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Global Ecology Essay Papers


Our aim was to identify 100 important unanswered questions in basic ecology. We wanted to avoid very broad, general questions and instead sought those describing a challenge that could be tackled with the concerted effort of a small group of researchers or perhaps through a research programme supported by a limited number of research grants. As summarized in Table 1, we adopted a previously used methodology (e.g. Sutherland et al. 2011a) as described in detail in Sutherland et al. (2011b), which places great emphasis on making the process to identify the most important questions rigorous, democratic and transparent.

1.754 questions categorized into 12 groups and ranked by voting before the meeting.
2.Twelve sessions, each dealing with one group, identify 6 highest priority ‘gold’ questions, 6 ‘silver’ and 6 ‘bronze’.
3.Four sessions, each taking output from three sessions in stage (2), identifying 20 ‘gold’ questions, 5 ‘silver’, 5 ‘bronze’ and 5 ‘nickel’.
4.Plenary session identifying the top 100.

Participants, which included an editor from each of the five BES journals, were selected by WJS, RPF and HCJG after broader consultation to cover a wide range of approaches to ecology. The attendees were invited based on their track records of publishing significant science in international journals, which we hoped demonstrated their knowledge of the cutting edge of their subjects. For logistical and financial reasons, the participants were predominately from the UK; each is an author of this paper. The attendees were encouraged to consult widely resulting in the active participation of 388 people (including those who attended preparatory workshops and discussions, or who responded to emails, but not those who were sent but did not respond to emails). The 754 questions submitted are listed in Appendix 1.

The questions were initially assigned to 12 broad themes reflecting areas of ecology defined by subject or methodological approach. Participants were asked to identify and vote for the 6–12 most important questions in those sections they felt competent to comment on and suggest rewording where appropriate. All participants were sent and asked to reflect on the results of the voting and the reworded questions before the meeting.

A two-day workshop was held at the British Ecological Society's headquarters at Charles Darwin House, London, in April 2012. Questions within each of the themes were considered by working groups (four consecutive rounds of three parallel sessions). Panel chairs identified duplicate questions (and ensured that duplication did not lead to dilution of votes for a particular topic), those that had already been answered, and those that could be improved by further rephrasing. Participants were also encouraged to support potentially important questions that had not attracted many votes if they considered them overlooked because of their subject area, because they were in subfields that were out of fashion, or simply because they were poorly expressed. The chairs moderated a discussion in which questions that were unlikely to make the final 100 were quickly excluded before a short list of 18 important questions to be taken to the plenary sessions were agreed. The latter were divided into three sets of six questions ranked ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ in the order of increasing importance. Chairs were asked to ensure the process was democratic with all views respected, and decisions were made by voting conducted as a show of hands.

The second stage of the workshop consisted of two sets of two parallel sessions each of which refined the questions from three of the initial working groups. Participants were first asked to examine the 18 (3 × 6) gold questions and remove any duplicates, improve the wording where necessary and demote to the silver section any which on further discussion were thought to be of less importance. The 18 bronze questions were then examined to see whether they contained any that should be elevated to the silver category. Finally, voting took place to identify the 20 top questions that formed a new gold group incorporating the existing gold questions and the most highly supported silver questions. Further discussion and voting chose from the old silver category (and sometimes the bronze) sets of five questions that formed new silver, bronze and a new category of ‘nickel’ questions.

In a final plenary session, the 80 (4 × 20) gold questions were considered in turn with further elimination of duplicates and major overlaps. Questions which on further consideration were thought not to be of the highest importance were demoted to silver, with further voting when there was no clear consensus. Using the same procedures, participants were then asked to identify whether any of the questions classified as nickel should be moved into bronze, and then whether those in the bronze and following that the silver category should be promoted or demoted. The final rounds of voting chose the most important silver questions to join the gold questions and so make up the final 100.

This voting process was devised so that at each stage the previous decisions were influential but could also be overruled. It also provided the opportunity to deal with similar questions that came from different initial parallel sessions. Furthermore, questions from different groups were compared against each other to ensure that they were of equivalent importance and to reduce possible artefacts, for example caused by a disproportionate number of questions initially suggested in one subject area.

Following the workshop, an extensive editing process was carried out which identified some overlooked ambiguities and duplications. A final email poll was conducted to decide the fate of the last few candidates for inclusion.


Any undertaking such as this of course has limitations (Sutherland et al. 2011b). The most important caveat is that the questions posed and shortlisted are very likely to be influenced by the interests and expertise of the participants. Efforts were made to solicit questions and select attendees from across the full breadth of the subject, but inevitably biases will remain. In total, 388 people contributed questions, and there were 37 participants in the final workshop. The majority of the participants were from the UK, and hence, there is a geographical bias, although we did have attendees from continental Europe, the US, and Australia, and most participants have many collaborators and often conduct fieldwork around the globe. We also invited participants with experience in a range of taxa, including plants, animals and microbes from both aquatic and terrestrial systems, to reduce possible taxonomic biases.

The initial division into themes may have limited lateral thinking, and sometimes, it was not clear where questions should best be placed; the plenary session and final editing was designed to address this issue. As mentioned previously, there was a tendency to pose broad questions rather than the more focussed question we were aiming for. There is a tension between posing broad unanswerable questions and those so narrow that they cease to be perceived as fundamental. A possible solution to this in a further exercise might be to define sets of specific or tactical questions nested within overarching strategic questions.

Table of Contents


The global ecological crisis is the largest challenge which humanity has ever had to face (Gare, 2017). Besides, abusing the natural resources, our present method of consumption and production of goods, all modeled on economic production and not based on bio-capability, is jeopardizing the living conditions of humans, yet simultaneously changing the social foundations of human beings. International threats and dangers evolved when the social fabric of the ecological and social system exceeds and supersedes its environmental counterpart. Global environmental or ecological threats and dangers are not just social-psycho constructs created for promoting a new method of social regulation on the people. They are the result of an economic development model wherein environmental deficiencies are being shared by everyone, while the financial benefits would be helpful to some and it shall change our planet for a considerable period. The most probable global cataclysmic threats and dangers seem to emerge from human actions, particularly resulting from new modern technologies and industrialization (Heurtebise, 2017). The success of the agenda of neo-liberalism, along with a dissipated ‘scientism’, has diminished people and nature to just being consumers, instruments, and raw materials which would be proficiently handled in an international market governed by technocrats, media, and corporate heads. The resulting path that creates global environmental or ecological damage seems unstoppable, and neither environmental movements nor governments have changed this, or in reality, seem ready for it (Gare, 2017).

Review and Analysis

Ecological civilization is a novel notion in the progress of human civilization. Ecological civilization refers to organizational, spiritual, and material accomplishments in supporting the laws for compatible natural, social, and human growth. Ecological civilization is an ideology and ethical morality. It has an understanding of the sustainable development and harmonious co-operation among people. It also acknowledges sustainable growth and compatible co-existence between nature and society and between nature and people, signaling the growth of human civilization (UNEP, 2016). The original clear-cut use of the concept of ecological civilization originated from the book ‘Ecological Democracy’ written by Roy Morrison wherein the author argued that: “an ecological civilization would be based on three support systems such as harmony, balance, and democracy” (Heurtebise, 2017). This notion of ecological civilization reinforces and intensifies the sustainable development theory, creating strong practices and innovations for promoting the progress of civilization to an advanced level. The important demand of ecological civilization is the fact that nature should be safeguarded, assimilated and respected. Clear, clean water and hills which are green should be considered as precious valuables. The obsolete perspective is that people could vanquish nature and disregard the bearing limit of assets. The obsolete perspective is that the environment could be totally neglected. Reliable efforts have to be made to live in unity with nature, permitting for a novel way to deal with modernization distinguished by co-existence (UNEP, 2016).

When compared to the modern-day ecological disaster, global warming is enough for creating an end to life on this earth. Environmental changes, the standard common name for global warming results from the heavy and real human impression on earth. This menace, the human dependence on gas, oil, and coal, is pernicious to human well-being and to survive in the long haul. An earth, which is very hot or warm, would be antagonistic to life in the oceans and seas, forests, ecosystems, wildlife, drinking water, and agriculture. A few nations would vanish. The inhabitants of various nations would be compelled to move, thereby, creating terrible ecological imprints and unending wars (Vallianatos, 2012).

Enforcing of ecological rights determines subsistence rights: if water is being contaminated, there is no right to safe drinking water; if food is being contaminated, there is no right to eat safe food; and if the environment is disrespected, there is no right to shelter. Hence, according to this understanding, subsistence rights are an ecological right. It means the right to live in a domain wherein human-produced environmental dangers would be limited — as expressed in the Stockholm Declaration brought out in the year 1972. The future and present generations right to live in a situation which is enough for his/her well-being and health assume that the “rights about accessing information, open interest, and participating in making decisions, and accessing justice on ecological issues” is given to all (Heurtebise, 2017).

Groundwater might be polluted with pesticides. In Costa Rica, for instance, the pineapple estates use organochlorines, organophosphates, chemicals and hormone disruptors which create cancer. What’s more, it isn’t only the local water and laborers, which get polluted — but also the products which people tend to eat. Around 94% of the imported pineapples from Costa Rica to Britain had “deposits of fungicide triadimefon, which is a poison and a disruptor of hormones” (Magdoff, 2011).

Karl Marx stated that during the earlier periods of capitalist advancement, the loss of soil’s long-lasting fertility had been due to ‘net exports of the nutrients’ since people moved (or compelled to move out) to urban areas. This formed what Marx described as a rift in the interrelated procedure of social metabolism, which was irreparable — a metabolism endorsed by life’s natural laws. However, several of the agricultural systems carried out on a large-scale were in fact not effective against cycling the nutrients for various other reasons. Large quantities of nitrogen fertilizers would be lost in developing corn on several farms, while nitrate filters into underground water, which would then pollute the rivers and streams. A small, however, an important amount of soil nitrogen would get changed over to nitrous oxide and spread into the environment wherein it becomes a powerful greenhouse gas, and furthermore, in the stratosphere, it would ruin its ozone level (Magdoff, 2011).

Another significant problem with the agricultural capitalist systems is of the substandard levels of treatment meted out to the working class. Migrant laborers, particularly those from other nations, have fewer rights and are usually regarded as slaves. Further, farm workers along with their families are usually intensely polluted with pesticides. The situations of the working force on agricultural plantations that are of large-scale, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, are the most exploited ones. The working class is very often paid meager wages. Firing or violence would be carried out to prevent any form or unionization, and pesticides (banned in the developed nations) are freely used, creating serious health issues (Magdoff, 2011).

Ecologists across the world have been opposing businesses and governments: cautioning them that incessant contamination would be a risk for human health, a risk for animals, birds, and most important the earth. A few governments have passed regulatory legislation against development. Similar to the US, a few nations also make the claim that they have organizations for protecting the environment. In Nairobi, Kenya, the UN has its Environmental Program. China, the largest country in the world, is trying to find a way of recovering its age-old conventions on ecological civilization (Vallianatos, 2012).

Living in unison with nature creates firmly coupled water flows, energy, and nutrients, and conserving the operations of the natural flows and cycles. For having environmental stability, civilizations need to form a new ideology and culture focused on basic principles, like substantive equity. It needs to: (1) offer a suitable human presence to all: recreational and cultural possibilities, education, clothing, housing, healthcare, sanitation, clean water, and food; (2) remove the control or command of people by others; (3) promoting community and labor regulation over farms, factories, and other working environments; (4) making easier the recalling of the people who get elected; and (5) re-making co-operation between natural systems and people in all parts of life, inclusive of farming, transportation, industry, and living situations. Further, by being focused only on private vehicles or an important system of transportation; an ecological civilization cannot exist. Despite, how energy-efficient the trucks and cars are the use of trains and buses as the important system of transportation would be more fuel-efficient. Biological diversity should get promoted with more intricate farming systems that would stress upon forming nourishing soils and by the improved consolidation of fewer natural territories in the urban and rural areas (Magdoff, 2011).


Taking into consideration our current situation, it might be insincere to disregard the real and existent dangers of the modern-day civilization. Ecological civilizations would rely on generating a suitable human, ecological and social metabolism, which would enable the society to constantly satisfy the ecological and human requirements. Creating an ecological civilization which is socially just and fair would not occur so. It would happen only with a consistent cautiousness and concerted activity, or movement of an active and involved population.


Gare, A. (2017). The Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization: A manifesto for the future. New York: Routledge.

Heurtebise, J.Y. (2017). Sustainability and Ecological Civilization in the Age of Anthropocene: An Epistemological Analysis of the Psychosocial and “Culturalist” Interpretations of Global Environmental Risks. Sustainability, 9(8), 1-17.

Magdoff, F. (2011). Ecological Civilization. Global Research, Retrieved from https://www.globalresearch.ca/ecological-civilization/22701

UNEP. (2016). Ecological Civilization: A national strategy for innovative, concerted, green,  open and inclusive development.  Retrieved from http://web.unep.org/ourplanet/march-2016/articles/ecological-civilization

Vallianatos, E. (2012). Is Ecological Civilization Possible?” Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/evaggelos-vallianatos/is-ecological-civilizatio_b_1868765.html

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