It’s Not Called the Balance of Nature for Nothing

It’s not called  the Balance of Nature for Nothing

I’ve got M.S.

Luckily (knock on wood), there’s almost no pain associated with it thus far.  Quite the opposite, I have virtually no feeling in either hands or feet, and often don’t realize I’ve injured myself until I notice the blood.

My major disabling symptoms are an inability to command some muscles in my right leg and a terrible sense of balance.  A bad combination.  Largely because I have tremendous respect for gravity and fear of injury, almost everything I do is incredibly slow.  Except, of course, if I do happen to lose my balance, be unable to react appropriately, and fall.

Acceleration due to gravity is 32 ft per second per second,  That means that the speed at which you hit the ground in a free fall is a function of how big the fall is.   But you knew that.

What you may not have realized is that this is a pretty good example of the power of the exponential effect of a positive feedback loop–although not really.

Let me try to explain.  The positive feedback thing is actually a whole lot more powerful than the acceleration due to gravity thing.  Everyone knows that a fall of only a few feet, say from standing, is rather dangerous for an adult, especially and older one, but not usually life threatening.  But a fall of as little as eight feet, say from a ladder up one story, often is, depending largely on how you land and on what.  Meanwhile anything over 20 (more than two stories) is usually fatal.  But these are examples of phenomena that is governed not by positive feedback, but merely the power of having the situation get worse through squaring the time spent falling.

With positive feedback, the exacerbation itself increases as time passes.  So, after falling, say three feet, the situation is getting worse by the power three, not two any longer.   By four it would be getting worse by the fourth power.  Its like, if falling six feet was dangerous, then eight would almost certainly kill you, and nine for extra sure.

When things go bad that are governed by positive feedbacks they go bad so quickly that there is nothing you can do after the situation has gotten out of hand.

Nature was in balance for a very long time-billions of years.  We have brought that balance very much into question via one and only one thing–our success as a species.  Nothing we contribute to the environment would be a problem if there weren’t so many of us.

But there are that many of us.

And the number of us that there are is a positive feedback on how many more of us there will be tomorrow.

Don’t look around, there’s no time for that.  Start right now trying to regain the balance and preparing to absorb the fall, for it is certainly coming.  It’s never going to be possible to avoid unless we begin to immediately address the population issue.  All else is, as a vice Presidential candidate once said, like putting lipstick on a pig–it’s still a pig.

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One Response to It’s Not Called the Balance of Nature for Nothing

  1. Hank Raymond says:

    What about my god-given right to have 12 kids if I want to?

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