Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The ‘Balance of Nature’ Myth

SPOTLIGHT: There’s no such thing as a ‘balance of nature.’

BIG PICTURE: A prominent theme of ecologist Daniel Botkin’s latest book, 25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment, is that the natural world is more sophisticated than we imagine.

Everything is fluid. Numerous interactions are taking place at any given time. On multiple levels and in multiple directions. Between species and within species.

The belief that whales and other animals would be peachy keen if only humans weren’t around informs many conservation measures. We’re the skunk at the picnic. We disturb. We perturb. We upset a natural, intrinsic balance.

The irony of such ‘environmental’ thinking, says Botkin, is that it ignores the environment:

There is no change in the weather – no storms, hurricanes, or volcanic eruptions. The population has no diseases and no predators. Its food can’t vary in abundance because the amount of food just isn’t represented in the equation…

This school of thought is bankrupt. In Botkin’s words:

Scientists have tried very hard to see if the [balance of nature] logistic could work for real populations out in the wild; after searching the scientific literature at great length, I’ve found that they have always failed…it has never worked in the real world outside of a laboratory. In physics, when an equation completely fails to make accurate forecasts of real events, it is abandoned…ecologists have done just the opposite of physicists: They have continued to use an equation that has never matched real-world observations.

Why do the WWF, the Sierra Club, and the Canadian Wildlife Federation continue to talk about the ‘balance of nature’? Perhaps because it inflates humanity’s importance. It places us at the center of the drama. It casts us as directors of the play, and stars of the show.

How bizarre that professional environmentalists are in the business of dismissing and diminishing highly potent, natural forces.

TOP TAKEAWAY:  The ‘balance of nature’ idea is folklore – a persuasive idea for which there is no evidence.


25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment: What Many Environmentalists Believe and Why They Are Wrong
Daniel Botkin


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