Ecology of or involving the feeding habits or food relationship of different organisms in a food chain.
A succession of stages, processes, operations, or units.
— The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
trophic cascade. i remembered the word, trophic, when i heard it in the video i’ll share with you below. i learned it years ago, in a geology or biology class i attended at university, in the form of an oligotrophic lake: having an abundance of dissolved oxygen and very few nutrients to sustain life. (interestingly, my text editor wanted to insert ‘catastrophic’ instead). oligos, means ‘few’ and trophic means ‘nutrition’. (again, my text editor wanted to insert ‘oligarcic’ instead — perhaps ghost in the machine is real after all). but i digress.
the video is here and what it shows is how the reintroduction of wolves into the ecosystem of yellowstone affects, among many things, the course of the river! my good friend and professor of biology summed it up this way, “it demonstrates the unpredictable non-linearity of the impact that a single species can have on an ecosystem.” wolves —> river. brilliant.
as usual this got me thinking about impacts, a cascade of a different sort — and not the kind where someone fails to brake and rear-ends me while i’m sitting at a stoplight. and not the other extreme (butterfly wings here, monsoon there), but somewhere closer to home and life. the pay-it-forward kind. the kind of impact that occurs when you hold a door open for someone, stop an elevator door from closing just as another person tries to catch it. the kind where, at a moment’s point of inflection, you have a choice of writing a $500 ticket or correct a guy and let him pay $0.89. see previous post. man, that still clobbers my rational thinking.
we do things and those things have an impact. sometimes (most of the time it seems?) the impact is slight. sometimes it takes a while. whenever i work a project there are three fundamental tenets i follow: 1) solve my customer’s problem; 2) don’t over-charge for my service; and, 3) help someone else succeed.
number 3 is where i really want my impact to be felt. changing the course of a river is not generally in my scope. business is still business and should i successfully design a cog for a widget to make a thingymajiggybobby (my daughter’s word) work better, great. its likely not life altering. but help someone else succeed… look good… shine…? yes. hell yes.
i didn’t get here by myself and i would argue that neither did you. nor did the wolves. in the end – or more accurately, somewhere along the path – something will change. a person, a system, a social thing, … the river did. who would have guessed that?
our actions and decisions have impact. it might be worth a moment’s pause to pause for a moment. consider what that just might mean.