2020 | Richard Carstensen | 1 page

A plea for semantic reassessment

Sifting through journals and course manuals recently, I came upon this one-page 2018 attack on the unfortunate word “ecosystem.” I was writing for teachers, in a summer course I teach with fellow naturalist Steve Merli. My purpose in this essay was not simply to rant about a grossly overused word, but also to reflect on the roles of Science, and of Natural History, and on proclivities of humans drawn to one or the other of these joined-at-the-hip-yet-mutually-mystified enterprises.

One-page essay in a 2018 course manual for JSD teachers.

I must thank Gary Nabhan for that quote about habitats and ecosystems in my essay. I already had reservations about “ecosystems” before reading his Cultures of habitat: On nature, culture, and story. 1998. But before speaking out about this term that smart people take for gospel, I needed to feel that I wasn’t alone in my reaction.

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