The principles of ecology were derived from years of observation about how things work in natural systems, including Aldo Leopold’s observations and insights (many of them chronicled in his now-famous Sand County Almanac…). Leopold broadened ecological thinking from a biology-centered view to an ethical view and said, in Sand County Almanac, that
‘A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.’
[Try applying that principle to all the decisions we make every day as individuals and as a society!]
in his book The Closing Circle, American ecologist Barry Commoner reduced this concept to more specific principles which he called the ‘Four Laws of Ecology’.
Everything is Connected to Everything Else – ‘The system is stabilized by its dynamic self-compensating properties; these same properties, if overstressed, can lead to a dramatic collapse’.
Everything Must Go Somewhere – ‘One of the chief reasons for the present environmental crisis is that great amounts of materials have been extracted from the earth, converted into new forms, and discharged into the environment without taking into account that everything has to go somewhere’.
Nature Knows Best – ‘The third law of ecology holds that any major man-made change in a natural system is likely to be detrimental’.
There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch – a simple warning that ‘every gain is won at some loss’.
It is important for policy-makers at all levels of government observe these natural laws, or their laws and policies will be counterproductive.