Ecologist`s hippie stereotype burden
Besides growing environmental issues torturing our planet, health, resources and economy, there is stigma related to Ecologist and Environmental scientists: we are hippies or tree huggers. People in their minds create a picture of “let`s get high and walk naked in the woods” individuals, who spend all day watching flowers and making herb remedies. Hearing stories from my colleagues and experiencing myself this kind of misconception in many cases, and usually from well educated people from different backgrounds, led me to thinking- is reason for this really a lack of information about ecology or people don`t want to know more about it?
“The environment is not an “other” to us. It is not a collection of things that we encounter. Rather, it is part of our being. It is the locus of our existence and identity. We cannot and do not exist apart from it”.
Ecology as science serves us to indicate, solve and predict our future on Earth. Most simply said it is science about interactions. It shows us how species interact with each other and with their physical environment. As the environment changes the species have to adapt. Or die. There comes Evolutionary Biology. And we are just one tiny spark in the evolutionary history of our planet. But we are just one more species among many others. We influenced our environment and distribution of other species, which led us to the point of exploiting almost all resources that we were given by nature. Polluting air that we breath. Water that we drink. Changing the atmosphere, causing global change and floods that washed out people lifes. Besides all the media attention given to this issues, aren`t we aware of this?
“So, what does the ecology have to do with me?!”
With the knowledge of ecological problems we can find solutions and we can make predictions for times to come. That is where ecology makes a move, including scientist from diverse ecological sub-fields like conservation, urban studies, evolution, policy etc. We can find a solution to make a better living environment for future generations and to minimize the impact we have on flora and fauna now.
Humans tend to think that they are somehow isolated from their environment. That they can create it or control it.
“Conservation of bee species is cool, but what does it have to do with me?”, “Why would I stress myself over deforestation of Amazon or loss of crop diversity ?”
That mix of short-term thinking and carelessness led us to the problems we have today- biodiversity loss, global warming, climate alterations, air pollution, growing number of diseases, food crisis.
We are not isolated from our environment, we just take it for granted. Did you know that air pollution and smog in China kills about 4,000 people every day? Or that massive floods in France and Germany are linked to climate change? Did you know that we extinct species 10.000 times faster than it is done by nature? Or that if we extinct bees from the face of Earth we would have just four years to live?
Those are just some of the “hot topics”ecologists deal with in away to preserve species and resources that we have left and to avoid mistakes that we have made. Sounds a bit more serious than a “tree hugging” job ain`t it?
Supposedly you would like to leave cleaner and healthier environment to your children not being afraid that they will be struck by flooding or drought, respiratory diseases or hunger. Ecology help us see how we are related to those things and most importantly how we can mitigate or prevent potential negative effect we have on environment.
We are able to breathe, drink, and eat in comfort because millions of organisms and hundreds of processes are operating to maintain a liveable environment, but we tend to take nature’s services for granted because we don’t pay money for most of them.
The ultimate challenge for human kind is not just to understand the importance of Ecology, but to integrate it with Economics and extend it with Ethics, including environmental as well as human values. Holism of three E`s is the greatest dare for our future.