An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 30, 2002
issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

BARKLICE AND WORLDCOM

In the growing dimness I lay watching my little herd of barklice while listening to All Things Considered on National Public Radio. As they spoke of the financial collapse and corporate corruption of WorldCom (based near Jackson northeast of here) the barklice grazed modestly on my back window's field of algae and fungus.

One way of thinking about life in general, maybe the most fundamental way of all, is to note the level each living thing occupies on life's Energy Pyramid.

Algae on my window collect sunlight energy, storing it in multitudes of tiny algal bodies. Barklice eat the algae, thus transferring that stored sunlight energy into their own bodies. Maybe a spiderlike harvestman (Daddy-long-legs) will eat the barklice, then possibly a Green Anole living on my trailer's skin will eat the harvestman. Maybe the little Sharp-shinned Hawk who occasionally swoops through camp will eat the Green Anole. No one will eat the hawk, so the sunlight energy first collected by my window algae may end up fueling the hawk as it streaks through the woods at the peak of its own energy pyramid. It's a pyramid because untold numbers of algal bodies at the bottom must gather energy to fuel just one hawk at the top.

Most species occupy a fairly fixed position on the Energy Pyramid of Life. Humans, because we can think and have more flexibility in choosing what we eat, can choose our position on the Pyramid. A person who eats other animals is near the pyramid's top; I as a vegetarian am near the pyramid's bottom. On this pyramid I do not mind being closer to barklice than to hawks.

One reason is because every time energy transfers from one level of the pyramid to the next, a lot of energy is lost. On my Web page at www.backyardnature.net/ecoenrgy.htm I write, "In Eugene Odem's classic textbook 'Fundamentals of Ecology' it's stated that during the course of a year 20,000,000 alfalfa plants weighing 17,850 pounds are needed to fuel 4.5 cows weighing 2,250 pounds, which will satisfy the energy needs of a single 105-pound boy." Thus, because it is my nature to be sparing, I am comfortable at the pyramid's base.

A second reason for being happy at the bottom of the pyramid is this: When a thinking human consciously chooses the barklouse path instead of the hawk's (not only in diet, but general energy-consumption in daily life), it seems that a magical thing happens. Somehow it appears that the energy conserved through making this conscious decision gets rechanneled into energy enabling greater liberty of thought, feeling, and spiritual awareness. I'm not sure how this works. I just see it happening. This observation seems to coincide with the teachings of the World's great religions.

"The meek shall inherit the Earth" is perhaps another way of saying this. Yoga perhaps puts the concept to practice.

The officers of WorldCom have found that by scrambling toward the top of their world's money-pyramid (in Capitalism, money is analogous to energy in real life) without respecting their environment's basic ecological principles (honesty, established procedures), today they find themselves in a mess, and a lot of people have been hurt. In contrast, in my little trailer not far from WorldCom's corporate headquarters, it seems that by anchoring my body close to the bottom of the Earth's energy pyramid not far from barklice, in an environment where my mind and spirit are given free reign, I enjoy a healthy, sustainable contentment and enthusiasm about life's potentials.

It's like having a good view from a pyramid's top. Facebook Icon.