Here is a term paper on ‘Global Ecology’. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on ‘Global Ecology’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. Introduction to Global Ecology:
Predicting the future is a fascinating game that is especially popular in times of crisis. Actually, one cannot predict the future in any detail, or with any degree of precision —there are too many unknowns, kaleidoscopic events, technological innovations, and other variables that cannot be foreseen.
Events such as the terrorist activities that were responsible for the loss of life and material destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September 2001, or the grid failure that caused an electrical power outage that affected 50 million people living in the northeastern United States on 14 and 15 August 2003, are examples of life-altering events due to anthropogenic failures that were not effectively predicted.
The 6.6 magnitude earthquake on 26 December 2003 that destroyed the ancient city of Bam located along the Silk Road in Iran, in which approximately 25 thousand human lives and historical architectural treasures such as the 2000-year-old citadel were lost, is an example of a natural phenomenon that still eludes adequate prediction. Nevertheless, it is instructive to consider a range of possibilities that could actualize. We then may be able to estimate their probability given current conditions, understanding, and knowledge. Most important, we might be able to do something now to reduce the probability of undesirable futures and losses.
During the twenty-first century, about the only certainties are that humans will continue to increase in numbers, at least until well into the century; that something will have to be done about the fouling of our life-support systems (especially the atmosphere and water); that humanity will have to make a major transition in energy use from predominantly fossil fuels to other, less certain, and probably less lucrative, sources; and finally, because there are no set-point controls, that humanity will likely overshoot its optimal carrying capacity, as we seem to be already doing with many resources, bringing on boom-and-bust cycles. The challenge of the future, then, will be not how to avoid the overshoot but how to survive it by downsizing growth, resource consumption, and pollution.
We must begin to reduce our current prodigious waste and become more efficient in order to do more with less high-quality energy and reduce the pollution that results from the waste of energy and industrial resources. Most people also agree that reducing per capita energy consumption in the industrialized countries would not only improve the quality of life locally but also help to improve the quality of life globally.
Most students would agree that rapid growth should be avoided, if for no other reason than that it tends to create social and environmental problems faster than they can be dealt with. Rapid population growth and urban-industrial development combine to create a momentum that is very difficult to control.
It is significant that in 1992, the prestigious United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London issued the following joint proclamation- World population is growing at the unprecedented rate of almost 100 million people every year, and human activities are producing major changes in the global environment. If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.
There is no shortage of studies, “think tank” reports, and popular books assessing the current predicament of humankind. Many of these paint a rather grim picture of present global problems, but others are optimistic about the future. The ways in which scholars, and people in general, view the future range from complete confidence in business as usual and in new technology (a “more of the same” philosophy) to a belief that society must completely reorganize, “power down,” and develop new international political and economic procedures in order to deal with a world of finite resources.
The late Herman Kahn and economist Julian Simon are well-known spokesmen for the business- as-usual view, whereas Paul Ehrlich, E. F. Schumacher, Fritjof Capra, economists Herman Daly and John Cobb, Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend, Paul Hawken, Edward Goldsmith, and E. O. Wilson are among those arguing for the need for fundamental changes—a position that is becoming more and more of a consensus among world leaders.
Then there are the cornucopian (“horn of plenty”) technologists, who are optimistic that an efficient and clean hydrogen economy (to replace carbon-based, “dirty” fossil fuels), reduced-input agriculture, waste-free industry, and other future technologies will enable nine billion or more people to coexist with enough natural environment to provide life support, preservation of endangered species, and enjoyment of nature.
Term Paper # 2. Historical Perspectives of Global Ecology:
Anthropologist Brock Bernstein (1981) noted that in many isolated cultures that must survive on local resources alone, actions that would be detrimental to the future are perceived and avoided. Such local feedback in decision making is lost when isolated cultures are incorporated into large and complex industrial societies.
As Bernstein said, “Economics must develop a coherent theory of decision-making behavior that is applicable at all levels of group organization. This will necessitate defining self- interest in terms of survival rather than consumption. Such a shift would bring economic behavior under something akin to natural selection, which has worked so well to insure the perpetuation of life on Earth over the eons.”
One of the obstacles to avoiding overshoots in resource use is what Garrett Hardin (1968) termed “the tragedy of the commons. By commons, he meant that part of the environment that is open to use by anyone and everyone, with no one person responsible for its welfare. A pasture or open range shared by many herders is an example. Because it is to the advantage of each herder to graze as many animals as possible, the capacity of the range to sustain grazing will be exceeded unless restrictions are agreed on and enforced by the community as a whole.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, many commons were protected by community-enforced restrictions and customs. Herding societies solved the problem by moving their animals from one place to another on a regular basis before overgrazing occurred at any one place. Many European cities have a long tradition of maintaining commons in the form of large parks and greenbelts.
The “tragedy” in these modern times is that local restrictions, as might be embodied in zoning ordinances, are so easily overturned by the influence of “big money”—that is, the economic capital that is available for the kind of development that yields large short-term profits, often at the expense of natural capital, thus affecting the local quality of life.
Hardin (1985) raised a most intriguing question- would the Industrial Revolution have gotten off the ground without the exploitation of people and environment in the beginning? Recall Dickens’ novels describing labor abuse and the complete inattention to air and water pollution in the nineteenth century. Certainly, the exploitation of people (as in industrial sweatshops) and the unrestricted pollution of the environment greatly accelerated the capital accumulation on which the present affluence of the industrial world is based. Most people now realize, however, that we are at a turning point in history.
We cannot continue “commonizing the costs and privatizing the profits” and postponing the environmental and human costs of rapid growth and development without incurring widespread damage to our global life-support systems. Donald Kennedy, in an editorial in Science (12 December 2003), noted that the big question in the end is not whether science can help to solve problems at large scales (such as global warming); rather, it is whether scientific evidence can successfully overcome social, political, and economic resistance. That was Hardin’s big question 35 years ago, and it is ours now.
Term Paper # 3. Global Ecological Models:
Some of the most comprehensive futuristic reports include those prepared by the Club of Rome and the global models produced by the United States and other governments and the United Nations. The Club of Rome was a group of scientists, economists, educators, humanists, industrialists, and civil servants brought together by Italian industrialist Arillio Peccei, who felt the urgent need to prepare a series of books on the future predicament of humankind. Its first and best-known book, The Limits to Growth, predicted on the basis of models that if our political and economic methods continue unchanged, severe boom-and-bust cycles will occur.
Essentially, this first Club of Rome study employed a modern systems approach to the older “warnings to humankind” classics, such as George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864, reissued in 1965), Paul Sears’ Deserts on the March (1935), William Vogt’s Road to Survival (1948), Fairfield Osborris Our Plundered Planet (1948), and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). The report denounced society’s obsession with growth, in which at each level (individual, familial, corporate, and national) the goal is to get richer and bigger and more powerful, with little consideration for basic human values and the ultimate cost of unrestricted, unplanned consumption of resources and stress on environmental life-support goods and services.
The limits to Growth was followed by a series of additional reports that attempted not only to describe possible future trends in more detail, but also to suggest actions that should be taken to avoid a boom-and-bust doomsday. These studies were published in book form with titles such as Mankind at the Turning Point; Reshaping the International Order; Goals for Mankind; Wealth and Welfare; and No Limits to Learning- Bridging the Human Gap (all published by Pergamon Press, New York). A variety of distinguished scholars contributed to these efforts, including economists, educators, engineers, historians, and philosophers.
Laszlo (1977) assessed the overall impact of these reports as follows:
Thanks largely to the efforts of the. Club of Rome, international awareness of the world problematique has rapidly grown. The Club pioneered the way (to use a medical analogy) from diagnosis to prescription but very little was accomplished in the way of therapy. To use another metaphor, the Club helped point the way but did little to generate the will to take it.
Between 1971 and 1981, a number of other global models were developed. These models were computerized mathematical simulations of the world’s physical and socioeconomic systems and made projections into the future that were logical consequences of the data and the assumptions that went into the model. It should be emphasized that each model remains unique with respect to the assumptions that motivated it.
Despite differing assumptions and biases, the modelers agreed on some points, namely:
i. Technological progress is expected, and is vital, but social, economic, and political changes will also be necessary.
ii. Populations and resources cannot grow forever on a finite planet that is not growing larger.
iii. A sharp reduction in the growth rates of population and urban-industrial development will greatly reduce the seriousness of overshoots or major breakdowns in life-support systems.
iv. Continuing “business as usual” will not lead to a desirable future, but rather will result in further widening of undesirable gaps (such as between rich and poor).
v. Cooperative long-range approaches will be more beneficial for all parties than competitive short-term policies.
vi. Because the interdependence among peoples, nations, and the environment is much greater than commonly acknowledged, decisions should be made in a holistic (systems) context. Actions to alter current undesirable trends (such as atmospheric toxification), taken soon (within the next couple of decades), will be more effective and less costly than actions taken later. This calls for strong civic awareness of needs that will force strong political action and changes in education, because by the time a problem is obvious to everyone, it may be too late.
In the 1990s, Donella Meadows and colleagues came out with a sequel to The Limits to Growth, entitled Beyond the Limits (1992). They concluded that global conditions are worse than predicted in 1972; however, they still envisioned a sustainable future if the six points just outlined are taken seriously and acted on. They commented that what the world needs is good old-fashioned “love” that will enable people to work together for common causes.
Models are good for integrating data and trends, but they are not able to factor in human resolve and ingenuity (or lack of it).
Term Paper # 4. Ecological Assessment:
The wisdom of the many contributors to the aforementioned reports, models, and global assessments conforms rather well to basic ecosystem theory, especially to three of its paradigms:
(1) A holistic approach is necessary when dealing with complex systems;
(2) Cooperation has greater survival value than competition when limits (resources or otherwise) are approached; and
(3) Orderly, high-quality development of human communities, like that of biotic communities, requires negative as well as positive feedback mechanisms.
It should be noted that these scholars’ conclusions also conform to the age-old human wisdom found in common-sense proverbs such as “look before you leap,” “do not put all your eggs in one basket,” “haste makes waste,” “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and “power corrupts.”
A civilization is a system, not an organism, contrary to what Arnold Toynbee (1961) said in A Study of History. Civilizations do not necessarily have to grow, mature, become senescent, and die, as organisms do—even though this process has happened in the past (as with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire). According to geographer Karl Butzer (1980), civilizations become unstable and break down when the high cost of maintenance results in a bureaucracy that makes excessive demands on the productive sector.
Such a view coincides with ecological theories of P/R ratios, resource recycling, carrying capacity, complexity, and habitat fragmentation. As we continue to point out, the study of ecology can help us deal with human predicaments.
Coming Full Circle:
Human societies go from pioneer to mature status in a manner parallel to the way that natural communities undergo ecosystem development. There are many strategies and behaviors that are appropriate and necessary for survival during the youth or pioneer stage but that become inappropriate and detrimental at maturity. Continuing to act on a short-term, one-problem-one-solution basis as society grows larger and more complex leads to what economist A. E. Kahn (1966) called “the tyranny of small decisions.”
Increasing the height of smokestacks —a quick fix for local smoke pollution—is one example in which many such “small decisions” lead to the larger problem of increased regional air pollution. W. E. Odum (1982) gave another example: no one purposefully planned to destroy 50 percent of the wetlands along the northeastern coast of the United States between 1950 and 1970, but it happened as a result of hundreds of small decisions to develop small tracts of marshland.
Finally, the state legislatures woke up to the fact that valuable life-support environment was being destroyed, and one by one, each legislature passed wetlands protection acts in an effort to save the remaining wetlands. It is human nature to avoid long-term or large-scale actions until there is a threat that is perceived by a majority of the population.
What all this means for the future is that the transition time for human communities has come—or will be coming soon—that necessitates “coming full circle” or “doing an about-face” on many previously acceptable concepts and procedures.