In my working career, I have invested a solid amount of years working as an Environmental Educator. In Environmental Education (EE), several topics excite me and symbiosis is one of them. This topic excites me as it feeds both my Environment-loving side and my writer side as it is loaded with life lessons. I am glad that I can marry these topics on this very first blog post of the year and share it with you.

Under South Africa’s school curriculum, the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), younger grades are not bombarded with this big English word, as the topic is introduced to them in its simplest definition: relationships in nature. Under this topic, learners are taught the 3 main types of relationships found in nature namely, mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. As we are starting afresh, starting a new year, for the next couple of weeks please allow me to dissect and look into these relationships types, drawing the necessary lesson that we need in our living.

The relationship type that we will start off with is called commensalism. To me, this is a relationship type very familiar to us, so familiar that we are not even aware of, it most of the time. In this relationship type, an organism benefits from the other organism and yet the other organism is not even aware of that. Amongst many other examples in nature, this relationship type is demonstrated through the relationship that exists between a Whitetip shark and a Pilot fish. As the shark feeds, food falls off from the shark, and the fish gets a meal. The shark is going on his business of eating, yet it is feeding a fish, benefiting it and yet it is unaware of it. In our life, this kind of relation becomes hard to pinpoint as the person doing this is not even aware that by what they are doing, someone is benefiting and benefiting to what extent.

When I think of this type of relation, I think of a person who is too busy to close their curtain until it gets very dark in the evening, not knowing that there is a homeless person outside their window who is actually watching the motion pictures. Through this relationship type, I’m reminded of the saying “no man is an island”. I am reminded of how we as humans are intertwined and interlinked. In his book, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King has penned it, “We do not finish breakfast without being dependent on more than half of the world. When we arise in the morning we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table, we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are beholden to more than half of the world. In a real sense, all life is interrelated”. The presence of technology has further lessened the gaps between us, not to mention social media. What I post might uplift or bring low people reading my post across the globe.

I am naïve enough to believe that we as people have good intentions, that the spirit of humanity abides in us all. I believe that as feeble as we are, we strive to be better and do better. It is for this reason that I would like to challenge us to be extra cautious and careful in our quest of being better people. This does mean that we need to be extra cautious of our actions and words as we don’t know to what extent they might impact the next person. In planning our year ahead and in us having our resolutions for the year, if we did not add kindness, then let us go back to our lists and add it. We might be surprised how many people’s lives we could touch and improve without us ever knowing about it. After all, we are our brothers and sister keepers.

Kindly find the subscription section below so that you do not miss out on new posts. Next week we will be looking at the lessons embedded in parasitism and then mutualism the week after.