Ecologists and the environmental crisis
- Botany Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Christchurch.
This address concerns the environmental crisis, and how ecologists in general and the New Zealand Ecological Society in particular should meet it. A gathering of ecologists does not have to be convinced that there is such a crisis, nor that it has been caused by unchecked increase of Homo sapiens and the ever-increasing per capita demands the species is making on the resources of its environment. In the past we ecologists have perhaps been most concerned with threats to the survival of wild species and natural communities; latterly the problems of local and global pollution have demanded our attention. Most of these problems have political ramifications, a notable example being the tragedy in Vietnam, where the technological resources of one nation are pitted against the social and ecological resources of another, and both are squandered in the process. It is all too easy to see this war as the beginning of an Orwellian conflict between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' of the world's peoples. If we are going to transcend the environmental crisis, we shall have to examine and, where need be, amend every aspect of our individual and collective morals and mores. Even such sacred topics as religious, political and economic beliefs must come under scrutiny. Perhaps most important is the need to recognise our personal and collective responsibilities, and act accordingly, rather than continually seeking to have the individual or corporate "other fellow" put his house in order. However, these are broader topics than I can discuss here, and some of them have been covered by speakers in the symposium.