Our large brain gets the entirety of humanity in trouble when we believe that we are supreme creatures who can warm the climate, toxify the water, breed killer bacteria and viruses, invent real weapons of mass destruction, amplify hates, and expand our consumption and procreation without threatening the survival of many and challenging the resilience of everything.
We hear the word resilience more than ever. People talk about building resilience into emerging models for global survival. Our scan of progress toward resilience suggests public policy is pointed in the wrong direction. If resilience is the hardiness of what exists against the impacts of real and potential threats, our species is becoming less resilient on virtually every key dimension and variable while at the same time we are extending our individual survival statistics.
There is a difference between resilience and survival.
re·sil·ience [ ri zíllyənss ]
speedy recovery from problems: the ability to recover quickly from setbacks
elasticity: the ability of matter to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched, or deformed
sur·viv·al [ sər vv’l ]
staying alive: the fact of remaining alive or in existence, especially after facing life-threatening danger, or of continuing in a present position or office
something from past: a custom, idea, or belief that remains when other similar things have been lost or forgotten
The checklist of constructs for individual survival among groups looks like this:
In order for a single living entity – a person, a banana tree, a microorganism – to survive, it must possess resilience against whatever comes its way – from within or without.
In order for an associated group of living things – a banana plantation, a family, a bacterial infection – to survive, enough of the group must maintain a sufficient resilience to threats so that some survive and are able to propagate above a feedback threshold.
The toll of resilience on a living being can be minimal or substantial. When the toll is substantial, such as with concussions, autoimmune responses, incapacities, chronic pain or psychological trauma, we learn the lesson that resilience + survival + procreation creates a genetic future that exponentially increases the diversity of beings susceptible to experiencing difficulty coping with threats. When more people survive beyond the age of procreation, the greater the distribution of resilient characteristics, including more people with more difficult symptoms of resilience. Medically, it is unlikely that any human being undergoing trauma and extreme stress experiences a completely resilient response where they return exactly to their former state. While some may gain from a resilient response, more often people are deprived of some functionality and programming when their survival is successfully challenged.
The great diversity of life is largely a result of branching evolution or adaptive radiation. This is the diversification of a species into different lines as they adapt to new ecological niches and ultimately evolve into distinct species. Natural selection is the principal mechanism driving adaptive radiation.
Conceptually, there is the specific resilience of individuals and the composite resilience of human systems to provide us with a buffer from any trauma or threat.
We see evidence that many people do not spring back after stressors. This means the protections built into individual and human systems fail to return or deliver people to a desired state of equilibrium and full function. Depression, auto-immune disease, joint failures, digestive ailments, anger and hate, mental illness, cancer, diabetes, heart disease are symptoms of the failure of human systems and body systems to cope with stressors. However, they are also symptoms of a growing polygenic species with vastly improved medical services – where the genetic diversity of people surviving to procreation dramatically stretches the spectrum of the genetic makeups of humanity. Until recently, the genetic pool consisted of those who could survive to procreation.
We are experiencing an extraordinary diversification of the human species that bodes well for human survival. On the whole, survival of the fittest (monogenetic) has ceded in many parts of the world to survival to the age of reproduction of a richer spectrum of humanity (polygenetic) who will produce offspring with more divergent brains, genetics, brawn and metabolic capacities than ever before.
By our diversity, humanity will likely survive virtually any calamity. By our brains, we can adapt to many threats and minimize the consequences. But, we seem to have chosen non-resilient short term monogenetic approaches to our food and energy supply that will ultimately lead to catastrophe.
Imagine a tree. There are an estimated 400 Billion trees in the world. Trees produce about 25% of the earth’s oxygen. Ocean algae are the largest source of oxygen.
Every component of the tree is subject to disruption or destruction.
If the tree has a shallow root system, it can prosper if there is enough water. And if nothing damages the roots. And if nothing blocks its leaf access to the sun. And if it is not invaded by damaging insects or fungus or bacteria. And if the supporting ecosystems around it remains whole while invasive plant life does not strangle it. And if humans stay away. And if high winds do not blow it over. And if erosion does not wash away its soil. And if intense heat does not bake the ground. etc. etc.
The tree is what it is. If it had a deep root system, it would be less susceptible to drought and high wind. If it has a different biochemical composition, it would be less susceptible to insects and bacteria. If its fibers were stronger, it would be less susceptible to breaks in its protective exterior.
Every tree in the world is unique. Each has its internal and external vulnerabilities. In an environment suitable for a single shallow root tree among half a trillion adolescent trees, the single tree will prosper, drop its seeds, and establish new modified versions of itself – mostly copied, but with some differentiation, and from time to time, with a significant mutation, a deviation from its origination, that carries beneficial or detrimental characteristics against the background of the suitable environment. And over time, if the suitable environment remains, more and more of its gene pool of trees will take root and grow with the bio-evolution matching the environment. So, in this scenario all of the resulting trees for the single tree are happy, surviving and prospering.
Until the inevitable changes in its internal and external ecosystem that have the capacity to interact with the entire population of distinct shallow root trees. The equilibrium of the happy system changes. Sometimes slowly, sometimes in drastic compressed time, bad things happen. The lack of diversity among this family of trees makes its future survival uncertain. If the trees have the capacity to adapt to slow changes, its essential mutations will save it from extinction. If the change is rapid, the family of trees may perish.
In the developed world, more and more people live long enough to propagate offspring capable of surviving in their ecosystem, and propagating future generations. Each replicated person possesses a spectrum of new characteristics, some beneficial for the ecosystem, some beneficial for another ecosystem, some totally detrimental to survival anywhere. We have a broader and broader spectrum of human beings, matched to an ecosystem with modest biological stress, and modest physical stress. The new generations of developed world human beings have not been filtered through the survival of the fittest stress test, the life or death test that used to limit those who would reproduce to those most capable of surviving in a difficult ecosystem.
In the developing world, there remains the stress test of reproductive survival. The survivors are generally genetically better suited to the environmental stresses of their parent’s world, even tracing back to the stressors of grandparents and ancestors. But their parent’s world may not be the future world. And their narrower stress tested genetic pool may not provide stronger survival odds for the wide range of future calamities that will occur.
Our crops are increasingly monogenetic varieties, bred for optimal profits given the existing local and global ecosystems.
“Much of the worlds’ annual harvest loss to pests and diseases occurs as a consequence of crops grown in monocultures, or cultivated varieties with uniform resistance. This uniform resistance is met by the continuing evolution of new races of pests and pathogens that are able to overcome resistance genes introduced by modern breeding, creating the phenomenon of boom and bust cycles.” – J.W. Mulumba
For something to be truly resilient, it must develop or possess characteristics that allow it to survive and procreate now, but with enough diversity and adaptability to enable its future generations to also survive and procreate regardless of the challenges and stressors.
In order to accomplish both resilience and survival in the most nurturing, equal and systemically accurate manner possible, the following ontological variables must be employed.
Human Beings are matter:energy + genetic programming + experiential programming + self programming. Our conscious, subconscious and corporal mechanisms possess a multitude of resilient features and characteristics. Our challenges, our introduction of stressors and unfamiliar reactive agents to our species, awaken resilient functions that improve survival statistics but damage our quality of life, our nurture, our vitalization and our potential. Prevention is the best medicine. Prevention is the best form of resilience. Prevention is the best opportunity for survival. Prevention is our potential.