By: Liana Balicka
Ecology – is the science of the structure and functioning of nature, which studies the interrelationships between organisms, and between organisms and their organic and inorganic environment, which for this purpose uses knowledge of zoology, botany, genetics, ethology, physiology, evolutionism, geochemistry and biogeography. Ecology, broadly speaking, is the science of order and disorder in the natural world and of the consequences resulting from this order and disorder for the existence of the biosphere and the human being.
The concept of ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, “house” and -λογία, “study of”) was first introduced in 1869 by the German evolutionist, naturalist, philosopher and zoologist Ernst Haeckel. At that time, science had not yet developed sufficiently to create a single branch of ecology common to animals, plants, microorganisms and inanimate nature, and Haeckel’s definition of ecology as a whole based on the interrelations and interactions between all the factors mentioned above was a milestone in the development of science.
The intensive development of modern ecology as a science dates back to the first half of the 20th century. The work of many scientists has resulted in the merging of different research topics on the natural environment and contributed to the development of ecology as an independent discipline, with individual branches being distinguished on the basis of their research subjects, methodology or biological levels of organisation of living things. There are currently many definitions of ecology, which is due to the fact that it is classified as an interdisciplinary science drawing on knowledge ranging from botany, zoology, biogeography, ethology, genetics, evolutionism to a number of other disciplines. There is no single ecology – it is divided into subdivisions which can be differentiated according to problem analysis or research methodology. There are two main branches in ecology – autoecology and synecology. The domain of ecology includes such phenomena and processes occurring within ecological systems as biocenosis, ecosystem, biome and biosphere, physiological and ecological population.
The word ECOLOGY has gained new qualities with time, as it deals with various topics depending on the subject matter, has acquired many progressive (modern) meanings and has become a tool used to achieve social and political goals. It seems that the prefix ‘eco-‘ is fashionable and can evoke many different associations, but more and more people are aware that the conscious use of the planet’s resources is an obligation. The awareness in this regard is growing and people care about environmental protection and eco-education. Modern man feels responsible and wants to protect the environment for health reasons and out of concern for future generations. The 21st century is often referred to as the ecological century because public awareness of ecology has increased significantly over the last decade. However, the planet is still struggling with global problems such as air pollution, acid rain, soil degradation, the ozone hole and man-made threats. The natural environment continues to be polluted and nature’s wealth destroyed. Overexploitation of natural resources has led to their sharp reduction. The increasing demand for wood as a building and heating material has resulted in the loss of forested areas, the air is polluted by industrial plants whose toxic gas emissions exceed the norm many times over, and more and more toxic substances from industrial plants find their way into water reservoirs. Our society (a human being) suffers from a shortage of drinking water. Deforestation and burning of fossil fuels are the main factors of greenhouse gas emissions influencing climate change on Earth. Among other things, rising temperatures lead to flooding, heat waves, ecological and climatic disasters, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Moreover, the environment is being affected by the demographic explosion which brings about environmental damage. Each of these problems represents the disastrous consequences of human impact on the environment. The harmony between man and nature has been disrupted.
It is therefore appropriate to quote a statement which, although much time has passed, is still relevant and correctly represents the relationship between man and nature: “Nature without man can survive, but man without nature will perish” (Confucius)
The planet is becoming increasingly polluted, and the choices people make have a decisive influence on its state and condition. Thanks to education and growing awareness related to environmental protection, pro-environmental actions are being taken in the form of implementation of various remedial plans and relevant legislation. Knowledge of the way nature works, presentation of evidence of the interdependence between the natural and human worlds, and understanding of ecological systems will allow our society to anticipate the effects of human impact on the natural environment. Apart from introducing modern production technologies, first and foremost we should strive to minimise the amount of waste that poisons the surrounding environment. It is obvious that one or two people will not change the planet if large corporations do not actively participate in pro-ecological activities. While everyone can do their part to help protect the environment, the rate at which climate change occurs depends on the population as a whole. Ecology should enter the life of every conscious person who wants to protect our planet from degradation. Even small changes will make a difference if more and more people start applying them. Today, the majority of society understands ecology as a healthy approach to life and to the environment, and it is associated with limiting the use of plastic, waste segregation, reducing emissions – in other words, with environmental protection which manifests itself through specific behaviours.
More and more people are choosing to live in an ecological way and, as a result, the chances for future generations to live in a friendly environment are growing. Clean air, closeness to nature, unpolluted food and soil that ecology offers and, moreover, the awareness that life in a friendly environment is much more beautiful and longer proves that being eco-friendly is important not only for the sake of Earth, plants and animals, but also for all of us. Living green simply pays off!