Ecology – Principles and Applications


A couple of weeks ago, I expounded on ecology and the environmental effects of energy and resource development as humans learned to control energy and expanded their presence around the globe.  April is Earth month and the negative effects of human activities on the global ecosystems that support life grow worse by the day; therefore, I want to continue my discussion. Humans must accept the fact that we are part of the earth’s natural ecosystems; we are not apart from nature; and we must abide by the laws of nature.

   Two basic principles of ecology have been largely ignored as humans moved from hunter-gatherer status through ever more concentrated energy systems to industrialized global economies based on maximum utilization of fossil fuel resources.  Those basic ecological principles are: 1) Ecosystem Carrying Capacity; and 2) Limiting Factors. Industrialized societies tend to believe that earth’s ecosystem have infinite capabilities for expansion.  WRONG!  Eventually “Mother Nature” places limits on expansion.  Typically, one or more essential life support factors are strained to the breaking point and the system collapses.

    We take air, specifically oxygen, for granted; but it is the most immediate limiting factor.  Without air, actually clean air, life stops except for a few forms of anaerobic bacteria.  Over the last 150 years we have polluted our atmosphere so badly by burning fossil fuels that carbon dioxide levels have doubled and are now at unsustainable levels.

   Although earth is the “Blue Planet”; over 75 per cent of the surface covered with water, only 3 per cent of that water is fresh water; the water that humans need to stay alive.  Arizona desert dwellers know full well the importance of water, but we still take it for granted even though eventually it will limit us.

   We must regulate pollution.