Ecological principles to help achieve your goals: Principles 7. Identifying energy producers / decomposers and adapting to your ecosystem type

There are many different types of ecosystems on earth ranging from rain forests, to deserts. In each different ecosystem, the species within them have adapted very different strategies to thrive. The basic characteristics that determine the different ecosystems are solar energy, heat, water availability and frequency, mineral, carbon and oxygen availability.

It is pretty obvious to the lay observer that hot wet terrestrial climates are highly productive ecosystems and that dry or cold climates are much less productive in terms of biomass and diversity. What might be less obvious at first glance is the way the species that live in these types of climates adapt to survive. In highly productive environments, the species within those systems adapt to the other species primarily, whereas the species that live in much less productive environments adapt primarily to the environment itself.

So how do we apply this concept to our personal and organizational projects. First we need to determine if our project lies in a productive or scarce ecosystem. If it is productive, our primary adaptation strategy should be to adapt to the other players in the arena, if it is less productive, it should be to adapt to the environment itself. So lest say you want to start the first, CSF(community supported fishery) in the North Bay of San Francisco, CA. In that case, there are no other players in that arena. Your strategy to adapt and evolve should not be based on what competitors are doing but on the consumers of fish products in your area. If on the other hand you are going to start another CSA (community supported agriculture) business in the North Bay of San Francisco, there are many players in that arena. In that case you will need to adapt to what the other players are doing and fill a niche that they are not filling.

There are only two requirements for an ecosystem. You need energy producers and decomposers. So identifying your project ecosystem’s energy producers and your decomposers is another key element to creating a thriving project ecosystem. In our world, like it or not, dollars are, at this point in time, a form of stored energy. So anything that brings in dollars has to be seen as an energy producer, in addition to that anything that literally captures energy from the sun or atmosphere and makes it available to you is an energy producer in your project ecosystem. IF your project is something like being fit enough to compete in a triathlon, then an energy producer would be anything that motivates and enables you to train and compete.

Decomposers are equally important in an ecosystem as energy producers. in our culture we don’t give much value to decomposers. Decomposers take spent energy and materials and make them available for reuse. If we stay with the example of a becoming able to compete in a triathlon. The material inputs to your project ecosystem are again anything that motivates and enables you to complete your triathlon. A decomposer in your project would be something that breaks down and recycles that motivation and enabling stuff. So for example, lets say that you are motivated by your spouse who has participated in 5 previous triathlon and is vibrantly alive in a large part because of her relationship to competing in triathlon. It may seem funny to say that a decomposer is critical in this case but it is. By analogy, the decomposer in this case would be you. specifically your ability to break down the inspiring and motivating influence of your spouse and to internalize it into yourself in a way that transforms her energy and action into your own. You literally take the energy she gives you and metabolize it into its component parts and transform that psychic resource into energy that is utilized by you to train and prepare for your own triathlon. This particular ecological principle needs more examples to make the value of it clear and I will present them, but I assure you if you start honoring and enabling the role of the decomposers in your life you will be amazed at the benefits.

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