2 Unique Approaches at Viewing Ecology

Ecology, as most people understand, is described as the interactions of species in environmental systems. Aside from its textbook definition, it could also be looked at as the “Economy of Nature.” The types of ecology that are most focused on are physiological ecology, organismal ecology, population ecology, community ecology, and ecosystem ecology. On this planet, ecology encompasses organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, biomes, and the biosphere.

Ecology is all around us; it’s crucial to understand this fact when solving problems associated with environmental degradation and climate change. However, within the past decade, newer approaches to ecology have been forming that don’t just speak about the relationships within a forest, for example, but about the very relationships within people, ideas, and values when looking to solve issues in nature.

Deep Ecology

Deep ecology is the holistic method to confronting world problems that combines thinking, feeling, spirituality and action. It includes moving past the individualistic ideals of Western culture and towards seeing humans as part of, and in union with, the earth. This results in a deeper connection to life itself, where ecology is not just seen as something often separate from our busy daily lives, but something we’re part of and have a role to play in.

Deep ecology is the philosophy of valuing the intrinsic worth of living things beyond their instrumental value that directly serves as a utility for human beings. By seeing ourselves as one with the planet and equal to all its inhabitants, we can understand the consequences of our actions on the environment, and the various other species within it, in a much more emotionally connected way.

Image taken from Green Society Campaign

Two perspectives on ecology. Image via Green Society Campaign.

Ecofeminism

Ecofeminism can be seen as the idea that both women and nature are united through their shared history of oppression from patriarchal forces. It’s the connection of environmentalism and feminism whereby both parties move politically in order to protect those who are most vulnerable.

In order to better understand this concept, recall the historical term for nature as “Mother Nature,” which evidently feminizes the planet. Many works of art explaining this phenomenon contain outlines of women built into the earth. The image below shows a woman lying down in the shape of the ground, vulnerable and unprotected. Being a part of the farm, she is highly susceptible to environmental destruction, such as plowing and intensive farming practices.

The image below could relate to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the destruction of both fertile soil and marginal land. An iron plow is shown, which could represent a man, as most farmers (especially during that time) were men. This patriarchal approach could illustrate that women are natural and a part of the earth that can be destroyed by men without any protection or control.

On the other hand, “God” is often represented by a man who has unquestionable power over everything within the universe. As environmental destruction continues to reign in modern society, the term “Mother Nature” is deteriorating, signifying the connection between the rise of both environmental and women’s rights activism.

This movement can also include the idea of the “white male effect,” which is the observed tendency of white males to be less concerned with all manner of risk than women and minorities. This would imply that the population of white men on earth often care less about the environment than most other groups. Activist and author Ynestra King claims ecofeminism is “The Third Wave of the Feminist Movement.”

Image taken from Art History Archive

“Mother Earth Laid Bare,” by Alexandre Hogue. Image via Art History Archive.

Why Should We Care?

As environmental problems persist and pressures increase to create policies to better communities locally and globally, it’s important to consider not just what’s right for the world, but what’s right for us, individually. It’s also crucial to understand that we can relate environmental degradation to other aspects of “degradation” in society, such as civil rights violations, increases in hate crimes, and so on.

Putting environmentalism into this perspective allows us to truly understand why significant actions need to be made to secure not only our present lifestyles, but the well-being of future generations. It’s necessary to consider all aspects of ecology, for everything is connected to everything else.

Featured Image: An Illustration of Ideal Ecology. Image via Contemporary Biology 2015

About The Author

Katelyn is an undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire studying Environmental Conservation & Sustainability and Community Planning. Her passions are green urban design and planning, sustainable energy, green real estate, ecotourism, and environmental policy. She hopes to obtain a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning.