Monday, August 19, 2013

Ecology as a Bridge

Last year, as some few followers of this blog may remember, I spent much of the year reading a textbook on biology--and posted some of what I learned, including posts on cells (Biology 101: Cells, 5/3/12), Cellular Respiration (5/10/12), and Photosynthesis (5/17/12).  In spite of the fact that I wrapped up the series early, I read through almost all of the book--almost everything except for the last section which was on ecology.  That was ironic because ecology was one of the things I was most interested in.  This year, as I was traveling--and up to the present, the book has been in a sealed box in a friend's basement.

However, as the last bunch of posts indicate, as I've been resting from my community travels, I've been going on a science reading jag.  I got very excited when I found a classic book on ecology and ecosystems at the co-op next to where I'm living.  The book is Ecology: A Bridge Between Science and Society, by Eugene P Odum.

This is a great introductory text.  It covers almost all the basics including Levels of Organization, emergent properties, The Ecosystem, biotic communities, the Gaia hypothesis, Energetics (which I'll write a bit more on later), various cycles (hydrological, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and carbon), soil as a resource (see my post on Soil Science, 7/20/13), Population and Community Ecology (including things like r- and K-Selection, carrying capacity, commensalism,  cooperation, mutualism, and a whole section on the lichens),  successional theory, and Major Ecosystem Types of the World.  Eugene Odum ends the book with a chapter focused on how the human race can become sustainable, which he calls The Transition from Youth to Maturity.  The book is written simply but with lots of clear information. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a basic understanding of ecology and ecosystems.

Eugene Odum's brother, Howard T Odum  was also an ecologist. I was able to get one of his books (Environment, Power, and Society) out from the library.  This book is focused on energetics and is a lot more technical and detailed than his brother's Ecology book.  I can imagine it would be useful if you wanted to study ecological energetics in depth, but I decided that it was too technical for what I was currently looking for.

If you are interested in permaculture or understanding how ecosystems work or even the biological and ecological understandings of today's multiple crises, I think that Eugene Odum's Ecology: A Bridge Between Science and Society is a great place to start exploring the concepts you need to understand.

Quote of the Day: "These scenerios are not predictions, since, as we have already stressed, no one (and no computer) can really predict the future; they are more like weather forecasts that have a certain probability of being right or wrong.
"...The logical consequences of placing value only on the individual are continued rapid expansion of world population and degraded life-support ecosystems.  Together these will lead to a less than satisfactory life for all but perhaps a few very rich people, since air, food, and water will be increasingly poor in quality and short in supply.
"The alternate scenerio ... is based on the assumption that we will turn more and more to the long-term view, with value placed on species (ours and all the others) and on maintaining healthy ecosystems worldwide. The logical consequences ... are reduced population growth (with stabilization in the next century) and healthy life-support systems, leading to favorable survival for all people and all life." - Eugene Odum


vera said...

Hm. Will have to check it out. Odum has a real following of smart people... but I always found the jargot offputting. Don't know which Odum either...

MoonRaven said...

Thanks, Vera. I did find Eugene Odum (at least in this book) to be fairly readable and HT (in the book of his I got out of the library) quite a bit more difficult.