What is Human Ecology?

Human EcologyThe study of human ecology is a wide-ranging discipline within sociology, and because it’s such a broad and diverse topic, it’s been described as an anti-discipline or anti-theory. You might take a course called human ecology as a sociology, psychology, anthropology, geography, economics or philosophy major, and the reason it overlaps with all of these subjects is that it deals with the impact people have had on the world as well as the consequences of that impact.

Its Impact on Academic Research

The subject has been around since the late 1800s when its name was coined by Ellen Swallow Richards, who is credited as founding the study of home economics, according to the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Its beginnings are also credited to Carl Linnaeus, an anthropologist who influenced the work of Charles Darwin and other scientists of the time, according to the Linnean Society. It may seem obvious to look at human beings in society the same way we look at animals in their natural habitats, but this kind of thinking was new and a little controversial when it was first being introduced. It took a leap of imagination for Linnaeus and Darwin to start looking at people as intelligent animals, and it spurred quite a few fields of research in academia.

Human ecology, anthropology and home economics are just a few of the closely related areas of research that came from that period, and the way they overlap with each other has caused many people over the years to try to create a unified study of human ecology that includes all the theories that have branched out from it. People who study this subject are usually called sociologists, and the kind of work that they do is related to finding better ways for people to live in their environments. For example, stripping away the plant life in humans’ living areas increases the amount of vector-borne diseases, which are illnesses spread through human-to-human contact.

The Anthropocene Epoch and Home Economics

Through the study of human ecology, researchers have found that restoring green areas to neighborhoods and cities reduces the occurrence of many diseases, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and psychological disorders. Discoveries in this area don’t always have a direct, obvious impact on society, and most of the research that comes from this discipline is more useful in academic contexts. Some researchers have proposed a new name for the epoch in which we now live, due to the transformation of the environment humans have caused by turning raw materials into technology. The term is Anthropocene, and the academics who propose this name change are involved in preventing the collapse of society caused by the exhaustion of natural resources.

Another area that has received a lot of attention is home economics, and this subject is so closely related to human ecology that the two terms are often used interchangeably. In the middle of the 20th century, academics proposed a name change from home economics to human ecology, because the subject was considered too important to allow it to fall out of step with modern views.

Related Resource: Environmental Policy Jobs

Studying sociology can take you in a number of different directions, and you may take related courses if you major in any of the social sciences, including economics and anthropology. If studying human interaction with the environment sounds interesting to you, you would probably benefit from taking human ecology courses.