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Hans Magnus Enzensberger
A Critique of Political Ecology
As a scientific discipline, ecology is almost exactly a hundred years old. The concept emerged for the first time in 1868 when the German biologist, Ernst Haeckel, in his Natural History of Creation, proposed giving this name to a sub-discipline of zoology—one which would investigate the totality of relationships between an animal species and its inorganic and organic environment. Compared with the present state of ecology, such a proposal suggests a comparatively modest programme. Yet none of the restrictions contained in it proved to be tenable: neither the preference given to animal species over plant species, nor to macroas opposed to micro-organisms. With the discovery of whole ecosystems, the perspective which Haeckel had had in mind became redundant. Instead there emerged the concept of mutual dependence and of a balance between all the inhabitants of an ecosystem, and in the course of this development the range and complexity of the new discipline have grown rapidly. Ecology became as controversial as it is today only when it decided to include a very particular species of animal in its researches—man. While this step brought ecology unheard of publicity it also precipitated it into a crisis about its validity and methodology, the end of which is not yet in sight.
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