Eos Photo essai in Plumwood Mountain 5:1, 2018

Marine Parks

I have been involved in the Solitary Islands oral history multimedia project. For me it is completing a circle as I used to work for National Parks and Wildlife and I was the policy officer who drafted the cabinet Minute for creating the first marine parks in NSW. The NSW Government is seriously weakening their protection.

I wrote in another online petition: As a policy officer who wrote the Cabinet Minute for Marine Parks, I am deeply disturbed by the roll back of protection. I am also shocked by remarks uttered by the The Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson,as if there had never been any public consultations, and as if the best available scientific evidence had not been used. That is appalling, and treats the hard work done by so many with contempt.

What is Ecology

Ecology is the scientific study of interactions of organisms with one another and with the physical and chemical environment ie interact with their “home” or from the Greek oikos = house (Haeckel, 1869). Haeckel wanted a term for the multidimensional struggle for existence that Darwin wrote about in On the Origin of Species (1859). Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) really pushed the word ‘ecology’ into the public domain. Ecology informs an understanding of evolution, since all evolutionary change takes place in response to ecological interactions that operate on the population, community, ecosystem, biome and biosphere levels. Nature, as presented to our senses, is a continuous “becoming” – a passage from one state to another, from birth to death. However, this transition is not arbitrary.

Stephen Forbes, an American ecologist, thought Darwin had left out how the struggle for existence produced a regulated relatively stable balance of nature. Forbes showed natural selection tended to restore a healthy equilibrium in his 1887 classic ecological text ‘The Lake as a Microcosm.’ By 1900, ecology as a science was an experimental science studying adaptation, community succession and population interactions. Various different species living in the same place, interacting amongst themselves and with their environment together form an ecosystem. Within an ecosystem there are several food webs. A food web is an overview of which species in an environment consume which species (plant, animal or both). A healthy ecosystem has a numerous species that play different roles in various food chains. If the ecosystem loses one of its members, it can become unstable.

Modern ecology has become like any other science, highly reductionistic, looking to explain the functioning of an ecosystem by examining its parts in isolation from each other. Arguably, for most ecologists the population level of organization, with its inherent variability, is the level that most of us study whether or not we want to understand the ecologies of any of the changing scales of organization from individuals to biomes.  Thus population ecology has become central to much of ecological theory and practice and it is at the population level that ecologists have tried hardest to understand the processes that structure observed patterns of interaction. A natural system, whether a molecule, a cell, an organism, or an ecosystem is not just a random assortment of different components.

Ecological thinking

I am not a scientist but am convinced that ecological awareness is the only way our ongoing disdain for the biosphere natural resources. Ecological thinking is normative, it values biodiversity and a healthy eecosystem, hard to define in such dynamic systems but the criteria of  biological productivity;  diversity (local and global species and genetic within species populations) and ecological functionality.

Of course humans are part of this and ecology should remind us of the intimate interrelationships humans with all the other living species which they co-evolved with. Val Plumwood, the late Australian eco-feminist, insisted on recognising our continuity with the non-human to counter dualistic constructions of human/ nature difference and radical discontinuity. She wrote, ‘One of the most important among these virtues is listening and attentiveness to the other.’ (Environmental culture: the ecological crisis of reason, Routledge, 2002, p194)

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