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A psychological theory and method of investigation that seeks to explain behavior solely in terms of observable and quantifiable responses to environmental stimuli. Behaviorism ignores conscious experience and subjective phenomena like desires, motives, and emotions.

Biocentric egalitarianism

See egalitarianism.


Any chemical agent capable of destroying living organisms. Although biocides are commonly associated with pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides), antimicrobials (antibacterials, antivirals, antiparasites) are biocides as well. See also persistent organic pollutant (POP).


The branch of ethics that investigates issues surrounding health care and the biological sciences. These include access to the allocation of limited resources (organs, treatment); the authority of the patient, the physician, and others; and the scope and limits of confidentiality. While bioethics has traditionally focused on abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants, it is increasingly concerned with drug research, embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering (cloning, screening, gene therapy), recent work in synthetic biology (biotechnology), and a wide spectrum of environmental concerns.


The largest, most comprehensive ecological community adapted to a climatic type. While biomes are often thought of in terms of vegetative communities, animals, fungi, and microbes also constitute biomes. The terrestrial biomes are tundra, desert, chaparral, coniferous (boreal) forest, temperate forest, temperate grassland, tropical rainforest, and tropical savanna and scrub. The two basic aquatic biomes, freshwater and marine, include reefs, marshes, swamps, estuaries, shoreline, flowing waters, the continental shelf, lakes and ponds, and the open ocean.

Biomimicry (bionics)

Literally “life imitation,” a design strategy that takes nonhuman natural process as models to solve human problems. Velcro was inspired by burrs; glue-free tape by the Gecko lizard’s sticky feet; and, to achieve passive air conditioning, Eastgate Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, was designed after the termite mound. Some of the underlying assumptions of the biomimetic approach are that “nature knows best”; natural things and processes work because they have been “field-tested” by evolution; and engineering projects based upon biomimetic principles will be conducive to life, or at least not be detrimental to it.

Biopiracy (bioprospecting)

The unauthorized and uncompensated appropriation of biological material (plants, animals, genetic cell lines) or indigenous knowledge for the purposes of commercial development. Insofar as it promises to provide just compensation to aggrieved parties, the concept of biopiracy is attractive to indigenous rights advocates. Yet the concept has been criticized on the grounds that laws against biopiracy cannot provide adequate protection for all indigenous people—not every indigenous territory contains useful biological material—and it is unclear whether biological materials can and should be owned as a matter of natural right.


A territory defined in ecological units (watershed or ecosystem) with similar flora, fauna, and environmental conditions as opposed to a territory defined in political or administrative terms.


A loose-knit movement formed in the late 1970s, in response to the modern environmental crisis, which advocates transforming human societies to mirror naturally occurring bioregions. The hope is that if people live in accordance with and in awareness of these ecological units, they will live sustainability.