Environment, Technology, and Health: Human Ecology in Historical Perspective

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We might suggest reconstituting as well. With regard to repeating, we are all familiar with the fact that having a time-saving device often induces us to use it more frequently and thus use more time. Recomplicating is exemplified by a new device such as the push-button telephone, which makes some operations easier and is then overpowered by elaborate systems developed to take advantage of it.

Environment, Technology, and Health: Human Ecology in Historical Perspective

In recongesting, technological change opens new possibilities but concomitantly encourages new demand that soon clogs the system again, as in the case of the automobile. Regenerating appears after a problem seems to have been solved. This is apparent in connection with pest control, which may work for a while and then revert to the original situation because the pesticide also kills the pest's natural predator or selects for pesticide-resistant pests. Tenner finally discusses rearranging, which is the revenge effect that shifts a problem in space or time.

Thus, air-conditioned subway cars may provide a cooler ride, but the stations and tunnels become considerably warmer, which in turn can cause the air-conditioning units in the train to break down. With respect to reconstituting, we note that when a significant new element is introduced into a system, it can generate total change. If you add or subtract something, the overall system may be altered.

Examples are the removal of some. It is possible to cite numerous other examples that involve sociocultural as well as technological systems. While we cannot anticipate all the effects that might arise from some new technology or methodology, we certainly should give far more thought to some of the arcane possibilities. It is impossible to imagine that the first humans who could create and control fire could have foreseen even a few of the simple, practical applications of the fireplace and the forge. They certainly had experienced the ravages of fire.

However, in the not-distant past the scientists who developed the first nuclear pile clearly understood the potential of the nuclear bomb as a devastating weapon of destruction. Engineering, together with technology, is the day-to-day driving force that shapes our destiny Russell, It creates the overall infrastructure and in time evolves as the reflection of our detailed human character.

In fact, as we have said in the past, the infrastructure is us. It expresses the history of our lives and the technological and social evolution of humankind through its various societies. More pointedly it reminds us that we are what we were and will be what we are. To quote more precisely,. We should not allow the infrastructure to develop only on the basis of individual utility and short-term measures of cost and benefit, or narrowly measurable attributes that are tractable with current analytic tools. We require longer-range goals of a creative and inspirational kind that blend technological and aesthetic considerations.

The future of quality of life is to some considerable degree in our hands when we debate decisions about infrastructure. Are beautiful structures ever obsolete? Herman and Ausubel, , p.

Ecology and Biodiversity- Ecology(Part-I) - history of ecology, Environment and its component

It is clear that we must somehow generate a social imperative that will provide inspirational leadership so that our society can strive to reach the highest quality of life with integrity and equality. In this regard it is important once and for all to turn to the question of how much it costs society as a whole that there exists a significant level of legal, moral, and ethical criminality over a wide spectrum at all levels.

We have been surprised to find that when this question is raised it appears to be essentially taboo in our culture. However, the central issue of this volume, engineering within ecological constraints, cries out to have precisely such questions scrutinized. It implies that there are goals to be set that will in fact improve the quality of life as we go forward with all of our human enterprises. There is no question but that this focuses on deep philosophical issues.

It is not our purpose here to delve into the details but rather to raise the issue in the hope that our collective minds might set a course toward what can be done to develop better understanding and subsequently establish methodologies for improvement. We all know that the failure of a bolt costing a few cents,. To return to the subject of engineering within ecological constraints, we must remember the importance of science. Science is the wellspring that provides the knowledge we require to realize our engineering and technological goals. This is not to say that new pathways have not arisen from applied research.

It is fortunate that early humans were curious about the world around them and appreciated the profound value of the knowledge they had acquired. Not only does science provide the basic knowledge to solve applied problems, it also generates the philosophical outlook for further exploration and helps us appreciate that there is new knowledge beyond the known boundaries.

This new knowledge most often comes as the serendipitous result of the curiosity of creative people who have the insight to ask unusual questions that they sense are meaningful to probe Reines, Engineering within ecological constraints may generate more fundamental questions than answers. The present administration has set national priorities for scientific research to strengthen industry, protect the environment, improve the educational enterprise, create jobs, and the like. These, of course, are lofty goals worthy of the attention and effort of our scientific and engineering community.

However, we believe the approach must be developed with extreme care to maintain the freedom necessary for creativity to flourish, in both the fundamental and applied sciences, and to limit micromanagement of fundamental science that until now has flourished under a system of freedom to explore the ''endless frontier.

It is essential to remember that the creative end is never in full sight at the beginning and that it is brought wholly into view only when the process of creation is completed. It is not to be found by scrutiny of the conscious scene, because it is never there. Sustaining and improving the quality of life for a diverse global population over the next years will not be limited by the availability of resources, in spite of the likely massive increases in population and economic demands over this time span.

The key resource that makes this possible is science and technology. The supply potentials for food, water, and energy appear adequate even with today's menu of available technologies provided they are fully implemented and chosen to minimize environmental degradation. Starr goes on to say that "neither science, nor technology, nor politics, nor religion, nor any ideology is likely by itself to provide the best answers or absolute.

More recently, Pimentel and coauthors have claimed that to spread the equivalent of Western World quality of life ubiquitously over the entire globe, the current word population would have to be reduced significantly. These authors ask, "Does human society want 10 to 15 billion humans living in poverty and malnourishment or 1 to 2 billion living with abundant resources and a quality environment? These differing results are some of many examples that could be cited when considering complex sociotechnical problems whose projections critically depend on the assumptions that are made and the character of the mathematical model.

It should come as no surprise that there is a difference of opinion among competent and honest scientists regarding how to address complex problems. It is difficult to find the proper management and encouragement by governmental bodies to bring efficiency and understanding into such considerations. The overall politicization and often unrealistic promises of our scientific and technical enterprise cannot be of long-term benefit to any one.

How then can we approach the task of addressing the manner in which engineering should proceed within the sensible boundaries of ecology? A democracy will always have myriad discussions of any issue on technical, social, and political levels. This is especially true when decisions must be made regarding the allocation of resources. However, science is the fountainhead of new knowledge. If we must prove in advance that all of our inquiries will be productive or even sensible, the greatest drying forces for science will be frustrated.

So-called pure research is risky, rarely efficient. Yet it is the solution to individual fundamental problems that makes possible great advances in science and mathematics with consequent disciplinary and social value for the future. We are all very familiar with the intense scrutiny received by new ideas and results, especially if they are disjoint with respect to conventional wisdom and especially so if the work is perceived to have importance. As a rule this is a healthy competitive process, although some of the resistance comes from the conservative nature of the technical communities; and, of course, there is the not-invented-here syndrome.

An interesting example of the impact of governmental thinking on science and technology is Thomas Jefferson's concern with social utility when the United States was very young Martin, In Jefferson organized a rank ordering of the utility of the sciences for Joseph Priestley. The list was headed by botany and chemistry, with natural philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy in. He had an especially high regard for chemistry as one of the most useful sciences with great potential for future discoveries, and he expressed the opinion that agriculture was the most useful of the sciences for America.

He qualified his recommendation for geology because he felt its conclusions were uncertain and that it had no obvious utility, but he certainly showed a keen interest in mineral exploration.

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However, regarding the branch of knowledge that deals with the formation and history of the earth, he wrote as follows:. The dreams about the modes of creation, inquiries whether our globe has been formed by the agency of fire or water, how many millions of years it has cost Vulcan or Neptune to produce what the fiat of the Creator would effect by a simple act of will, is too idle to be worth a single hour of any man's life.

Jefferson went so far as to remark that it made little difference whether the earth is or 6, years old. We mention these thoughts because in Jefferson we have an example of a true Renaissance genius focusing on practical benefits for valid reasons but with a somewhat less than open mind regarding the value of improbable fluctuations from which important knowledge does frequently arise. Perhaps we can be sympathetic to Jefferson's outlook since in those early days of our country there were not sufficient resources and time to indulge in what might have appeared to be the luxury of theoretical speculation.

We are now living in a mature sociotechnical culture, and if we were to support only those works which appeal because we see pragmatic results, we had better beware. Nobody is sufficiently prescient to know where new important developments may lie, and we surely must shun an outlook that smothers human receptivity to new thoughts and pathways.

All of us, especially those in positions of power and control over resources, should take careful note of some of these ideas so beautifully and succinctly expressed by Leonardo da Vinci in his notebooks:. Those who fall in love with practice without science are like a sailor who enters a ship without a helm or a compass and does not know whither he is going Science is the captain, practice the soldiers All sciences are vain and full of errors that have not been born by experience, mother of all certainty, and that are not tested by experience.

To return again to our central theme, we might propose that the title of the workshop on which this volume is based could just as well have been, "Engineering Within Ecological and Scientific Constraints. It is difficult to ignore the educational enterprise in such considerations. We desperately need new young people properly trained across disci-. Apart from any specific training, it is imperative that our education system mainly encourages students to focus on learning how to learn, learning how to use what they know, to have a sense of the ethical dilemmas, to view information for what it is, and to appreciate the meaning of understanding and knowledge.

Our education system is flawed in that it stresses information and prescriptive learning, providing students with a "bag of tricks," the value of which decays rapidly. In our ever-advancing high-technology society, we will be faced with problems of ever-increasing complexity that will require lifelong development in order that we acquire the judgment necessary to make any substantial inroads into problems of critical importance to society and the individual as well.


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Our eternal struggle for new knowledge that on the one hand adds to the inner core of our understanding and on the other has useful consequences for humanity requires a great and constant effort as well as a high level of devotion. This is an extremely difficult task since as the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "Nature seeks to hide.

Science as we know it, which has been the creative Aladdin's lamp for humanity, would not be possible if it were not for our deepest conviction both as individuals and as a society that the pursuit of science is a great and uplifting endeavor, essential and relevant to both our material and spiritual evolution.

We believe that it is mainly through science coupled with technology that we will eventually learn how to tackle the extremely complex problems that we have been discussing and whose solution is so vital for human progress.

Human Ecology - Knapp - - Major Reference Works - Wiley Online Library

In conclusion we feel impelled to state that we are fully cognizant of the importance of solving practical and timely problems that focus on our daily well-being. Nobody would deny the significance of improving the quality of life for all humans everywhere and at the same time living peacefully with one another and with nature. Moreover, we must face the Herculean task of conducting our local engineering enterprises in the face of an almost impossibly complex global problem and doing the best we know how at the time. However, on the other hand, we must never forget that on the long time scale we must continue our striving for the knowledge that comes from all the sciences and, when coupled with philosophical and ethical principles, is the key to our continued evolution and freedom.

How better to say this than to paraphrase Socrates, who more than two millennia ago said. We must rise above the Earth to the top of the atmosphere and beyond, for only then will we fully understand the world in which we live. I wish to express my deep appreciation to Dr.

1st Edition

Ruth A. Reck and to Dr. Shekhar Govind for many interesting and useful discussions that were significant. Thanks are also due Mr. Umer Yousafzai for his assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.