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Environmental Sociology And the HEP-NEP Distinction. DISCUSSION GROUP TOPICS: What do you think are some of the characteristics of the “dominant western world view” in general?

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Environmental Sociology And the HEP-NEP Distinction

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Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Environmental Sociology

  • And the HEP-NEP Distinction


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • DISCUSSION GROUP TOPICS:

  • What do you think are some of the characteristics of the “dominant western world view” in general?

  • What do you think are some of the key characteristics of the “dominant western world view” as it applies to science, nature, and natural resources”?


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Catton and Dunlap have criticized sociological theory - in general - for not giving enough attention to critical feedback linkages between natural and built environments and society.

  • They argue that there is a need in sociology to shift paradigms, or take on a new world view that incorporates linkages between ecosystems and social systems.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • C and D begin by noting that the development of environmental problems, especially in the past four decades, has changed attitudes and expectations amongst the general public and sociologists alike.

  • There has been a dramatic shift from the 1950's when the North American dreams of social progress, upward mobility, and societal stability seemed secure.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Before we begin a discussion of the development of the "new ecological paradigm" we must first review what is meant by the term paradigm.

  • According to Ritzer, a paradigm is a fundamental image of the subject matter within a science.

  • It serves to define what should be studied, what questions should be asked, how they should be asked, and what rules should be followed in interpreting the answer obtained.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • The paradigm is the broadest unit of consensus within a science and serves to differentiate one scientific community (or sub-community) from another.

  • It subsumes, defines and inter-relates the exemplars, theories, methods, and instruments that exist within it.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Catton and Dunlap argue that the numerous competing theoretical perspectives in contemporary sociology (for instance structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism to name a few) tend to exaggerate their differences from each other.

  • C and D argue that their diversity is not as important as the fundamental anthropocentricism which underlies all of them.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • This mutual anthropocentricism is part of a basic sociological world view.

  • C & D label this view, the "Human Exceptionalism Paradigm" (HEP).

  • Catton and Dunlap argue that acceptance of the assumption of the HEP has made it difficult for most sociologists to deal meaningfully with the social implications of ecological problems and constraints


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • "The HEP comprises several assumptions that have either been challenged by recent additions to knowledge, or have had their optimistic implications contradicted by events of the seventies. Accepted explicitly or implicitly by all existing theoretical persuasions, they include:


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • 1. Human are unique among the earth's creatures, for they have culture.

  • 2. Culture can vary almost infinitely and can change much more rapidly than biological traits.

  • 3.Thus man human differences are socially induced rather than inborn, they can be social altered, and inconvenient differences can be eliminated.

  • 4. Thus, also, cultural accumulation means that progress can continue without limit, making all social problems ultimately solvable."


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Catton and Dunlap state that sociological acceptance of this optimistic world view was shaped by the doctrine of progress inherent in Western culture.

  • They argue that the majority of the public (until recently) maintained a strong belief that the present was better than the past and the future would improve upon the present.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Catton and Dunlap state that neglect of the ecosystem-dependence of human society has been particularly evident in sociological literature on economic development, which has failed to recognize biogeochemical limits to material progress.

  • When the public started to become concerned about newly visible environmental problems, it was biologists who served as opinion leaders not sociologists.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Sociologists began to read the work of these "opinion leaders" and assumption and perceptions changed.

  • Sociologists began to recognize that the reality of ecological constraints posed serious problems for human societies as well as for the discipline of sociology.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • At the beginning of the 70's concern with the environment as a social problem led to numerous studies of public attitudes toward environmental issues and of the "Environmental Movement".

  • Links developed between sociologists concerned with a range of issues, including the build environment, natural hazards, resource management, outdoor recreation, and "social impact assessment".


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • After the energy crisis of 1973 numerous sociologists began to study the effects of energy shortages in particular, and resource constraints in general, on society.

  • For example, the effects of resource constraints on the stratification system, the political order, and the family


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • "Conceptions of "environment" range from the "manmade" (or "built") environment to the "natural" environment, with an array of "human-altered environments -e.g., air, water, noise, and visual pollution-in between.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • Catton and Dunlap go on to describe the development of environmental sociology, which rests on a different set of assumptions.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • 1. Human beings are but one species among the many that are interdependently involved in the biotic communities that shape our social life.

  • 2.Intricate linkages of cause and effect and feedback in the web of nature produce many unintended consequences from purposive human action.

  • 3.The world is finite, so there are potent physical and biological limits constraining economic growth social progress, and other societal phenomena.


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

  • A Comparison of Major Assumptions in the Dominant Western Worldview, Sociology’s Human Exemptionalism Paradigm, and the Proposed New Ecological Paradigm


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

Dominant Western

Worldview (DWW)

Human Exemptionalism

Paradigm (HEP)

DWW1:

People are

fundamentally

different from all

other creatures on

Earth, over which

they have dominion

HEP1:

Human have cultural

heritage in addition

to (and distinct from)

their genetic inheritance,

and thus are quite unlike

all other animal species.

Assumptions

about the nature

of human beings

DWW2:

People are masters

of their destiny; they

choose their goals

and learn to do what-

ever is necessary to do.

HEP2:

Social and cultural

factors (including

technology) are the major

determinants of human

affairs.

Assumptions

about

social causation


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

Dominant Western

Worldview (DWW)

Human Exemptionalism

Paradigm (HEP)

DWW3:

The world is vast,

and thus provides

unlimited

opportunities for

humans.

HEP3:

Social and cultural

environments are

the crucial context for

human affairs, and the

biophysical environment

is largely irrelevant.

Assumptions

about the context

of human society

DWW4:

The history of

humanity is one of

progress; for every

problem there is a

solution, and thus

progress need

never cease.

HEP4:

Culture is cumulative;

thus technological

progress can continue

indefinitely, making all

social problems

ultimately soluble.

Assumptions

about constraints

on human society


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

Dominant Western

Worldview (DWW)

New Ecological

Paradigm (NEP)

NEP1: While humans have

exceptional characteristics

(culture, technology, etc.),

they remain one among

many species that are

interdependently involved

in the global ecosystem.

DWW1:

People are

fundamentally

different from all

other creatures on

Earth, over which

they have dominion

Assumptions

about the nature

of human beings

NEP2: Human affairs are

influenced not only by social

and cultural factors, but also

by intricate linkages of cause,

effect, and feedback in the web

of nature; thus purposive human

actions have many unintended

consequences.

DWW2:

People are masters

of their destiny; they

choose their goals

and learn to do what-

ever is necessary to do.

Assumptions

about

social causation


Environmental sociology and the hep nep distinction

Dominant Western

Worldview (DWW)

New Ecological

Paradigm (NEP)

DWW3:

The world is vast,

and thus provides

unlimited

opportunities for

humans.

NEP3: Humans live in

and are dependent upon

a finite biophysical

environment which

imposes potential physical

and biological restraints

on human affairs.

Assumptions

about the context

of human society

DWW4:

The history of

humanity is one of

progress; for every

problem there is a

solution, and thus

progress need

never cease.

NEP4: Although the

inventiveness of humans

and the powers derived

therefrom may seem for

a while to extend carrying

capacity limits, ecological

laws cannot be repealed

Assumptions

about constraints

on human society


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