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Ecology - Transecology

ecological science environmental ecologists

Ecology as a science developed largely in academia and in state, federal, and private conservation agencies until it came to the consciousness of the general public in the context of the environmental crisis of the 1970s in the guise of environmentalism. This is clearly evidenced in Mohan Wali's "Ecology Today: Beyond the Bounds of Science." Wali collected terms using "eco," "ecological," and "ecology" by professional ecologists and by nonecologists, and found that nonecologists use the term ecology as ideology, metaphor, allegory, myth, or gospel. Furthermore, while terms coined by professional ecologists numbered 276, those coined by nonecologists numbered over a thousand. Wali categorized the latter as General Ecologies (e.g., metaphysical ecology), Eco-business (e.g., eco-pornography), Eco-Health (e.g., gyn-eco-logical), Eco-types (e.g., eco-freak), Ecosport (e.g., ecogolf), Ecophilosopy (e.g., deep ecology), and Eco-religion (e.g., ecological sin). The problem for the unwary reader is that environmentalism is exceedingly diverse and for most of the users of these terms ecological science does not exist.

Another concern is the growth since around 1980 of environmental history, which takes a more encompassing view of environmental and ecological science and sometimes confounds it with ecologism, a loose construction of philosophy and ecology. Environmental history includes many works attending to the human environment with due cognizance of ecology and history. Other works, claiming to be histories of ecology, completely ignore the science and attribute diverse human and political foibles to ecology. One such cites no ecological science journals, but asserts that ecologists call for complete social and economic change. It links ecological ideas to Marxism, anarchism, Boy Scouts, anti-Semitism, fascism, and the German disease—Nazism.

The gross extension of the term ecology by nonscientists prompted the director of the public affairs office of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) to draft a letter to disclaim equating ecology and environmentalism, which, the letter said, diminished the credibility of ecology, and to urge members of the ESA to send it to offending publications such as the Wall Street Journal.

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