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Nature_and_Environment.28

Human Ecology

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.1}: James River Martin {rivertree} Mon, 13 Sep 2004 16:37:57 CDT (72 lines)

I recently did a Google search with the question, "What is human
ecology". The search turned up myriad proposed and highly
contradictory definitions -- and some very strange degree program
fliers.

I just now composed my own definition:

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{Philosophy.502.507}: More on "human ecology" {rivertree} Mon, 13 Sep
2004 16:31:31 CDT (49 lines)
{hidden}


I've been looking at some of the many various conceptions of what
human ecology is -- on the web. There are other institutions with
almost as weak and silly a program as the one listed earlier. Others
are more serious and grounded.

But I've been thinking about what it is to me. First and foremost,
human ecology is ecology. It certainly isn't hairdressing or interior
decorating.

It is specifically ecology as applied to humans.

Humans are animals, like deer and elephants, mice and snakes, and we
can study humans as organisms in their environment -- how they
influence and change their environment, and how their environment
influences and changes them. Etc.

However, human animals are in some senses unique animals. There are
some ways in which humans are substantially unlike deer, elephants,
mice, and snakes. We have culture, language, technology... which is
important to understanding our biophysical setting and the sort of
creature we are. So sociology, anthropology, psychology, history,
philosophy, and many other disciplines are deeply relevant to human
ecology -- in ways in which they are hardly applicable to the
ecological study of deer, elephants, or mice.

Ecology is a subset of biology. Period. So human ecology interests
itself in life systems in which humans are present, impactful,
relevant to the ecosystem....

Some definitions and descriptions of "human ecology" describe it as a
subset not of biology/ecology, but of sociology. I think this is
almost as wrongheaded as the earlier mentioned degree program which
had "human ecology" looking like interior decorating.

But social sciences and philosophy are deeply relevant to the human
ecologist, for reasons already mentioned. One would like to be well-
aquainted with social sciences and philosophy as a human ecologist.
So sociology is a very complementary discipline. But human ecology is
not a branch of sociology, as many mistakingly believe.

Economics is an obvious complementary discipline. I can't imagine a
human ecologist worth his salt who is unaquainted with economic
thought.

In sum, human ecology is a sub-sub-discipline in biology which
relates the human organism to its overall environment and studies the
myriad systems and patterns of that relationship. As such, it is
naturally a highly interdisciplinary discipline. But it is a
discipline of biology.

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Hopefully we now have somewhere to begin a discussion. I think it is
very interesting that human ecology is defined in such incredibly
broad and contradictory terms in the world. This tells me that this
urgently important discipline is either in chaos or has never
achieved much coherence.

What do you think?

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