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Ecology in public administration was primarily introduced by Professor John M. Gaus, one of the early pioneers of public administration. In his introduced concepts, he emphasized that the public administration including its development as well as its activities were influenced by its setting or ecology. According to Gaus, the plans, programs, policies, and design of public administration is influenced by factors concerning the physical environment or ecology, and that any structure and living thing existing in a given area has an interrelationship with the surrounding environment. In practice, this concept means that when building a structure, an individual must plan all aspects of the construction, from the materials needed for the structure, the actual area where it will be constructed in relation to the people residing in the area and the physical environment existing. This concept also means understanding the impact of the structure to the social relationships of people in that area and what specific technologies are being used and how it influences and impacts the inhabitants of that environment.
Ecology thus pertains to interrelationships of living organisms and their environment. Ecological approach to public administration thus includes elements of the environment – the place, the individuals, the physical and social technology as well as the relationships of these elements. It is essential to note that Gaus has translated ecology – the complex structure and connections with each other of living things that are in a specific area of the public administration project – into a lens by which to analyze the project’s impact. And the means by which he applied this is directed to raise awareness of ecological factors that permits administrators to respond more wisely and appropriately to the demands and challenges of the external environment of their organizations.
Gaus also viewed the ecological concept in public administration as a means to devise a new and renewed institutional pattern for individuals. With such concepts, the ecological aspect of administration reflects a crucial role in understanding and directing the forceful change in public administration. A more sensitive and conscious approach to ecological factors allow the public administrators to provide a more appropriate response to challenges within and beyond their organization. If applied properly, this approach can serve as a diagnostic tool for the public administrator and can provide standards for evaluating impact on an organization. Ecology can aid the practitioner in visualizing the major elements in the administrative processes and provide a specific standard for measuring impact in an organization.
For Gaus, merging public administration with the concept of ecology helps in establishing a more novel way of conducting things and is actually related to the concept of change. He looked to public administration to find some new sources of content and opportunity for public administrators to emphasize some influence on the situation in which they find themselves. He believed in applied social science, that through an ecological approach to public administration, the new and renewed institutional pattern could be devised for individuals living in an age of change. Ecology in public administration became a vital instrument for comprehending, directing, and modulating the forceful change in the public administration. Through this application, public administrator can be active in the wider ecological approach to make change in strategic management and planning of public serving organizations.
This practice is clearly manifested in the management of ecosystems. The fragility of ecosystems that are threatened by construction of buildings and other public administration projects are now systematically addressed using the principles laid out by Gaus. One aspect of this situation is the dwindling of some species brought about by the disturbance of their natural habitat and ecosystems. Another aspect of this case also reflects the industries that are conceptualized and built by man and which have led to the threat of climate change. The gravity of the perceived threat of global warming has moved scientists and policymakers to recognize that sufficient measures to sustain ecosystems must be ensured by substituting the governmental jurisdiction as the major institutional level for implementation.
Due to this developments, the politics as well as the policy of natural resources management are experiencing drastic transformation. The dominant aspect of resource management has been focused around property ownership, or jurisdictional domain which is mainly concepts that originated from the West. But now, resource management is also organized around the parts of the whole ecosystems such as individual resources, wildlife, or commodities (Elfin 2004, 304). Hence, there is now a more comprehensive view of managing resources in the context of building public administration projects or even structures in general. Another factor that influences public projects from the point of view of ecology is the question of sustainability. Discussing resource sustainability reflects the issue as among the most poorly understood within the ecosystem planning and management process. The ecosystem approach confronts the political process by asserting a participatory process in which all interested key players are able to participate to achieve an effective and integrated ecosystem management while recognizing the role of individuals as part of the ecosystem. (Loomis 1993, 447-48)
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