The term ecology may be defined as the study of relationships between organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments. On the other hand, cultural ecology may be envisioned as cultural models of the environment and the relation between people and their ecological space. This involves the scientific investigation of principles concerning the mechanism by which evolution optimizes the conversion of abiotic resources to biotic resources. The rapidly growing population leads to depletion of natural resources which represents an actual danger to man’s existence. Humans are classified as primates and mammals that interact with their environment via a wide set of biological and cultural adaptations and innovations (Wolañski, 2006).
Biological adaptation occurs through the modification and spatial rearrangement of information at all levels of biological organization. For instance, it may occur through emigration and immigration of plasmids and organisms as well as through genetic mutations and recombination. However, biological adaptation results in more effective biological proliferation. Adaptation is not limited to the modification and rearrangement of genetic information within individual lineages. For example, the displacement of one organism by another in a chemostat experiment falls under biological adaptation through rearrangement of information as opposed to being the consequence of an environmental selection process.
Genetic information is also reorganized among various species of bacteria by transformation, conjugation, and transduction (Wolañski, 2006). Cultural adaptations are different depending on the progress in relation to the environment. A number of cultures have been suggested and they depend on various ecosystems and social systems where the formation of human groups took place. In the history of humankind, stages of cultural development were recognized as great discoveries or adaptations, which were called transitions. However, in human ecology, culture is an organic way of man’s adaptation to the environment and the conscious way of its transformation and formation (Takacs-Santa, 2004).
Biological evolution and culture
In humans, biological information such as the genome is transmitted from generation to generation. These genes transmitted to reproductive cells are however under recombination. Mutation or structural changes are slow and the changed form is under selection. Thus the biological evolution of mankind had been slow and it was accelerated in certain periods. Evolutional changes concern gene pools and mainly the reduction or extension of biological variation. It is possible, that in humans those changes took place within their genome and concerned a part of DNA repression and changes in gene expression.
The phenotype represents the active part of the genome and the possibility of its realization in specific environmental conditions, so the phenotype, at the moment, is mostly responsible for the chance of survival. Cultural information is shifting from one generation to another and includes information learned from other people or obtained by own experiences and reflections. Thus each generation can enrich its knowledge, do novel inventions and introduce new improvements. During the time of anthropogenesis, these changes were slow. In time, when more fertile regions characterized by more fertile regions and favorable conditions were settled, an increase in food production and all these changes could have triggered population growth. In some regions, people matured earlier and this led to the rapid development of culture and earlier time of civilization. The biological way of adaptation to the environment includes changes in body build and functions of the organism (Wolañski, 2006)
For instance, when exposed to cold, the organism responds by muscle tremble, and the body temperature rises. The skin is covered by thicker fur when exposed to cold for a long time. Clothes, houses, and other forms of tools belong to nonbiological forms of adaptation. These are effects of culture and are secondary products of his biological brain. That is, the human niche is characterized by his biological and cultural needs with natural and social environments interactions.
Cultural effect in evolution
Culture is favored by natural selection since it is a product of the human brain. Individuals with appropriate biological characteristics have had better chances of survival thereby leaving many offspring. They were fitted well in the environment by body build and functions such as food production, favorable climatic and fewer life threats. Cultural practices are the form of regulatory adjustments which protect against biological adaptational changes. Such practices can be parallel to biological adjustments, sometimes with a supplementary character, but most times they prevent biological changes (Takacs-Santa, 2004). These cultural practices operate very early, even in advance usually at the time the signal about a certain stimulus reaches the organism. The signal may come directly from the external environment or induction by our experiences. In addition, cultural practices have both conservative and prophylactic characters.
Culture and natural environment
The world today is civilized with technical innovations which have been artificially changed by mankind. However, the biological responses of human organisms are limited by our practices and cultural constructions. Humans aspire to progress, a phenomenon referred to as modernization and modernity. Progress usually occurs because of biological adjustments and psychological habituation to new conditions.
Science plays a vital role in cultural relations between man and his environment. Science gathers observations that can, in some perspective, correct the way of his actions which is the basic element of ecological culture. With population increase and more consumption of food, pressure has been intensified in the environment. This has created global risks that include environmental pollution and climate changes. Thus during civilization development, strong efforts are needed to make progress in ecological consciousness, education for environmental protection of the human living environment (Wolañski, 1989).
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Takacs-Santa, A. (2004).The major transitions in the history of human transformation of the biosphere, Human Ecology Review, 11(1), 51-66.
Wolañski, N. (1989). Human life and culture: dynamic components of ecosystems. Journal of Religion and Science, 24(4), 401-427.
Wolañski, N. (2006). Human Ecology. Vol. 1 (Ecosensivity and Biological Adaptative Changes) & 2 (Evolution and Biocultural Adaptation). Polish: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warsaw.