That’s a paraphrasing of Barry Commoner’s timeless quote about ecology, and it could serve as the theme for our entire ESS course. It also nicely summarizes the systems approach to science, in which we focus on how things work together rather than just the individual parts. Delving into the various news stories that get classified as ‘environmental issues’ requires an understanding of human nature as well as the functional processes of our planetary systems. Exploring one without the other just doesn’t make sense – it’s like having black but no white.
ESS Topic 2 – The Ecosystem covers the essentials of ecology: the structure and function of ecosystems and biomes around the world, the living and non-living characteristics of those systems, and measurements of those characteristics. Understanding how natural systems work enables us to put humans’ impact on those systems in perspective. Ecology provides us with a reference point, a baseline of knowledge, by which we can evaluate what’s happening in our world. Some of the most important internal assessments (IAs) we carry out in ESS will focus on one of the components of ecosystem science.
“Chapter 3 – The Ecosystem” in the ESS Course Companion corresponds with the material in Topic 2. It’s a long chapter, so read it thoroughly more than once.