Nature builds its own walls

If you remember any poems from high school, you probably remember Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Two neighbors come together every Spring to rebuild the stone wall that Nature is intent on destroying. Every winter, the ground freezes and thaws and topples a few stones from the wall. Frost is new to this farm and not much of a farmer. He likes Nature.  He doesn’t like walls much.


Ronald Reagan didn’t care for the Berlin Wall. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” he cried in 1987. In the early 90s the Soviet Union crumbled and the wall came down.  Will Pancho Villa’s grandson make the same cry in Tijuana some day?

All natural systems are open. All barriers, membranes and walls are permeable. They let some things in and keep others out. A system ceases to have any integrity, ceases to be a system, unless there is something between it and what is outside.

Today we have two North American countries with vastly different systems sharing a common boundary. The boundary is permeable—more so in some places than others.  In isolated areas, you can still wade across the Rio Grande when it’s low. Some would make the boundary more defined, less permeable. They would “build a wall.” This group also professes a deep and abiding love for America.  They not only stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, they put their hands over their hearts.

Those who most dislike America and standing for the Pledge favor more permeable boundaries. They want people and all sorts of substances to more freely move across the border. They are joined by those who say they like America, but only pledge allegiance to the making of money. This uneasy, and usually unspoken, alliance of big business and the anti-americans is the reason immigration reform doesn’t happen.

In 1914, when Robert Frost published “Mending Wall,” fences were built to keep animals out. The range was free in those days, as it still is in much of the world. Cows, goats, sheep, antelopes, bears, cougars and people could just range wherever their legs could take them. Frost, a bit of an anarchist as most poets are, liked that. So he didn’t like walls. Besides neither he nor his neighbor had cows, so why did they need a wall?

In 1914, most people in America still lived on farms, but by 1920, more than half lived in cities. In 1914, nearly everyone in Africa, Asia and Russia still lived on farms or in small villages. People had lots of kids and the surviving children spread out over the landscape to establish their own farms.  Today, in most of the world, people have few children. The exceptions are the poorest regions of Africa, the Americas and Asia.

The countries of Africa cannot provide for these burgeoning populations and people do anything they can to escape to Europe next door. The countries of Central America cannot provide for their poor families and the poor will do anything they can to escape to the U.S.

Because America’s border is porous, millions have come in illegally and live among us in nearly every town. We enjoy the fruits of their labor on our farms and at our construction sites. The unholy alliance between big business and the anti-americans will most likely continue to insure the border is porous. So your best bet is to learn Spanish. The wall in Tijuana will be torn down one day, if present trends continue.

Yet human systems are part of Nature, when push comes to shove. Resilient natural systems self-organize to perpetuate themselves and their component species. If we are resilient, we will self-organize to perpetuate our values and our way of life.  If not, we will disappear.

Any system must possess certain basic qualities to survive and thrive.  It is diverse, but the diverse elements are complementary and devoted to the goal of making the whole system thrive. The diversity which is extolled in America today is a chaos of conflicting values and goals, with one common theme–to tear down the present system.

A resilient system’s self-organization includes establishing a barrier between itself and other systems. It’s not an impermeable barrier. Resilient systems are highly connected to other systems. But they are also ecologically modular.  They are independent modules which can close off the connections to outside elements if those elements threaten the integrity of the system.

Robert Frost left the farm after one year and went to live in town. His neighbor and his neighbor’s sons continued to rebuild the wall every year.

Lots of stone walls have been built at Meadowcreek. None of them have kept out the riff-raff.

After Reagan’s Berlin Wall was torn down, a pastor’s daughter from East German took control of government. Germany today is coping with an influx of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, increasing crime and taxing public resources while big business welcomes their labor.

Soon, from an ecological perspective, Trump and Pelosi will be gone. Their current shut-down of government will end without anything close to a strong border. What will remain is the innate self-organizing tendency of all resilient systems. Which includes the innate desire for a boundary.

Natural boundaries brings the useful in and keeps the destructive out. Any thriving system has a such a boundary.

A thriving America will build such a boundary naturally. A nation which does not will disappear and chaos will take its place. Many are, wittingly or not, cheering at the latter prospect.