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Environmentalism

Environmentalism

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Published by: Sanjeev Kumar on Mar 03, 2013
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Start Geo Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
 
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environmental determinism
 
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 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
environmentalism
 
\'[R]efers to a concern that the environment should be protected,particularly from the harmful effects of human activities\' (Milton, 1996,p. 27). Thus focused on human impacts on the environment,environmentalism is often thought to be a recent phenomenon, oneparticularly associated with the post-1960s era in North America and western Europe. In both continents, the contradictions betweenenvironment and economic development became apparent in resourcedepletion, pollution etc., sparking the rise of an environmental movementinspired by such cautionary texts as Rachel Carson\'s Silent spring (1962)and Meadows et al.\'s (1972) The limits to growth (cf. pollution; limits togrowth). However, environmentalism is far older than the recent wave of environmental concern suggests. In fact, \'it is as old as human society itself\' (Powell, 1996, p. 274), with societies across the world having long been preoccupied with their environmental impacts. In the West, Glacken(1967) traces this concern with human-environmental relations back toancient Greece and identifies three modes of characterizing thoserelations: humanity in harmony with environment; humanity asdetermined by environment (see environmental determinism); andhumanity as modifier of environment. In the modern era, the last of thesehas been the dominant element in environmentalism. In Europe andNorth America, this heightened concern over human modifications can betraced to the nineteenth century. In the rapidly industrializing US,\'preservationists\' like John Muir and less radical \'conservationists\'(see conservation) like Gifford Pinchot argued for more care inenvironmental usage, following George Perkins Marsh\'s germinal (1864)Man and nature. In Britain, the Romantics, like Blake and Shelley, early argued that nature possessed an inherent beauty and dignity that should be cherished, not destroyed.Today, environmentalism encompasses a very wide range of ideas andpractices and the term is, strictly speaking, \'too all-inclusive a concept\'(O\'Riordan, 1996, p. 473), and one must discriminate between differentenvironmentalisms. O\'Riordan (1996) distinguishes \'ecocentric\' and\'technocentric\' environmentalisms. The former puts the environmentfirst, and suggests that modern societies should, to a greater or lesserdegree, alter their economic practices in order to be more eco-friendly.Technocentrists, by contrast, are more human-centred â
!
oranthropocentric â
!
” and believe that the environment can and should berationally managed and controlled for human benefit. Ecocentrism thusposes more of a challenge to existing socio-economic arrangements, and is
 
 
often associated with non-governmental groups (NGOs) in civil society. By contrast, technocentric environmentalism is a more status quo approachand often associated with big-business and government (see also energy).In practice, there are different types and degrees of eco- andtechnocentrism, and the most moderate permutations of both forms of environmentalism overlap. O\'Riordan (1989) identifies two forms of eco-and technocentrist environmentalism respectively:Gaianists derive their ideas from James Lovelock\'s theory that theearth\'s biosphere operates as if it were a single living organism which hecalls Gaia, after the Greek earth goddess. The Gaia hypothesis proposesthat organisms actively alter the biosphere, rather than merely adaptingto it. Consequently, if humans continue to alter the biosphere too muchthen it is argued that Gaia will survive, but in a different form in whichhumans will have no part. This extreme â
!
” or \'deep ecology\' â
!
environmentalism urges a radical dismantling of existing socio-economicarrangements which are seen as ecologically destructive. A less extremeecocentrist position is communalism, which argues for more harmony  with nature in the form of small-scale, decentralized communities. On thetechnocentric side, interventionists â
!
” like Simon (1997) â
!
” argue thatthe environment can be successfully transformed for human benefit by science and technology and that any problems which arise can bemanaged. Accomodationists, by contrast, are more cautious and arguethat existing socio-economic arrangements must be adapted to minimizeenvironmental problems.|||Ecocentric environmentalism has become immensely influential sincethe early 1970s and for this reason has been called the \'new environmentalism\'. In addition, this and technocentricenvironmentalism are no longer largely western preoccupations. Instead,they are now found worldwide, as more local and new globalenvironmental problems have arisen.Geography was defined by Halford Mackinder as the \'bridging science\' which could study society-nature relations and, not surprisingly,geographers have made several contributions to modernenvironmentalism. One is to define and study environmentalism itself as aset of ideas and practices (see, for example, O\'Riordan, 1996). Another isto examine the history of human uses of environment (see, for example,Mannion, 1991). A third contribution has been more practical, and linkedto examining specific human-environment interactions. Inspired by human ecology in the US, resource management in geography has long been involved in the formulation of environmental policy. On the whole,environmentalist thought and practice in geography has been broadly technocentric. However, a more radical tradition stretches back tocommunitarian Kropotkin\'s (1899) Fields, factories and workshops. Inrecent years, this radicalism has been renewed. In resource management,for example, a less technocentric approach to resource use has emerged(see Blaikie et al., 1994). Additionally, a new \'political ecology\' has beenadvocated by radical development geographers, who argue thatenvironmental problems usually impact more on the poor and are caused by wider social and economic power relations. A \'liberation ecology\'(Peet and Watts, 1996), it is argued, should thus be about human, as much
 
as it is about environmental, emancipation. (NC)References Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I. and Wisner, B. 1994:
 At risk
.London: Routledge. Carson, R. 1962:
 Silent spring
. Boston: HoughtonMifflin. Glacken, C. 1967:
Traces on the Rhodian shore
. Berkeley, CA:University of California Press. 
 Kropotkin, p. 1899: Fields, factories and workshops
. London: Freedom Press. Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L.,Randers, J. and Behrens, W. 1972:
The limits to growth
. New York: New  American Library. Powell, J.M. 1996: Origins of environmentalism. In I.Douglas, R. Huggett and M. Robinson, eds,
Companion encyclopaedia of geography
. London: Routledge, 274-92. Mannion, A.M. 1991:
Global environmental change
. Harlow: Longman. Marsh, G.P. 1964 [orig. pub.1864]:
 Man and nature
. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press;Milton, K. 1996:
 Environmentalism and cultural theory
. London:Routledge. O\'Riordan, T. 1989: The challenge for environmentalism. InR. Peet and N. Thrift, eds,
 New models in geography
, vol. 1. Boston:Unwin Hyman, 77-101. O\'Riordan, T. 1996: Environmentalism on themove. In I. Douglas, R. Huggett and M. Robinson, eds,
Companionencyclopaedia of geography
. London: Routledge, 449-69. Peet, R. and Watts, M., eds, 1996:
 Liberation ecologies
. Routledge: New  York. Simon, J. 1997:
The ultimate resource II 
. Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press.Suggested Reading Bowlby, S. and Lowe, M. 1992: Environmental andgreen movements. In A.M. Mannion and S. Bowlby, eds,
 Environmental issues in the 1990s
. Chichester: Wiley, 161-75. Pepper, D. 1996:
 Modernenvironmentalism
. London: Routledge.
Forms of Environmentalism|Ecocentrism|Technocentrism|Gaianism|Communalism|Accommodation|Intervention|Faith inthe rightsof natureand of theessentialneed forco-evolutionof humannaturalethics.|Faith in the cooperativecapabilities of societies toestablish self-reliantcommunities based onrenewable resource-use andappropriate technologies.|Faith in theadaptability of existinginstitutions andapproaches toassessment toaccommodateenvironmentaldemands.|Faith in theapplication of science,market forcesandmanagerialingenuity tointervene innature tocreateeconomicgrowth andovercomeenvironmentalproblems.|Demand for redistribution of powertowards decentralized, federated economy  with more emphasis on informal socio-economic interactions and participatory  justice.|Belief in the retention of the statusquo in the existing structure of economic and political power, but ademand for more responsivenessand accountability in politicalregulatory, planning andeducational institutions.| Adapted from O\'Riordan (1989)| 

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