Cover image for Human ecology : following nature's lead
Human ecology : following nature's lead
Steiner, Frederick R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, DC : Island Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvii, 237 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction : the subversive subject -- 1. Fundamental principles of human ecology -- 2. Habitat -- 3. Community -- 4. Landscape -- 5. The ecological region -- 6. Nation, state, and nation-state -- 7. The green chaos of the planet -- 8. Following nature's lead.
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Item Holds
GF41 .S73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Human ecology is an emerging discipline that studies the interrelationships between humans and their environment, drawing on insights from biology, sociology, anthropology, geography, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and conservation. A vast, multidisciplinary literature underscores this approach, and in Human Ecology , noted landscape planner Frederick Steiner synthesizes the work of diverse, sometimes divergent, scholars to illustrate how human interactions can be understood as ecological relationships, using hierarchy as an organizing device.

Steiner builds on the work of leading thinkers including Christopher Alexander, William Cronon, Clifford Geertz, James Lovelock, Eugene Odum, Paul Shepard, Anne Whiston Spirn, E. O. Wilson, Gerald Young, and many others to present a historical and analytical examination of how humans interact with each other as well as with other organisms and their surroundings.

The first two chapters summarize the development of this "new ecology" and the theory of human ecology. The remainder of the book provides an accessible introduction to the major elements of human ecological theory including language, culture, and technology; structure, function, and change; edges and boundaries; interaction, integration, and institution; diversity; and adaptation. The chapters are organized hierarchically from the smallest scale to the largest with each chapter addressing a specific level as an ecosystem. The final chapter probes some of the ethical implications of this new field.

Human Ecology brings together for the first time scholarship from the social and natural sciences as well as the environmental design arts to offer an overview of the field of human ecology and to show how the field may help us to envision our futures. While the approach is largely theoretical, it has broad policy and practical implications, and represents an important new work for anyone concerned with interactions between humans and the environment.

Author Notes

Frederick Steiner is dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is a genial introduction to ecology, urban spaces, and their surroundings. Steiner (dean, School of Architecture, Univ. of Texas, Austin) writes from a wide experience of cityscapes and landscapes, near and far. He presents the fundamentals of ecology in eight chapters, drawing on the work of authors in antiquity as well as contemporary writers. Tough concepts, long debated and variously used, such as holism, community, region, the state, and the nation-state, all the way up to the "Gaia" hypothesis (Earth and its biosphere as a self-regulating system) are economically presented, with footnotes referencing the original and latter-day users. The author attempts a hierarchical approach, based mainly on scale, in discussing these concepts. An extensive bibliography and helpful index complete the work, all within 237 pages. A limitation to the volume is that Steiner's observations are mainly directed at the industrialized world, East and West. Thus the title, Human Ecology, is somewhat misleading, in that preindustrial populations and their landscapes are mainly absent. Still, the author has traveled widely and productively, all to the gain of students, general readers, and travelers. Summing Up: Recommended. Most libraries. F. P. Conant emeritus, Hunter College, CUNY

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Subversive Subject
Chapter 1 Fundamental Principles of Human Ecology
Chapter 2 Habitat
Chapter 3 Community
Chapter 4 Landscape
Chapter 5 The Ecological Region
Chapter 6 Nation, State, and Nation-State
Chapter 7 The Green Chaos of the Planet
Chapter 8 Following Nature's Lead