Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

February 2016 Conservation Notes

The Intelligence of Nature

[When studying the consciousness inherent in biological systems] you learn … to respect the reality of the nonhuman as entangled with the human, recognising itself in you and you in it, and neither in a position of dominance. We are part of the world’s becoming…and part of a universe that we are trying to understand. The world is not a closed jar, but an open ecosystem of intelligence, always changing … and we can neither control nor remove ourselves from this. This, after all, is the core of its beauty.

--Tom Smith, Of Pond Brains and Humanity 2.0 Part 1: Theoteknosis; January 27, 2016

Large-scale ponds and marshes have been created to process and reclaim wastewater in Titusville (Blue Heron Water Reclamation Park and Wetlands), Orlando (Orlando Wetlands), and Viera (Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands).  In addition, for several years engineered wetlands and water treatment programs have been clearing and revivifying  the waters of Lake Apopka that were devastated by the runoff from decades of muck farming.  The infrastructure of these treatment and restoration projects includes levees, weirs, pumping and drainage systems, chemical injection units, and water sampling stations.  

The biotic communities these wetlands projects support are increasingly diverse: fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians have been thriving in these newly-created sanctuaries.  These wetlands already have years of standing as must-see locations for birders who live in Florida and those who visit to explore the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail or attend many of the birding festivals in the state.

These now-biologically rich areas were proposed, funded and developed to solve human-created ecological problems, and are successful examples of environmental and biological engineering.   They are also living representations of projects that were engineered to work with the healing intelligence of the natural world.  In these wetlands, the homo sapiens-created “machined” world allows the co-evolved and resilient world of Great Nature to do the work that sustains all life forms, from the microscopic to the feathered, furred and scaled.  The engineers, scientists and technicians who create, monitor and maintain the ponds and marshes represent in their present-day work many generations of scientific and technological development.  However, we must also take note of the incomprehensible but ever-present manifestations of the primordial intelligence of Nature that engenders and sustains the many forms of life thriving in these wetlands.  

We walk the levees and appreciate the pink blossoming of the small flowers, the blue- green shine of sunlight across the feathers of a Glossy Ibis, or the toe-dance of the Reddish Egret hunting in the shallow mudflats.  We should keep in mind, as we discuss our means of governance and the intentions of our laws, that we are not apart from what we perceive in the natural world.  As the poet Gary Snyder wrote:  “Nature is not a place to visit.  It is home.”


Don't even ask how rapidly

the hummingbird lives his life.

You can't imagine.

A thousand flowers a day,

a little sleep, then the same again,

then he vanishes.

I adore him.

--from “Of Time” by Mary Oliver

Lamont Ingalls

Conservation Chair