Originally Posted by asking
Economics and ecology use many of the same concepts, just different language and culture, so it should be a comparatively short learning curve. The currency in ecology is (of course) energy. It's not for nothing they both start with "eco"...
Yes, there is a lot of really interesting research and innovation going on in rangeland ecology these days. In the past, too many "environmentalists" had a shallow and dangerously naive view of semi-desert rangeland ecosystems. They saw most problems as the result of "overgrazing" and their solution was to remove all grazing animals. Much like foresters who advocated total fire suppression. The point they missed is that both grazing and fire were and are and must remain critical formative processes in that ecosystem. If you completely remove either or both of them, what you get is not in any sense of the word, "natural".
The key ingredient that makes both fire and grazing constructive and health-promoting processes is that they happen intermittently. The alternation between relatively brief episodes of radical disturbance, followed by relatively long periods of rest and recovery is the fundamental rhythm that promotes diversity, vitality, and resilience in these ecosystems. While there is no doubt at all that continuous grazing is harmful to ecosystem health, it is equally certain that continuous fire suppression or total cessation of grazing is just as harmful, and for the same reason.
The link to animal husbandry and genetic selection seems clear to me. EVERY biological system--from a cell, to an organ, to an organism, to a herd, to an ecosystem--NEEDS alternation between times of ease and plenty and times of stress and shortage to keep the adaptive capabilities sharp and functioning. An industrial model that seeks to reduce all variation, prevent all stress, and provide ideal conditions at all times is simply not the right tool for the job. It's a great model for manufacturing interchangeable machine parts, but not for producing healthy herds or healthy ecosystems.
OK, now I need to get off my soapbox. Great discussion. Keep it going.