Catalyst Community-Ecology 101

The word “community” is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular interest in common. Catalyst Midland has launched a series titled “Catalyst Community” focusing on different communities — sometimes geographic, sometimes a common interest. 

In this week’s Catalyst, we focus on nature and how we’re all interconnected. Our writer calls it “Ecology 101.”  

Elizabeth Lumbert is a native Midlander and the daughter of Don & Marilyn Findlay. Her parents raised her with an appreciation and love for the outdoors. She serves as the Director of Dow Gardens where she enjoys the beauty of the changing seasons.

The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation's signature gift each year is the Dow Gardens as they share the family estate with the community and its visitors.Catalyst Community: Ecology 101

It was a hot summer day at the Chippewa Nature Center and I sat in a circle of day-campers in the shade of a big tree. It was 1982, and we were tossing a ball of yarn back and forth making a giant web. We were learning about ecosystems and how all things in an ecosystem are inter-connected. Each of us held on to the yarn and played pond life roles. Some kids were plants, some animals, some were even nutrients that support life. At first, we were in balance and could feel an even tug on the yarn.  Then our day-camp leader led us through exercises which unbalanced the pond. If one of us was weakened the tug on the string altered. 

I’ve always been fascinated by connections, especially those in nature.
While pulling together a presentation for the Midland Noon Rotary Club, I had an “Ecological Community Epiphany.” Every January as I start a fresh work journal, I begin with the quote “The strength of the team is each individual, the strength of the individual is the team.” The quote reminds me of the importance of striving to bring your best self to the world and to try and create healthy, positive relationships.
  Our community will evolve and unexpected forces will shape us.     
What was the epiphany? Out of all the quotes in the world, I had gravitated to a quote with an ecology principle at its base. The quote can be rewritten to: “The strength of the pond is each individual organism; the strength of each individual organism is the pond.”  Ecosystems are complex, they have multiple layers. Each individual organism is inter-connected. Understanding the relationships between organisms is ecology. Plants and animals evolve which change the ecosystem. Unexpected environmental forces come along and alter conditions. 

What I learned that sunny day so long ago sitting in the circle was Ecology 101. Its lessons apply to a team; a community. Our community is complex, we are inter-connected. Relationships are important. Our individual actions create reactions which create change. Our community will evolve and unexpected forces will shape us. 

Ecosystems are complex, they have multiple layers. Each individual organism is inter-connected.Community is like that web of yarn, we are intertwined. If you feel a tug, reach out and help, if you need help, tug on the yarn. Individually we are each a strand in the web, together we are a vibrant community. The strength of the community is each individual, the strength of each individual is the community.