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Ecology And Environment: Social Science

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Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. – Ernst Haeckel

Ecology is a branch of biology that include interactions between organisms and their biophysical environment as well as with the members of the same and other species. It includes the relations among all the biotic and abiotic components of the environment but tends to exclude the context of human behaviour and civilization.

The science of ecology has complex roots pertinent to three levels of biological hierarchy, namely, the individual organism, the population (consisting of individuals of the same species) and the community (consisting of a greater or lesser number of species populations). (Begon et al., 2006). The individual organisms are affected by the environment or vice versa. Similarly, at the population level intraspecific and interspecific interactions come into play. At the community level, the focus is laid upon the ecological communities and their interdependence on the biotic and abiotic components of the biophysical environment.

Ecological studies have undergone various developments since time immemorial, from natural history to the present day concept of global ecology wherein the entire world is considered a single ecological entity. This is because of the rising concern of climate change, biodiversity conservation and resource sustainability that has brought in the restorative concept of “Glocalization” which indicates the collective effort at global as well as local levels. “The ability of traditional institutions and processes to resolve ecological concerns is invariably questioned, with the nation-state seen as particularly constrained by economic imperatives and the whim of global capital. Hence the call to ‘glocalization’ or the strengthened emphasis between global imperatives and local action, of which the Local Agenda 21 is theoritically a perfect example”(Crowley, 1998). However, the concepts are merely not enough. Individual and collective participation go hand in hand towards a sustainable future.

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Social science refers to the science of people or collections of people, such as groups, firms, societies, or economies, and their individual as well as collective behaviour. (Mor, 2019). It is comprised of various disciplines namely, psychology, sociology, economics, political science, history, etc. It employs scientific methods for unbiased research via observations and test results. In the context of ecology, social science is expected to efficiently analyse and resolve global issues like population explosion, food security, climate change, poverty and latest ecological footprint trends. “Combining information from both biomedical and behavioral and social sciences research will lead to the most effective interventions” (Daniel, 2018).

In the context of the socio-economic conditions, India can be viewed in terms of rural and urban purview. Both have their own set of issues that contribute to the global environment. According to the World Bank (‘India’s Poverty Profile’, 2016) data, 25% of the Indian rural population are poverty stricken without the benefits of proper income, electrification, sanitation, clean potable water, nutritious diet, proper waste management and adequate mode of transportation. Their livelihoods being socially, politically and economically marginalised are the worst hit by climate change. Each issue has a social, cultural, historical and political background because of which their solutions require the active involvement of individuals as well as the community at large. All these issues can be brought to light via Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods, conducted within the rural communities. The Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) of the rural communities, coupled with the research methodologies of the social scientists will acknowledge the socio-logical aspects of social perception and public acceptance, thereby bringing about remedial measures for an improved standard of living. Mixed cropping (for better nutrition), EcoSan Toilets (for better disposal of human waste), mushroom cultivation (as annual profit generated is 2.1 times more than that of conventional cereal cultivation), rice-fish culture as a part of Integrated Farming System (IFS), rainwater harvesting, etc. are some of the feasible income generating, cost effective techniques for marginal and small land holders.

In the urban context, towns and cities make a major contribution to India’s economy. Urbanization in India has expanded rapidly as increasing numbers of people migrate to towns and cities in search of economic opportunity (‘India’s Urban Challenges’, 2011). The 2011 Census Report of India identified 13.8 million households (i.e. about 64 million people) that are located in city slums nationwide. That’s 17.4 per cent of all urban households, which account for roughly one-third of India’s 1.2 billion people. (‘India census says 1 in 6 lives in unsanitary slums | CBC News’, 2013). These slum settlements face harsh conditions of vector-borne diseases due to unhygienic conditions of improper waste management and lack of potable water. But the environmental problem does not end here. The well flourished parts of the towns and cities too face enormous environmental issues, both natural and anthropogenic. This is due to various accelerating factors such as increasing population density, excessive vehicular exhaust, NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) Syndrome, Use of Single-Use Plastics, etc. leading to consequences like decreasing groundwater table, deterioration of air and water quality, accumulation of non-biodegradable products, concretization and urban flooding, etc. Human beings are seen to be dominant on the entire biosphere, thereby contributing the maximum to the changing global environment. Thus, when the individuals, ecologists, policy-makers and the social scientists come together to a common ground to resolve these issues using scientific subject matter with different research methodologies and observational findings, feasible solutions can be implemented. Therefore, increased human-environment intervention is required to conclude a restorative or reviving attempt. As Begon et al. remark ‘Ecologists are not only concerned with … organisms in nature, but also … with … man’s influence on nature’ (1990, p. xi) “Social, political, economic and ecological processes interact dynamically, requiring analysis to be sensitive to the interaction of structural features and human agency across a range of scales from the local to the global.” (Scoones, 1999). Human beings are an integral and inseparable part of nature. History reflects socio-environmental movements in India such as the Chipko Movement which signifies the zeal and zest of the women of the Bishnoi tribe who fearlessly stood together united as an example of collective protest to save their trees.

“Although in many ways environmentalist discourse presents itself as hostile to modern science, at the same time it often depends on the social authority of a particular stream of ecological science and its apparent neutrality and objectivity when making claims about the destruction of nature, the upsetting of balanced ecosystems, or the exceeding of carrying capacities”.(Scoones, 1999). It is important to note that the social, political, historical know how of different societies impacts the human-environment relationship. With increasing awareness of science and technology it is essential to understand that ecological/environmental perspectives can be addressed wholly only with the intervention of society. Qualitative and quantitative research methods coupled with scientific data and observational findings are an insight to the society and its participation in ecological perspectives, thus bringing in the ecological restorative concept and it’s applicability to the fullest.

References

  1. Begon, M., Harper, J.L., & Townsend, C.R. (1990) Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK. ECOLOGY AND ITS RELATION TO SOCIAL SCIENCES 5
  2. Begon, M., Townsend, C., & Harper, J. (2006). Ecology: From Individuals to Ecosystems (4th ed., p. xi). Blackwell.
  3. Bhatia, K., & Tyagi, M. (2013). Trueman’s elementary biology (24th ed., p. U51). Trueman Book Company.
  4. Daniel, C. 2018. Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. 10.13140/RG.2.2.25335.0656
  5. Crowley, K. (1998). ‘Glocalisation’ and ecological modernity: Challenges for local environmental governance in Australia. Local Environment, 3(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839808725549
  6. India census says 1 in 6 lives in unsanitary slums | CBC News. CBC. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/india-census-says-1-in-6-lives-in-unsanitary-slums-1.1403897#:~:text=Detailed%20information%20from%20India’s%20latest,of%20India’s%201.2%20billion%20people
  7. India’s Poverty Profile. World Bank. (2016). Retrieved, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/infographic/2016/05/27/india-s-poverty-profile.
  8. India’s Urban Challenges. World Bank. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2011/07/04/indias-urban-challenges.
  9. Mor, S., 2019. Emerging Research Trends In Social Sciences. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Prime, p.Chapter 1.
  10. Rajagopalan, R. (2018). Environmental studies: From Crisis to Cure (3rd ed., pp. 1-309). Oxford University Press.
  11. Scoones, I. (1999). New Ecology and the Social Sciences: What Prospects for a Fruitful Engagement?. Annual Review Of Anthropology, 28(1), 479-507.
  12. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.28.1.479
  13. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839808725549
  14. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/india-census-says-1-in-6-lives-in-unsanitary-slums-1.1403897#:~:text=Detailed%20information%20from%20India’s%20latest,of%20India’s%201.2%20billion%20people
  15. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/india-census-says-1-in-6-lives-in-unsanitary-slums-1.1403897#:~:text=Detailed%20information%20from%20India’s%20latest,of%20India’s%201.2%20billion%20people
  16. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/india-census-says-1-in-6-lives-in-unsanitary-slums-1.1403897#:~:text=Detailed%20information%20from%20India’s%20latest,of%20India’s%201.2%20billion%20people
  17. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/infographic/2016/05/27/india-s-poverty-profile
  18. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2011/07/04/indias-urban-challenges
  19. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.28.1.479

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Ecology And Environment: Social Science. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ecology-and-environment-social-science/
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Ecology And Environment: Social Science [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ecology-and-environment-social-science/
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