Why a Virtual Museum of Human Ecology?

The model of human development current in the 21st century goes against nature and the most disadvantaged sectors of the population. The aim is to transform this model of development, which focuses on economics and unlimited consumption, into a model of fair and sustainable development where social and environmental factors are given priority, ensuring the equality of class, gender, ethnic groups, peoples and countries.

The Association for the study of Human Ecology was founded for promoting scientific, educational, awareness and active sensitisation activities. The aim was contributing to the making of personal and collective decisions, while influencing public policies and actions in the sphere of human ecology which allow us to tackle environmental problems. Quality dissemination started through university extension courses on biocultural and environmental problems, which took place in museums in Madrid, and through small exhibitions to present the results of some related research (see activities). Two years ago, the further decision was taken to create a virtual tool for quality teaching and dissemination, which finally crystallised into this Virtual Museum of Human Ecology.

Human Ecology studies human life and activity in the ecosystems currently occupied by our species, and in those it once occupied in the past. It focuses on the biological interaction of Man with the environment, explains why culture is the main environmental factor capable of modifying the physical and biological resources of ecosystems, of modulating the expression of our species’ biological processes and those of the species which cohabit with us, and of conditioning future trends. Its theoretical basis, methodology and practical applications are suitable for advancing in the understanding and evaluation of environmental problems and in achieving the established goals, offering a transversal context, which is effective for action from very different areas of knowledge.

International Agencies of the UN lead this transformation of development through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose aims are to be reached in 2030. Both the aims and objectives established, and the indicators chosen to evaluate progress and the steps to be taken have been discussed and agreed with governments, institutions and different civic groups, the final objective being to avoid the delays, difficulties and problems which beset the previous Millennial Development Objectives, which made important advances but very asymmetrically distributed.

The indicators -simple or complex- established to evaluate the population differences and the advances in the objectives and goals of ODS-2030 are a good universal reference of the main challenges we have to face, although they have some serious limitations, which must always be taken into account. Not all simple indicators are available for all countries or for all years and many present methodological problems (definition, sampling, statistical methodology). Complex indicators -which synthesize very diverse information- are considered useful for evaluating global progress and for ordering countries according to them, but sometimes the combination of simple indicators that are used for their evaluation is not sufficiently justified; its substitution by others that measure similar aspects can modify the global value of the complex index, altering the places occupied by the countries. The disaggregated information to evaluate and compare disparities by age, gender, ethnicity, residence or wealth present in each country is still very scarce.

The contents of the museum are designed to inform on the qualitative and quantitative determinants of the ODS, on the causes of its temporal and population variability and on the limitations that must be overcome, especially those related to the availability and reliability of the proposed indicators.