Morgan Flinchum

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Examples of symbiosis between humans and the natural environment. What are the most innovative contemporary examples?

As a species it seems that we have evolved to become further and further separated from our natural environment. We have created our own independent realm in which to thrive.. and in doing so have negatively influenced the natural environment with which we are so closely integrated.

I am interested in the best ways we as a species have developed symbiotic relationships with the natural world (between our built environment and the natural environment).

Where have we accomplished this the best thus far, and what are some propositions that may work to a maximum mutual benefit?

I am curious to hear you input.

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    Jun 2 2013: In the beginning, microbes maketh the man.

    I encourage you to read this excellent Economist article.

    The human body could not function without the help of trillions of microorganisms working symbiotically. It's crazy and mindblowing how incredibly hard it is to separate ourselves from nature.
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    Jun 8 2013: Does the word "natural" rightly exclude technical human activity (inventions, machines, materials, processes, etc.) ? Are humans not part of the natural environment? I think the proper view of such things is that Man is the one life form on the planet who is responsible, and able, to have dominion over the earth and is a natural part of the earth. Man is as natural as Walden's Pond. Agriculture, domestication of animals, hydroelectric projects, etc. must all rank among Man's greatest accomplishments. We view a dam as unnatural, but if Man is natural then his creations are natural. What, then, is unnatural?. . . nothing. If something exists it is natural. Symbiosis demands a mutual advantge between two or more kinds of organisms. Not all of Man's activities are symbiotic. I suggest beekeeping is an excellent example of symbiosis involving humans.
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    Jun 3 2013: This is somewhat off-topic, but I just love the idea I heard once that nature never wastes anything.
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    Jun 3 2013: I love the input!

    One issue that I am having with the examples is that it seems the only way we provide benefit for the other species is by allocating space, habitat, for them to thrive. I cannot seem to think of many examples where we provide them with a different sort of benefit.

    Bat boxes, compost, green roofs..

    The other issue I am having is constraining the question. There are a myriad of different scopes with which we can approach it. This can be a one on one, species-to-species relationship; i.e., domestication or bat boxes. It can be a multiple node relationship with many species involved; like, compost, constructed wetlands, or green roofs. It can also envelop the whole planet and all ecosystems- the problem being we are actually included there as beneficiaries on both sides.. Renewable energy tech does this- sort of - it may be healing to the earth as a whole, but mostly - it seems- against problems we ourselves created.
  • MR T

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    Jun 3 2013: Our air food and water, all provided free of charge by plants and animals. Great symbioses but screwing one often benefits another, eg. cutting forests for farmland decreases water catchment and increases climate change.
  • Jun 3 2013: Some species have really expanded around here - coyotes, rattlesnakes, deer, and wild pigs. Some are intentional - some aren't.
  • Jun 2 2013: I am impressed by the Environmental Sanitation Institute in India. This article outlines how they have made every effort to be symbiotic with nature:

    Like LaMar, I too live off the grid, and am constantly aware of my impact on the environment (and that of my family). If we 'use' something, we try to give it back, which is not easy. We are after all, but minute little humans, and if we were removed from the planet, it would flourish. I know that. But I strive to keep my individual impact on it to a minimum because of my respect for this earth, with which I am undeniably connected.