The Criminal Area: A Study in Social Ecology

By Terence Morris | Go to book overview

I
THE CONCEPTS OF ECOLOGY

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H UMAN or social ecology is concerned with the relationships which exist between people who share a common habitat or local territory and which are distinctly related to the character of the territory itself; it is a study of social structure in relation to the local environment. The history of human civilisation is in great part the account of man's efforts to free himself from the restrictions imposed by his natural environment; not only can he now live and work under practically all climatic conditions, but he can inhabit great conurbations which, though unable to support them selves, can exist by means of ingenious technology and efficient transport. In overcoming nature, however, he has created for himself new environmental settings, which in turn impose their restrictions upon him. The great city or suburbia may set limits upon human activity which, though of a different order, are no less real than those set in the past by mountains and rivers, deserts and oceans. To admit to the existence of an urban or rural way of life is to admit of the primal association between patterns of behaviour and the characteristics of the local community.

The term "ecology" which has been borrowed from the field of biology, seems first to have been used in the year 1878 by the German biologist and philosopher, Ernst Haeckel, but it was the Dane, Eugenius Warming who brought the term much nearer the social sciences in his book Plant Communities ( 1895). He drew attention to the fact that different kinds of plants tended to grow together, and like human communities, had a temporal

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