Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Culture and Environment – Ryan Bronstein

February 4th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Bronstein in Uncategorized

The way humans perceive their surroundings has always been a product of their culture. As Robert Cox explains, this origin of our perceptions can be exemplified by the early colonists of America (2016). The colonists greatly feared the dangerous, primitive wilderness that today is often referred to as nature with a pleasant connotation. This contrasted greatly with the indigenous Native Americans who lived with and revered their surroundings just as their ancestors and culture instructed them to do so.  Therefore, for centuries culture and the environmental perceptions have been largely intertwined, producing a multitude of different perspectives.

These cultural perspectives can differ in a variety of ways; nevertheless, Paul Wesley Schultz breaks them down into three attitudes: biospheric concerns pertaining to all living things, altruistic concerns related to other people and humanity beyond the individual, and egoistic concerns solely about oneself (2002). It is this choice set of perspectives that brings about the need for the Environmental Humanities as it is necessary to understand the motives and philosophies of a culture in order to bring in a working solution to its environmental issues. As Angela Penrose illustrates in Staying Afloat, developed nations are far too egoistic, driven primarily by business opportunities rather than the desire to make a positive change. On the other hand, third world and developing nations cannot afford to seek profit. They can barely afford to break even. The environment and climate change are not commercial products to them, but rather a life-altering, destructive phenomenon for everyone.  Unfortunately, the developed countries do not yet seem to see climate change in the same light, and it may not be until they do so that significant progress will be made.

Works Cited

Schultz, P. Wesley. “Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors Across Cultures.” Online Readings in Psychology and Culture 8.1 (2002): n. pag. Web.

Penrose, Angela. “Staying Afloat.” Loosed Upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. Ed. John Joseph Adams. Saga. 323-40. Print.

Cox, Robert, and Phaedra C. Pezullo. “Chapter 2 Contested Meanings of Environment.” Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

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