Ecology, by Eugene P. Odum | Literature Discussion

Synopsis (Kowlgwel)

Jansena1. Inishmore. Wikipedia. 2004. CC BY-SA 4.0. Change includes expanding.

This book revolves around the environment, specifically when it comes to the dynamics and interactions found within it.

Eugene P. Odum

His father was an sociologist, while Eugene adopted the holistic approach from him. Along with his brother, Eugene followed the path of ecology. He received a PhD from the University of Illinois in 1939.

Of course, he does mention other members of the Odum family, including his brother and son, who were also ecologists. It is a bit nepotistic, but not enough to completely warrant suspicion.

Historical Context (Kettesten Hwedheldusek)

Odum begins the book by discussing the failed Apollo-13 launch. But, more specifically, the point that he was trying to make was that if the astronauts have to store urine until the ship malfunctions, then it would reflect on how Earth should manage its own resources.

Throughout the book, Odum points out the increasing awareness of pollution and climate change. As such, he holds to account corporations that overexploit the environment in order to keep with the economic growth of their countries.

Themes (Themow)

A major theme that Odum points out is that everything exists to benefit themselves in a system around them. That system is the biosphere and everything that lives relies on it. This includes autotrophs, such as plants, and heterotrophs, such as animals and humans. Of course, it depends on what kind of ecoregion it is. If it is a tropical rain-forest, then there is bound to be a large diversity of life; whereas a tundra would not have a lot of plants or animals that can survive in such climates.

Energy is also a major component of the survival of life, specifically the absorption of the sunlight and water. This is particularly the case with photosynthesis in plants, which are then eaten by heterotrophs. As can be expected, there is plenty of math needed in order to calculate the values and livability of a particular type of lifeform.

What I found interesting was the connection Odum makes between ecology and economics. Not only does he trace them to the same root word oikos meaning “household,” but he connects the ramifications of a consumer economy and how it affects the environment. Because there is a lot of demand, it means more stress on the ecosystem. This includes smokestacks, fishing, and animal husbandry. It means the accumulation of estuaries, rivers, and pastures, which in turn means more ecological destruction.

Another point made in the book is about the interaction between heterotrophs between each other. They are entirely based on the ecosystem they are living in and what kinds of plants grow in it. The organisms are either in competition, are superseded, are afflicted with parasitism, or are mutually symbiotic. Odum places humans as the most dangerous predators, but also provides an opportunity for humanity to become a mutual species with each other and the environment.

Intertextuality (Tredh-Srifekyans)

I definitely felt some inspiration from Buckminster Fuller, particularly with the use of the phrase Spaceship Earth. In which case, it is used to conceptualize the Earth as a giant ship that needs to have a well-managed crew and a clear direction. Of course, while Fuller considered the Earth and the Universe to be self-regenerative, Odum would not share this opinion, at least not completely, since he does explain that Copperhill, Tennessee could not be revitalized.

As for Ian McHarg, Odum would definitely be in agreement with his point that humans are not independent from the environment, rather they are shaped by it in many ways, but more specifically in the way that they adapt their niche to modify their own survival. Though, while McHarg was focused on the landscape, Odum was more focused on the interdisciplinary approach to ecology, including a diverse array of fields such as economics and zoology.

Writing Style (Gis Skrifedh)

This definitely had the feel of a high school textbook, which it probably was originally used for–it even has that musty, textbook smell. Odum, of course, does not shy away from using cliche phrases and aphorisms in order to make his points, making it feel like a high school textbook.

As such, there are a lot of terms, like biochemical, which are boldened in order to demonstrate how they are used. In this case, they are used in order to explain the phenomena that happens in the environment.

Real-World Application (Omrians Vys-Wir)

This book is definitely important when dealing with the climate disaster that has been afflicting this world for the longest time; but also when contextualizing this book from nearly two decades ago, since it helps people understand that climate change was already a discussion point.

Odum suggests an economic system which deals less with quantitative growth and more with qualitative growth. In other words, the restriction of extraction of natural resources would have to become a priority. Of course, Odum encourages innovation as a way of avoiding the worst possible outcome.

Inspiration To Ken Yeang (Awen Dhodho Ken Yeang)

JürgenMatern. “Eden Project geodesic domes panorama.” Wikipedia. 12 August 2006. CC BY-SA 2.5.

The point of Yeang’s buildings is to create an entire ecosystem in itself. If that is the case, then I can see the inspiration from Eugene Odum, specifically when it comes to the interactions between organisms. It is for that reason why Yeang picks specific plants that absorb certain harmful chemicals that are found in human essentials in the building.

Another way he was inspired by Odum was the holistic approach to ecology. It is for that reason why Odum designs buildings based on the ecosystems that they are built in.

Recommend This To… (Komendysen Ma Dhe…)

Maybe Recommend
  • …Any beginners in environmental science in order to prepare for a course, particularly with the graphs. Other then as a primer, I would suggest a text more updated.

Sources (Pednfentydnyow)

  • Barrett, Gary W. “”Eugene Pleasants Odum: 1913-2002.” National Academy of Sciences. 2005.
  • “The Essential Ian McHarg: Writings on Design and Nature.” Edited by Frederick R. Steiner. Island Press. 2013.
  • Fuller, Buckminster. “Critical Path.” Re-Edition. Estate of J. Buckminster Fuller. 1980. Re-Edition 2016.
  • Hart, Sarah. “Ecoarchitecture: The Work of Ken Yeang.” 1st Edition. John Wiley & Sons. 2011.
  • Odum, Eugene P. “Ecology: A Bridge between Science and Society.” 2nd Edition. Sinauer. 1997.
  • Rankine, David and Sorita D’Este. The Isle of the Many Gods. Avalonia. 2007.

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