Category Archives: Environmental History

On Balance, a Battle: Simberloff (vs. Grene) vs. Odum on the Greek Roots of Ecosystem Ecology’s Enduring Appeal

Recently I wrote about Eugene Odum’s ecosystem concept.  Its motto is that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  Odum’s view that natural ecosystems were integrated wholes which developed in a manner that parallels the development of … Continue reading

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More Science than Fiction

Science-fiction stories and movies are not only entertainment for a rainy day but also mirrors of the scientific abilities, ambitions, even anxieties of a society. A short overview about tales and movies shows this evolution. The decade of 1950 to … Continue reading

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Climate, Overpopulation & Environment – The Rapa Nui debate

“Anyone who thinks that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” Kenneth E. Boulding (1910-1993), American economist The plot of the movie “Rapa Nui” (1994) is based loosely on native … Continue reading

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Dude, your evolutionary theory just ate my philosophy – Leopold and the evolutionary possibility of a Land Ethic

Somebody somewhere at this moment is writing a reverential essay about Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic.  I feel a little ungenerous, I admit, to write in less than enthusiastic tones.  It seems to me though that if the land ethic, Leopold’s … Continue reading

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The Ecology of Knowledge: Ecological Resilience and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

As students of science we have all, no doubt, absorbed the lessons from the history of our disciplines that changes in thinking tend not to be meted out incrementally. The Darwinian and Wallacean account of evolutionary change through natural selection … Continue reading

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Nothing sucks seeds like succession: how a 17th Century Irish Archbishop invented modern ecology

If one could choose from among the several notable Irish William Kings who might possibly serve as first recorder of a hypothesis on the development of bog vegetation you might choose wrongly.  The three candidates: William King soldier and politician, … Continue reading

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Quaking bogs and other Shaky Ground: some thoughts on the history of phytosociology

In the early 1980s I volunteered to work in Killarney National Park in Ireland on a project to rid the oak woodlands of Rhododendron ponticum, an invasive shrub that was encroaching in the understory of this habitat.  The concern was … Continue reading

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