NCEAS Product 5869

Bradshaw, Gay A. 2000. Re-thinking the . A symposium for Ecological Society of America. (Abstract)


The traditional division of human and natural sciences reflects a long held belief that human systems, their behaviours and interactions, differ dramatically from ecosystems. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the relationship between humans and nature has become the foremost driver of ecological research and the science of ecology is now thematically and functionally embedded in the "human dimension". With the explicit consideration of humans in the ecological equation, the traditional boundary between nature and humans, which once delineated natural from social sciences, has become a critical edge. This edge is the site of conceptual and operational factors that lends structure to science and society while erecting barriers to resolving critical socio-environmental issues. Resolving these issues requires understanding how humans perceive and interact with nature, and how these perceptions give rise to the boundaries between science, society, and nature. Perceptions of the nature-human relationship frame scientific questions and determine how knowledge is created and used. Science, like all knowledge systems, develops within a specific set of historical dynamics; modern ecology in turn reflects its cultural origins with attendant models and myths. The emergence of alternative views (e.g., complex adaptive systems, indigenous knowledge, ecopsychology) suggests a re-structuring of the nature-human dichotomy and raises several important questions: How will this affect the conceptual foundations of ecology? What does it mean conceptually, pragmatically, and operationally to incorporate humans into the study of ecosystems? Does a new conceptual framework need to be developed which integrates social and natural sciences? We present discussions and perspectives on these topics resulting from an NCEAS workshop.