Seeds Savers as Surfers - Ecosystem Resonance

Andrew McMillion - Food Studio
Monday, 8th January 2018

Andrew McMillion from the Norwegian Seed Savers explores how saving seed is like surfing: being connected and understanding the rhythms of our ecosystems.

Surfers instinctively know when they are aligned with their environment. Like a church-bell that resonates with all its overlapping frequencies at precisely the right volume, they ride waves of energy with effortless ease.

At a different frequency and a much slower pace, plants in a sense are also surfers trying to catch waves as their leaves paddle for the light. When they reach it, they grow with the flow effortlessly. It's in their nature to surf light and to resonate in their ecosystem.  

Humans have observed this for millennia and have aligned themselves with a cornucopia of plant species. We have coevolved with our cultivars to create the cultures that make up mankind. All life is resonating or attempting to resonate in ecosystems. 

Growth is simply one step in ecosystems resonance, and exponential growth is only one very short phase in countless cycles of waves of ecosystem evolution.

The human obsession with exponential growth is entirely natural. When we see patterns like the Fibonacci sequence appear in nature we are instinctively attracted to them. From flowers to seashells, humans have consumed, worshiped and emulated it. The idea of beauty itself has been linked to the golden ratio. 

What is often conveniently left out when we observe the natural world and try to apply its principles to building a better, more harmonious culture for the future, is that these exponential growth spirals don’t grow on forever. They come to an end. As the sun's energy fades in the fall most pollinators die. Flowers mature to seeds, most of which are eaten or rot before they can start new waves of life.

The end of growth is where the seed savers job truly begins. Like the surfer she watches her ecosystem and aligns herself with the exponential growth of the wave; saving the seed at the point when it is most viable, but before it has dropped or been blown away. She is found where the waves break. 

She listens to the heartbeat of the seasons, to the ebb and flow of the trees and plants and aligns with it to maintain ecosystems resonance. These cycles are interdependent and made of waves that are not really competing or struggling to survive as much as they are simply resonating in alignment with other waves in their ecosystem. This is a subtle but essential shift in consciousness, from struggling to compete with individuals in a market, to aligning within ecosystems.

Getting ecosystems to resonate takes practice and coevolution. Seed savers know that an ecosystem that is missing one or several elements struggles to stabilize. In these cases the ecosystem builder's job is to try to get the elements that are lacking into harmony, to get the ecosystem to “bounce”.

Getting a stationary ball to bounce takes many repeated taps in the right rhythm, but once the momentum is built it takes little effort to keep it bouncing. Likewise, the builder of an ecosystem is always watching the individual plants, life in the soil, and signs of bouncing resonance in her ecosystem. If she sees a plant that starts to wobble out of its spin, or whose bounce is loosing momentum, she gives it a little tap or a spin to get it bouncing again. All life longs to be a part of an ecosystem that is bouncing in full harmonic resonance.

This way of looking at life is applicable at all levels. Our society is embedded in our ecology. Shifting our focus from the dominant political economic cycles of quarters and elections, into humans in a larger context, our perspective on what constitute healthy and unhealthy forms of growth shifts too. It quickly becomes clear that the exponential growth patterns need to terminate like waves on a beach. If they don’t we get runaway global warming.

The defining characteristic or function of humans is not to create growth; it is rather to live in harmony within our ecology. An eco-logical economy takes profit for humans out of the centre and puts profits for the biosphere as a whole at the core. Instead of humans working for economy it should be humans in ecosystems, aware of and in harmony with the nuances of their environments. Health, happiness, nutrition and flow lead to stable, balanced healthy plants, soil, animals and people, bouncing in resonance.  

Less is often more. Slowing down, enjoying one’s work, not stressing or having to reach deadlines and budgets; not working for the sake of work, but for the sake of harmony. Flowing with the day, having several tasks but not being rigidly stuck on the end goal. Within minutes a seed saver can save the seeds that can become a whole field the following year. But if you are rigidly stuck on your task, you will miss seeing that precise moment when the seeds are ripe and need harvesting. Missing the wave means your work is wasted along with all that potential biology that could have thrived with it. Life is in many ways more wave than matter.

There is a global resurgence in ecosystems cultivation. Seed savers associations and networks for maintaining and improving cultivars and biodiversity are blossoming all over the world. One of Europe’s most recent additions is the Norwegian Seed Savers. Our network covers growers and plant enthusiasts from all over the country and extends to our sister organizations in the Nordic countries to central Europe and the Americas. The kernel of this new wave holds within it the energy, biology and knowledge for moving past the narrow interests of the dominant consumerist culture. We need to grow something new, and we need to resonate together to do so. www.norwegianseedsavers.no

This article orignally appeared in Hauste: https://foodstudio.no/hauste/

Andrew McMillion is featured in a podcast, talking about Ashitaba (lead image) and some of the other plants he grows: http://sustainableworldradio.com/earth-care-how-connecting-to-nature-can-change-your-life/

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Hablizia tamnoides sprouts

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Mouse melon

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Bumbus subterraneus (rare bumblebee) on carrot flowers from the greenhouse

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The author with carrot flowers, being kept for seed

Useful links

Top tips for seed saving

FREE downloadable Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty

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Tue, 13/02/2018 - 08:13
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