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Ecology vs. Sustainability

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 in Ecology | 4 comments

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Ecology or Sustainability. What is the difference?

In the last decades of the 20.century Ecology (1) was the buzzword in the public debate about the deplorable state of nature and the bleak outlook into the future. More and more people started to understand that the environmental decline is leading to a big problem. The nuclear threat, a conflict between the East and the West, with all the fall out, did nothing to pacify the people. And then Chernobyl (2) happened in 1986, which mobilized the debate. In the absence of something better the term Ecology was coined to express the external situation and the worries of the citizen.

After Fukushima (3) and the incident in the Nebraska nuke plant (4), where floodwater sipped into the plant, we, the citizen, should start worrying again!

Ever since the understanding of the situation has evolved the term Ecology is, in this context, not too often used anymore. Ecology has retired to it’s original sphere, Biology. Instead the term Sustainability (5) has become popular.

What is the difference between Ecology and Sustainability?

Ecology is the wider and deeper picture. Sustainability is the concept how humanity will be able to adept to a changing environment. It would be helpful to define the terms first. Ecology is derived from the ancient Greek word Oikos, which means House or any kind of housing. Therefore Ecology is the teaching of the house. the earth is the Oikos and human beings have a special room in it. Economy (6) is closely related to it, since it is also derived from the same root and it means Housekeeping.

Sustainability is a little more difficult to define. It means a lot of things, but in the context of Ecology it is just an other word for economy. As Mr. Thomas L. Friedman (7) already in his op-ed in the New York Times, June 7. 2011, stated, that in order to survive as a surging world population everyone of us has to restrict our consumption.

“We will realize, he (Gilding) predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less”.

This means a different economy and thus a different society! The economy will have to be sustainable, but society will be ecological. Humanity has to define the room in the Oikos of earth and instead of pushing the walls in order to gain more room, and thus jeopardizing the static of the Oikos, it will be imperative to strengthen the static. This will only happen if everyone of us will demand less. Less land, less energy and less resources. Everyone can take the first steps on a personal level. One can start by eating only once a week animal products and the rest of the week live on a vegan diet. Everyone of the middle class can partake in a Loan Guaranty Fund (8) and be a member in a Communal Co-operative (9).


For further reading:

1. Ecology

2. Chernobyl

3. Fukushima

4. Nebraska Nuke Plant

5. Sustainability

6. Economy

7. Thomas L. Friedman

8. Loan Guaranty Fund

9. Communal Co-operative


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  1. Aspen

    Haha, solhudn’t you be charging for that kind of knowledge?!

    • chitra vishwanath

      if he did then it would be economical dialogue not ecological…:):)

      • Max

        Hi Chitra,
        it took me some time to reply, but I still don’t get the meaning of your comment. Ecology, Sustainability and Economy are closely related. You talk about one, you talk about all of them.
        All the best,

        • DjDaniel

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