Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Neighbors: Modern Ecology

The modern ecological movement* can be traced back to the 1970 observance of Earth Day. Now a global celebration, the first Earth Day was conceived by a United States Senator from Wisconsin and called for nationally coordinated educational programming to raise consciousness about increasing environmental degradation. Forty years later, "Earth Day is everyday" and the UN has named 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity in an effort that mirrors Sen. Gaylord Nelson's hopeful vision.

But there are distinctions between earlier environmental campaigns and current thinking; it's no longer sufficient to organize efforts around the "wilderness" or far-away habitats of endangered species. The flora and fauna of your back-yard could be just as susceptible to extinction as the inhabitants of the rain forests. And unless you live under the sea, saving the whales might not be your first priority. Popularized by Michael Rosenzweig, a University of Arizona ecologist, reconciliation ecology acknowledges that "nothing influences species' diversities more than the amount of area available to life." And as cities continue to grow, area available to local species becomes increasingly sought-after, a veritable arena for biological competition. Traditional wisdom tells us winners and losers are functions of competition. Period. Conversely, reconciliation ecology accepts the reality of competition for finite space while insisting a win-win outcome is still possible--provided we adjust human activities in accordance with local species' requirements for survival.

Click here for more information about reconciliation ecology and here for a look at BHL content about species in your neighborhood.

*oh, and of course, we should remember the galvanizing effect of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
Image credit: WiscMel@en.wikipedia

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