Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Blog Post 3

February 4th, 2017 | Posted by Victoria Grant in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Prompt: How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures? (Or do they?)

Image result for native people and environment

The world is changing and the changes observed are noticed by everyone: maybe at different rates but, noticed. Peoples perspective and action toward the changes are unique and correspond with their cultural background. Cultures clash because of opposing opinions and closed mind-sets yet, there seems to be a common consensus on one thing: environmental issues are real. The world is noticing the problems and cultures have their own way of solving problems.

There is no common solution for the environmental change. Different areas are impacted in different ways with unique contributing factors. The culture of that area impacts the way people address their issues however. I am not an expert on cultures but, when I was younger, I talked to a man who lived on the native reservation of Cherokee Georgia. He told me how his people love in care for the world all the time: not when it becomes an issue. From observations of our current world, I do know some cultures seem more active in environmental activism while others are critical.

Developing countries have a stronger connection to nature. They are the first areas affected by environmental issues and sometimes the most strongly impacted. People have a stronger dependence on their resources and treat nature more precious. Countries like America attack environmental issues when they finally reach their borders instead of solving the problem when it arises.

Image result for dakota access pipeline


Indigenous Economics Part 1: Native Americans and Environmental Protest


Prompt: How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures?

The short stories we read in class this week shared a common theme: cultural differences affect the way people solve problems. There are a plethora of variables that prevent solutions from universality, especially solutions related to the environment. This is to be expected; how can an environment in the Appalachian Mountains be the exact same as an environment within the Andes or one in the Himalayas? While one might be tempted to apply the same methods that work in one culture or environment to any other that is similar, there are often several roadblocks, including but not limited to: financial and material resources, local regulations, geographical constraints, moral objections, and even comprehension of the solution.

Westerners, in particular, love trying to impose their methods upon the international community. However, while not always helpful, their effort is important. Research has shown that environmentally friendly attitudes and behaviors have primarily developed in societies that emphasize the individual rather than the collective. Individualistic societies are prone to people taking action on their own, while team-first attitudes have suffered from social loafing. As a result, individualistic societies, which are most often found in Western countries, are the ones producing solutions for the rest of the world, even though the advancements they have made in their own countries far outpace less developed nations. Keeping this in mind, it is necessary that they transfer their spirit but not their solutions, because experience has shown that the best local solutions are the ones that are understood by the people who are affected the most.

Works Cited:

Kim, Heejung S., David K. Sherman, and Keiko Ishii. “Motivating Eco-Friendly Behaviors Depends on Cultural Values.” Association for Psychological Science. N.p., 31 Aug. 2016. Web. 03 Feb. 2017. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/motivating-eco-friendly-behaviors-depends-on-cultural-values.html#.WJUq8LYrI9c>.

It can be taken as given, that culture plays a fundamental role in all aspects of our lives. Human behaviors, meanings, attitudes and cognitions are dictated by the cultures we are brought up in. In this context, the meanings we assign to the environment, and our relationship with the environment are defined by our cultural constructs. We often remain oblivious to this nuance of culture- its so deeply ingrained in our upbringing- that it becomes normative. However, the centrality of culture involves a paradox. On one side the possession of culture is viewed as the defining attribute of humans. It is an inescapable aspect of any human phenomenon, including how people shape the environment, use the environment and interact with it. Concurrently, culture divides the single human species into groups that are so varied that they can be seen as sub-species. This is why people differ with the extent to which they perceive environmental issues. This variability is thus an important attribute of humans. It prescribes an individuals role and attitude, with respect to the environment. Are we above the environment? Are we a part of the environment? Does the environment exist simply as a resource for our use and consumption or is it something we have a reverential attitude towards?

Attitudes towards environmental issues, tend fall along a continuum. from not being concerned to being very concerned. “Each of these sets of concerns reflects different underlying values. We refer to these as egoistic, altruistic, and biospheric attitudes. Egoistic concerns are focused on the individual, and reflect a concern about environmental problems for self. These concerns include personal health, financial well-being, quality of life, and availability of resources. Altruistic concerns focus on people other than self, including friends, family, community, future generations, or humanity. Finally, biospheric concerns focus on all living things, including plants, animals, ecosystems, and the biosphere.” (Shultz)

“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006, recognizes that, “Respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment”

Muslims believe that all creations of Allah i.e. animals and trees, glorify God in their own way. “Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth, -the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind?” (QURAN 22:18) “But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters” (Quran 6:141, Yusuf Ali translation). Looking at Christianity, Genesis 2:15 says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Hinduism advocates the worship of the sun, wind, land, trees, plants, and water. Likewise, respect and conservation of wildlife are part of the cultures’ ethos. Buddhism teaches, “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I undertake to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.“Globally, bodies like The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992 Rio Earth Summit) are dedicated to promote sustainable development. They recognize biological diversity and the need to protect the environment as a trans-national and inter-cultural issue. They believe it encompasses more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems— it is also about people.

Ultimately, there is no escaping one truth that remains the same for all members of this planet. We all inhabit this earth, as have our ancestors and as will our successors. We are being blatantly selfish, and killing a system that supports us. Whether we choose to follow, or ignore what our culture advocates, we cannot ignore the escalation of ecological problems, especially those we are currently facing. We must recognize the inevitable ruination that we will all be subject to, regardless of our culture, gender or nationality. Our ignorance and apathy is leading to deaths and we must effectively work to solve the issue.



Works Cited

Chhibber, Bharti. “Indian Cultural Heritage and Environmental Conservation through Traditional Knowledge.” Indian Cultural Heritage and Environmental Conservation through Traditional (…) – Mainstream Weekly. Mainstream Weekly, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

Schultz, P. Wesley. “Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors Across Cultures.” . California State University, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

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.

How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures?

In the preface of the novel Inuit, Polar Bears, and Sustainable Use, Mary May Simon, a fellow at the Arctic Institute of North America and former Canadian diplomat, recounts her personal history regarding ways of knowing in the Inuit community and their connections with wildlife. She says of hunting polar bears, “It is far more than just hunting, processing, and eating an animal. We respect that which gives us life and that which gives its own life for our very own. Imagine trying to grasp the depth of this understanding and principle in a world of farmed animals, artificial materials, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants?”(Simon vii). This is a response to the event in May 2008, where the United States categorized polar bears as a ‘depleted species’ under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act banned the importing of any polar bear goods, including those from sustainable conservation hunting programs. This action deeply impacted Inuit livelihoods, where there were already provincial and federal laws in place to ensure the health polar bear populations. This is a striking example of how cross-cultural misunderstanding can lead to smaller communities being overshadowed by a dominant society’s perspective.

This interaction is paralleled in the story Staying Afloat by Angela Penrose, where the narrator, who resides in Mexico, states her opinion on the communication with Americans about environmental issues in her community: “an American product pushed by smiling blond spokesmen in expensive ‘casual’ suits who promised miracles every time they opened their mouths” (Penrose 324). The ideology that environmental issues can be solved through purely one country’s actions is not only unhelpful when discussing these issues, but can be very harmful. Every person on earth is dealing with the changing climate, and as such we should fully respect the opinions and ideas of one another. Therefore, acknowledging the fact that environmental issues register differently in different cultures is necessary in order to create effective and long-lasting solutions to environmental problems.

An Inuit hunter wearing traditional hunting clothes for surviving the extreme cold. (http://www.allaboutshoes.ca/en/our-boots/index.php?target_table=our_boots&sub_section=1420)

Works Cited

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

Simon, Mary May. “Preface.” Preface. Inuit, Polar Bears, and Sustainable Use: Local, National and International Perspectives. Ed. Milton M. R. Freeman and Lee Foote. Edmonton: CCI, 2009. Print.

How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures? (Or do they?)


According to Amos Rapoport in “On the Relation Between Culture and Environment”, “culture-environment relations have been among the most active and lively areas of environment-behavior studies (EBS)”. This being, because every culture views environmental issues in different ways due to the differing views of life in general. The reasons of this development of culture-environment relations is due to how culture affects behavior, cognition, and meaning (Rapoport). Culture is the eyes through which we look at the world and therefore affects the way they view the environment.

Ever since the beginning of the human species, we have learned from the world around us and created thoughts and ideas on how to look at it. These different biological subgroups of humans has resulted in the differences between groups of humans. Due to the vastness of the earth and the separation of different people, each group developed different cultures and ways of looking at the world.

Although culture is different all over the world, it is hard to define what it is. Rapoport says that culture is an “unobservable entity” that is only seen by its effects, expressions, or products. When each culture defines “environment” they define it in different ways. Environment may be the nature in which surrounds us or the environment in which we construct for ourselves.

This adds complexity for finding solutions for environmental issues and will require a cross-cultural approach to tackle. As an educator, my goal is to create lesson plans that expose my students to environmental issues and solutions while appealing to their different cultural backgrounds. Hopefully by doing this I can be an enactor of change within my students lives.


Works Cited


Rapoport, Amos. “Culture and Environment.” Culture and Environment. Carnegie Mellon University, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017. <http://www.cmu.edu/ARIS_3/text/text_rapoport.html>.

Culture. Defined by anthropologist Sir Edward B. Tylor as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society,” culture is an ever present truth in the human existence. However, I would argue that an equally significant aspect of culture is its attendant sense of mystery.

As humans, while we are always part of a culture, there are far more cultures from which we are excluded, cultures we seek to understand through an amalgam of media, from personal experience to anthropologists’ notes to news headlines to books and short stories. When perceiving culture, it is particularly interesting to examine the intersection of culture with environment as the two are inextricably linked and mutually influential.

Today, as I was scouring the web for a news piece detailing an environmental solution, I came across this recent article regarding a biodiversity campaign in Nigeria. While the work being done in the Niger Delta addresses several issues including recent oil spills threatening local fisheries as well as the loss of biodiversity in local tortoises, crocodiles, and plants, the primary species of interest for the locals is the Sclater’s Guenon, a species of monkey. However, locally, it is known by another name, ‘First Daughter’ of Itam- Awa Itam. These monkeys are seen as sisters and brothers in the local culture, and, as a direct result, biodiversity efforts which seek to plant the fruit trees the Sclater’s Guenon relies upon for food have found strong local support.

Image result for Sclater’s Guenon

While I found this story fascinating, I had complete faith that the same situation would never occur in a completely different culture like the United States. Seeing monkeys as brothers and sisters is most definitely not a part of American culture as far as I know. However, upon deeper consideration, I realized that we in America have in fact reacted in the exact same way. When a dearly beloved creature, the American Bald Eagle, symbol of American freedom and prosperity and vital part of our nation’s culture, became considered an endangered species, Americans changed both policies and practices – primarily concerning the use of DDT as a pesticide – to protect the raptor.

Thus, while culture is a diverse entity and its interactions with the environment are often complex, not all environmental issues register differently in different cultures. As seen in Nigeria with the Sclater’s Guenon and in the US with the American Bald Eagle, cultural relationships may differ, but both nations have groups which formed in defense of the animals the regions held dear and pushed forward efforts for the conservation of biodiversity.



Bald Eagle. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. <http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/bald_eagle/>.

Sclater’s Guenon. Digital image. Cercopan. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. <http://cercopan.org/sclaters-guenon/>.

Street, Brian Vincent. “Sir Edward Burnett Tylor.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 12 Jan. 2007. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Uwaegbulam, Chinedum. “Niger Delta Biodiversity Project Rescues Endangered Species.”The Guardian. N.p., 09 Jan. 2017. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

The intersection between environment and culture is undeniable, from agriculture to art to the industries and professions that dominate different societies. In places like Japan or the Caribbean, where fishing is a prominent livelihood for many, issues of pollution in the water will be of much greater concern than in landlocked or desert-covered countries. In an area that relies on coal mining such as West Virginia, individuals may be much more opposed to green energy initiatives and stubbornly defend their way of life despite an outside narrative that discourages the continuing use of fossil fuels.

Religion has also had a large influence on the way societies and cultures view and interact with their environment. The Christian Bible teaches that humans are “stewards” of the Earth, which can be interpreted in multiple ways. Some Christians take this as a sign that the natural world is theirs to use as they wish; they are higher than plants and animals and have the right to take any resources they may want. Other Christians see their role as more similar to that of a protector; they have a sacred duty to take care of nature and make sure that the planet is healthy. However, in many South and Eastern Asian religions, humans are not seen as separate from the rest of the natural world, and are instead viewed as just another component of a greater spirit or cycle of life. In Hinduism, for example, a person may be reincarnated as an animal many times over until they eventually attain nirvana. In Taoism, all energy is part of the Tao: “the Way” or “the One,” which is sometimes described as the “flow of the universe” and a manifestation of nature. In both of these traditions, it is necessary to show respect towards the natural world because adherents view themselves as inseparable from the all-encompassing “oneness” of life in the universe.

As demonstrated in the Penrose story, the economic situation of a country or community will also have a large influence on the solutions that people find, if any. Interestingly, that particular account demonstrated a significant advantage that poorer nations have over countries such as the United States: a history of developing their own solutions on an individual level rather than relying on technological advancements, the government, corporations, or their own personal wealth to overcome or evade challenges. In other words, a long history of being left to fend for themselves will be the saving grace of poor communities.

A combination of these as well as many other factors will ultimately determine the way that different cultures respond to the challenges that arise as a result of climate change and human interference in the environment. Access to communication through technology or simple proximity to highly-populated areas; the cultural importance placed upon cooperation, ingenuity, tradition, and scores of other values; the availability of education to the general population; the historical interplay between nature and society as well as the influence of media on the overall narrative of the environment and how it should be treated: all of these components and more will vastly affect the approaches and attitudes of various groups in the face of a changing landscape. You just hope that in the end, the response will be one of empathy and not selfishness.

Blog Post #3- Kevin Bhimani

February 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Bhimani in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Kevin Bhimani Blog #3

Topic: How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures?


I believe the notion of environmental issues, like many other issues on this planet, is entirely subjective. Some may think that immigration laws are not a problem, whereas others would care to differ. Some may think that countries shouldn’t go to war and that there is no point, but others will do anything to protect their country. Some people may think that there is not a global warming problem, whereas others would offer evidence refuting such claims. It is a situation that is not exclusive to just environmental issues such as degradation, fossil fuel consumption, biodiversity loss, and more. At the core of this though, is the sentiment that everything takes on a different connotation depending on who you talk to and the region of the world you are in. Different cultures will inherently have different mindsets on certain topics.

Angela Penrose detailed a story in her excerpt from Loosed Upon the World how a farm in Mexico was saved by a landslide by using old “junk” that was re-purposed into being an effective measure to preserve the crops. This “junk” was saved by the Abuelo in the story, and it was described as “piles of stuff he saved for some day when it might come in handy” (Penrose 335). Just that sentence can explain the dichotomy our society faces today in which most people in the U.S. would not think to save scraps of metal and Styrofoam, but in another country (in this case Mexico), these are seen as useful materials that could be very beneficial to have lying around. Additionally, we see that people in developed countries have no appreciation for things such as water because it is so readily available, but in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, this issue can be one of life or death. Moreover, pollution in a place like Beijing makes it dangerous to even be outside as the air quality is so low, but people here in Durham, North Carolina do not face the same problem. This discord with issues in my opinion stems from the immediacy of the issue to a person. A citizen living in Beijing will by very privy to the issues of air pollution as it is something that tangibly affects their day to day life, but a similar person in the United States might not have such a deep concern over the same issue. The same goes for people that call the Amazon rainforest their home and the fact that it is being degraded heavily affects their lives, but an average person in London for example will not share their plight. I think to advance the cause for making our collective home, Earth, a place that we can all share for centuries to come, we must be aware and have concern in environmental issues that don’t directly affect us. It is only then that we will be able to overcome the vast amount of problems we face today concerning the state of our environment.


Works Cited:

Penrose, Angela. “Staying Afloat.” Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. New York: Saga, 2015. N. pag. Print.