Thursday, May 3, 2012

Commensality is NATURE's globalization...

   Usually we think of Globalization as a 'hands up' affair.
   "Hands up, are we more opposed or more in favour of further globalization?"
   In this light, globalization is seen strictly as a man-made affair, a choice we decide to make.
   But the really important globalization, the globalization ancient beyond all time, Nature's globalization, isn't a human choice --- it is simply something we are stuck in: Suck it up. Reality Bites. Deal with it.
   Think of it as Global Commensality.
  As all life dining at the only table, on the only lifeboat we have.
   Sure, we humans like to think we are responsible for the fallout from that nuclear test in the South Pacific than ended up falling on the grass the cow ate before we feed its milk to our kids in Northern Norway.
   But actually it was Nature's air currents sweeping around the world that deposited that radioactivity, just as it turns one nation's pollution into acid rain for another country.
  Nature's breezes are the ones that spread the ash and smoke from a southern Asian volcano's explosion's up into the atmosphere around the Northern hemisphere, giving its residents a year without summer---- or good enough harvests to prevent famine.
  Nature's breezes also transport ,willy-nilly, tough hardy tiny bacteria and fungus spores across oceans and continents.
   Birds and insects use those breezeways, to fly as far as from the south pole to the north pole.
   Both sometimes also carry unwanted microbes or chemicals from continent to continent, blithely bypassing any sort of Borders & Customs restrictions that humanity might impose.
   Ocean currents are equally successful at sending not just small creatures and microbes on floating matts of vegetation across vast oceans to new lands - they now send us other nation's plastic wastes
from 4000 miles away.
  Those currents don't just move horizontally across the oceans - we learn in school that they rise and fall vertically from the surface to the deepest depths and vice versa --- creating the great food chain of the ocean by exchanging ocean floor mineral nutrients for surface biological waste nutrients.
  El Nino and El Nina, those regular alternations in ocean surface water temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific (a place where far less than 1% of us have ever even passed through, let alone visited) have the most amazing consequences around the world.
  For some it half a world away, it means dire droughts (or floods) and the real threat of famine.
  As for the rest of us, it means higher or lower rain and snow fall and our local storms rise and fall in intensity and number.
   Every inter-regional wind system from hurricanes to Trade Winds to  Jet Stream are twisted askew.
   To all of us, it means a rise and fall in the price of fish all over the globe as the upwelling of nutrients that feeds fish growth rises or falls --- a clear example of climate globalization affecting economic globalization.
   Tectonic Plate Movements aren't usually thought of as part of globalization - but they are. That volcano in Indonesia that dusted the skies over England was part of the clash and crash of tectonic plates of course.  
  More importantly, those massive plates are anything but equal in shape and size and location.
   They are constantly moving - moving closer to the
warm equator or closer the cold poles - and since land and ocean deal with incoming sunshine differently, that incessant movement constantly , slowly, changes the climate that feeds us all  -----in an unequal and unpredictable fashion.
   Fertile Crescents can become un-fertile deserts in a few thousand years - that is very much Time on a human scale.
  In addition, when those plates move closer to or further from each other, they change the shape of the passages between oceans and part of oceans (seas and bays) and this changes the direction and strengths of the big ocean currents - such as the well known Gulf Stream.
  We can imagine what that might mean !
   But we haven't even got into the biggest globalization processes of them - those great cycling backwards and forwards, upwards and downwards, of Life's key nutrients : ,water, oxygen, carbon, useable nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, iron.
   The human crisis caused by our carbon polluting the atmosphere shows us that this one action can affect all life : commensal globalization.
   By way of closing, let us contrast this with one of the central tenets of that great counter-romantic ideology, Modernity.
  In the great 'dance of the dialectic', Modernity never the less took up one of the streams of Romanticism that it sought to oppose: the one that insisted that nation's character emerged in part from the very molecules of the nation's soil incorporated into the nation's food and ultimately the nation's citizens.
   "Blood and Soil" .
  Admittably it was usually coached a little less blatantly than that, but in fact that was its essence.
   Global Commensality insists ,by contrast, that very little of the local topsoil stays actually stays local for  very long - always it is on the way to somewhere else , on its way to becoming something else.
   Credit to Charles Lyell : Reality on Earth is a constant, steady, rapid low grade flux, integrated on top of great extremely slow cycles, ever circling back on themselves.
    Discredit to Lyell as well : each iteration of the great cycles is actually also different from the one before it and after it.
    Complexity on top of complexity on top of complexity.
    Compared to Nature's globalization , human globalization is beginning to look like a piece of cake....

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