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2+2=5: Ecosystems, Social Systems & Community

2+2=5: Ecosystems, Social Systems & Community

Garret Llopiz •April 29, 2016 • Lifestyle • 

What is Community? We often like to throw that word around, but what does community actually represent? Where does community exist in the history of our species, our planet, our cosmos? Let’s reach for an understanding that extends way past the ability of a dictionary to define. Let’s look into the patterns of our cosmology and ecology.



Relationships beget community, and communities contain certain patterns of relationships. To understand community is to understand patterns is to understand relationships.  By this most basic understanding, and because all matter is relating by the force of gravity, we can conclude that there has been community immediately following the Big Bang. But inanimate matter relating only by one physical force doesn’t seem to fully capture the essence we feel when we think of community. Community has something richer to it; it has something beyond what the limits of the physical sciences can tell us.

Ecosystems demonstrate this deeper richness. To holistically understand ecosystems, we must reach far past the confines of physics and focus on understanding relationships and the pattern of connection. This delve into relationships is inherently a shift from physical phenomena to social phenomena. Because of this social element, and because ecosystems are inherently sustainable, the principles of ecology should be our guiding light in creating our principles of society.

Social systems aren’t unique to the human species. In fact, the social aspect inherent in life is precisely the differentiating factor between living and non-living systems. How did we as a society become so separated from the very pattern that creates life? Members of an ecological community nourish relationships creating a network of interdependence. They understand that without the other there is nothing. This theme, just now becoming relevant in the sciences, is an ancient sentiment shared in many of the Eastern philosophies. Scientifically, it can be understood as autopoiesis, which is defined as, “a network pattern in which the function of each component is to participate in the production or transformation of other components in the network” (Capra 162).

Naturally, we are drawn to an ecological definition of community. Local businesses and markets enrich our community. Home and community gardens stand for something more than just growing food. Music and art are more than mere visual and sonic pleasures. These all exemplify patterns of connection that add up to be more than the sum of their parts, 2+2=5. Local businesses keep economic capital within the community while creating an environment where its members connect and interact. Gardens provide healthy food, reduces the dependence on the corpolitical system, and increases the interdependence of community members. Music and art are expressions of our connection to each other, the earth, and the cosmos. To follow the patterns of ecosystems is to create a social system that is beyond sustainable, just, and beautiful.


I’ll leave you with this: Imagine a world where the human social life was autopoietic, meaning everyone participated in the production and transformation of other humans, animals, and plants. Imagine a world where the concepts of sustainability, cooperation, and nature were the determination of wealth. Imagine a world where ecological devastation wasn’t hailed as economic prosperity. To create social justice is to create ecological sustainability. They’re one in the same. The answers are within the patterns.


Photography by Wes Adams

EcoDesign Solutions
1. Capra, Fritjof. 1996. The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems. New York: Anchor Books.




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1 Comment

  1. An autopoietic society as explained in this article, would be a wonderful society to live in. Very informative & a life certainly worth striving for. Also enjoyed the colorful beauty of the flowers in the photos. Once again, a nice & unique read.


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