Discussion Questions

1.  Contrast the assumptions underlying the scientific approaches to ecology of Ellen Swallow Richards, Frederic Clements, A. G. Tansley, and Eugene Odum.

2.  How does Henry Gleason challenge Frederic Clements' concept of organismic ecology? Compare Gleason's arguments for shifting plant associations with those of Pickett and White on patch dynamics. What assumptions about nature underlie these approaches to ecology?

3.  Compare Gifford Pinchot's utilitarian conservation ethic with Aldo Leopold's land ethic (i.e. examine Leopold's A-B cleavage). On what kinds of assumptions does Leopold's ethic rest? Do you agree with the thesis that Leopold's land ethic is the best foundation for a contemporary ecological view?

4. How do Rachel Carson's assumptions about pesticides differ from those of the chemical companies and scientists she criticizes? Did Carson's "Silent Spring" initiate a paradigm shift in assumptions about managing nature? Did it initiate the contemporary environmental movement? Support your claims.

5.  What problems do different approaches to the science of ecology raise for environmental historians? For resource managers? For policy makers?

6.  How do metaphors such as organism, machine, and chaos when used by scientists affect the resulting science? How do they affect popular culture? What ethical assumptions about the behavior of humans toward nature are implied by these metaphors? Can science ever rid itself of metaphor?