Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970
Ecology is in
Ecology is in
Ecologists have long been among the leading pessimists about the future of the biosphere (its dominant mammal included). But the voice of protest has usually been confined to professional thinkers and writers. Rarely has there been any downward penetration. True, during the past few years in both Britain and the United States, the word ecology began to appear at government levels and some general ecologists (that is, the philosopher-types, not the temperature-around-the-leaves men) came into public prominence. But any sort of grass-roots movement was more or less absent except among the rapidly increasing number of people joining conservation societies.
All this activity is comfortably within the confines of the Establishment and safely middle class. Lately, however, the word ecology and the desire to apply "ecological thinking" has found some fertile ground among the non-subscribers, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and more particularly in and around the Berkeley Campus of the University of California. The anti-consumption bias of modern functional ecology, with its emphasis on diversity of systems and dynamic equilibria appeals very strongly to many of the young people who are in revolt against the consumer-oriented economics of the United States. The implicit and explicit ideas of population control seem to be part of the philosophy also.
The students' concern is on two scales—large and small. The first is an interest in the long-term prospects for stability of the Earth's ecology and the "whole world ecosystem". In contrast the University of California, whose course offering in the field of population, resources, ecology and conservation are very meagre, the "Free University" of Berkeley last summer offered a course devoted primarily to global ecology and the future of man as part of nature. There is, too, an Ecology Centre. This is a former store, where students and their friends maintain 3000 square feet of bookshop, discussion room, library, poster making equipment and general talking place.
This concern over environment and the adoption of ecology as its ideological banner is part of the social and political rebellion on US campuses. Reviews of ecologically inspired books and ecological—environmental issues are frequent in "underground" newspapers such as the Berkeley Barb and the Los Angeles Free Press, where they are rather more four-letterly forthright in their denunciation of environmental offenders that most commentators. And together with the "straights", the activists waged a campaign against strong industrial interest and some local governments to get the California Legislature to pass a Bill imposing strong controls on San Francisco Bay and authorizing the implementation of a regional Conservation and Development Plan for the Bay. For months "Save our Bay" has been the most frequently seen bumper sticker around the East Bay, outpacing even "Stop ABM" and "Trouble Parking? Support Planned Parenthood". Ecology, "the subversive science", has found its greatest concentration of advocates among those who are widely regarded as extremely subversive themselves.