Barry Commoner’s Ecological Legacy

On his passing, it’s worth reflecting how much of Dr. Commoner’s most well known ecological catechism has been embraced by natural resource professionals:

Everything is Connected to Everything Else.

Everything Must Go Somewhere.

Nature Knows Best.

There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

1 thought on “Barry Commoner’s Ecological Legacy”

  1. Andy,

    I don’t intend any disrespect to Dr. Commoner’s legacy, but I’m questioning the origins of the ideas you attributed to him in this post

    First “everything is connected to everything else”

    but different philosophies and religions have believed for many centuries, that not only is everything connected to everything else, but that everything is everything else.

    From Wikipedia on Monism here:

    Following a long and still current tradition H.P. Owen (1971: 65) claimed that

    “Pantheists are ‘monists’…they believe that there is only one Being, and that all other forms of reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it.”

    Most pantheists are monists because they believe all of reality is one substance, called God or Nature

    “Every thing must go somewhere.” is this the conservation of matter and energy?

    “Nature knows best.” This seems too facile to really be an idea. What would the Pompeiians say? Vesuvius knew best?

    “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” I looked this up and the attribution does not seem clear, but it does seem more the province of economists than ecologists.

    Looking up monism somehow led me to this poem of one of my favorite poets Rumi, a 13th Century Persian.

    One Song

    Every war and every conflict
    between human beings has happened
    because of some disagreement about names.

    It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
    because just beyond the arguing
    there is a long table of companionship
    set and waiting for us to sit down.

    What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
    many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
    All religions, all this singing, one song.

    The differences are just illusion and vanity.
    Sunlight looks a little different
    on this wall than it does on that wall
    and a lot different on this other one,
    but it is still one light.

    We have borrowed these clothes,
    these time-and-space personalities,
    from a light, and when we praise,
    we are pouring them back in.


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