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Human Ecology

What is human ecology?


1. Human ecology is a representation of our position within a reality. In some ways this is a contradictory position. On the one hand, ecology is a small branch of human knowledge. On the other, ecology describes the interactions of animals and plants while considering humans as being animals. Perhaps animals with highly developed forms of communication and social behaviour, but animals in terms of our needs to breathe, to stay at a comfortable temperature, to drink, to eat, and to predict the actions required to acheive any of these things.

From these two positions, how does ecology justify its position of authorship: how can a small branch of human knowledge say that it describes or represents a position that encompasses all human positions? The problems of representation can be looked at from linguistic or mathematical positions. From one position, ecology is a science. Although science appears to privilege mathematical positions, recently there have been moves towards recognising the selective effects of mathematical positions. This could lead to the possibility of translations between mathematical and linguistic positions. However, the position of mathematics as the justification of objective positions within society has a counter effect. One particular problem is the definition of objective and subjective within communication between science and the rest of human knowledge.

From these positions, any theory of human ecology must understand the processes and consequences of representation.


What is human ecology?

2. Human ecology is the study of the human species and its interactions with its surroundings. It recognises that organisms both change their surroundings and are changed by their surrounding. For example, there are arguments about whether the English countryside is a natural landscape or an artificial or man-made landscape. A human ecology approach might highlight the mutual change that has taken place. That we can't create trees or sheep, but that we can alter the breeds of sheep that we farm. We can also selectively breed sheep to produce new breeds. Breeds that have different taste or fat content. Breeds that require special feeds or chemicals to keep down pests. In these ways, sheep change the habits and metabolisms of those humans that farm or eat them.

This mutual change can be called Mutual Reflexivity. Reflexivity is the turning back of an action onto the actor. Mutual reflexivity is the turning of actions between different actions. The effects of mutual reflexivity mean that it is very difficult to describe an ecology or to predict the result of any action within that ecology.

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Created 18/9/98
Modified 1/2/99