Chapter 1: Introduction
What is Human Ecology?
Ecology- the science of relationships between living organisms and their environment
Human ecology- about relationships between people and their environment
The environment is perceived as an ecosystem.
Ecosystem- everything in a specified area
Ex. the air, soil, water, living organisms and physical structures, including everything built by humans
Biological community- The living parts of an ecosystem
Ex. microorganisms, plants and animals (including humans)
Can be any size
Social system- everything about people, their population and the psychology and social organization
that shape their behavior
can be on any scale - from a family to the entire human population of the planet
Ecosystem services- include water, fuel, food, materials for clothing, construction materials and
recreation; are moved to meet people’s needs
People affect ecosystems when they use resources such as water, fish, timber and livestock grazing
After using materials from ecosystems, people return the materials to ecosystems as waste.
People intentionally modify or reorganize existing ecosystems, or create new ones, to better serve
Fisherman net/long line example
India tree branches for fuel/biogas machine example
• Unintended consequences:
o Many human activities impact the environment in ways that are subtle and slow-
changing so people do not notice what is happening until the problem is serious.
o Problems may appear suddenly, and sometimes at a considerable distance from the
human actions that cause them. o Ex. Minamata disease- mercury was dumped into ocean, transformed into methane
mercury, and was biologically concentrated as it passed along each step of the food
chain from phytoplankton (microscopic plants) to zooplankton (tiny animals), small fish
and finally fish large enough for people to eat.
Took 50 years for fish in that area to be safe to eat again (after already killing
o Deforestation agricultural failure starvation in North Korea
Forests capture rainwater and release it to