Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission
June 28, 2018 - Gerould Wilhelm
"Consilience, Concinnity, and The Way"
Consilience means “jumping together” and is typified when all the elements of an ecosystem are working in harmony. The health of an ecosystem is directly related to consilience. If one acknowledges that plants and animals grow in habitats to which they are adapted, then one must accept the corollary: Change the habitat and the inhabitants change. All elements in an ecosystem must be in consilience if the system is to remain stable enough to endure changes at the rates at which mountains rise and fall. As an ecosystem’s elements drop out at the scale with which we are eliminating them, the ability for all other elements to jump together is accordingly and progressively diminished. If, for example, the letter K is removed from the keyboard, all future communication is crippled accordingly; . . . then the loss of the Y; . . .
All programs take place at the Prospect Heights Public Library's Borland meeting room and start promptly at 7:00. Nature Speaks is free admission but registration is necessary.
Consilience includes, crucially, the Holocene-aged relationship that the system has had with any sustainable human cultures that depended on the system for critical, life-sustaining resources. Most of the World’s ecosystems have had such a relationship with human cultures. The implications for ecosystem collapse when this relationship is abrogated are evident everywhere around us, like the loss of a typist who would steward and use a typewriter. The challenge for contemporary restoration ecologists is to discover the aboriginal relationships between peoples, places, and all the “brothers and sisters” and help contemporary people re-engage appropriately with their places. Concinnity is the beautiful harmony that grows between people and place as humans understand their role in “jumping together” with it in accordance with its own unique strictures.
Dr. Gerould Wilhelm will be using native prairie, woodland, and riverbank landscapes to illustrate consilience and concinnity. He will point out that natural systems are uninterested in good intentions, budgetary problems, personal problems, government regulations, or ignorance on the part of stewards or scientists. We must learn The Way of our land and accommodate it just as strictly as must a pilot obey the laws of flight in accordance with the configuration and design of his airplane. To run out of airspeed, altitude, and experience leads to ungraceful, regrettable landings.
Dr. Gerould Wilhelm is a foremost botanist, research taxonomist, and educator. After an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at Florida State University, and a stint as a conscript in the Army, he joined the staff of the Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois, in 1974. He received his Ph.D. in botany in 1984 at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His dissertation focused on the vascular flora of the Pensacola Region in Florida and southwestern Alabama. He has co-authored with Laura Rericha, the definitive compendium on local plants, the “Flora of the Chicago Region: a Floristic and Ecological Synthesis,” which includes insects and other animals that have direct relationships with the 3149 local plant species. He is also an authority on the lichens of the Chicago region.
Dr. Wilhelm is an owner of Conservation Design Forum, Inc., the pioneer company devoted to changing water doctrine in the United States; he believes that water should be regarded as a blessing, not a bane. Director of Research for the Conservation Research Institute, he is also noted for his development of the Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) methodology, which has become widely adapted for use in at many states and provinces. His recent research efforts with Laura Rericha on management of landscapes at Timber Hill Savanna, in Decater County, Iowa, and the Hitchcock Nature Center in the loess hills have increased our understanding and awareness of the critical cultural relationships involved in the evolution of North American landscapes and ecosystems.
Dr. Wilhelm has also been actively involved in education. He has taught classes on plant identification to people with diverse backgrounds, from professional wetland biologists to volunteer stewards. He is an accomplished speaker and has led many field seminars. As a factor of the Conservation Research Institute [conservationresearchinstitute.org], directed by Margot Mazur, he believes that success in the achievement of sustainability requires attention to considerations beyond the “triple bottom line.” He notes that most infrastructure today, even “green” infrastructure, is uninspiring, built by people who do not love what they do; that such buildings will become passé and torn down in a few years because they are neither beautiful nor loved. The Greeks observed that that which is beautiful is loved and that which is loved becomes beautiful. The Conservation Research Institute puts forth the idea that all that we make or do should be done by craftsmen, artists, and artisans who are part of vibrant local economies. It also holds that nothing we achieve today will last unless the next generation is sufficiently knowledgeable and disposed to carry the progress forward---with improvements.