Human ecology


Human ecology is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. The philosophy and study of human ecology has a diffuse history with advancements in ecology, geography, sociology, psychology, anthropology, zoology, epidemiology, public health, and home economics, among others.
Like other contemporary researchers of his time, Haeckel adopted his terminology from Carl Linnaeus where human ecological connections were more evident. In his 1749 publication, Specimen academicum de oeconomia naturae, Linnaeus developed a science that included the economy and polis of nature. Polis stems from its Greek roots for a political community (originally based on the city-states), sharing its roots with the word police in reference to the promotion of growth and maintenance of good social order in a community. Linnaeus was also the first to write about the close affinity between humans and primates. Linnaeus presented early ideas found in modern aspects to human ecology, including the balance of nature while highlighting the importance of ecological functions (ecosystem services or natural capital in modern terms): "In exchange for performing its function satisfactorily, nature provided a species with the necessaries of life" The work of Linnaeus influenced Charles Darwin and other scientists of his time who used Linnaeus' terminology (i.e., the economy and polis of nature) with direct implications on matters of human affairs, ecology, and economics.
Human ecology has a fragmented academic history with developments spread throughout a range of disciplines, including: home economics, geography, anthropology, sociology, zoology, and psychology. Some authors have argued that geography is human ecology. Much historical debate has hinged on the placement of humanity as part or as separate from nature. In light of the branching debate of what constitutes human ecology, recent interdisciplinary researchers have sought a unifying scientific field they have titled coupled human and natural systems that "builds on but moves beyond previous work (e.g., human ecology, ecological anthropology, environmental geography)."Other fields or branches related to the historical development of human ecology as a discipline include cultural ecology, urban ecology, environmental sociology, and anthropological ecology.
The application of ecological concepts to epidemiology has similar roots to those of other disciplinary applications, with Carl Linnaeus having played a seminal role. However, the term appears to have come into common use in the medical and public health literature in the mid-twentieth century. This was strengthened in 1971 by the publication of Epidemiology as Medical Ecology, and again in 1987 by the publication of a textbook on Public Health and Human Ecology. An ˝ecosystem health˛ perspective has emerged as a thematic movement, integrating research and practice from such fields as environmental management, public health, biodiversity, and economic development. Drawing in turn from the application of concepts such as the social-ecological model of health, human ecology has converged with the mainstream of global public health literature.
The ecological commons delivers a diverse supply of community services that sustains the well-being of human society. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, an international UN initiative involving more than 1,360 experts worldwide, identifies four main ecosystem service types having 30 sub-categories stemming from natural capital. The ecological commons includes provisioning (e.g., food, raw materials, medicine, water supplies), regulating (e.g., climate, water, soil retention, flood retention), cultural (e.g., science and education, artistic, spiritual), and supporting (e.g., soil formation, nutrient cycling, water cycling) services.
Human ecology expands functionalism from ecology to the human mind. People's perception of a complex world is a function of their ability to be able to comprehend beyond the immediate, both in time and in space. This concept manifested in the popular slogan promoting sustainability: "think global, act local." Moreover, people's conception of community stems from not only their physical location but their mental and emotional connections and varies from "community as place, community as way of life, or community of collective action.