A Science of the Environment

The science of ecology purports to study life as the sum of interactions between organisms and their natural environment. The term \’natural\’ has in recent decades undergone significant revision, in both biological and philosophical circles, increasingly to include a great many aspects of human cultural process and history. This course will be an approach toward the ideal of a \”total ecology\”, at once an incorporation of \”deep ecology\”, behavioral ecology and evolutionary theory as a discipline intended to transform and cultivate an entirely new way of understanding the human physical and cultural relationship to the natural world. As \’sustainability\’ theories and ethics rise to prominence in the contemporary economic and historical world, conceived largely in terms of remedial and technological intervention, the more foundational questions and forms of knowledge associated with true ecological thinking have paradoxically fallen by the wayside. This course seeks to recover, and in many ways reinvent, the habits of mind in which naturalism once played a central role in human life and culture. This course will focus in considerable detail on early human evolution and the early (Pleistocene) stone age (economics, art, social organization, knowledge systems, etc.), on the \’knowledge systems\’ employed within plant and animal milieus to at once create, exploit and stabilize the relationship to their milieus as well as on the forms that they both create and take on to maximize this stability. Geological, climactic, biotic, technological, aesthetic and even psychic factors will be studied as contributors to a \’total\’ ecological posture toward the environment. Human \’being\’ will be shown to be a direct and inseparable product of the landscape in which the human type arose and to which it will need once again to return with effective understanding, if it wishes to evade the catastrophes that current science predicts.