Ecology is a common but ambiguous term that has been used to address social, political and environmental problems. This lecture/discussion explores the history of ecology as a developing academic discipline and as a tool for social reform. We will explore various conceptions of nature and ecology in changing ideas of conservation, preservation, the Dust Bowl, the atomic age, growing environmentalism, and the current focus on biodiversity as one route to a sustainable society. We will look at how scientific information has been constructed and used in environmental debates over pollution and overpopulation and will question the utility of distinguishing between “first nature” (untouched by humans) and “second nature” (nature modified by humans). Along the way, we will address connections between environmentalism and nationalism, the relationship between environmental change and social inequality, the rise of modern environmental politics, and different visions for the future of nature.
Link to Vergil