Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Readings for week 1

For week one we are reading the first two chapters of two books. The goal is to orient the class on the basic tenets and themes of macroecology and to start thinking about underlying law-like behaviors that often characterize complex ecological and social systems. These chapters are available on ereserves in the folder for week 1. Let one of us know or email humanmacroecology@gmail.com if you have problems with ereserves.

Here's the citation info for the readings:

*Brown, J.H.1995. Chapters 1 – 2 in Macroecology. University of Chicago Press.

*Ginzburg, L., and M. Colyvan. 2004. Chapters 1 – 2 in Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

The Brown chapters do an excellent job of defining macroecology. Pay attention to the example in chapter 1 for how to 'think big' with regard to an important ecological question. Also think about how Brown approaches the issue of species responses to climate change from a different perspective than would a traditional ecologist. Pay close attention to Brown's discussion of complex systems and ecological complexity in chapter 2.

For the Ginzburg and Colyvan chapter the emphasis is on their discussion of laws and ecology, first and foremost, but also appreciate their use of the analogy between planetary motion and population growth. You may not be familiar with some of the terms and/or concepts in chapter 1. Don't worry. We won't be talking about population dynamics per se. Appreciate that they have their own goals regarding a fascinating topic in population biology (I highly recommend reading the entire book at some point) but their approach to defining the problem and their philosophy of science is what we are most concerned with. Most of this is in chapter 2. You don't really need to read the preface. I only included it because I like the quotes so much. I'll state the one by MacArthur here; "Difficulty in imagining how theory can adequately describe nature is not a proof that theory cannot." Does the Ginzburg and Colyvan approach to thinking about laws and what laws are differ from what you have been taught before?

If you are interested in complex systems approaches to ecology in general check out Brian A. Maurer's book "Untangling Ecological Complexity: The Macroscopic Perspective," published in 1999. This gets more into the specifics of chaos and nonlinearity and might be especially interesting for students with more of a mathematical background. Another good book on the subject is Sole and Goodwin's "Signs of Life: how complexity pervades biology".


George Bezerra said...

Hi, I'm having problems with accessing the readings. I tried the student Hardcopy reserves and I couldn't find Biology 402 in the search.

Human macroecology admin said...

Hi, I'm sorry you didn't find them right away. There will be no reading material in the hard copy reserves. This easies thing to do is to follow this link:

and then follow the "students start here to find electronic reserves" link.
It might be easiest to search by department and list all biology classes. There aren't that many and you can see "Perspectives in human ecology" listed.
Thanks and good luck. I hope that helps! (oskar)

Human macroecology admin said...

oh yeah, and don't forget that the password is 'lobo402'.
directions to the ereserves are also in the blog post "reading list by week."

Justin Smith said...

Would it be possible to get that Powerpoint from yesterday uploaded to ereserves or hosted on the blog?

Oskar said...

Hey Justin,
We were just talking about that. Yes we can post something. I don't know if we'll post a link to the whole powerpoint presentation or just do a scaled-down version as a blog with just a few key figures. I'll try and get that worked out in the next day or so.


Humanity has been warned repeatedly about the threat to humanity, to life as we know it, to the viability of recognizably frangible global ecosystems and to the integrity of Earth and its limited resources that could be posed to humankind by the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers. Because we want human beings to be fed and to have jobs so they can feed themselves and their families, the growth of human numbers has lead great thinkers and scientists to regularly remind the human community of the impacts of unregulated human propagation, unrestrained consumption and rampantly expanding production activities in our planetary home.

Every possible bias, rhetorical device and "spin" appears to have been employed to deny the mounting evidence of the potential for impending ecological calamities and economic disasters from the near exponential growth of human numbers worldwide. Recently, good science about the way the world works has been systematically discredited; leading elders of the political economy have consciously conspired to mislead the public by misrepresenting the science and by turning climate science into a "political football" of sorts; ideological groups sponsored by super-rich, large-scale corporate 'citizens' have spread uncertainty and confusion in discussions about the nature of the biophysical world in which we live; and controversy has been manufactured where none would have otherwise existed.

The illusion of meaningful debate has been foisted upon the public by leaders who are evidently intent on "poisoning the well" of public discourse by knowingly and selfishly fostering disinformation campaigns for the purpose of enhancing their own financial interests........come what may for our children, coming generations, global biodiversity, the environment, and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

The elder guarantors of a good enough future for the children appear to be leading our kids down a "primrose path" along which the children could unexpectedly be confronted with sudden, potentially colossal threats to human and environmental health that appear to be derived from human-driven, converging global challenges such as pernicious impacts of global warming and climate change, pollution of the air, water and land from microscopic particulates and solid waste, and the reckless dissipation of scarce natural resources. All the while, these leading elders remain in denial of the fulminating ecological degradation by willfully declining to acknowledge, much less begin to address, humanity's emerging, human-induced predicament. One day, perhaps sooner rather than later, our children could have extraordinary difficulties responding ably to that with which they could soon come face to face; that is to say, because their leaders have so adamantly refused to acknowlege God's great gift of the good science of biological and physical reality, our kids will not even know what "hit" them, much less why it is happening.

Please note the concerns I am trying to communicate are expressed much better yesterday by Cameron Smith at the following link.


As always, your thoughts are welcome.



Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

SESALMONY@aol.com said...

Bleak future may await our children


Humankind inhabits a tiny celestial orb that is miraculously set among of sea of stars. As far as we know, life as we know it exists nowhere else in the universe. Perhaps we of the human family have the responsibility of assuring the security for the future of life in our planetary home.

April 22 was Earth Day. Our many Earth Day celebrations focus attention on the pressing need for human beings to protect and preserve the finite resources of Earth and its frangible ecosystems. If we fail to achieve this goal, then an unimaginably bleak future awaits our children.

If 6-plus billion human beings live on Earth now and 9-plus billion are expected to populate our small planet by 2050, then we simply cannot keep doing what we are doing now because the Earth has limited resources. Without adequate resources and ecosystem system services of Earth, life as we know it and human institutions would collapse.

Some portion of the world’s human population conspicuously over-consumes the resources of our planetary home. Other people, in charge of huge multinational conglomerations, are doing business in a way that recklessly dissipates natural resources. Still others in the human family are overpopulating the planet. The leviathan-like scale and rapid growth of global human consumption, production and propagation activities are putting the Earth, life as we know it, and the human community in grave, clear and present danger.

Since Chapel Hillians live in the overdeveloped world, we are among the people who are ravenously over-consuming Earth’s resources. We could choose to consume less. People in the developing could choose to limit overproduction of unnecessary things and contain industrial pollution. People in the underdeveloped world could limit their number of offspring. Perhaps these are ways the family of humanity begins to respond ably to the human-induced global challenges that loom so ominously.

– Steven Earl Salmony, Chapel Hill

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