Plural for "balance of nature"

3

Is it correct to use "balances of nature" plural form, for natural equilibriums or are there some other ways to say the same thing in plural form?

Kiron

Posted 2013-06-29T14:57:57.633

Reputation: 131

1As written, I think J.R.'s answer is best. This phrase has a plural, and he tells you what it is. That said, it's hard to think of a situation when using the plural would be appropriate. Perhaps you could edit the question to include details about what exactly you're trying to express, so people could better judge whether the plural form is appropriate. – snailplane – 2013-06-30T06:19:35.193

What I have understood so far is that is better to avoid if possible as Bob said, but also that is quite widely used in specific contexts. – Kiron – 2013-06-30T16:08:33.093

So this is my "context": is within a list of different items (so I said that it is like a "title") included in one of four booktrailer about the wizard of Oz novel. These trailers are originally written in Italian. English version of them is on the way... ;-)

These are the Italian versions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyaq2vRJP_0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVYVhYNzfnA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcXSsZSBvAQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_1YWXOvAbg

The phrase is in the second one, mins 1:25 http://youtu.be/cVYVhYNzfnA?t=1m25s

– Kiron – 2013-06-30T16:21:38.917

Here is the English version of the first one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS3qlNY7M7M

– Kiron – 2013-06-30T16:25:19.403

Here is the English version for the second one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy6J0pIBdfQ

– Kiron – 2013-06-30T17:29:12.237

Answers

3

Balances of nature is indeed the proper way to pluralize the term.

A Google books search reveals thousands of instances, many of them in scholarly works. Here is one:

Knowledge is so imperfect about the balances of nature, and these balances so fundamental to the existence and the perpetuation of life, that they should not be tampered with, even if the risk involved is small. (The Wisconsin Seminar on Natural Resource Policies in Relation to Economic Development and International Cooperation, Vol. 1)

J.R.

Posted 2013-06-29T14:57:57.633

Reputation: 108 123

Great! thank you. But doing the same search with google book for "ecological balances" we get more and more results, 54 against 11.100; what do you think about that. Could be both correct? "Balances of nature" was my first choice, but I've received many invites to change it. – Kiron – 2013-06-29T22:13:26.187

I would say both are correct, but I would also say that in general you are safe avoiding the plural form for the most part. It looks like I might be in a minority on that, however. – BobRodes – 2013-06-30T00:56:32.933

1I tried to answer the pluralization question you posed. As for which is better, I'd have to know more about how you're planning to use it: What is the context? Who is the audience? P.S. As for "many invites to change it" – do you mean from Bob? Or have others given you the same advice? (I'd count Bob's advice as "one" invite to change it, not "many.") – J.R. – 2013-06-30T01:25:21.817

We routinely speak of ecosystems in the plural, because it's often easy to envisage small self-contained units (plus we routinely create them, in research contexts). But balance of Nature is something of a "set phrase", and I personally would rather not pluralise it in that exact form. Natural balances, maybe I could live with.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-06-30T04:14:55.810

Here's an Ngram. That said, to get the full picture, you'd need to examine each of the usages in context, because there's no way to know if the writers are using the terms in places where they would be interchangeable – there might be a reason one term is chosen over the other. – J.R. – 2013-06-30T08:30:25.807

The Ngram with singulars added shows that the singular form occurs an order of magnitude more often than the plural in either case. That said, I entirely agree with J.R.'s statement.

– BobRodes – 2013-06-30T15:34:51.600

@BobRodes: There are lots of Ngrams we can study, including this one with the articles removed. They all seem to show a pre-1970 rise in popularity for ecological balance(s), but, as we both agree, that's only one piece of the puzzle, and the O.P. shouldn't decide based on Ngrams alone.

– J.R. – 2013-06-30T15:42:38.350

Yes, that's interesting. I remember discussing "ecology" as a rather new idea in 5th grade science back in the 60's. – BobRodes – 2013-06-30T15:50:44.390

I was referring to invites out of this forum. Very interesting the Ngram feature. I didn't know about that. I was wrong about 54 vs 11.100 google search results, it is 13.600 vs 11.100, anyway Ngram says it all. About the context I have said, to use as a title, since was the easiest way to answer, now I'll try to be more clear adding a comment to the question. Thank you to everybody – Kiron – 2013-06-30T15:54:10.827

2

One could certainly argue otherwise, but I will say that there is only one nature, and therefore only one equilibrium thereof. So I only use the singular, and I would say that you may quite safely do the same.

BobRodes

Posted 2013-06-29T14:57:57.633

Reputation: 13 000

Thank you, I can be agree with you that there could be only one if we consider the whole planet, universe, etc. but if we are talking about some "small" ecosystems? Could be better to use "natural equilibriums" or "natural equilibria"? – Kiron – 2013-06-29T16:27:40.473

In that particular case, I would use "ecological balance." An example would be "If you use a natural wastewater treatment system, avoid flushing chemicals down the toilet as it will upset the ecological balance of the system." – BobRodes – 2013-06-29T16:30:22.813

Also for "ecological balance", always in singular form? I mean in general, not in your example – Kiron – 2013-06-29T16:32:50.167

An interesting question. I think you would find people arguing both sides of this one: "I would like to compare the ecological balance of the two systems" vs. "I would like to compare the ecological balances of the two systems." I lean towards the latter, and have the feeling that each has a slightly different meaning. But certainly, it is correct to say "Discrete systems have discrete ecological balances," so it isn't ALWAYS in singular form. – BobRodes – 2013-06-29T16:39:33.097

ok, thank you, I get it... I was looking for a plural form of that to use as a title – Kiron – 2013-06-29T17:00:28.973

In a title, "Balances of Nature" would be interesting. It implies several possibilities, such as that there are differing views on what the balance of nature is, or that there are different microsystems that have separate balances. – BobRodes – 2013-06-29T17:09:00.743

But now I have changed it to "ecological balances"... I have to switch back? ;-) – Kiron – 2013-06-29T17:12:17.353

If it's a title of a book, "Balances of Nature" arouses more curiosity in my opinion. If it's the title of a scholarly article, "Ecological Balances" is less provocative. You decide. :) – BobRodes – 2013-06-29T17:19:00.197

This doesn't answer the question, though. Assuming one did have a valid reason for using the plural, how would it be pluralized? When writing the science fiction series, the author had to be careful to make the balances of nature seem realistic on each planet. – J.R. – 2013-06-29T21:50:36.463

@J.R. Fair enough; I could have answered the question more specifically before getting into my musings. – BobRodes – 2013-06-30T00:54:42.160

1

It is more common to speak of "the balance of nature" then "the balances of nature".

The singular describes the idea that nature is in a stable state meaning that changes to part of nature will affect other parts.

The plural emphasizes the plurality, i.e. there are multiple things being balanced.

After seeing your context, I would personally use an alternative that will let you keep the "<adjective> <noun>" pattern.

Enchanted Forests...

Fragile Ecosystems... (common phrase)

Delicate Balances... (common phrase, audience will infer "natural" from the image displayed)

Unyielding Fundamentalists...

etc.

Xantix

Posted 2013-06-29T14:57:57.633

Reputation: 625

Thank you for your answer too and for having seen my context – Kiron – 2013-07-01T15:01:47.130