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Interdependence is the mutual dependency of many beings upon one another for their well-being. In the ecological realm, it refers to the dependency of each life form on the others within its food web, its local ecosystem, and indeed the totality of life on earth. In spiritual or religious thought, it extends beyond well-being to include one's existence: people exist through relationships to other people, to nature, and to the universe.

Before biological interdependence was understood, scientists assumed that "pests" -- the weeds, the pathogenic bacteria, the crop-destroying insects -- could safely be eliminated with impunity. What use were they? Today mankind is learning, often the hard way, that all are poorer and sicker when any species is eliminated.

This is true in the ecosystem: for example, when the wolves and mountain lions were eliminated from the forests of the Eastern United States, the deer population exploded. The deer stripped the bark off trees and devoured certain plant species entirely, changing and reducing the composition of the flora. Each change produces a cascade of other changes, with highly unpredictable results. Who knows why our forests today are overrun with ticks and poison ivy?

In the human body, the elimination of species has a similarly debilitating effect. The depopulation of intestinal bacteria through antibiotics, chlorinated water, and sterile diets causes all kinds of problems: yeast overgrowth, immune system disorders, and so on. One depends on the community of life, within and outside, for its well-being. As the increasingly dire effects of deforestation, extinction, and global warming become more evident, it becomes clear that truly, what one does unto the other, he or she does unto themselves. That is because self and other are not ultimately separate.

Ancient cultures had a living intuition of the connection among all life, referring to other species as, for example, "All my relations". TBC

See also


Author: Charles Eisenstein