Rethinking Our Role in the Natural World

by Shahla Farzan / The Mindful Californian

  • Mono Lake, California

Ecologists and knitters have a lot in common. Perhaps seasoned knitters have found a way to tame their yarn, but in my case, it seems to have a mind of its own. I have made many a lopsided scarf, but my specialty is impossible knots. In my capable hands, the yarn quickly folds itself into a colossal knot that defies logic. Each strand is knotted to at least half a dozen others, forming an incomprehensible tangle.

In a way, ecologists are the great untanglers of the natural world. Whether through masochism, curiosity, or some mixture of the two, we spend our lives plucking at the knots. In My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir describes the interconnectedness of the natural world: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Until recently, grappling with nature’s complexity was the sole business of The Scientists. For the bulk of Americans living in cities and suburbs, nature was far removed from their everyday lives. Our romanticized conception of wilderness as an untamed and perilous expanse included one unspoken assumption: it is not here.

In a single generation, perception of our role in the natural world has experienced a seismic shift. As the rumblings of climate change have grown ever louder, we have begun to grasp that humans cannot exist in isolation from the environment. In comparison to our humble beginnings as small hunter-gatherer societies, the individual decisions of 7 billion people now have very real global impacts. By 2050, the global population is projected to hit 8.9 billion. The question of whether intense human pressure on natural resources can be sustained is clearly the 800-pound gorilla in the room. In other words, is it truly possible to balance the needs of 8.9 billion people with the preservation of species diversity?

Enter Michael Rosenzweig, evolutionary ecologist at the University of Arizona, Tucson. As a leader in the field of reconciliation ecology, Rosenzweig argues that long-term preservation of diversity is possible through the modification of human-dominated environments. Essentially, by reconciling our current lifestyles with the ecological reality of impending extinctions, we can expand the areas available to wildlife. Reconciliation, as I’m beginning to learn, is a dynamic concept that can take on a variety of meanings. For some, it can be as simple as teaching third graders how to raise chickens and grow their own food.

As a relative newcomer to the field of reconciliation ecology, I am cautiously optimistic about its potential to preserve diversity. In some ways, however, the change in mentality that reconciliation demands may have greater environmental impacts than the actual increase in species ranges. Historically, our tendency to regard nature as a separate entity has fostered some of our most challenging environmental issues. By regarding nature as away and apart, its piecemeal dismantlement has been less apparent and easily swept under the rug.

Reconciliation ecology doesn’t offer the promise of untangling the everlasting yarn ball. In fact, by increasing the connectedness between the ecological and the human spheres, it adds more knots. In terms of environmental, social, and historical complexity, California is an especially tangled web. From the high Sierra to the murky Salton Sea, California faces a diversity of environmental challenges, all of which are intimately tied to social and historical issues. In the face of these challenges, Californians are working to create new landscapes that integrate ecological and human needs.

To some, living with nature rather than outside it may appear to be an unrealistic pipe dream. While I’m uncertain whether reconciliation is a viable long-term strategy, a profound shift in mindset is undeniably occurring. Whether through small-scale changes in how we manage our lawns or broader efforts to maintain native pollinator species, Californians are rethinking the intersection of manmade and natural habitats. The climate is changing, in more ways than one.

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Reconciliation is what we make it. Comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  1. Angilina Lor

    There is so much that we can do for this world and nature that we live in. I like how this author is very optimistic about this reconciliation. To make this world a better place for both humans and other aspects of life, that are all part of us, really comes down to understanding and appreciating the life around us. I think it’s hard when only a small percent of people understand this concept of ecological reconciliation. I think it’s very true that most of us think of nature as something apart from us. But in reality, it’s not. To some, conserving biodiversity and appreciating the natural world around us may be the last thing that is on their mind. I’m pretty sure all of us have something “more important” to worry about. But at the end of the day, we are all in this together, and everyone can make a difference. So spread the word, educate others how to appreciate the diversity of life.

  2. Aaron Howse

    Although Reconciliation Ecology sounds like a promising idea by making every person feel more responsible and connected with nature, I think it falls short in the same ways that past ideas have. In our modern society we are removed from nature and to make some sort of mindful return takes an effort that detracts from other parts of our lives. Even though I am willing to make this change there are many non-biology majors and others who will not. Our fast paced, efficiency first, get ahead society doesn’t allow time for things that don’t result in monetary gain. As good as planting rooftop gardens or biking to work may be for our planet I still feel human nature hasn’t shown that we are capable of such species-wide changes for the greater good.

  3. Shawn Alisea

    California is a massive state, encompassing a wide variety of climates and ecosystems, from lush forests and subtropics to dry deserts. The part of California where I’m from is not far from the Mojave Desert, with its famed Death Valley. Reconciling with nature here means an end to the artificial irrigation that attempts to make local homes and cities look like they’re located in wetter climates. It means an embrace of local diversity rather than the homogeneous uniformity of the nation’s idea of what a city or home’s landscape should look like. In the past few years, I’ve seen efforts to replace city landscaping with native plants which deal well with the long dry periods, and a growing consciousness of the benefits of such a change, so I’m optimistic about that.

  4. Minal Patel

    This semester in my ecology class has definitely opened my eyes in regards to the negative effects humans have on Earth. After watching the Becoming California video I wanted to go home and figure out ways in which I can help the ecological diversity of California. Small changes in my backyard definitely can go a long way. Like one family did of removing the mass amounts of lawn in their front yard and adding a diversity of plant species. This ties into this article of the concept of reconciliation ecology. Not only is there a way for humans to save the planet, but possibly also support 8.9 billion people depending on the resources available. However, at some point we need to make minor changes to our lifestyle that can ultimately help in the long run. We definitely have to start somewhere and I think getting the word out is the best place to start. I’ve passed on the Becoming California video along with these articles to some of my coworkers at Ca. Department of Food & Agriculture who I know will take it to heart and help in the changes to save California.

  5. Heather McDonough

    I absolutely love this article. There are so many different parts of it that resonate with me. I grew up in creeks, the park, walking barefoot through the streets, collecting bugs, and making memories in the sun. Most children nowadays spend countless hours indoors or using electronics. I think that children need to be outside as much as possible. Nature has an ability to educate and inspire. The world is facing many problems and humans often feel detached or separate from it when in fact every decision one person makes contributes in a negative or positive way to the larger picture. It is very difficult to change behaviors or habits that are affecting everyone when you don’t have a relationship with nature and it is harder to go back and correct things than to proactively address them. Earth’s natural process and humans are an interconnected web of interactions. Humans cannot live with out nature. Our life depends on environmental health. Since the industrial revolution nature has been pushed further and further away from cities, when in fact the first cities were built where there was viable land and water for agriculture. Humans once had a sacred relationship with the land. When they took from the land they made sacrifices to give back. They ate based on seasons. They understood the importance of moderation and sustainability better than we do. We have created a world so dependent on non-renewable resources that we have no alternatives when they are gone. I agree that there must be a shift in mentality about the our role in the natural world and I think the only way that will happen is through continued education of younger generations. We have the ability to change. It’s just a matter of more people coming to terms with Rosenweig and the idea of reconciliation ecology.

  6. Sophia Jinata

    The term reconciliation gives the impression that, at some point in time, humans became at odds with nature. Under the idea that man is separate from mother nature, it makes it seem as if nature is just some place to take a trip to when a desire to experience and appreciate it arises. That idea fosters a nonchalant attitude about our individual ecological impact. Like Gary Snyder said, “Nature is not a place to visit…it is home.” If we care about where we live, then we need to care about nature. If each of us could embrace and act upon reconciliation ecology in our own ways, we could all make really big impacts. From teaching third graders to raising chickens (and dismantling the idea that man is separate from nature for our future generations), to beginning a community compost instead of dumping things in a garbage can, Californians can get the ball rolling on changing their environment, all for the better of mankind and human nature.

  7. Maleha Rashid

    Keeping nature a part of our everyday lives has become more difficult with increasing population. Since the industrial revolution we have grown further from nature with time. Reconciliation ecology is great way for humans to bring back nature and increase biodiversity into our environments. Like the article states, we are all connected and humans can increase their efforts to have a better relationship with our planet. We all can work together in trying to preserve our wildlife by preserving more area for them. The author describes humans and nature in a great way by discussing how we are all like a big ball of yarn, knotted together. The article does a great job at discussing the problem and how we should reconcile with nature and increase biodiversity in human dominated ecosystems.

  8. Margaret

    The comparison of ecologists to knitters was a good hook for the article. The world is becoming increasingly aware of current environmental issues that have gone unnoticed for some time. Here in California the drought is a perfect example of the author’s point. Many do not consider the health of the environment as important, or affecting us in a major way. Actions taken for short-term gains usually have long-term adverse effects on the environment. Once we begin to suffer, as we are right now scrambling to cut back on water use, the health of the environment no longer is something to be swept under the rug but something we must deal with immediately for our survival. The knots in life with regard to humans being tied to ecology (because after all, we live surrounded by the natural world and it’s forces, whether it looks natural or not) are becoming more tangled as our population grows and we continue to develop open land. We can strengthen these knots, however, by creating and maintaining a healthier environment. Before reading this article, I knew of the practice of reconciliation ecology but had not heard it labeled as that. It makes sense to call it reconciliation because we have treated the earth, our only home, very poorly and need to begin to mend that relationship. Reconciliation can be practiced through planting native vegetation for pollinators and native species habitat in yards to replace unnatural, thirsty lawns. This encourages ecosystem diversity and stability, which in turn offers greater ecosystem services, and reduces water use. Implementing aquaponics systems in urban areas provides fresh fruits and vegetables while recycling water and producing fertilizer from fish. This cuts back on fertilizer application and deforestation of the environment that weakens soils and increases habitat fragmentation. Everyone can contribute somehow to the growing effort of giving back to the earth through reconciliation ecology, and encourage others to follow suit.

  9. jessica burlison

    Reconciliation ecology is a new term for me. It seems like a great way people can learn to conserve potential diversity in our ecosystem. I’ve lived in California all my life and majoring in biology has opened my eyes to the critical tangled web of species diversity. It is important for people to learn how to become more ecologically aware of the natural world. This article does a great job of explaining one way a person can make an impact on diverity in California. Really good read!

  10. Ryan Fernandez

    This article brought a lot of different ideas up in my mind. First, in a weird way, the information presented about California with knots and earth being able to support 8.9 billion people, made me think of cutting a piece of paper. That is, cutting it over and over again into smaller pieces until the paper is too small to cut anymore. That is what I think about California and all of the environmental problems it faces. All of the problems, not even just in California but also in the entire world, are related to two things. Those two things are human population growth and human per capita consumption rate; both are on a steady rise and it’s just common sense that the world has a threshold. California is quickly realizing that now some of the problems may not be able to be solved. Even if there is a solution to these large scale problems, everyone in the state would have to do there part – which is near impossible with the amount of people living here and how diverse and different the viewpoints are on environmental problems today. We have seen this happen on a lot smaller scale in specific societies. They collapse over time due to over use of their natural resources. For example, on small islands or in remote areas civilizations have collapsed quickly over time due to cannibalism or starvation. California and planet earth are the same thing as being trapped on a small island. Humans are a small piece of the universe, like a small island in the ocean. If proper actions are not taken to save our resources and limit climate change, these large problems will determine the future of humans and could lead to a mass extinction. Even if everyone did there part, the population is going to stop rising and birth rates will decrease while death rates will increase. Exponential growth will turn into a linear growth. A example of being able to only use so much of a resource could be related to pesticides and farming. Those two things have reached their limits and only so much food can be produced now with a limited amount of land to farm on. This is why GMOs are a growing trend now. That’s the only way the farming industry will be able to make enough food to sustain the large population increases in the future. Pesticides can only be used so much. Now more pesticides are being used than ever overall and we are still yielding the same amount of crops with a 35 percent loss due to pest. So something needs to change or else the world will not be able to endure the large population growth. Just like the knitting and knots in the article with everything being connected, everything will feel the consequences.

  11. Jennifer Saephanh

    The constant increase in human population is greatly reducing the the value of our ecosystem. As time goes on, resources are slowly becoming depleted and this growth in population is only contributing to the imbalance of our ecosystems. Having a projected population growth up to 8.9 billion is hugely alarming given the fact that our resources are already limited. Biodiversity is essential in improving life on earth. It should be a top priority to regulate the population to avoid exceeding nature’s ability to support the ecosystem. Ecological reconciliation is only the beginning in helping improve our home. We need to make larger impacts to prolong the diversity of our ecosystem. If we all work together, small changes can lead to bigger and better improvements. Everyday, individuals contribute to damaging the ecosystem yet they are unaware of it. If more light was brought up upon this issue, we could possibly see significant changes.

  12. Andre Barakat

    Up until the recent years of my life, I can definitely say that, for the most part, I have disregarded the fact that my carbon footprint is indeed contributing to a collective and dire problem on Earth today. When conversing with my peers on topics related to nature, the environment, and climate, I receive indications that most of them believe that nature is something that exists separate or detached from the daily routines of human lives. It’s concerning, to say the least. The author, Shahla Farzan, describes an idea that I had not come to realize before. The idea that is presented is called ecological reconciliation, which essentially describes the importance of reconciling each one’s own lifestyle with the “ecological reality of impending extinctions…and by doing so, expand the areas available to wildlife.” I find myself increasingly more confident and optimistic about the power that I have by simply expressing the importance of lessening the negative impacts on the environment to those I encounter on a daily basis, and how if each one of us just takes one step forward in the right direction, it will go a long ways in preserving the world as we know it, our HOME.

  13. Sydney Hagen

    I think this article is very accurate when it talks about shifting mindsets. People can be pushed and backed into ecological reconciliation through laws, regulations, etc. But all this will likely achieve is minimum effort from most people and therefore minimal results. However, if their mindset is able to be shifted to realize that they themselves are a part of the “wilderness” picture and that we can live in harmony wih it, this will have a profound and lasting effect, making ecological reconciliation a close and personal effort.

  14. Gustav Muehlenhaupt

    I believe the author is completely correct when she talks about the shift in people’s opinions of the natural world. It is becoming more clear how interconnected we (humanity) are with nature and how much impact we have on the environment. I am shocked that anyone can refute it. How can the actions of 7 billion large mammals with the ability to alter the landscape at will not have huge effects on the environment? The author brings up reconciliation ecology as the potential solution to our growing and ceaseless negative impact on the environment. The brief explanation that it encourages programs like teaching children to grow their own food. Although this idea of integrating nature into our lives sounds good and solves many problems noted by ecologists, I don’t see average Americans getting behind this idea. Governments could incentivize these ideas with tax breaks and the like. But I still agree with the author that it will add more knots to the yarn ball.

  15. Aman Percival

    Although I had not heard the term reconciliation ecology before reading this article, I do believe it is possible. Many people are already realizing our connection to nature and the world, and realizing we are not “outside of it”. I believe education at a young age is key. Children should be taught more about nature and our role in protecting the environment. Most of us nowadays don’t even know how to grow our own food. One solution that I strongly believe in is urban agriculture. Our population is expected to grow and move to urban areas. If we all added a garden or grew our food locally, it could be possible to feed the growing population and be more connected with nature at the same time. I recent years, we have become more aware of the problem and I have seen people do their parts in conserving (I have also seen many people ignore or deny the problems). In my opinion, awareness and regulations are key for adults along with education for the young in order to make a change.

  16. carl Nuza

    The work of a few good men is not enough to “untangle the yarn ball.” The actions of humans is driven by selfishness and profit. Humans have turned the planet into a ecological credit card with no spending limits. Reconciliation ecology will need very stiff regulations to balance the deficit, which we already have because our present earth has suffered considerable damage as evident by acid rain, polar ice cap melting, and ever increasing temperatures. Reconciling with nature by planting one tree at a time is not enough to breach the gap to allow humans to live as a part of nature. Human behavior will have to be highly modified, while completely withdrawing all other natural resources from human reach. For example, there is already enough plastic in the ocean and in landfills, but companies find it more cost effective to cut down trees and dig up oil for rubber rather than collect and recycle all the plastics we already have available. Why is recycling optional? Reconciliation ecology is good but not a great way to return nature back to original or a better standing. This is because human behavior is destroying nature faster than any reconciliation effort. Therefore, it is my humble opinion that reconciliation ecology cannot sustain out natural wildlife and climate in the long run.

  17. Kelly Heal

    If we are ever going to reach sustainability in the future we must reconcile with nature. There is simply no other way. Historically humans have done so much damage to our natural world that many people would ask themselves “is reconciliation still possible?” To reconcile with nature we must stop destroying it. We must stop cutting down more trees, over-fishing our oceans, and burning more fossil fuels. Many humans especially in the Unites States over-consume many different products and tend to constantly live beyond their needs. Over-consumption destroys nature and biodiversity. To reconcile is to make amends, and that is what humans must do to nature to attain sustainability in the future.

  18. Jesus Campos

    In a perfect world, everyone would add their small grain of sand to help an immensely affected globe. But the reality is that all it takes is one person to think that he or she won’t make a difference in the long run. I have witnessed this reality too many times. The worse part of it all is the fact that no one wants to acknowledge that they are the one person that feels exempt. Rosenzweig argues that long-term preservation of diversity is possible through the modification of human-dominated environments. Long term preservation for humans is possible for our future generations, but until the day that everyone can look in the mirror and say I am going to make a difference for a more green future, the world will continue to use up resources like there is no tomorrow. Reconciliation ecology may not offer the best solution, but if we can make the world fall in love with nature again then just maybe we will be able to sustain the earth’s growing human population.

  19. Melissa Montano

    I’m not much of a knitter, but I know it requires time, skill, and patience. Most importantly an open creative mind set to tame and unravel something beautiful from what people perceive as just a ball of yarn. Likewise I believe that Shahla Farzan couldn’t have a put it any better. This analogy in a way resembles the great state (and our home) of California. Just as there aren’t many people that knit, there are only a few individuals that have a calling to the awareness of nature and the fate of its sustainability. They’re Ecologists and the article calls them “the great untanglers of the natural world…” I believe that the message is loud and clear that humans cannot exist in isolation from the environment. The article does a great job in persuading us that we must reconcile with nature and become more aware of its existence. Even in the diverse metropolitan and environmental state that California is, we must make room in our lifestyles to ensure ecological diversity. As the sayings go, actions speak louder than words, and any small scale changes can make a difference. It may not solve the whole issue, but its a start.

  20. Korena Hendryx

    The best part of this article is the idea that humanity and nature are not separate spheres, but that humanity’s bubble simply rests inside of the greater sphere we call nature. In order to make any positive strides in conservation ecology, gaining this type of outlook may prove to be quite helpful. Humans are not separate from nature, but rather a part of nature, as we are affected by nature and nature is surely affected by us. This being said, it is a common misconception that there is a balance in nature. While there are times of balance, there are also times of fluctuation, as nature attempts to find that balance. So, the question becomes, are humans, as a part of nature, the current source of the grand fluctuation we find our world in today? The likely answer is, yes. We must then ask ourselves, what sets our present concerns apart from historical catastrophes of the past? Could it be the difference of a slow steady effect compared to the more traditional sudden, yet massive events that inflicted and caused nature to experience change? Will nature be able to recover from the pressure humans have pushed on nature when we are done, and when exactly will “done” be? Thank you, Shahla Farzan, for inspiring some food for thought, and may we all be able to untangle ourselves from the “colossal knot that deifies logic”.

  21. Bianca Nava

    It is great that Shahla compares nature to knitting because the same thought went through my head when I first learned about how one species added or taken can dramatically alter the state of an ecosystem. I am just now understanding how complex nature really is and because of that I realize how precious and fragile it is. Everyone should understand this in order to truly appreciate it. Currently we are doing so much damage to our home, Earth, and we are in control of keeping it the same or changing it for the better. I sincerely hope that reconciliation ecology will be a success. I agree that it needs to start with the kids so that their generation can see the problem and rehabilitate the damage done in the past. This article is great and has opened my eyes and mind even more. I will be passing this on to friends and family who are a bit disconnected from their true roots. 🙂

  22. Alex Schaefer

    This article lays down the grim facts. It says what needs to be said and repeated across our state, nation, and around the world. This concept of reconciling the damage we have done to the place in which we live is the only logical path to take if we can expect to make any headway into the future. The outlook is dim, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we all can see it if only we would look at it with an unwavering gaze. The author depicts California and its residents as visionaries with creative minds to combat environmental degradation, at least in our own state. Our route toward progress and success thus far is certainly worth a pat on the back, but let us not forget about other states in this nation who have followed suit and are changing their ways. Their efforts must be recognized and praised as well. Not only in this country, but other nations around the world are joining this bandwagon for the greater good of us all. Our Earth is a large space, larger than most of us can fathom, and the only way it will be delivered is through consistent, lasting, worldwide changes in the way we carry out our lives. Business as usual just won’t fly anymore.

  23. Joshua Hudnall

    I’m not entirely sure that we can actually reconcile with the species that are currently living on this planet. We (humans) are affecting the environment at a greater rate than other species can adapt, which is one reason why they’re going extinct. The greatest factor for extinction, currently, is loss of habitat. We are doing that both by development and by climate change. Of course we will never stop development, but we need to find a way to slow it down and allow the rest of the species that are still here to catch up, and those that can adapt will. This doesn’t need to be the “anthropocene extinction.”

  24. Stephanie Blumm

    Humans tend to think of nature as a separate entity. By separating ourselves from nature any issues with nature seem unimportant or remote. We tend to disregard any rising problems because we don’t think it is affecting us. By changing this mindset we can begin reconciling the negative impacts that humans have created on the environment. Before taking my ecology class, I never really thought about the human footprint consequences. In order to change people’s mindsets we need to bring awareness to everyone. I think reconciliation is possible but not a full fix because it won’t ever be perfect. But we can definitely make an impact.

  25. Alexandria Rummerfield

    I enjoyed how this article urged citizens to commit to ecological reconciliation. It is true, that we have put nature on the bottom of our priorities for too long, and we will soon see the repercussions of this. With global warming and climate change becoming an increasing issue and human population increasing rapidly, we must have a solution to sustain the world. Natural resources are more important than ever, and we must plan accordingly to keep what we have left!

  26. Sara Johnson

    The author’s analogy to yarn seemed at first puzzling to me. But as Shahla continued to explain it, it validated the idea of how interconnected our human species is all around. How everyone knows everyone in some fashion, such as meeting someone at work, school, a weekend get-away, the 10K you ran last weekend, or some distant friend’s wedding, etc. The idea of reconciliation ecology, in that it is promoting coexistence for the human race, is a phenomenon that I have never considered. Growing up, we learn how to save the planet, and not to litter, to plant trees, etc., but we never learn (until college) how the human population continues to increase and how that may pose a problem or be detrimental to survival. In ecology, we learn of the carrying capacity of species but never of humans and what may be the true capacity to what the world can sustain, or if that is even possible.
    The author also mentions an interesting idea of why ecologist do what they do. Is it due to masochism (finding enjoyment in painful or tiresome situations), curiosity, or a combination of the two. Although brief, this article creates a lot of ideas and plants questions in the reader’s mind about what may be happening and what still needs to be done.

  27. sarah

    Humans cannot live apart from environment. It surrounds us whether we pay attention to our environment or not. Everything humans do has an effect on the environment, and it is unrealistic to view the environment as a separate entity. Without human influence, the environment was pure. Humans have done much manipulation to exploit environmental resources for their benefit, which has had detrimental effects on the natural world. For years and years humans have been attempting to “untangle” the natural world, realizing it is not linear. No one variable can be manipulated without causing a ripple on many other factors. Environmental reconciliation sounds like a great new attempt at slowing negative influence on the environment. But Like any “apology” or damage control, it will be a process that takes time. More people need to be on board with environmental reconciliation for it to have the impact needed. It is not too late, and people should not give up. Although a lot of irreparable damage has been done, there is always room for forgiveness and new life. Environmental reconciliation will be a process over great time but hopefully enough people get behind this thought and take on a new and positive role in the natural world.

  28. Sharanjit Singh

    After reading this article by Shahla Farzan, it is clear to me that she wants people to think like an ecologist and bring positive change by interacting with nature. She wants us to learn about what is happening to nature, such as the population crisis. She also talks about bringing change to California because California is one of the places on earth where there is great diversity of natural habitats. She points out that the more interaction we have with nature, the better we will know it, the better we will understand its importance, and the better we will be able to protect it. Overall, I like the idea of reconciliation proposed by Shahla in this article, where new efforts are being pursued to raise awareness to protect nature, such as teaching third graders how to raise chickens and grow their own food. It would also be helpful to teach students starting middle school about environmental problems and possible solutions to those problems. This would help to spread the idea of reconciliation.

  29. Katlin Parker

    This is an interesting article that pertains to many environmental issues. It caused me to look further into the concept of reconciliation ecology. I especially liked the example of teaching third graders how to raise chickens and grow their own food. Phasing out our dependence on meat and dairy products would be one enormous step in the right direction. Teaching children where their food comes from and how to grow it is another. Both of these ideas present a solid connection between people and the natural world.

  30. Quinn Stallcup

    Prior to reading this article I had a good idea that it would discuss humanity’s role in the natural world and how much we have changed it during or own development. After reading it and getting a better understanding of it this article, much like the documentary “Becoming California” shows the parallels of humanity’s effect on the natural world. But it also shows a very optimistic conclusion, towards the problem that the natural world is facing. It looks toward “adding more knots” to the ecological sphere between humans and the natural world, which ultimately betters the connection between the two and allows both of them to coexist with one another in a diverse community. Dr. Michael Rosenzweig really did help illustrate this coexistence by showing that diversity can happen through the modification of human-dominated environments. Essentially, by reconciling our current lifestyles with the ecological reality of impending extinctions, natural disaster, distraction or removal of natural wildlife, and other forms that creep into the reality of everyday people, we can expand the areas available to wildlife. Shahla describes reconciliation as a dynamic concept that can take on a variety of meanings. For some, it can be as simple as teaching 2nd graders how to farm or grow there own food or raise animals. Or showing people an alternative way of life that benefits them and the natural world they live so that people don’t feel responsible for what they have done, but feel benefited for how they are living. This article gives me a more optimistic outlook on how diversity and coexistence with the natural world is possible. With many news outlets and information showing how humans are destroying the environment, sending many species to extinction, and other depressing information, it’s great to know that there is still hope for a better future and that people like Dr. Michael Rosenzweig are pushing these ideas and approaches to younger and older generations on how we can increase diversity and coexist with this beautiful luscious world around us all.

  31. Manjot Lada

    In my perspective, the thought of reconciliation with nature is overlooked by “the bulk of Americans living in the cities and suburbs”, as the article describes. I’ve known about the effects that humans have on nature by using limited sources and it leading to drastic changes in the ecosystem, but never really done anything about it. When I sit down and think about the effects that humans are contributing to this shift, I believe that the future does not look as secure as we all hope for it to. The idea of reconciliation is restoring nature; I think it’s an idea that should be adopted when we talk about human population increasing and preserving species diversity. By doing so we could support the demand of the human population and also preserve nature. We should be able to achieve this goal with our large number in population as well, by illustrating the effects on nature and how they can help by going eco-friendly.

  32. Leticia Padilla

    “The question of whether intense human pressure on natural resources can be sustained is clearly the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” First, I appreciate the undertones of Daniel Quinn’s novel “Ishmael” in this article which is a literary piece that tried to unfurl or get to the root of how the present ecological condition of the Earth came to be and how the human mentality of how we both see and treat our natural resources evolved throughout history. I believe that this article poses a great follow-up question to that inspiring novel by asking “ Is it truly possible to balance the needs of 8.9 billion people with the preservation of species diversity?” As the article has mentioned, there has been a small awakening among the world’s populations of how we can live sustainably in a finite planet with finite resources, however it is a slow evolution and made slower by the mentality that Daniel Quinn’s novel has so clearly defined in his novel. It is deeply rooted and intimately entrenched not only in the general public’s psyche, but also in political and economic systems that continue to lead a “business as usual” motto that create unsustainable policies and unsustainable consumer products. I believe that we can definitely live sustainably on this Earth and still keep our species diversity, but those in power (both political and economic sectors) need to be on board and it is up to the general public to educate not only each other but also remind policy makers who they are supposed to serve. If we fail to do this, our natural resources has a carrying capacity-if we continue to degrade and exploit them, we too shall see our own diminishment.

  33. Nadia Elias

    Reconciliation with the natural world is such a wonderful and unique way of looking at what is going on with our world today. Comparing it to being connected like yarn is a great metaphor. We are all connected in nature. With something as simple as looking at the predator and prey model, and how refuges can affect survival patterns, or how competition drives natural selection, it is hard to deny that we are all intertwined. I believe we have come a long way since the industrial revolution, and I am hopeful that the generations to come will be mindful of how to keep our home safe.

  34. Jaspreet Bains

    Reconciliation with nature is going to take lot of effort from individuals but also corporations. The biggest obstacle that prevents change from happening is that society views nature as a separate entity and not something that we are actually apart of. However, like the article said, everything is connected to everything else. Nature and humans can not be separated and it is necessary to educate society that every action of ours effects nature. It is also important for corporations to be mindful of their business practices and what effects it has on the environment. Education is the best way to help reconciliation happen because the more people are aware of how their actions effect nature, the more likely they are to make better decisions.

  35. Anthony Lo Giudice

    This article as well as Part 1 of “Becoming California” really put ecological damage into prospective. To an extent, everyone is aware of the damage humans have caused on ecological systems. With the rapid growth of the human population, things will only get worse unless things change. The idea of reconciliation ecology had never come across my mind and has the potential to help slow the destruction. It is an enormous stretch that making small changes will fix the problem but in all honesty is much better than pretending nothing is wrong. It will most likely just buy time before species are lost, but with a little more time, maybe we can limit the negative outcome.

  36. Jean Stone

    I have learned a lot about restoration ecology but had no idea that reconciliation ecology was actually a termed type of ecology. In a way reconciliation ecology is the missing puzzle piece that fits perfectly with restoration ecology. Restoration ecology is geared towards bringing an environment back to its original or nearly original composition. It seems that reconciliation ecology encompasses the other part of this in that it focuses not only on the restoration side of decision making about keeping or mitigating habitat but also brings in the human role of life and habits and altering those to be sustainable as well. In both cases, it helps to increase the complementarity and complexity of life and there is great promise in these concepts. Actually getting these concepts in motion on a larger scale is the true challenge in which I think there should be more work towards the political side of things for it to be successful.

  37. Yasmin Gonzalez

    First off I would just like to say the fact that Shahla Farzan opened up with John Muir’s quote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”, instantly drew me into the article. I think everyone at one point has come across the topic of reconciliation with nature, but not everyone has sincerely thought about it or the damage we as a human race have done to our environment. Perhaps it’s that it is much easier to overlook the problem or simply not to care. As much as I want to believe that reconciliation with nature and its natural environment is possible, we live in a world where technology and chemicals are believed to be more important than environmental wastes or contamination. I don’t think that we as a population do it purposely (at least not all of us), I just think that some individuals have never seen how environmental teratogens can or have affected our lives. After all, history has shown that when something affects us on a personal level, we tend to remember it better. This semester I had the opportunity to study the organism Caenorhabditis elegans (a nematode worm) and their development in the presence of an environmental teratogen DEHP and compare it to normal unaffected development. This may seem irrelevant to some, but in actuality this environmental teratogen, DEHP, is a plasticizer present in the American River, put there by us! Of course, as expected, our results showed that in the presence of DEHP the C. elegans population had a huge drop off, specifically in the early developmental stages of the organism. Can you imagine what future effects these plasticizers could have on us in the future? Or have already had on us? Not to mention the fact that here I only gave an example of ONE environmental teratogen, present right next door to my university. I think if more individuals actually paid attention to what we have done to our environment historically, they would understand and attempt to change their ways in order to reconcile with nature. But who knows, maybe that’s just one biology major student’s opinion.

  38. Kelsey Jones

    It is hard for me to be so optimistic about overall social reconciliation with the natural world when I look at society or talk to people who are so unwilling to change their lifestyle habits. I agree that the way to make the most prominent change is by education and “reconciling our current lifestyles with the ecological reality of impending extinctions”. I know that more and more people are coming to this realization, we just have a long way to go. I love the quote by John Muir stated in the article, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” This perfectly sums up our relationship with the natural world. So much of society has become disconnected mentally in a way that we don’t think our actions make an impact. The real task will be getting people to realize they are as much a part of the natural environment (“wilderness”) as any animal, tree, or anything else. Great article!

  39. Tyler Sullivan

    I think the purpose of this periodical is much like the documentary, “Becoming California” in that it presents the realism of what we as humans are doing to our world. Due to it’s unique ecological characteristics, high levels of industrialization, and considerable population size, California is the center of the discussion. Reconciliation is a main focus of the article, as it is in Act three of “Becoming California”. The underlying meaning behind this is that we need to wake up as humans and stop being ignorant to the fact that if we (and I mean everyone) don’t start caring, it’s going to sneak up on future generations and bite us. Since most predicaments aren’t directly affecting our current generation’s way of life, the problems will continue to be neglected. Ecologists are the primary promoters in the fight to raise awareness of the situation. Society needs a kick in the rear to get people to start actively working toward reconciling. A glance toward the future is revealed in Becoming California with building rooftops covered in plant life that help power the facilities and contribute to biodiversity at the same time. The number 8.9 billion is astonishing, I did not know that was our estimated population size in a mere 40 years. That is 2 billion more than it is now, or 25% more of what it is now. Taking into account our current limited resources, it is scary to think that our one world will have to supply resources for a fourth more of the population in forty years. Reconciliation needs to start now!

  40. William Lao

    Prior to reading this article, I never heard of anything such as reconciliation ecology. I only knew about people who wanted to preserve and protect the forest from being destroyed. However, after reading Shahla’s article, I would have to say that I hope reconciliation ecology is a success. I agree with Shahla in that there has been a dramatic shift in the ecosystem for the worse. Of course with the increasing numbers in population, it is going to be a difficult task to accomplish the reconciliation with nature. To accomplish this goal, just like what was presented in the article and by other commentators, we are going to need to take small steps towards this reconciliation ecology instead of saying that we are going to change our ways. Reconciliation ecology will have huge obstacles to overcome because of the growing population, population awareness of the environment, the importance of the environment and the tendency for humans to consume a large amount and variety of resources. Even though there will be a lot of obstacles to overcome, the importance, though, is that we are able to have a net positive effect of reconciliation ecology even if that takes a long time to accomplish.

  41. Catherina Tang

    Before reading this article, I found it difficult for me to define reconciliation in an ecological context. I defined it as conforming to circumstances of a specific situation in harmony. In terms of ecology, I related it to having a certain species meeting essential requirements for survival and reproduction. After reading this article, I realized that our world has gone outside of this natural realm and contributed to the destruction of nature, but in order for us to be reconciled with nature, we must try to make a more viable effort in order to preserve what we have left.


    It is easily forgotten how beautiful nature can be. We take so much from nature, destroying its beautiful landscapes, for new industrial projects often without truly realizing the consequences. At what point did we prefer to work long hours or study all day over watching the sunset or just taking a breath of fresh air. This article has reminded me the importance to reconcile with nature. To protect nature as much as we can before it vanishes. Simple things like consistency in recycling, and by recycling I don’t mean a moment of guilt period and forget about it. I mean hard core fundamental reflex recycling where it is no longer a thought process to put your bottle into the recycling bin and not the trash can. As the article mentions, informing society or anyone around us how to be more resourceful can make a long term difference. This article is inspiring and should be shared among our peers.

  43. Kanyeemengtiang Yang

    Thinking in terms of ecology, reconciliation can be described as creating different ways of supporting biodiversity. From my perspective, I believe reconciliation is a way of helping and changing the biodiversity to improve the environment and also ourselves. This is a win-win situation for us and the home, Earth, that we live in. In addition, because we have such a huge population, over 7 billion people total, we have the power to change the way we live and change the outcomes of having an eco-friendly community rather than a polluted one. In this case, what reconciliation means to me is having the power to do something about our environment rather than doing nothing for it.

  44. Katelyn Oxford

    With an increasing demand for natural resources that are quickly being depleted with a perpetually growing population, this article brings to light the necessity in our society for ecological reconciliation. The author integrates simple steps we, as individuals, can take to protect our environment and conserve our planet. The repercussions are too great to continue ignoring both the direct and collateral effects humans have on the ecosystem. We must take steps, even if they may seem small, to reconcile detrimental practices that have taken place over the past few centuries.

  45. Monique rodarte

    Before reading this article I defined reconciliation as the ability of two separate things to be able to come together as one and make this place a home for every creature not just for humans. The tendency to seperate ourselfs from nature has caused so many ecological problems, yet many seem not to understand that we all have a stake in this to keep everything in harmony . This article brought into perspective that ecological reconciliation is more than just restoring a broken element; it’s about restoring a sense of unity and harmony. It enables those who are not able to speak to be spoken for. In order to begin change we must be able to grasp that it must start within each individual in order for it to work successfully.

  46. Jai Gilchrist II

    The thought of ecological reconciliation is an interesting subject. Reconciliation generally means an attempt to try and improve relations with someone or something. To apply that to an ecological sense would mean that humans would be attempting to fix their relationship with the Earth or lessen the negative impact that they are responsible for. In the article this can be seen as a positive as ecological reconciliation could be a means to save the species of the Earth that are in danger of being wiped out.Through ecological reconciliation it is possible that humans may be able to restore the Earth to a point where it will possible to sustain a larger population.

  47. C. Phan

    Reconciliation in terms of human interaction, is the process of the restoration of relations on a friendly dynamic. Applying that towards ecology, I think it means to restore the environment towards a neutral state which can be achieved by maintaining balance between human interaction and the environment. It’s not a big secret that the human species utilizes a great deal of resources that highly impacts the environment, especially in the larger economical states such as California. Having a different way of thinking to preserve the diversity of ecology, decreasing the environmental impacts amongst species, and fostering evolution is an important step in moving forward. Getting people aware of the issue is the first step towards reconciliation ecology.

  48. Alyssa Harmon

    This article is quite poetic and very well done. I was lucky enough to grow up in the country, where gardens and farm animals were common place. But now our world is shifting to a much more urbanized environment and we must find a way to unify that urban environment and the natural world. I feel that teaching children how to grow their own food is an excellent step toward this unification; another example that comes to mind is rooftop gardens and co-ops in the city.

  49. Faten Tayeh

    Addressing population and sustainability biodiversity is a difficult concept to tackle. I believe with growing populations, limited resources, and economic growth plateauing it will be difficult to maintain biodiversity. It is critical for society to acknowledge the importance of collaboration of humanity and the natural world.

  50. Haleema Wahla

    When I thought of reconciliation, I thought of restoring a once destroyed habitat which is pretty much what this article talks about. I think that this article really puts things into perspective with how things are ecologically. People don’t realize that we are part of nature and so anything that happens in nature, affects us as well. I agree that having people come to the realization that things need to change will cause a greater impact than actual changes. Simply being aware causes you to second guess any decisions you want to make and be more conscious. I like how Shahla described everything being intertwined like a ball of yarn because that’s essentially how it is, we just need more people to see the connections rather seeing nature as a separate entity.

  51. Paul Oviatt

    In my opinion we as a species may never be able to truly reconcile with the natural world. We have changed the face of this planet and have been the primary force behind the rapid extinction of many other species. Can we truly make amends for that? I’m not so sure, but we have to try!
    To do this we have to start now on a path towards a far more sustainable society–one that lives in harmony with nature, not at odds with nature. Instead of man considering itself apart from nature he must consider himself a part of nature. We have put every species on this planet at risk because of our activities and that has to be arrested as best we can.
    To reconcile we have to stop saying that we are going to change our ways and actually start doing it. Consumerism and it’s corporate backers is one attitude and area that needs a serious adjustment! No more oil and no more drilling!

    P.S. Quit cutting down so many trees!

  52. Anna San

    Reconciliation is between two individuals making amends for their differences. I don’t think nature needs to make amends with humans but rather humans need to make amends with nature for destroying it. For reconciliation ecology to really take effect, every single human would have to put their best foot forward in giving back to nature to restore what it once was before and even then that could never make up the damage we have already brought upon it. The author makes an excellent point in that in recent years, we are moving towards being more organic and that California is an wonderful conglomeration of varying ecosystems for that to take place in. It’s definitely something to look forward to to ensure that a genuine nature is still present for future generations to appreciate.

  53. Aubrey Carroll

    Social reconciliation is the ability of one to “make up” with someone and/or something in order to better or increase the relationship between the two parties. Prior to reading this thought evoking article, ecological reconciliation meant to me to be our responsibility as humans on this planet called Earth to try with our best efforts to restore it to a place closest to the origin in which we recognize to be its truest. While I thought I had a strong grasp on what reconciliation meant in regards to ecology, this article put into perspective the reality of its effects and benefits for our society, both ecologically, socially, and psychologically. Having said this, the thought that reconciliation ecology can not only improve the life we live here on Earth, but also improve upon the way we think about things, adds another dimension to the importance it holds for the population of the Earth- especially California.

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