An integral ecology of Sudden Oak Death

9 04 2010

Sudden Oak Death (photo by Lee Klinger)

Dr. Joel Kreisberg has recently published an excellent book entitled “An integral ecology of Sudden Oak Death: multiple perspectives of a forest pathology”.

The summary of the book states:

“The oak woodlands of central and northern California have seen a rapid decline of native oak trees in the last ten years attributed to Sudden Oak Death (SOD). Phytophthora ramorum has been isolated as the forest pathogen focusing the academic and public research agenda. Integral Ecology offers a systematic approach as a means of balancing multiple perspectives. Science is seldom value free and offers more then one conclusion. Alternatively Sudden Oak Death is a response to a larger set of variables including shifting climate, general forest decline and the ongoing impact from human activities. For an integral ecology all parties may be partially correct–the difference is in perspective. The interpretation of Sudden Oak Death as P. ramorum encourages institutions to combat the disease using technology and research as its primary tool. SOD as forest decline offers a choice to either deny our role in these changes or to learn and adapt with it. In this capacity, nature is the teacher and we are the students.”

About the author – Dr. Joel Kreisberg, DC, MA is the Founder and Executive Director of the Teleosis Institute, dedicated to reducing healthcare’s footprint while broadening its ecological vision. Dr. Kreisberg is currently an adjunct professor at the School of Holistic Studies at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA.

From the introduction:

“An argument could be made that local oak trees have been invaded by an alien fungus, causing untold economic devastation. But this is only partially true. Academic institutions, using high tech science, appear to be coming to the rescue, finding the culprit and setting about mapping its genes for the creation of an appropriate treatment. This is not an atypical story of the reductionist science that dominates our approach to many social and ecological issues, defining our relationship with land, natural resources, and economic policy.  With so many constituencies involved in the natural environment, including but not limited to ecologists, biologists, environmental activists, legislators, outdoor educators, and recreational enthusiasts, many, if not most, argue for the value of “good science” — i.e. direct observation, a working hypothesis, the testing of theory, and proven verifiable facts as the benchmark of a healthy relationship with nature.  Unfortunately, this sort of science has consequences that are just beginning to be acknowledged. Most problematic is the creation of isolated knowledge—knowledge that is antagonistic to a healthy symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment.”

Kreisberg also explains:

“The hypothesis that P. ramorum is the sole etiological explanation for Sudden Oak Death is essentially a cultural interpretation. With piles of scientific data and without other interpretations to compare, it is taken as fact.  Our intense focus on P. ramorum is due primarily to our ability to isolate an etiological organism efficiently. It is a convenient means for organizing academic research.  Perhaps it can lead to simple solutions for killing the offending organism, in the laboratory that is.  The hope is that removal of P. ramorum will translate into saving woodland trees.  To date, evidence has not provided any indication that this approach will work.”

The book is available on Amazon here.

UPDATE: Joel informs me that an electronic version of this work can be downloaded for free at:



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