Book – The Balance of Nature


Around the Poring Hot Springs in Ranau as well as in many places in Telupid, Sabah (and in many parts of Borneo), there is a species of ant (Genus Crematogaster) that lives in close-knit mutualism (see picture above) with its host Macaranga plant (reference). These ants live in the hollow stems of the plant and nowhere else, and obtain food from the plant. The ants are also afforded protection from predators due to the fact that the slippery stems of the plants prevent other ants and insects to climb up. Reciprocally, the ants prevent pests from attacking their host plant.

Destroyed or degraded habitats, and the imbalances in natural ecosystems caused by resources exploitation however threatened this finely-balanced state of our natural world. For example, Sabah has by far the highest levels of palm oil production per unit area and the highest relative number of endangered species, and this fact has been frequently cited as a major force in biodiversity loss (reference).

John Kricher’s 2009 book, The Balance of Nature talks about this fragile interconnectedness of nature, and why it is important for us – and not just scientists -to understand how our actions will impact our living natural resources.

In Kricher’s own words,

My wish is that this book will help the reader to understand the connections between evolution, ecology, and other areas of human thought and realize that “nothing endures but change.” However, some changes are better than others, and the great virtue of being humans is that, at least in theory, we have a choice. Our destinies are largely under our control if we seize that control. Ecology is
no longer the arcane study of natural history. Ecology, in the twenty-first century, may be the key to human destiny in the twenty-second century and beyond.

This a great read for non-academe like us. An interview with the author can he found here.


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