologist at Novalis. I am writing from the US after my latest 5 months of intensive work, play, and study, with plentiful personal, collective, and ancestral healing as part of a continuation of the transformational journeys that I have been blessed with over the years in Peru. I wanted to take a bit of time to share with you some inspiration, motivation, and reflections of mine regarding our ongoing work at Novalis related to ecology, permaculture, agroforestry, and all things mother nature.
The word ecology today has become a bit loaded, due to social trends and commercialization, where eco is blended into the creation of products and services (e.g. eco-friendly home, health, and beauty products, eco-tourism vacation packages, eco-parks for visitors to explore nature in a human friendly and approachable manner, and even eco-transit for providing environmentally conscious travel services). But what is ecology, and why is this trend so prolific and at times even disturbingly bastardized by products and services that are clearly destroying our planet?
Products and services that are marketed to us as being "environmentally friendly" and "conservation oriented" are not always embodying that on a deeper level. However, there is nevertheless a substantive, meaningful, and sincere application of this word eco. Nowadays it just takes a thorough, deep dive into knowing the product/service in order to be able to evaluate it's sourcing and real life impact on this planet and the network of elements, organisms, forces, cycles, and systems which make it a living, breathing ecological entity. Because we can all appreciate that this planet is alive, but even saying that can easily become degraded into new-age, fairy-land abstractions and romanticized idealism.
For me personally, where I feel that I can, with clarity, passion, conviction, and intuitive, feeling-based affirmation integrated with intellectual underpinnings, say that mother nature and our beautiful planet earth are living beings, it comes from personal experience informed by understanding. That understanding is not rooted in dry intellectualism, it is informed and enriched by scientific mysticism, natural philosophy, and pragmatic inquiry, but it is based in understanding through personal experience. I would like to share a little bit of this with you today, and I appreciate your time and consideration in reading and reflecting on what I have to share here.
For me, ecology is inextricably rooted in the biological concepts of coevolution and community ecology. Community ecology is something I first became exposed to while studying tropical ecology in Costa Rica in 2007, where I was shown firsthand what a vibrant and healthy community looks and feels like, via experiences where this sense of community truly resounded and resonated on a profound level for the first instances in my life. What I was shown was a tropical reef, a coastline mangrove swamp, a genuine, pristine, virgin, primary rainforest called Corcovado national park, a deciduous, dry, tropical forest, freshwater pools fed by waterfalls, and a desert landscape between towering volcanic peaks. What was most impactful about these experiences was that I was shown them by people dedicated to observing, honoring, and nourishing mother nature through what they conveyed to me in approaching, being deeply touched by, and learning through the lens of reality termed "tropical community ecology".
Coevolution is a simple term that essentially represents the reality that species influence and are necessarily involved in the interaction, metamorphosis, blossoming, and proliferation of one another. Coevolution means the lichen, a fungus that needs the algae to live because the algae needs the fungus to live. Coevolution means the coral, a polyp that needs the zooxanthellae to live because the zooxanthellae need the polyp to live. Coevolution means the golden retriever, the chihuahua, the human, the wolf, the elk, the willow, the aspen, and the fungal mycelia, because we are all so deeply connected through generation after generation of living amongst one another that our interactions, livelihood, wellbeing, and proliferation cannot be extracted from that of the other.
This is what ecology is for me, and it is what we try to embody at Novalis; life is inherently, intrinsically and essentially rooted in community and the blossoming of us all coming together in an altruistic way. Because I cannot exist without my fungal kin who recycle the nutrients amongst the plants and communicate vital environmental messages across the landscape. And I cannot exist without the towering oak, mango, and sequoia trees taking in their sacred fuels of carbon dioxide and sunshine which provide me with my sacred fuels of carbon and oxygen. And I cannot exist without the fish swimming in the rivers and oceans, fertilizing the waters and microorganisms, feeding the aquatic systems.
And in my reality, where all of life is a living, breathing, community-based entity of coevolution, the plants, fungi, lichen, bacteria, birds, insects, mammals, herpetofauna, mollusks, and cephalopods need me too. They need me to be a conscious, loving, generous, nourishing, respectful, transformational, and even devotional organism. They need me to participate in the cycles and the changes, while engaging with all the elements, forces, spirits, and fellow organisms. When I can do that as a human being who humbly recognizes their roles and blessings, and who steps up to the task to devote oneself to the beauty, wonder, majesty, and divinity of our mother, of planet earth, Pachamama, our sacred hoop of relations, it is then that I feel I have become a natural part of a natural system.
From my personal experiences, to depart from this system, or to pretend that I am in charge, superior, or have the "correct" view on things, I am then naive and foolish, and I am then sick and in need of serious help and guidance. Pachamama is in charge, the fungi and the eagle have the broad view, the plants are cultivating and shaping us to help them continue on, the oceans and rivers are permitting our sacred internal waters of the fluids necessary for life to keep us nourished and alive. We are a beautiful facet of nature with many gifts which we ought to share with the world, but they are, in my view, to be shared in community, and to be a part of an altruistic blossoming that connects, sustains, and honors all of life. This is my goal, this is my dedication, and this is why I choose to live in community at Novalis. I feel that in our beautiful jungle home that mama nature has gifted us, there is a real opportunity to actually participate with and honor life in a sacred way...