Introduction: The achievements in life sciences of the last 50 years have widely deepened knowledge and the possibility of intervention on the foundations of living nature. However, such undeniable achievements, by focusing primarily on structural aspects of biological organization, have not shed much light on other characteristics of living creatures, such as historical and ecological ones. These features are still lacking good explicatory models so that most studies conducted on natural history of animals and plants focus on species transformations from morphological, genetic or biochemical point of views, while other fundamental aspects of evolution (i.e. the transformations of biological interactions between biological organisms and their environments) have been largely neglected or have been explained just in terms of “adaptations”. Furthermore, in most applications of science and human activities of the “growth myth” era, they have determined a biased way of action. According to this vision, the environment was thought to play only a permissive role in determining or not the survival of living beings. In other words, proper environmental conditions needed to be present before every biological event occurred. The environment was not thought to have any role in regulating or affecting the biological nature of animals, plants and microrganisms.
However, thanks to the early experimental efforts in life sciences, since the XIX century numerous cases were already known about the basic environmental control of many biological traits. The outcome was that the ecological contribution on the development of living beings, and especially of animals and plants, become ever more important to understand their biology and their evolution.
Today we know that the environment can regulate many biological traits of living beings, and that living beings in turn affect the environment through their activities. The outside conditions where organisms live, where their descendants will develop and where they evolve change accordingly to the extent of their ecological impact. This circular interaction (“feedback” in technical terms) between organisms and environments is the basis of a new attitude developing within scientific culture of life scientists and a fundamental premise of human ecology.
Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.