Natural systems, including the bull kelp forest, evolved to withstand crisis: A volcanic eruption on the Kenai Peninsula, earthquakes lifting the sea floor 25 feet, 200 year storms ripping kelp beds from their rocky holds, and fluctuations in ocean temperature. Mechanisms such as overpopulation, redundancy of top, or keystone, predators, cold nutrient-dense ocean water, and ocean dynamics playing out over the long term allowed the richness of life along the Pacific Coast’s edge to rebound and rejuvenate. That is what resilience is.
As humans we have been intertwined and interdependent upon the environments we are embedded within, and once held deep relationships of reciprocity and respect with the creatures and plants, both terrestrial and oceanic.
But systems of commerce and colonialism in just the last few hundred years overtook these relationships. The western notion that humans are somehow outside of nature, and had the prerogative to mine ecologies of their natural resilience became the accepted practice. But when stressor after stressor is placed on these oceanic systems, when the resilience has been mined out, when notions of ‘sustainable’ implies just that—just enough rather than more than enough–and with the ultimate environmental stress of climate change, the complex networks of interdependent life have a harder and harder time rebounding. The decline of bull kelp forests are evidence of this.
If we consider bull kelp as a relation, as kin, and understand how foundational it is to so much we hold dear, we might help restore resilience of these underwater forests and begin to reverse this trajectory of mutual decline.
We hope that this particular organism, bull kelp, once understood and appreciated, can be an inspiration and a guide to us humans, and serve as an example of how to create foundations of support for the world around us. The bull kelp can be a talisman to rewilding our human mind.