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01. Definition

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Dr.Sanat Kumar Jain, Director, IIEMR, Indore



Environmental science or Ecology is a new science of modern era. It is a synthetic branch of science & technology and has developed with an advancement made in other branches & hence it incorporates the knowledge drawn form different fields of science and engineering. In simple terms, Environment is defined as “matters surrounding us in nature ” Or in other words, more elaborately, it is said as, “Interrelationships existing between living and nonliving matters in universe”.

It is dealt with in detail in Ecology (as Environmental science). The word ecology is derived from a greek word Oikologie., which consists of- Oikos=Home and Logos=Study. Literally it means "Study at home/house." This term was coined by a German scientist in 1866 to study animal behaviour and its lifecycle in its place. Later on scientists from different disciplines, like-Botany, zoology, anthropology, geography, geology, microbiology, chemistry, physics, nuclear science, social sciences & engineering etc got interested into study of relationships between man, animals, plants, climatic facotrs, soil, water etc. and thus this science has emerged as Environmental Science & Environmental Engineering. After UN global summit on human environment held at Stockholm in 1972, it gained its importance. Ecology as a modern science traces only from Darwin’s publication of Origin of Species and Haeckel’s subsequent naming of the science needed to study Darwin’s theory. Awareness of humankind’s effect on its environment has been traced to Gilbert White in 18th-century Selborne, England.[10] Awareness of nature and its interactions can be traced back even farther in time.[46][47] Ecology before Darwin, however, is analogous to medicine prior to Pasteur’s discovery of the infectious nature of disease. The history is there, but it is only partly relevant. The history of this science is descrobed in following section.

History of Ecology

Ecology is generally spoken of as a new science, having only become prominent in the second half of the 20th century. More precisely, there is agreement that ecology emerged as a distinct discipline at the turn of the 20th century, and that it gained public prominence in the 1960s, due to widespread concern for the state of the environment.[1] Nonetheless, ecological thinking at some level has been around for a long time, and the principles of ecology have developed gradually, closely intertwined with the development of other biological disciplines. It is likely that early humans had an ecological understanding of at least those aspects of their environment that enhanced their survival. One of the first ecologists whose writings survive may have been Aristotle or perhaps his student, Theophrastus, both of whom had interest in many species of animals. Theophrastus described interrelationships between animals and their environment as early as the 4th century BC.[2] The history of ecology is intertwined with the history of conservation efforts, in particular the founding of the Nature Conservancy Throughout the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the great maritime powers such as Britain, Spain, and Portugal launched many world exploratory expeditions to develop maritime commerce with other countries, and to discover new natural resources, as well as to catalog them. At the beginning of the 18th century, about twenty thousand plant species were known, versus forty thousand at the beginning of the 19th century, and about 300,000 today. These expeditions were joined by many scientists, including botanists, such as the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt is often considered a father of ecology. He was the first to take on the study of the relationship between organisms and their environment. He exposed the existing relationships between observed plant species and climate, and described vegetation zones using latitude and altitude, a discipline now known as geobotany. Von Humboldt was accompanied on his expedition by the botanist Aimé Bonpland. In 1856, the Park Grass Experiment was established at the Rothamsted Experimental Station to test the effect of fertilizers and manures on hay yields. This is the longest-running field experiment in the world.[4];]


Alfred Russel Wallace, contemporary and colleague of Darwin, was first to propose a "geography" of animal species. Several authors recognized at the time that species were not independent of each other, and grouped them into plant species, animal species, and later into communities of living beings or biocoenosis. The first use of this term is usually attributed to Karl Möbius in 1877, but already in 1825, the French naturalist Adolphe Dureau de la Malle used the term societé about an assemblage of plant individuals of different species. Warming and the foundation of ecology as discipline While Darwin focused exclusively on competition as a selective force, Eugen Warming devised a new discipline that took abiotic factors, that is drought, fire, salt, cold etc., as seriously as biotic factors in the assembly of biotic communities. Biogeography before Warming was largely of descriptive nature – faunistic or floristic. Warming’s aim was, through the study of organism (plant) morphology and anatomy, i.e. adaptation, to explain why a species occurred under a certain set of environmental conditions. Moreover, the goal of the new discipline was to explain why species occupying similar habitats, experiencing similar hazards, would solve problems in similar ways, despite often being of widely different phylogenetic descent. Based on his personal observations in Brazilian cerrado, in Denmark, Norwegian Finnmark and Greenland, Warming gave the first university course in ecological plant geography. Based on his lectures, he wrote the book ‘Plantesamfund’, which was immediate translated to German, Polish and Russian, later to English as ‘Oecology of Plants’. Through its German edition, the book had immense effect on British and North American scientist like Arthur Tansley, Henry Chandler Cowles and Frederic Clements.[5] It is often held that the roots of scientific ecology may be traced back to Darwin.[6] This contention may look convincing at first glance inasmuch as On the Origin of Species is full of observations and proposed mechanisms that clearly fit within the boundaries of modern ecology (e.g. the cat-to-clover chain – an ecological cascade) and because the term ecology was coined in 1866 by a strong proponent of Darwinism, Ernst Haeckel. Early 20th century ~ Expansion of ecological thought

The biosphere – Eduard Suess and Vladimir Vernadsky

By the 19th century, ecology blossomed due to new discoveries in chemistry by Lavoisier and de Saussure, notably the nitrogen cycle. After observing the fact that life developed only within strict limits of each compartment that makes up the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere, the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess proposed the term biosphere in 1875. Suess proposed the name biosphere for the conditions promoting life, such as those found on Earth, which includes flora, fauna, minerals, matter cycles, et cetera. In the 1920s Vladimir I. Vernadsky, a Russian geologist who had defected to France, detailed the idea of the biosphere in his work "The biosphere" (1926), and described the fundamental principles of the biogeochemical cycles. He thus redefined the biosphere as the sum of all ecosystems. First ecological damages were reported in the 18th century, as the multiplication of colonies caused deforestation. Since the 19th century, with the industrial revolution, more and more pressing concerns have grown about the impact of human activity on the environment. The term ecologist has been in use since the end of the 19th century.

The ecosystem:

Over the 19th century, botanical geography and zoogeography combined to form the basis of biogeography. This science, which deals with habitats of species, seeks to explain the reasons for the presence of certain species in a given location. It was in 1935 that Arthur Tansley, the British ecologist, coined the term ecosystem, the interactive system established between the biocoenosis (the group of living creatures), and their biotope, the environment in which they live. Ecology thus became the science of ecosystems. Tansley's concept of the ecosystem was adopted by the energetic and influential biology educator Eugene Odum. Along with his brother, Howard T. Odum, Eugene P. Odum wrote a textbook which (starting in 1953) educated more than one generation of biologists and ecologists in North America & propagated this concept

A list of founders, innovators and their significant contributions to ecology, from Romanticism onward.

Notable figure Lifespan Major contribution & citation Antoni van Leeuwenhoeke 1632–1723 First to develop concept of food chains Carl Linnaeus 1707–1778 Influential naturalist, inventor of science on the economy of nature[11][13] Alexander Humboldt 1769–1859 First to describe ecological gradient of latitudinal biodiversity increase toward tropics[14] Charles Darwin 1809–1882 Discoverer of evolution by means of natural selection, founder of ecological studies of soils[15] Herbert Spencer 1820–1903 Early founder of social ecology, coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest'[11][16] Karl Möbius 1825–1908 First to develop concept of ecological community, biocenosis, or living community[17][18][19] Ernst Haeckel 1834–1919 Invented the term ecology, popularized research links between ecology and evolution Victor Hensen 1835–1924 Invented term plankton, developed quantitative and statistical measures of productivity in the seas Eugenius Warming 1841–1924 Early founder of Ecological Plant Geography[5] Ellen Swallow Richards 1842–1911 Pioneer and educator who linked urban ecology to human health[20] Stephen Forbes 1844–1930 Early founder of entomology and ecological concepts in 1887 [8][21][22] Vito Volterra 1860–1940Independently pioneered mathematical populations models around the same time as Alfred J. Lotka.[23] Vladimir Vernadsky 1869–1939 Founded the biosphere concept Henry C. Cowles 1869–1939 Pioneering studies and conceptual development in studies of ecological succession[25] Jan Christian Smuts 1870–1950 Coined the term holism in a 1926 book Holism and Evolution.[26] Arthur G. Tansley 1871–1955 First to coin the term ecosystem in 1936 and notable researcher[18][27][28] Charles Christopher Adams 1873–1955 Animal ecologist, biogeographer, author of first American book on animal ecology in 1913, founded ecological energetics[29][30] Friedrich Ratzel 1844–1904 German geographer who first coined the term biogeography in 1891. Frederic Clements 1874–1945 Authored the first influential American ecology book in 1905[31] Victor Ernest Shelford 1877–1968 Founded physiological ecology, pioneered food-web and biome concepts, founded The Nature Conservancy[32][33] Alfred J. Lotka 1880–1949 First to pioneer mathematical populations models explaining trophic (predator-prey) interactions using logistic equation[34] Henry Gleason 1882–1975 Early ecology pioneer, quantitative theorist, author, and founder of the individualistic concept of ecology[31][35] Charles S. Elton 1900–1991 'Father' of animal ecology, pioneered food-web & niche concepts and authored influential Animal Ecology text[32][36] G. Evelyn Hutchinson 1903–1991 Limnologist and conceptually advanced the niche concept[37][38][39] Eugene P. Odum 1913–2002 Co-founder of ecosystem ecology and ecological thermodynamic concepts[28][32][40][41] Howard T. Odum 1924–2002 Co-founder of ecosystem ecology and ecological thermodynamic concepts[28][32][40][41][42][43] Robert MacArthur1930–1972 Co-founder on Theory of Island Biogeography and innovator of ecological statistical methods[44]

Influence of Ecology on social sciences and humanities

Human ecology began in the 1920s, through the study of changes in vegetation succession in the city of Chicago. It became a distinct field of study in the 1970s. This marked the first recognition that humans, who had colonized all of the Earth's continents, were a major ecological factor. Humans greatly modify the environment through the development of the habitat (in particular urban planning), by intensive exploitation activities such as logging and fishing, and as side effects of agriculture, mining, and industry. Besides ecology and biology, this discipline involved many other natural and social sciences, such as anthropology and ethnology, economics, demography, architecture and urban planning, medicine and psychology, and many more. The development of human ecology led to the increasing role of ecological science in the design and management of cities. In recent years human ecology has been a topic that has interested organizational researchers. Hannan and Freeman (Population Ecology of Organizations (1977), American Journal of Sociology) argue that organizations do not only adapt to an environment. Instead it is also the environment that selects or rejects populations of organizations. In any given environment (in equilibrium) there will only be one form of organization (isomorphism). Organizational ecology has been a prominent theory in accounting for diversities of organizations and their changing composition over time.

==The Gaia theory,'Bold text=='

proposed by James Lovelock, in his work Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, advanced the view that the Earth should be regarded as a single living macro-organism. In particular, it argued that the ensemble of living organisms has jointly evolved an ability to control the global environment — by influencing major physical parameters as the composition of the atmosphere, the evaporation rate, the chemistry of soils and oceans — so as to maintain conditions favorable to life. The idea has been supported by Lynn Margulis who extended her endosymbiotic theory which suggests that cell organelles originated from free living organisms to the idea that individual organisms of many species could be considered as symbionts within a larger metaphorical "super-organism".[45] This vision was largely a sign of the times, in particular the growing perception after the Second World War that human activities such as nuclear energy, industrialization, pollution, and overexploitation of natural resources, fueled by exponential population growth, were threatening to create catastrophes on a planetary scale, and has influenced many in the environmental movement since then.

Nuclear Energy

Manhattan Project. It had become the Nuclear Energy Commission after the war. It is now the Department of Energy (DOE). Its ample budget included studies of the impacts of nuclear weapon use and production. That brought ecology to the issue, and it made a "Big Science" of it.[10][60]

Ecosystem Science

Ecosystem science, both basic and applied, began to compete with theoretical ecology (then called evolutionary ecology and also mathematical ecology). Eugene Odum, who published a very popular ecology textbook in 1953, became the champion of the ecosystem. In his publications, Odum called for ecology to have an ecosystem and applied focus.[61] The second event was the publication of Silent Spring. Rachel Carson’s book brought ecology as a word and concept to the public. Silent Spring was also the impetus for the environmental protection programs that were started in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and passed into law just before the first Earth Day. Conservation and environmental movements Environmentalists and other conservationists have used ecology and other sciences (e.g., climatology) to support their advocacy positions. Environmentalist views are often controversial for political or economic reasons.

=='Environmental Laws=='

The environmental assessment requirement of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), "legitimized ecology," in the words of one environmental lawyer.[66] An ESA President called it "an ecological ‘Magna Carta.’"[67] A prominent Canadian ecologist declared it a "boondoggle."[68]

Ecology and global policy

Ecology became a central part of the World's politics as early as 1971, UNESCO launched a research program called Man and Biosphere, with the objective of increasing knowledge about the mutual relationship between humans and nature. A few years later it defined the concept of Biosphere Reserve. In 1972, the United Nations held the first international Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, prepared by Rene Dubos and other experts. This conference was the origin of the phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally". The next major events in ecology were the development of the concept of biosphere and the appearance of terms "biological diversity"—or now more commonly biodiversity—in the 1980s. These terms were developed during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where the concept of the biosphere was recognized by the major international organizations, and risks associated with reductions in biodiversity were publicly acknowledged. Then, in 1997, the dangers the biosphere was facing were recognized all over the world at the conference leading to the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, this conference highlighted the increasing dangers of the greenhouse effect – related to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to global changes in climate. In Kyoto, most of the world's nations recognized the importance of looking at ecology from a global point of view, on a worldwide scale, and to take into account the impact of humans on the Earth's environment.


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  73. Suggested Readings
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According to Jainism, we are living in the era(shashan) of Shri 1008 Lord Mahavira who preached all Jivas in his Samavsharan, called Dwadshang Jinvani.. His preachings were inscripted by 108 Shrimad Acharya Kundkund swami in 1st century and later on by his disciples and preserved it in various Granthas. Amongst his disciples Shrimad 108 Acharya Umaswami in 2nd century, inscripted Dwadshang vani in small Sutras (in sanskrit) and named it "Tattwarth Sutra" (or Moksha Shastra). In various Jain Grantha, Environment has been given due importance or it can be said that all acts & deeds are oriented towards Environmental Protection and Conservation.

In Jainism, Environment is defined very elaborately and in its Totality. It is clear from following quotes- In Tattwarth Sutra, Shrimad Acharya Umaswami has conveyed :

In Chapter 1: Sutra no. 4 as- Jiva ajiv asrav bandh sanwar nirjara mokshah tattwam. These are 07 components of Environment OR Universe while in science only 02 components-Jiva(Living organisms) & ajiv (non-living matter) are dealt with.

Chapter 2:It deals in detail with Living component. Characteristics, Types & classification of living organisms, i.e. life forms are described in sutras -from 08 to 16.

No.12 organisms living in this world are classified into 02 categories, as -Tras(higher order life forms, except plants) and Sthawar(Lower forms-Bacteria & viruses). Based on their habitat (place of living) Sthawar are further divided into 05 categories as- Prithvikayik (terrestrial), Jalkayik (aquatics), Agnikayik (living in high temperature), Vayukayik (aerosols), and Vanaspatikayik (Plants).

No.14 onwards classification of living organisms is based on no. of Indriya (sensational organs) present in organisms(sutra 22-23).

No.25 & 26 Change of life forms (Gati) & how it leaves the world are described.

In 31 & 33 TO 35- types of birth have been described while in sutras 36 to 40 size, shape & structure of bodis are dealt with. Furhter link between body and soul is described which is not a subject in science.

In chapter no. 3 living organisms residing in Lower part of Trilok (Adholok) and their relationship with Environment is dealt with.

Chapter no. 4 is devoted to describe Deolok (Heaven).

Chapter no. 5 deals in detail with Non-living matter incorporating each and every minute details. Some sutras as examples are quoted here, as -

No.1 - defines "What is called Non-living component in this univeerse and what are these?

No.12 to 17 deals in detail with place of occurence of these?

Sutra no. 21-Parasparopgraho Jiwanam : explains interrelationship/inter-dependency between living organisms as dealt in modern environmental science.

Concluding Remarks

From the foregoing descriptions, it is very clear that the development of thoughts to shape & to interpret the Environment-from individual to community concept, scientists from various disciplines took 296 years (1632 to 1936) . Further it travelled the journey of 22 years to develop the concpt of Ecosystem - modern Era of Environmental science when a book was published by Odum & Odum in 1958, "Fundamentals of Ecology". Still the knowledge about Environment is not complete.

Since the concept of Environment was not developed at the time of Industrial revolution in the west, ill effects of industrialization could be experienced after world war II in many developed countries, like River pollution (Thames in UK, missisipi in USA etc), Air pollution in London in 1952 during foggy days in winter (caused asthama & broncheal diseases), soil pollution, minimata disease in Japan (mercury discharged by factory in sea entered in human body via food chain through fish) etc. These incidents clearly show that Importance of Environment was neither taught nor practiced by western thinkers/philosophers/religious centres in the past nor by developers/technocrats. And thus the development was based on Exploitation of Natural Resources and Waste generation (Use & throw) resulting in Environment deterioration/ degradation of environmental quality in all spheres. Hence global thinking started developing in 1972 after UN summit on Environment.

In Jainism, Shri 1008 Lord Mahavira gave preachings in Samavasharan to all Jivas 2539 years ago, i.e.557 years B.C. which was inscripted by his disciples in 1st & 2nd centuries (108 Shrimad Acharya Kund Kund Swami & 108 Shrimad Acharya Uma Swami). It has dealt Environment in Totality and explained it as a Living system. Amongst many principles-Ahimsa (Live & Let Live) & Aparigraha (minimize needs & receive natural creatures as gifts) practiced by his disciples not only saved environmental resources but protected & conserved it for future generations and its practical approach was /and is based on “Prevention is better than cure” in all spheres of life. Gandhian philosophy was based on the principles of Jainism and one can say that he practiced Ahimsa to get freedom for India (as he was very much impressed by the principles of Jainism- preached by Shri 1008 Lord Mahavira) and also throughout his life.

Prior to invasion by foreigners-Mughals, Britishers, Portugese etc., India was called “Golden Bird” - rich in every walks of life, culture, living, languages, climatic belts- arid, temperate, tropical & humid etc. since people here considered Environment as Natural precious Gift (hence no over exploitation of natural resources was in the past since over exploitation was considered as sin).

To sum up it can be said, “Environment is the mirror of Nation”.

Suggested Readings

1. Tattwarth Sutra

2. Triloksar

3. Chhahdhala

4. Jivastikay