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   Course Title    Social Ecology
Lecturer    Edward Girusov
Institution    Russian Academy of Sciences
Country    Russia


The course named "Social Ecology" consists of 56 academic hours (an academic hour lasts 45 minutes). It has been written for internal and external (extra-mural) students to include lectures, seminars, colloquia, various tests and a final examination.

The subject matter of the course is the following: patterns of biosphere self-regulation, its territorial complexes (biogeosynoses) and their utilization by man with the aim of sustaining our biosphere environment.

The course aims at overcoming an old tradition to study natural and social processes as quite independent phenomena. This old tradition is easily observed both in theoretical and in the practice of teaching.

Contemporary ecological situation calls for a new approach in the study of social and natural phenomena. The latter should be looked upon as an indivisible social-natural system.

It is most essential for students to understand that the human society is part of one whole, called biosphere. Hence, the real laws of social development are only those of biosphere self-regulation and its territorial integral complexes (biogeosynoses) used by people in their practical activities. This idea is quite different from the old tradition of thinking that any social development is governed by some absolutely specific laws. It is quite essential to realize that it is this ideology that has led mankind to the global ecological crisis and the danger of our civilization ruin.

Overcoming the ecological crisis means, above all, getting rid of destructive stereotypes according to which the task of a man is only to take from nature those resources that are indispensable for his production activities and for cultivating various landscapes. This anthropocentric aim of consumers can result in nothing but the destruction of natural environment. Besides, it endangers the life of people on our planet.

In the process of teaching students there should be a shift from anthropocentric ideas to ecocentric (or biospherecentric) ideas and concepts. After all, we are talking here about preserving and improving the life of people through sustaining and reproducing the environment of life on our planet.

A large part of the course is reserved for comparing natural and social processes from the point of view of their harmonic co-existence and co-education as two parts of one whole, that is, socio-natural system.

Those main trends are considered along which all kinds of human activity could be combined with the specificity of the biosphere as a self-regulating system.

The analysis of the following directions is undertaken: economic, political, legal, moral, aesthetic, educational, and international.

The course ends with considering the main ideas of V.G. Vernadskyís theory about the noosphere and itís role in shaping the ecologically oriented activity of people. The processes of evolution on the surface of the Earth are shown as quite objective and, hence, necessary for the profound study.

The problems of turning to the noosphere are considered in the content of the stable development concept put forward at the "Rio-92" global forum. This concept was formulated as an imperative for the whole world community of mankind.

Social Ecology Course Syllabus

(56 academic hours for study both in class with the teacher and independently, without teacher)

Part I. The Background of Evolution in the Processes of Society and Interaction

Theme 1. Introduction. Some peculiarities of the modern ecological problem and reasons for its emergence. The place of the ecological problem in the system of contemporary global problems.

The main features of the modern ecological problem, why it is dangerous for society and all forms of life on the Earth. The dynamics of the ecological crisis development and the specific role of the ecological problem in this process. The potential danger of the ecological crisis turning into the global catastrophe. The first symptoms of this danger. The program of actions to be undertaken to overcome the ecological danger Ė the program has been put forward at the Global Forum "Rio-92". The main tasks of Russia in implementing this Program.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the specific features of the present day ecological crisis?

What are the main traits of any ecological crisis?

What is meant by the ecological catastrophe?

Theme 2. The specificity of society-nature interaction.

The biological unity of man and nature. Reasons of organic difference between man and nature. Labor as a specific means of providing exchange processes between society and nature. The dual role of labor affecting man and natural environment.

Questions for Discussion:

Man and his relation to nature: Specific features.

Labor as a connecting link between man and nature.

Labor as a means of separating man from nature.

Theme 3. The ecological crisis: its essential features and effects on society.

The main ecological contradiction and its role in the evolutionary development of society. Some ways to resolve this contradiction in the epoch of global problems.

The essence of the present day ecological crisis; its unique character in the history of the society. The necessity for changing the ways of society development as a means for overcoming the ecological crisis.

Questions for Discussion:

What is the main ecological contradiction?

In what way can the ecological contradiction be resolved by a society?

What is the essence of the present day ecological crisis?

In what way does the ecological crisis affect a society?

Part II. Ecological Culture and in what way it is formed.

Theme 4. Ecological culture as a means of harmonizing interactions between society and nature.

Nature and Society: the identity and differences. Cardinal stages in the formation of the ecological culture: from consumption to creation. Ecological traditions in the world cultures. Traditional understanding of culture. The correlation of this understanding with ecological points of view. Ecological culture as a way to develop and self-preserve a society in its unity with the natural environment. Modes of shaping the ecological culture. The ethics of reverential attitude to life; the ethics of non-violence, their specific features. Could the principles of this ethics be realized in every-day life? The ecological training and education. What is new in the methods and substance? From the ideology of wastefulness and consumption to the ideology of the economy and creation. The ecological culture as the most significant means to overcome the global crisis of modern civilization. Ecological principles of the attitude of people to each other; the opportunity to create the noosphere.

The paradox of a man. The ecological epoch as a transfer period from Homo faber to Homo ecologus. What do we mean by the very word "man"? What is his vocation and purport of his life? The re-organizational and conservative aspects of human activity, their relationship. The roots of a manís self-will. Rational and reasonable in manís practical activities. Rational and irrational in the attitude of a man toward himself and the world surrounding him. Divine and satanic elements in mythology, art, science, and culture. Positive and negative consequences of these conflicting elements. Two aspects in the ideology of antropositism and humanism. The urgent need for another Renaissance of the ideology in the spirit of biospherecentrism and cosmoscentrism as a model of neohumanism.

Is another paradigm of civilization a reality? The ecological crisis as the imperative for the transfer to the new epoch. The specific role of the biosphere at the moment of bifurcation in the history of mankind. The instinct of self-preservation and that of death in the history of mankind as the unity of opposites. Do we transfer to the mortosphere or to the noosphere? Do we envisage the end of the Homo faber species? Basic features of the Homo ecologus species and the perspectives for its formation. Peculiarities of the ecological epoch of mankind, its spatial and temporal perspectives. The noosphere as the planetary prerequisite for the cosmosphere.

Questions for Discussion:

What is ecological culture and what relation does it stand to traditional culture?

What are the natural resources of culture?

What are the "paradox of a man" mean?

How do "rational" and "reasonable" correlate in human activity?

Theme 5. Ecological culture and economic relationships.

The historical typology of economic and ecological relationships. Cardinal historical stages in the development of economical relations in the pre-industrial epochs. The transformational character of using natural resources. The interdependency and interconnection between the way people threat nature and their attitude to each other.

Effects of forms of property on the cultural level of using natural resources. Complex and mediated character of these effects. The correlation between "natural" and "social" in the efficiency of using natural resources.

Formational and civilizational approaches in understanding developmental periods of ecological culture. The essence of the formational approach, its strong and weak points. Opportunities for the civilizational approach, their essence and functional analysis. Why putting forward the problem of noosphere civilization can prove its value. The noosphere and the ecological culture (efficiency). Economic prerequisites for the noosphere. The role of the ecological culture is forming the noosphere.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what way do the forms of property affect the attitude of people to nature?
  2. What is the role of the ecological culture (efficiency) in the noosphere formation?
  3. What are the peculiarities of the noosphere civilization?

Theme 6. Ecological culture (efficiency) of moral attitudes.

Ethics and Ecological Ethics. Traditional ethics. Its subject-matter and objects for study. Ethics and the values of culture. Natural foundations of the norms of ethics. Bioethics, its specificity and the way it correlates with the traditional ethics. The role of ecology in bioethics formation. Ecological ethics as a further development in bioethics tenets.

Ecological imperatives and moral standards. Biosphere limitations imposed on human activity as the basis of ecological imperatives. Similarity and dissimilarity of ecological and moral standards. Ecological imperatives as an objective basis for ecological morals and efficiency in the use natural resources. Ecological morals and some problems of educating people at the time of the crisis in the ecological situation.

Ecological Ethics and the Transfer to the Noosphere.

Ecologically normative specificity of the society under conditions of the noosphere. The process of drawing nearer of the norms of human activity, the norms being scientifically substantiated. The noosphere as the phenomenon of advanced ecological culture and ecologically moral norms.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the natural prerequisites of the ethical norms?

What are the features of the ecological ethics?

What is the role of the ecological ethics in the noosphere formation?

Theme 7. The ecological culture of the legal activity.

Prerequisites of the ecological culture in the history of the various societies. The ecological commandments in the literary religious works and works of fiction. The first legal acts concerning the use of natural resources and their role in shaping the ecological efficiency. The first attempts to work out legal systems of using natural resources.

The transfer from the spontaneous to legally ordered practice in using natural resources. Objective and subjective factors in forming the system of the ecological law. The specificity of the ecological law caused by inherent peculiarities of the object subjected to legal regulation. The ecological culture of legal terms and the necessity to improve it. The role of legal ecology solving various ecological problems, both within a single state and on the international level. Possession of legal information as the necessary prerequisite for the ecological culture (efficiency) of the population.

Ecological-legal violations and measures to be taken to suppress them. Ecological transgressions of the law and crimes. Legal measures for punishment and preventive measures for ecological crimes. The educational aspect of legal actions undertaken against those who violate the ecological law. The correlation of legal and moral norms is using natural resources.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the historical prerequisites of the ecologically legal culture?

What is the specificity of the ecological law?

What punishment is provided for violating ecological norms?

Theme 8. Ecological culture of health protection.

Medicine and ecology. Similarity of tasks facing medicine and ecology. Ecology as geohygiene. Effects of the environment on a manís health. Modern ecological situation as a factor increasingly more and more influential as far as these effects are concerned. The analysis of environmental factors extremely dangerous for peopleís health, these factors being caused by industrial activity of man. The increase in the chemical aggressiveness of the environment. Measure to be taken to overcome this situation. The new physical reality and peopleís health. The radiation danger and measures to be taken for its decrease. New diseases caused by anthropogenic changes of the environment. AIDS is the plague of the 21st century. Measures to be taken to fight AIDS.

Ecological culture and medical requirements. Ecological culture as a factor of decreasing the risk of damage to health under the conditions of anthropogenic deterioration of environmental quality. Cultivation of the cultural approach to the ecologically oriented needs of mankind. The ecological culture of needs and demands and its agreement with the requirements of medicine. Ecologically justified arguments against smoking and other dangerous kinds of dependences. The ecological high quality of consumer goods and foodstuffs as a most important prerequisite for ensuring peopleís health.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the typical features of diseases caused by dangerous changes in the natural environment?

What measures are there to prevent ecogenic diseases?

Theme 9. Ecological culture of educating the public.

Ecologization of education is an imperative of our time. The necessity of the ecological education in schools providing general education, the aim being prevention of ecological dangers. Differentiation of ecological education in secondary (high) schools and in universities taking into account the character of the students future work. General trends in the ecologization of course syllabi. The use of the new scientific biosphere paradigm in various course syllabi as the general criterion of their ecologization. Ecological culture (efficiency) and its main traits in the activity of a person after he/she graduates from a university.

Types and forms of the ecological education in the process of learning. Formal and informal education in the field of ecology. Recommendations of international conferences on the problems of ecological education. General and special ecological education, their correlation in a course syllabus. Types of further training of specialist and development of their vocational competence as far as ecological problems are concerned. Development of special ecological skills among specialists taking various training courses.

The ecological upbringing of children. Basic stages of the ecological education: preschool, school, and after school training. The molding of ecological awareness and emotions as a result of familiarizing pupils/students with ecological problems. Ecological education with the help of art and also by means of direct participation of the population is mass ecological movements. A special role of a personal example in the process of ecological education.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the reasons for the necessity of the general ecological education?

What are the typical features of the ecological education?

What are the main traits of the ecological education?

Theme 10. Ecological awareness, its specificity and role in advancing ecological culture (efficiency).

Prerequisites of ecological awareness in the history of society versus natural interaction. Peculiarities of ecological awareness in the light of the reflection theory Ė the object of reflection, a means of reflection and its purpose. Trends of shaping ecological awareness. Connection between the ecological awareness and traditional culture.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the peculiarities of the ecological awareness according to the object of reflection?

What are the peculiarities of the ecological awareness according to the means of reflection and its purpose?

In what way the ecological awareness is shaped?



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