What is the difference between ecology and environmentalism?

Cambio climático y ecosistemas vulnerables afectados

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Understanding ecology and environmentalism

The ecology is a branch of biology that studies the relationships between living beings and their environment, as well as the processes that regulate them. This science focuses on how organisms interact with their environment, both physical and biological, and how these processes affect biodiversity and the distribution of species on Earth. On the other hand, the ecologism is a current of thought and a social movement that seeks the conservation and improvement of the environment, as well as the protection of natural resources and biological diversity, based on ecological principles. In other words, environmentalism is the practical and political application of the knowledge acquired through ecology.

Ecology as a science has its origins in the 19th century, with the work of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel, who coined the term “ecology” in 1866(McIntosh, 1985). Since then, ecology has evolved and diversified into several sub-disciplines, such as population ecology, community ecology and ecosystem ecology, among others.

Bosque sereno con fauna y flora en equilibrio
Fotografía que muestra la importancia de la ecología en el estudio de los ecosistemas y su equilibrio natural.

How environmentalism transforms ecology into action

Environmentalism emerged in response to growing concern about environmental problems, such as pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss, which began to gain visibility in the mid-20th century. Some of the earliest proponents of environmentalism include American biologist Rachel Carson, whose book “Silent Spring”(Carson, 1962) sparked increased interest in environmental protection and conservation of natural resources.

Environmentalism seeks to apply the principles of ecology to inform policies and actions for sustainable development and nature conservation. Over the years, the environmental movement has pushed for important changes in environmental legislation, such as the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, and the adoption of international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement to address climate change.

Activistas medioambientales promoviendo sostenibilidad
Un grupo de activistas medioambientales abogando por prácticas y políticas sostenibles, demostrando la fuerza del ecologismo en la promoción del cambio positivo.

Differences and similarities between ecology and environmentalism

Although ecology and environmentalism are closely related, it is important to distinguish between these two concepts. Ecology is a science science that focuses on the study of natural systems and the interactions between organisms and their environment. For its part, environmentalism is a social and political social and political movement that uses the knowledge gained through ecological research to promote environmental conservation and sustainable development.

One of the main differences between ecology and environmentalism lies in their approach. Ecology relies on the scientific method to investigate and understand natural systems, and its findings can be applied to a wide variety of contexts, from species conservation to natural resource management. In contrast, environmentalism focuses on promoting policies and practices that protect and improve the environment, and its scope can be both local and global, as evidenced by organizations such as Greenpeace and WWF.

However, ecology and environmentalism also share certain similarities. Both are concerned about the health and well-being of the environment and recognize the importance of sustainability and conservation of natural resources. In addition, environmentalists and ecologists alike seek to foster greater awareness and understanding of environmental issues and their impact on human life and the planet’s biodiversity, as reflected in initiatives such as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Arrecife de coral, belleza y fragilidad marina
Imagen que muestra la belleza y fragilidad de los arrecifes de coral, enfatizando la relevancia de la investigación ecológica en la conservación de los ecosistemas marinos.

Why is it relevant to know the difference between ecology and environmentalism?

Understanding the difference between ecology and environmentalism is critical to effectively addressing the environmental challenges we face in the 21st century. By recognizing that ecology provides the scientific knowledge needed to inform our actions and decisions, while environmentalism focuses on applying this knowledge in sustainable policies and practices, we can work together to protect and conserve our planet.

That said, collaboration between ecologists and environmentalists is essential to ensure that our actions are informed by the best available scientific evidence and aligned with long-term sustainability goals. For example, the Living Planet Report published by WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an example of how ecological research can inform the policies and actions of the environmental movement.

Diversas fuentes de energía renovable y ecologismo
Imagen que presenta una variedad de fuentes de energía renovable, resaltando el papel del ecologismo en el impulso de tecnologías sostenibles y soluciones de energía limpia.

Examples of collaboration between ecology and environmentalism

There are numerous examples of how ecology and environmentalism have worked together to address environmental problems and promote sustainability. One of these is the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement that aims to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of natural resources and ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. This agreement is based on ecological research to develop policies and actions to protect biodiversity worldwide.

Another example is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a global scientific effort that examined the consequences of ecosystem changes for human well-being and provided sound scientific information for environmental decision-making. The assessment, which involved more than 1,300 experts from around the world, identified numerous ecosystem services that are essential for human life and highlighted the need for urgent action to conserve them.

Jardín urbano próspero y sostenible
Imagen de un jardín urbano en pleno auge, mostrando el papel del ecologismo en la promoción de una planificación urbana sostenible y la creación de espacios verdes.

The importance of education and awareness in ecology and environmentalism.

Education and public awareness play a key role in promoting sustainability and environmental conservation. Through education, both formal and informal, people can acquire knowledge about ecology and learn about human impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity. For example, programs such as NatureBridge and Earthwatch Institute offer educational opportunities in environmental science for students and professionals of all ages.

Environmentalism also benefits from public awareness and citizen participation in environmental protection. For example, World Environment Day, celebrated on June 5 each year, is a global initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our environment and to promote actions to address environmental challenges.

In conclusion, understanding the difference between ecology and environmentalism is crucial to effectively address environmental problems and promote a sustainable future. While ecology provides the scientific knowledge necessary to understand the functioning of ecosystems and human impacts on them, environmentalism focuses on applying this knowledge through sustainable policies and actions. Collaboration between ecologists and environmentalists, as well as education and public awareness, are essential to ensure that our actions are based on the best available scientific evidence and aligned with long-term sustainability goals.

Niños aprendiendo sobre medio ambiente y sostenibilidad
Representación de la relevancia de la educación ambiental en el fomento de una sociedad ecológicamente consciente, con niños aprendiendo sobre la naturaleza y la sostenibilidad.

About me

Photographer. Digital artist. Creative director at Creatures United. Zoology student. Emotionally involved in biodiversity loss and climate change.

For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about two things: animals and image creation. Two paths that ended up converging and have led me to do what I do.


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