Friday, September 14, 2018

Ecology and Environment

Ecology is a study of the interactions among living organisms and their environment. This discipline could involve one organism or species or all organisms in their living and non-living surroundings. The term ecology possesses manifold meanings and applications. For that reason, laypersons may shy away from pursuing an in-depth understanding of the subject. Ecology is sometimes called a science, a systematically organized body of knowledge. Therefore, we encounter the “science of ecology.”

The term had become popular in the second half of the 20th century. For centuries some writers introduced ecological principles as we understand them today, but there was never a unifying, rigorous, qualitative science associated with ecology. Two events helped heighten pubic awareness in the 20th century. One was the frightening onset of the atomic age. Another was the publication of a startling volume by Rachel Carson entitled “Silent Spring” in 1962. Atomic explosions and the impact of pesticides, especially DDT, affected ecological relationships and damaged the environment. In general we have become more aware that humans are capable of producing negative effects on our environment. 

The familiar term environment is sometimes confused with ecology. A brief definition follows: Environment consists of the surroundings or conditions in which an organism exists. The two terms are not synonymous. Sometimes people mistakenly state that certain events are “bad for the ecology.” Since ecology refers to interactions among living things, one cannot state that interactions are intrinsically bad or good. Some conditions we inflict on our environment, however, may be damaging.

Partly as a result of the two occurrences mentioned above, the first Earth Day was observed in 1970. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson was the prime mover for the Earth Day event. At the time, pollution problems were rampant, especially across our industrial cities. Earth Day affairs were held April 16-22. Famous CBS network commentator Walter Cronkite broadcast a comprehensive 15-part analysis of the nationwide Earth Day activities. The nascent movement has become mature in the last half century.

We recently viewed the entire Cronkite commentary series of the 1970 Earth Day. In my teaching district, I was blessed to have a wonderful teaching colleague—an environmental enthusiast who inspired teachers and students. My colleague combined Earth Day activities with a unique recov of local history. Our school was a short distance from the historical “Rockabye Railroad” which passed through the community of Brookside, NJ in the early 20th century on the way from Hunterdon County to Morristown, NJ. Summertime cargo consisted of peaches for the metropolitan area. In keeping with the goal of recovering history, his students recovered many railroad spikes and other artifacts from the original Rockaway Railroad bed which passed by our school grounds at a mere stone’s throw.

Earth Day clean-up events at my school are still etched in my memory. After viewing the Cronkite account of conditions in our country in 1970 we were reminded that government policies on air and water pollution were seriously deficient. It is difficult to recall that there were inadequate regulations on clean air, clean water, and endangered species. Soon there were government regulations on air, water, and endangered species. Studies in ecology and activism in environmental issues have sometimes morphed into weighty political issues. It has been difficult to find an appropriate balance between prudent environmental concern and the natural tendency of many citizens to actively propel their favorite movements or causes, often driven by personal politics.

Our blog attempts to strengthen personal faith as supported by knowledge of science. God’s reality is affirmed by investigating the beauty and order of His created works. In turn, God’s people are responsible for understanding, managing, and preserving the beauty of His created works. The mandate “rule over” of Genesis 1:28 implies utilizing our divinely implanted intellectual gifts to understand the dimensions of ecology and the blessings of our environment.