Human Ecology

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Ecological economics[edit]

Main article: Ecological economics

See also: Natural capital

Ecological economics is an economic science that extends its methods of valuation onto nature in an effort to address the inequity between market growth and biodiversity loss.[65] Natural capital is the stock of materials or information stored in biodiversity that generates services that can enhance the welfare of communities.[80] Population losses are the more sensitive indicator of natural capital than are species extinction in the accounting of ecosystem services. The prospect for recovery in the economic crisis of nature is grim. Populations, such as local ponds and patches of forest are being cleared away and lost at rates that exceed species extinctions.[81] The mainstream growth-based economic system adopted by governments worldwide does not include a price or markets for natural capital. This type of economic system places further ecological debt onto future generations.[82][83]

Many human-nature interactions occur indirectly due to the production and use of human-made (manufactured and synthesized) products, such as electronic appliances, furniture, plastics, airplanes, and automobiles. These products insulate humans from the natural environment, leading them to perceive less dependence on natural systems than is the case, but all manufactured products ultimately come from natural systems.[28]:640

Human societies are increasingly being placed under stress as the ecological commons is diminished through an accounting system that has incorrectly assumed "... that nature is a fixed, indestructible capital asset."[84]:44 The current wave of threats, including massive extinction rates and concurrent loss of natural capital to the detriment of human society, is happening rapidly. This is called a biodiversity crisis, because 50% of the worlds species are predicted to go extinct within the next 50 years.[85][86] Conventional monetary analyses are unable to detect or deal with these sorts of ecological problems.[87] Multiple global ecological economic initiatives are being promoted to solve this problem. For example, governments of the G8 met in 2007 and set forth The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative:

In a global study we will initiate the process of analyzing the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation.[88]

The work of Kenneth E. Boulding is notable for building on the integration between ecology and its economic origins. Boulding drew parallels between ecology and economics, most generally in that they are both studies of individuals as members of a system, and indicated that the “household of man” and the “household of nature” could somehow be integrated to create a perspective of greater value.[89][90]

Interdisciplinary approaches[edit]

Human ecology may be defined: (1) from a bio-ecological standpoint as the study of man as the ecological dominant in plant and animal communities and systems; (2) from a bio-ecological standpoint as simply another animal affecting and being affected by his physical environment; and (3) as a human being, somehow different from animal life in general, interacting with physical and modified environments in a distinctive and creative way. A truly interdisciplinary human ecology will most likely address itself to all three.[1]:8–9

Human ecology expands functionalism from ecology to the human mind. People's perception of a complex world is a function of their ability to be able to comprehend beyond the immediate, both in time and in space. This concept manifested in the popular slogan promoting sustainability: "think global, act local." Moreover, people's conception of community stems from not only their physical location but their mental and emotional connections and varies from "community as place, community as way of life, or community of collective action."[1]

In these early years, human ecology was still deeply enmeshed in its respective disciplines: geography, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and economics. Scholars through the 1970s until present have called for a greater integration between all of the scattered disciplines that has each established formal ecological research.[1][20]

In art[edit]

While some of the early writers considered how art fit into a human ecology, it was Sears who posed the idea that in the long run human ecology will in fact look more like art. Bill Carpenter (1986) calls human ecology the "possibility of an aesthetic science," renewing dialogue about how art fits into a human ecological perspective. According to Carpenter, human ecology as an aesthetic science counters the disciplinary fragmentation of knowledge by examining human consciousness.[91]

In education[edit]

While the reputation of human ecology in institutions of higher learning is growing, there is no human ecology at the primary and secondary education levels. Educational theorist Sir Kenneth Robinson has called for diversification of education to promote creativity in academic and non-academic (i.e.- educate their “whole being”) activities to implement a “new conception of human ecology”.[92]

Bioregionalism and urban ecology[edit]

Main article: Bioregionalism

See also: Urban ecology

In the late 1960s, ecological concepts started to become integrated into the applied fields, namely architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. Ian McHarg called for a future when all planning would be “human ecological planning” by default, always bound up in humans’ relationships with their environments. He emphasized local, place-based planning that takes into consideration all the “layers” of information from geology to botany to zoology to cultural history.[93] Proponents of the new urbanism movement, like James Howard Kunstler and Andres Duany, have embraced the term human ecology as way to describe the problem of—and prescribe the solutions for—the landscapes and lifestyles of an automobile oriented society. Duany has called the human ecology movement to be "the agenda for the years ahead."[94] While McHargian planning is still widely respected, the landscape urbanism movement seeks a new understanding between human and environment relations. Among these theorists is Frederich Steiner, who published Human Ecology: Following Nature's Lead in 2002 which focuses on the relationships among landscape, culture, and planning. The work highlights the beauty of scientific inquiry by revealing those purely human dimensions which underlie our concepts of ecology. While Steiner discusses specific ecological settings, such as cityscapes and waterscapes, and the relationships between socio-cultural and environmental regions, he also takes a diverse approach to ecology—considering even the unique synthesis between ecology and political geography. Deiter Steiner's 2003 Human Ecology: Fragments of Anti-fragmentary view of the world is an important expose of recent trends in human ecology. Part literature review, the book is divided into four sections: "human ecology", "the implicit and the explicit", "structuration", and "the regional dimension".[95] Much of the work stresses the need for transciplinarity, antidualism, and wholeness of perspective.

 

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