Useful terms and definitions

Calgary: City of Animals

2016 Annual CIH Community Forum

Anthropocene: Refers to a geologic time period of the Earth in which Homo sapiens began to influence earth system processes (geologic, hydrologic and biospheric). It’s a combination of "anthropo", meaning "human" with "-cene" which is the standard suffix for "epoch" in geologic time. The Anthropocene is distinguished as a new period after or within the Holocene, the current epoch, which began approximately 10,000 years ago (about 8000 BC) with the end of the last glacial period.

(Source: The Encyclopedia of Earth).

“Although American biologist Eugene Stoermer coined the term in the late 1980s, Dutch chemist and Nobelist Paul Crutzen is largely credited with bringing public attention to it at a conference in 2000, as well as in a newsletter printed the same year. In 2008 British geologist Jan Zalasiewicz and his colleagues put forth the first proposal to adopt the Anthropocene Epoch as a formal geological interval”.

 (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Anthropogenic Biomes: “Humans have fundamentally altered global patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. As a result, vegetation forms predicted by conventional biome systems are rarely observed across most of Earth's land surface. While not a replacement for existing biome systems, anthropogenic biomes provide an alternative view of the terrestrial biosphere based on global patterns of sustained direct human interaction with ecosystems, including agriculture, human settlements, urbanization, forestry and other uses of land. Anthropogenic biomes offer a new way forward in ecology and conservation by recognizing the irreversible coupling of human and ecological systems at global scales, and moving us toward an understanding how best to live in and manage our biosphere and the anthropogenic biomes we live in”.

(Source: Encyclopedia of the Earth)

Biome: “A major ecological community type” (Merriam-Webster). “A complex biotic community characterized by distinctive plant and animal species and maintained under the climatic conditions of the region, especially such a community that has developed to climax” (Dictionary.com).

Biosphere: “The part of the Earth in which life can exist” (Source: Merriam-Webster). “The ecosystem comprising the entire earth and the living organisms that inhabit it” (Source: Dictionary.com). The biosphere is the biological component of earth systems, which also include the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and other "spheres" (e.g. cryosphere, anthrosphere, etc.). The biosphere includes all living organisms on earth, together with the dead organic matter produced by them.

(Source: Encyclopedia of the Earth).

Critical Animal Studies: While the focus of Animal Studies is on the “question of the animal”, Critical Animal Studies has emerged as a distinct perspective questioning the “conditions of the animal” with “a direct focus on the circumstances and treatment of animals”. Instead of Humans, the focus shifted towards ecology and animal life. This shift of focus has given Animal Studies a critical edge in addressing current debates and urgent questions of our time concerning global warming and climate change—particularly in context of environmental humanities.

(Source: Taylor, N., & Twine, R. (2014). The rise of critical animal studies: From the margins to the centre. London: Routledge)

Ecosystem: “An ecosystem is a community of organisms interacting with each other and with their environment such that energy is exchanged and system-level processes, such as the cycling of elements, emerge. It is a core concept in Biology and Ecology, serving as the level of biological organization in which organisms interact simultaneously with each other and with their environment.

As such, ecosystems are a level above that of the ecological community (organisms of different species interacting with each other) but are at a level below, or equal to, biomes and the biosphere.

Essentially, biomes are regional ecosystems, and the biosphere is the largest of all possible ecosystems.”

(Source: The Encyclopedia of Earth)

Non-human animals: A term which emerged with the animal rights movement considering animals as species with characteristics similar to humans. From this perspective, new issues with regards to the moral status of animals have led to much popular, legal and academic discussions. Hence, the term non-human animals has opened alternative perspectives on the human-animal relationship.

(For more information please refer to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Nonhuman Rights Project. For more information about Animal Rights in Canada, please refer to Sorenson, J. (2010). About Canada: Animal Rights. Fernwood Pub.

Post-humanism: “The idea that humanity can be transformed, transcended, or eliminated either by technological advances or the evolutionary process; artistic, scientific, or philosophical practice which reflects this belief” (Oxford Diectionaries).

“Posthuman can be defined as that condition in which humans and intelligent technology are becoming increasingly intertwined.  More specifically, the posthuman is a projected state of humanity in which unlocking of the information patterns that those who believe in the posthuman say make us what we are—will shift the focus of humanness from our outward appearance to those information patterns. The focus will be on function rather than form: humanness will be defined by how a species operates—in other words, whether it processes information like a human, is sentient, empathic, intelligent, and such—rather than how it looks.  

Humans and machines will be effectively merged, since differences in appearance will be meaningless. And, increasingly, some argue that this will also elide differences between humans and other species, as well. In fact, it already has, to some extent. A group called The Nonhuman Rights Project has recently won rights of legal personhood for certain great apes.

Thus the posthuman naturally undermines human exceptionalism.”

(Source: Institute for Ethics and emerging Technologies.)

Urban Ecology: “Within the natural sciences, urban ecology addresses biological patterns and associated environmental processes in urban areas, as a subdiscipline of biology and ecology. In this sense, urban ecology endeavours to analyse the relationships between plant and animal populations and their communities as well as their relationships to environmental factors including human influences.

However from an anthropocentric perspective, urban ecology is understood as a multidisciplinary approach to improving living conditions for the human population in cities, referring to the ecological functions of urban habitats or ecosystems for people – and thus including aspects of social, especially planning, sciences.

From an even broader view, cities can be considered as emergent phenomena of local-scale, dynamic interactions among socio-economic and biophysical forces.”

(Source: Langner, M. (2007). Shrinking cities: Effects on urban ecology and challenges for urban development. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang

Learn more about our annual Community Forums