Ecology, Ethics, and Advocacy


"Anthropogenic global change is radically altering climate, mineral cycles, land cover, and biotic communities (Turner et al. 1993, Vitousek 1994). These changes ensure that everywhere on Earth is affected by human actions. In some areas, such as the center of large cities, human transformation is near absolute, whereas in other places, such as remote parks, human influence is felt chiefly through the alteration of global cycles. However, no place is free from multiple, confounded human impacts. Consequently, ecological studies, whether they attend to or not, are partially studying the impact of anthropogenic change. "Ecologists cannot ignore these changes. First, ignoring these changes will produce flawed science; if ecologists ignore anthropogenic influences, they will probably attribute change to the wrong processes. Second, and perhaps more important, if ecologists want to guide or 'engineer' the human transformation of the earth to reduce unintended consequences, they need to understand how ecosystems organize and function in response to a huge variety of anthropogenic alterations. "Engineering ecological systems is dangerous. Nature is neither predictable nor inert; rather it is evolutionary and self-modifying. History, evolution, and variation are all central to ecology, but foreign to the 'memory-less,' repeatable, and variation-minimizing methods of traditional engineering. "Ecologists cannot hide behind 'pure' science and divorce themselves from the dangerous application of ecology. Whether ecologists like it or not, managers, policy makers, and the general public use ecological theory, or at least their understanding of ecological theory, to make decisions. To promote 'reflective' management and sound science, ecologists need to study, criticize, and inform the human transformation of nature."



ecology, ethics, advocacy