The Rise of Ecology, 1890–1990
The development of ecology as a science is an important theme in environmental history because the scientific analyses of human surroundings provide a basis for resource management and land-use development. Environmental historians have delineated a number of different approaches to the evolution of scientific ecology in twentieth-century America. They include human ecology, organismic ecology, economic ecology, and chaotic ecology. This chapter looks at the historical development of and implications for managing the human environment inherent in each of the four approaches.
Ecology derives from the Greek word oikos, meaning “household,” and is the study of the relationships among organisms and their surroundings. The science was named by German biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), who introduced the term in several works in the 1860s and 1870s, first in German and then in English, inspiring others to develop the science. In his Generelle Morphologie (General Morphology, 1866), Haeckel included a section entitled “Oecologie und Chorologie,” in which he defined ecology as the study of the organic and inorganic conditions on which life depends. “By ecology, we mean the whole science of the relations of the organism to the environment including, in the broad sense, all the ‘conditions of existence.’ These are partly organic, partly inorganic in nature; both, as we have shown, are of the greatest significance for the form of organisms, for they force them to become adapted.” 1
Haeckel further designated the inorganic conditions as the physical and chemical properties of the habitat, including climate, nutrients, and the nature of water and soil. The organic conditions included “the entire relations of the organism to all other organisms with which it comes into contact, and of which most contribute either to its advantage or its harm.” He noted that each organism had friends and enemies that favored or harmed its exis-