Tuesday, June 14, 2005
In a controversial report entitled "The Death of Environmentalism," Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus remind us how important definitions of the term "environment" are for understanding and ultimately addressing "environmental problems." They write:
"If one understands the environment to include humans, then the way the environmental community designates certain problems as 'environmental' and others not is completely arbitrary. Why, for instance, is a human-made phenomenon like global warming-- which may kill hundreds of millions of human beings over the next century-- considered environmental? If it is, then why are poverty and war not also considered environmental problems?
The point here is whether or not to include human beings in our understanding of what constitutes the environment. Understanding ourselves as separate from the environment-- it being just "out there" --too easily allows us to remove human beings from the environmental problems we face when in fact we are, our society is, intrinsically tied to the natural phenomena, physical processes and events we see as problematic. Put differently, we should remember that environmental problems are essentially human problems.
No matter what one's position may be regarding a particular environmental issue, this is all more support for bringing the Humanities into play when studying "the environment." Working only within the sciences and focusing only on the natural world beyond the human world is ultimately too narrow an approach for effectively addressing the complexities of environmental problems. Here at Castle Rock, we strive to implement this insight, and offer it as an important corrective to more science-oriented environmental studies programs.