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Nature_and_Environment.28

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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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{Nature_and_Environment.28.2}: James River Martin {rivertree} Mon, 13 Sep 2004 16:52:18 CDT (35 lines)

"the branch of sociology that studies the characteristics of human
populations"

www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn

1. Human ecology is a representation of our position within a
reality.

2. Human ecology is the study of the human species and its
interactions with its surroundings.

http://homepages.which.net/~gk.sherman/baaaaaay.htm

What is Human Ecology?
As the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between the human
species and its environment, human ecology is distinct from
traditional animal, plant or microbial ecology in that it recognises
the important role played by culture in shaping human society and
behaviour.

[Hey, that's not bad!]

http://meko.vub.ac.be/~gronsse/gen/intro.html

This one really grosses me out!:
http://www.tntech.edu/admissions/PDFs/What_is_human_ecology.pdf

and more ...
http://sres.anu.edu.au/programs/human-ecology/human_ecology.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_ecology

http://www.fact-index.com/h/hu/human_ecology.html

  and more at http://www.google.com "what is human ecology?"

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.3}: James River Martin {rivertree} Sat, 18 Sep 2004 15:41:37 CDT (3 lines)

Encyclopedia article on ecology:

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Ecology

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.4}: James River Martin {rivertree} Sat, 18 Sep 2004 16:14:57 CDT (40 lines)

{Philosophy.502.583}:

Carl,

Earlier, you said you didn't get why ecology was being called "the
subversive science". Allow me to offer one reason ecology does tend
to be subversive. (I will make my comments brief at this time, but
one could elaborate on the point at great length.)

Subversive of what?

Ecology *can* be subversive of (or toward) economistically oriented
theory in economics and other social sciences, politics, business,
education, and philosophy (etc.). Of course, rather like anthropology
can be so appropriated, ecology can also serve the dominant regime --
which I am claiming to be economism.

Look at it like this, for example:

"The term was coined in 1866 by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel
from the Greek oikos meaning 'house' and logos meaning 'science.'"

  from http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Ecology

It is considered a commonplace that a divided house will tend to fall.
Economistic economics is not grounded in the common root, the common
house, in which economics and ecology would be a continous and
integrated approach to 'the household' -- to life in theory and
practice.

To root [the word 'radical' is rooted to the word root, in Latin]
economics, and therefore all of politics and social theory and
practice, in a single, undivided, common house -- oikos -- is to
be "a radical". To return to the root/s. Radicalism is subversive to
shallow economics, and thus shallow social theory and shallow
politics.

It is radical for a human to acknowledge that she is an animal. This
is the fundamental beginning insight of human ecology, without which
no subversive science of ecology would be possible or meaningful.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.5}: Richard Witty {gisland} Sat, 18 Sep 2004 17:36:12 CDT (37 lines)

The reason ecology is subversive is because it is holistic or
comprehensive rather than strategic.

Capitalism is built to facilitate the pursuit of strategy. Strategy
is the epitome of rational economic self-interest. In pre-monopoly
capitalist descriptions, rational economic self-interest (motivation
towards a specific end) is that, rational, understandable, worthy of
encouragement.

Once giant, capitalism is a fetish of the original understanding of
liberty, of rational self-interest.

And, its consequences are larger and homogeneous.

Like a bigger human male is not necessary less sensitive, nor
necessary more harmful by his momentum, a large corporation may be
sensitive and humane. But, it takes intention and skill. It does NOT
happen automatically in a vacuum.


Its more radical for a human to recognize that he/she is a human. Any
animal can be animal, but only an omnivore with self-reflection can
create a society worthy of the name, a species that simultaneously
survives and doesn't abuse.


Where an individuals or groups impact is insignificant to the whole,
sensitivity and self-reflection is not needed. The larger dynamic
prevails, the homeostasis of widespread mutually accountable conflict
and cooperation.

Where an individual or group's impact is potentially significant to
the whole, sensitivity and self-reflection (intentionally yeilding
the golden rule) is needed.

Its impossible for us to renounce our humanness, as it is impossible
to renounce our mammalness, or our physical existence.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.6}: Day Brown {daybrown} Mon, 18 Oct 2004 01:22:19 CDT (35 lines)

For the last million years, hominids have been adapted to living in
small groups. We are not a mass herd species like the bovines, and it
aint working out very well for us to live like this. Stuart Kauffman,
The Origin of Order, discusses the differences in adaptation which
occur in mass species like the Zebra, and those which have evolved in
small and isolated gene pools. The isolation permitted rapid
evolution, whereas any new adaptation in a mass species tends to get
washed out.

The noble effort to hybridize the races is likely to reduce us all to
very mediocre levels, without either significant numbers of the
severely retarded, nor any geniuses. This isolation in part explains
how a small number of ancient Greeks were able to produce such a large
number of genises, but then after they hybridized with other groups,
they failed to continue their successes.

It likewise explains how the Jews of more modern times, who were also
isolated from the indigeneous populations they lived among, were able
to produce so many genises, and have been so successful that they have
earned the envy and rancor of those less well endowed.

Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve, shows how all native Europeans
descend from just 7 (9 if we include some Northern fringe) original
mtDNA lines. In stark contrast to other regions which have 100-200
maternal lines. Recent DNA analysis suggests that hominids were very
nearly wiped out by a global climate crisis 93,000 years ago, reducing
the total hominid population to perhaps 10,000. This is when Java man
went extinct. But wherever we lived, it was in small groups of less
than 300, which is about the number of faces that kids can recognize
before they havta rely on status symbols to know how to act.

As long as we persist in living in masses, we'll have the problem of
status symbols. And because we came out of such small gene pools, we
instinctively put a high value on genetic diversity; thus it is, that
no matter who we are married to, we always have an eye out...

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.7}: Suzanne Griffith {sggriffith} Mon, 18 Oct 2004 01:26:49 CDT (2 lines)

I think it takes two species to make a hybrid. Humans are all the same
species.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.8}: James River Martin {rivertree} Wed, 20 Oct 2004 14:16:49 CDT (1 line)

Yup.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.9}: Carl Sachs {foo42} Thu, 21 Oct 2004 14:01:13 CDT (HTML)

{8}"The reason ecology is subversive is because it is holistic or comprehensive rather than strategic.

Capitalism is built to facilitate the pursuit of strategy. Strategy is the epitome of rational economic self-interest. "

I largely agree with the second paragraph, and I largely agree with the first. So what's my problem?

My problem is this: I'm not yet convinced that ecology is any more subversive of capitalism than, say, fluid dynamics or biochemistry are. Aren't all sciences "holistic and comprehensive"? I can't think of any that aren't. (One might say that economics isn't, but there are lots of reasons why economics should not be considered a science.)

Now, there is some respect in which fluid dynamics and biochemistry have been more smoothly integrated into techo-industrial monopoly capitalism than ecology has been. But that strikes me as saying something about capitalism, not about ecology.

I dunno. Any follow ups?

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.10}: Richard Witty {gisland} Thu, 21 Oct 2004 14:40:20 CDT (13 lines)

Fluid dynamics doesn't have intention associated with it. It is
merely descriptive.

Ecology is the interaction of living beings with will, intent, of
varying characteristics of complexity.

Human nature (both the part that may be "superior" or capable of
more complex strategy, and the part that is capable of self-
reflection) is the first species that must be humble or self-
restrain in order to survive.

That humility is an ecological consciousness, an simultaneous
awareness of desire, context, and consequence.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.11}: James River Martin {rivertree} Fri, 22 Oct 2004 13:30:55 CDT (40 lines)

{9}: Carl Sachs:

"My problem is this: I'm not yet convinced that ecology is any more
subversive of capitalism than, say, fluid dynamics or biochemistry
are."

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

A lot depends on who's weilding the ideas and imagry of ecological
thought. Weilded just right, with a bit of poetry, ecology becomes
the poetry of 'interbeing' (Thich Nhat Hanh's word -- See: "The Sun
My Heart"). It is not obvious that ecological thinking *must* awaken
the dreamer from his dream of a separate self-I-ego. But it is
obvious to me that it *can*, when weilded poetically.

And since 'eco' comes from oikos, meaning 'house', it isn't long
before one looking into human ecology will see that our house is
divided, having walked two different and increasingly separated
paths in their becoming. The fork in the road is marked, and one way
is economics while the other is ecology. The gap widens as the
journey progresses. A house divided cannot stand, right? And so the
poetic human ecologist might look for ways of rejoining what was
torn asunder. But she will be most apt to be the one to see, through
the poetic vision of ecology, that the separation of the two is pure
illusion, not a fact at all. That the world is, through and through,
undivided, right down to the notion of self-as-object.

And that's where it all begins. With seeing clearly, or with seeing
confusedly. Clear seeing is subversive to confused seeing, and vice
versa. When ecology is as much poetry as science, and as
much 'religion' (religare "to bind fast"),
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=religion&searchmode=none ,
poetics becomes poiesis http://www.bartleby.com/61/97/P0399700.html

There are creations born of the dream of separation and narcissistic
egoism and there are creations born of prajna (wisdom) combined with
lovingkindness, generosity, compassion.... There are ways of living
which presume a separate self-object, and there are ways of living
which see through separation, into interbeing. My poetics of ecology
is the latter.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.12}: Richard Witty {gisland} Fri, 22 Oct 2004 14:43:03 CDT (24 lines)

James,
The one thing that confuses me about the adoption of ecological
inter-being, is that it is not consistent with identifying "thems",
as in us/them.

In an ecological view, as you describe, there are none.

And yet, especially in this current political season, and in much
ecologically rooted politics in general (green party and green
movement politics), there is often much "them" orientation.

One great inspiration of people like Thich Nhat Hanh, and Dalai
Lama, and many many others, is that it is possible to act, retain
an "inter-being" ecological perspective, and not demonize.

I appreciate your comment on reengaging economics with ecology. I
think clearly that economics is a subset of ecology, an aspect of
the whole, a descriptive window of the whole (as fluid dynamics or
thermodynamics, or poetics, or politics are descriptive windows of
reality).

I hope that you would then regard values like "efficiency" as
ecological values, not the sole or even primary ones, but valid and
natural ones; not demonized, not conflicting with engaged community.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.13}: James River Martin {rivertree} Sat, 23 Oct 2004 16:37:34 CDT (59 lines)

{12}: Richard Witty:

"The one thing that confuses me about the adoption of ecological
inter-being, is that it is not consistent with identifying "thems",
as in us/them. In an ecological view, as you describe, there are
none."

Ultimately, this is so. I see those who wish to live harmoniously
with other species, 'the environment', the biosphere..., as like
those who desire peace rather than war. You cannot violently force
the warlike to be peaceful. What is the equivalent in the peaceful
effort to create peace with natural systems and the biosphere? Well,
in both cases, you can try to raise consciousness-awareness,
including lovingkindness (metta). But we must, if we are to be
honest with ourselves and true to what is going on, a war continues
to rage against non-human species and their habitats,
the 'environment', and so on. The fact that this warlike activity
rages on does not contradict interbeing, but it all happens within
interbeing! Even individuals and their grief and sorrow and personal
responsibility is held within interbeing. So what's to be confused
about? We must act with as much wisdom and lovingkindness as we can
bring to bear upon our situation. Us/them is an illusion, yes. What
is more real is interbeing. But my or your awakening to reality does
not immediatly awaken the corporate CEO, etc.

"And yet, especially in this current political season, and in much
ecologically rooted politics in general (green party and green
movement politics), there is often much "them" orientation."

Yes. There is a bit of an enigma here. Reality is that there are no
ultimate others, that such otherness is illusory. Nevertheless,
there are people striving to live in harmony and with gentleness and
kindness toward all beings, and there are those who are not -- who
are working against the same. I don't have the wisdom to presume
to "have an answer" to the enigma. We must have compassion and
lovingkindness and welcoming for all beings. But we cannot stand by
and passively watch as our neighbor victimizes our neighbor. How do
we intervene with lovingkindness toward all?

"One great inspiration of people like Thich Nhat Hanh, and Dalai
Lama, and many many others, is that it is possible to act, retain
an "inter-being" ecological perspective, and not demonize."

Yes. True.

"I appreciate your comment on reengaging economics with ecology. I
think clearly that economics is a subset of ecology, an aspect of
the whole, a descriptive window of the whole (as fluid dynamics or
thermodynamics, or poetics, or politics are descriptive windows of
reality)."

Yeah! We agree!

"I hope that you would then regard values like "efficiency" as
ecological values, not the sole or even primary ones, but valid and
natural ones; not demonized, not conflicting with engaged community."

"Efficiency" is insufficient information to approve of or disapprove
of. It is a generalization looking for a specificity.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.14}: Richard Witty {gisland} Sat, 23 Oct 2004 18:31:09 CDT (30 lines)

""Efficiency" is insufficient information to approve of or disapprove
of. It is a generalization looking for a specificity."

Your prior posts disapproved of efficiency. Efficiency is normal
though. Its defined as attempting to accomplish some objective with
the least cost.

The open question is what costs or combinations are addressed? For
most, money is the reference. There are others that I know that
reference other commodities as their reference. Thermo-dynamic
scientists reference calories, or even calories in different kinetic
states as references. (In western Mass, we considered creating a
caloric based alternative currency.) Others reference time. Others
reference toxins (as in carbon sink rights per Kyoto).

Other questions include what value is created. Is sensual enjoyment
equivalent in value to physical needs satisfaction? Is aesthetic
sensivity equivalent in value to sensual? Is meta-aesthetic
sensitivity (spirituality) equivalent to aesthetic?


They are all valid questions, that may be implied in criticism of one-
dimensional reference (currency), or some imagination that "them"
applies a single common reference, or comprise a single opponent.


Efficiency though is natural, real, undeniable. Its what individuals
or groups of individuals seek, objectives unless they have enough, in
which case they may choose to not seek objectives, and not need to be
efficient.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.15}: James River Martin {rivertree} Sun, 24 Oct 2004 12:26:36 CDT (9 lines)

{14}: Richard Witty:

"Your prior posts disapproved of efficiency."

I highly doubt this statement. I do disapprove of certain notions of
efficiency proffered as an unquestionable good. But, as I
said, "efficiency is a generalization looking for a specificity".
It's like calling the number 2 a general good to call efficiency
good. Two bullets in the head are good? I don't think so.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.16}: Richard Witty {gisland} Sun, 24 Oct 2004 15:46:48 CDT (2 lines)

So its not the choice of reference that you object to when
considering efficiency. Its something else.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.17}: James River Martin {rivertree} Mon, 25 Oct 2004 16:58:26 CDT (2 lines)

I cannot even speak of "efficiency" in such generalities
productively. Give me specificity!

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.18}: Richard Witty {gisland} Mon, 25 Oct 2004 19:26:42 CDT (5 lines)

I guess we're not talking then.

Do you design things? How do you go about incorporating different
needs into the designs? By hit or miss, or some intentional
characteristic?

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.19}: James River Martin {rivertree} Tue, 26 Oct 2004 11:01:37 CDT (22 lines)

{18}: Richard Witty:

"Do you design things?"

Sometimes. Usually I don't get my favorite designs past the drawing
board, because my designs are intended to be collaborative and I
often run into political obstacles.

"How do you go about incorporating different needs into the designs?
By hit or miss, or some intentional characteristic?"

Certainly not by hit or miss! By careful thought, observation,
application of design principles....

But "efficiency" in my design conceptions isn't measured or
understood as it is understood in most institutions these days --
such as in business or government. I take a much broader spectrum of
considerations and principles into my designs than most institutions
recognize or even allow.

I don't believe the word "efficiency" means anything outside of
context.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.20}: Richard Witty {gisland} Tue, 26 Oct 2004 12:30:34 CDT (2 lines)

I thought we were talking about the relationship between economy and
ecology, and how we participate in them.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.21}: James River Martin {rivertree} Wed, 27 Oct 2004 13:36:45 CDT (19 lines)

I got sidetracked with your statement suggesting that I apparently
opposed "efficiency". I hope I have made my point about efficiency?

Economists, unfortunately, aren't well aquainted with a broad array
of perspectives and/or theories of value.

Same goes with a lot of institutionalized ecology.

It's a problem.

If it is difficult for either economic thought or ecological thought
to deal with *value*, the question becomes that much more difficult
when we attempt to join economic and ecological thought. But where
else can we productively begin?

Economics and ecology have to become "philosophical" in order to
provide a path which allows them to address value.

Would you agree?

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.22}: Richard Witty {gisland} Wed, 27 Oct 2004 19:36:50 CDT (63 lines)

It depends on what you call philosophical.

Economics is largely a reconciliation of what is limited. (For
example things become "economic goods" only when they are
functionally finite.)

I expect that you've experienced some realities as not being economic
goods (not finite), and due to side effects of others economic
activities, they've threatened to make those formerly free goods (no
reason to buy and sell because they are infinite) into economic goods
(bought and sold).

So, wilds used to be free space, but now there is so few of them,
there are now fees to get into unencumbered parks. Or fresh water
used to be free, or sunlight that doesn't cause skin cancer, or fresh
air.

Now economic goods.


And, on the other hand, items that are still considered free for the
taking (timber or oil or minerals) should be very expensive economic
goods, that are costly to extract, and therefore would be extracted
only carefully, if at all.

Its a form of cultural conflict as much as anything.

The ONLY way that wilds/ecology will survive the marketplace is if
they are attributed their own property rights, and genuine
representation of them. Existential value embodied in a trust.

The US government is obviously a failing steward. Patchwork privately
owned land alternating with leased land. Not stewardship, no
validation of the rights of wilds, even "represented" by a
public/social entity.


Value is a difficult thing, as it varies from person to person, and
definitely should. What you value (in every sense of the word) is and
should be different from what others value; with the exception of
meta-values like "live and let live". But, as far as reconciling what
is relatively important to you, will always be different from what is
important to someone else.

In that sense, the marketplace reconciles those variabilities. People
choose differently, are willing to pay differently for the same worth.


There is a concept that is a bit of a monkey wrench. That is that
people also have variable abilities to enjoy. Everyone seeks
survival, but others actually experience great value from simple and
complex things.

So you end up with absurdities like someone spending $ of thousands
on products that they don't even enjoy, or don't have the physical
capacity or enjoyment education to appreciate; while hundreds others
may realize really enormous improvement in their lives from one
thousand of those same $.

I like Paul Hawken's "famous" quote. "The free market would be
wonderful." meaning a truly mature and highly functional marketplace
valuing the wilds, valuing externalities, valuing experiential value,
valuing some existential equality.

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.23}: James River Martin {rivertree} Tue, 28 Dec 2004 11:05:51 CST (4 lines)

How to succeed in history
Societies don't die by accident - they commit ecological suicide

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1228/p15s01-bogn.html

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{Nature_and_Environment.28.24}: Glen Marks {wotan} Wed, 20 Nov 2019 00:13:40 CST (6 lines)

Concerning the novel DUNE:

- As science fiction, Dune's concern lies with how human ecology will
shape human civilization.

https://www.shmoop.com/dune/genre.html

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