Rediscover ecology

Your memories of the limits surrounding this term are fuzzy? The Djossye team explains all the concepts to you, in more depth. As a result, you will be able in the future to develop your knowledge of the facets that attract you, interpret current events more easily and raise awareness among those around you (both adults and children!).

No need to look far when it comes to ecology... Thus, on February 10, 2022, we find in the weekly news magazine L'Express, the article "Air pollution in Île-de-France: We could prevent 7,900 deaths per year”. This title, far from out of the ordinary, illustrates one of the major environmental impacts affecting ecology. Through this example, we see the insinuation to the progress that we can make to improve the quality of the air. Understanding ecology means first of all mastering its definition, but above all, being able to interpret all of its mechanisms.


First of all, the etymology of the word ecology comes from grecoikos meaning "the house" , and logos, that is, "science, study, discourse" . Ecology therefore represents the study of habitat.

However, to properly evoke the origins of ecology, we are going to present to you the evolution of the term through different dictionaries. This method allows us to show you the important points in the development of scientific ecology.


In 2002, the Petit Larousse compact defines ecology "as being the

"science that studies the relationship of living beings to their environment".

However, this discipline took on importance from the 1930s. It was only at the end of the 1960s that ecological concerns were at the heart of the associative, ideological (ecological) and political movements.

Ecology is then defined there as being a

“[…] current of thought, movement tending to respect natural balances, to protect the environment against the nuisances of industrial society”.

But then we are ecologist or ecologist? What is the difference ?

The figure of the ecologist refers to the supporter of environmentalism and is colloquially referred to as "the ecologist". It differs from ecologist, which is a term dating from the 1980s that refers to specialists in ecology.

Scientific ecologists wanted to distinguish their activities from those of citizens (scientists or not) acting for the protection of nature and the environment.

The birth of the term ecology

The term “ecology” is said to have appeared in 1866, under the pen of Ernst Haeckel, a qualified biologist and promoter of Darwinian evolution. Haeckel defines ecology as being

"[...] the totality of the science of the relations of the organism with the environment, including in the broad sense all the conditions of existence".

This definition of Haeckel is still valid today. Thus, this term is used to describe the study of natural habitats, ecosystems and their inhabitants (organisms).

In this way, according to the National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources (CNRTL), ecology is mentioned as being a science based on:

“[…] the relationships between living beings (humans, animals, plants) and the organic or inorganic environment in which they live. ".

This science then refers to biodiversity, but also to the ecosystem. It expresses a triangular relationship made up of the individuals of a species and the activity that it exerts on its environment.


The ecology that we see today, however, results from a global awareness of the harmful effects of climate change and human activity on its own environment. Faced with various types of pollution, global warming or the destruction of ecosystems, ecology seeks to limit the impact we produce on the planet.

Our goal is to find the balance that allows our society to live sustainably at the heart of these ecosystems. Ecology is a movement in which we all have a role to play. Every gesture counts. It is therefore our responsibility to better understand ecological issues and to commit ourselves more to protecting our health, that of our children, and that of the planet.

Ecology therefore begins with a global awareness of the catastrophic consequences of human activities on the environment. This realization is symptomatic of what the North American historian Donald Worster has called “the ecological age” .


The ecological era began on July 16, 1945 following atomic tests by the United States Armed Forces, in the New Mexico desert during the Manhattan Project . The irreversible pollution of the atmosphere by the products of nuclear fission brings for the first time a real threat of an ecological catastrophe. Moreover, the studies carried out following the disasters of Hiroshima and Nagasaki illustrate the durability of the impact of fission and fusion bombs on human populations and ecosystems.


First of all, scientific ecology is the science that studies the interactions of living beings with each other and with their environment. At the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, scientific knowledge improved. As a result, scientific ecology benefits from the progress achieved in other disciplines such as biology, genetics, or even geology. Scientific ecology is becoming more refined and ecologists are gaining a better understanding of ecosystems.

Political ecology is defined by the awareness we have of our environment and our interdependencies. It represents the awareness of our belonging to ecosystems that we must preserve. It means being aware of our ecological footprint and having the will to safeguard our living conditions and improve their quality. Political ecology was already present in the 19th century, notably through the industrial revolution and its first reflections on the pollution and deterioration of the Earth and its inhabitants. This vision develops and becomes in 1960, a real political movement in several regions of the world.


Above all, the concept of environmental impact is defined by all the qualitative, quantitative and functional changes to the environment. An environmental impact can be positive and/or negative. They are generated by a project, a process, a procedure, one or more organizations and one or more products, from its design to its “end of life”.

For air, we retain five environmental impact indicators:

For water, we retain four indicators:

  • Eutrophication of fresh waters. Eutrophication is a process of accumulation of nutrients in a given ecosystem (a so-called “eutrophic” environment is literally a “well nourished” environment)

  • Aquatic ecotoxicity. Ecotoxicity is the capacity of a substance, thanks to its toxicity, to produce harmful or inconvenient effects for microorganisms, animals, plants, or for humans through the environment;
  • Eutrophication of marine waters;
  • Water consumption (flow indicator).

For soil resources and human health, we also retain four indicators:

  • Primary energy consumption (flow indicator). Primary energy is all untransformed energy products, directly exploited or imported.

Figure 1: Diagram of the main primary energies Source: information from INSEE, design by Djossye, 2022.

  • Depletion of non-renewable resources; such as fossil fuels, minerals or ores.
  • Human toxicity;
  • Land use.

Thus, even if we live and die like all living beings, there is a very characteristic aspect of human societies that differentiates us from animals, it is our ability to disturb the balance of established ecosystems. Every year, we pollute the air, water, soil, and exterminate thousands of plant and animal species, without realizing it. From now on, it is essential to find the balance allowing our society to live sustainably at the heart of ecosystems.

Let's all act in favor of the environment, each one, on our scale.

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