I often enjoy my lunch at a small café named Holly Berry's. It's one of those places where people quickly know your name, at least your first name, where congeniality and food are offered with equal gusto. I was talking to Jack, who most folks would describe as a cook until they taste his food, at which point he'd be better described as a chef. Jack asked me if I was writing a book while on sabbatical and I said that I was, one about the concept of the balance of nature. Jack allowed as to how he had not given a great deal of thought to the balance of nature but, in his line of work, he had thought often about the balance between soup and sandwich. Not just any soup goes well with just any sandwich. and opinions vary. Jack opined that the delicate balance between soup and sandwich is essentially judgmental. In the end it comes down to what tastes good to whoever is having the soup and sandwich. that day I had tomato basil soup and a grilled cheese with onions and tomato. Excellent balance.
The point here is that the concept of balance is, indeed, often in the eye of the beholder. That includes one of the most deep-seated assumptions about balance, that there is such a thing as the balance of nature. Such a realization is nontrivial.
This is a book about ecology but it is not the usual kind of book about ecology. There are several themes that run through the narrative. one is an account of what ecology is today and something of how it got to be that way. I describe how ecology has emerged