Environmental and ecological have related but distinct meanings. They are not interchangeable words, as current use might lead us to believe.
I think I am too late. I worry that our leaders: the officials, the politicians and the media, every lay person keen to jump on the environmentalist bandwagon have so confused the words that 'ecology' has now come to mean the environment. Sometimes it is unfortunate that language evolves constantly.
My Dad laments the change in the use of the word "gay". He liked it when "happy and gay" meant something completely different. This mild form of homophobia I find quaintly amusing, and I have shown no interest in helping him get it straight. Nonetheless, I feel the need to fight this good fight, linguistically speaking.
Of course, ecology is the study of the environment. Ask Webster or Biotech.
That means, an ecological disaster would include funding cuts to Science departments at universities or the mass destruction of binoculars, animal traps or micro chips placed in wild animals. An ecological annoyance is an oil spill, where the new variable seems to attract celebs and media en masse, interfering with a perfectly good study site.
An oil spill, is of course, an environmental disaster. We see environmental disasters all the time. Long term and short term. It's devastating. We need to do more. No doubt.
But looking after the scientists who investigate these things, is one tiny step in that process. Their findings are crucial to improving the state of the world and local environments and ecosystems.
I have joined The Greens now, and at every meeting where constitutions are written and ideas formed, I intend to point out that although the universities will be pleased to hear that we stand for ecological sustainability, that it is an educational issue. And my constructive criticism:
Let's use the term environmental sustainability, it more accurately describes what is at the core of our policies.
Things that have arisen from this writeup:
- Since 'ecology' is the study of the environment, you can't really have an ecology. An ecological study determines that the study is not a psychological, or other type of study. Most like, this word is replacing the word ecosystem.
- Apparently the term 'sustainability' causes issues for some, something about it being tautologous or meaningless.
*phew*, I'm not the only one:
Wiccanpiper says: Thank you for writing this!! I thought I was the only person that winced when I hear things like, "We've got to clean up the ecology!"
Heisenberg says: important point well made.