Reference Work Entry

Environmental Geology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 192-194

Environment and environmentalism

  • Timothy O'Riordan

Einstein is reported to have defined environment as ‘everything that isn't me’. This aphorism symbolizes one feature of the environmental dilemma. Unlike any other living creature, humans can view the natural world as if they were separate from it. Toynbee (1976) remarked that humans have rational minds and emotional souls. They can order ideas and rank feelings. They can care passionately about salvation and fear for what they bequeath to their offspring. They can over-slaughter bison yet create a lasting international Antarctic sanctuary for whales.

‘Environment’ is a metaphor for the enduring contradictions in the human condition: the power of domination yet the obligation of responsibility; the drive for betterment tempered by the sensitivity of humility; the manipulation of nature to improve the chances of survival yet the universal appeal of sustainable development; the individualism of consumerism and the social solidarity of global citizenship. These points are made in books by ...

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