Ecology, environmental protection and nature conservation - for a green future
Ecology is a subdiscipline of biology that examines the interrelationships of organisms and their environment.
Ecology as a generic term for the overall relationship between living beings and the environment
Environmental protection and nature conservation are elements of ecology. Because environmental awareness has been on the rise since the middle of the 20th century, the term ecology is frequently used in the same breath as environmental protection andnature conservation. There is a demarcation line however. Ecology describes the relationship between living beings and the environment, while environmental protection and nature conservation involve measures aimed at preserving the environment. Although ecology research is a broad field, it can be broken down into three main subdisciplines :
- Population ecology
- Community ecology
- Ecological system analyses
At a high level, ecology involves the propagation and frequency of organisms. Where do they come from? What type of organism did they originate from? How many are there? And where do they appear? The goal of ecological analyses is providing answers to these questions. Biotic and abiotic environmental factors that can influence the environment are also part any ecological analysis. What makes ecological research so difficult is the complexity of the biological systems. Individual observations serve less as focal points and more as general conclusions produced from mathematics, statistics or experiments. A vital part of ecology is reducing complex structures to simple conclusions based on natural science.
Environmental protection and its subdisciplines
While ecology takes a holistic approach, environmental protectionmainly involves measures aimed at preserving the basic existence of all living beings. This calls for maintaining a healthy ecosystem. For this reason, nature conservation plays a leading role in ecology as well as in environmental protection. A basic element of environmental protection involves rectifying human-induced damage to the environment. As a result, this requires observing not only the individual parts, but the overall relationships between the parts as well, The term environmental protection first gained attention in the 1970s. One of the primary goals of environmental protection is preserving the human ecosystem. Although preservation of the human ecosystem is a major aspect of environmental protection, technical solutions are still frequently employed. Environmental protection can be divided into several disciplines:
- climate protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection
- forest protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection
- water protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection
From a global point of view,environmental protection is always related to one of these subdisciplines.
Nature conservation as a demarcation line between environmental protection and ecology
Apart from ecology and environmental protection, an important area is nature conservation. Although environmental protection and nature conservation typically complement one another, there are certain exceptions. In the field of ecology, renewable raw materials such as wood are points of conflict between nature conservation and environmental protection. While nature conservation demands that trees be preserved as long as possible and eventually turned into deadwood for the ecosystem of a variety of animals, environmental protection views wood as a sustainable energy source and raw material. Environmental protection also seeks to avoid the radical deforesting of lands and forests. Within nature conservation there are also initiatives that oppose wind power and small hydropower systems. Under the context of nature conservation, the idea is to impact nature as little as possible. Nature conservation is also a local issue. Nature conservation frequently involves single locations. As it pertains to ecology, nature conservation examines ways to preserve and reestablish a balanced ecosystem. Nature conservation strives toward sustainable human use of our natural environment. Nature conservation is a goal of government and is established in Article 20a of the German constitution. Nature conservation also means the protection of animals and homelands. Many individuals also view nature conservation as important, because they understand the dramatic consequences if society is not actively engaged in nature conservation.
From 1941 until the early 1970s, the RBF worked to preserve and protect the environment through grantmaking in population and conservation. Conservation was a special interest of founding trustee Laurance S. Rockefeller, and it constituted much of his personal philanthropy and public service. In its early decades, the Fund expressed its commitment to the environment primarily through grants to Laurance’s projects, including the Grand Teton, U.S. Virgin Islands, and California Redwoods National Parks, the Palisades Interstate Park, the American Conservation Association, the Conservation Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and the National Audubon Society.
Laurance acted as an advisor on environmental matters to five U.S. presidents. He served on the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, a fact-finding group established by Congress, beginning in 1958. He chaired the 1965 White House Conference on Natural Beauty, a pivotal event in raising Americans’ environmental awareness. He chaired President Johnson’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty and President Nixon’s Committee on Environmental Quality.
For most of his career, Laurance sought to combine environmental conservation and recreational use. In the early 1960s, along with his brother, New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, he was instrumental in gaining public support for the state’s acquisition of more than 300,000 acres of land for urban parks, wilderness, and forest recreation areas.
As chairman of the New York State Council of Parks, Laurance declared, "land alone cannot fulfill the recreation needs of people. Development of marinas, bathing beaches, picnic and camping areas, golf courses, multiple use areas and many other facilities are needed… Development costs money, indeed, often more than the land itself." Yet this kind of development-oriented thinking soon came under fire from the environmental movement emerging after the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.