Human Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 449–460

On Humans and Environment: The Role of Consciousness in Environmental Problems

  • Jerry Williams
  • Shaun Parkman
Article

Abstract

This paper addresses the relationship between humans and nature as it relates to the ability of human societies to solve large-scale environmental problems. We assert that humans are not unique in their relationship with nature; all species have the ability to externalize their being into the world thus creating environmental problems. We also argue that human consciousness and rationality do not provide ready answers to these problems. Unless we better understand the pretheoretical and pragmatic nature of human consciousness, rational/scientific attempts to deal with large-scale environmental problems will fail. We use a framework derived from Schutzian phenomenology to explain how human consciousness both provides the motivation for creating environmental problems and also impedes any real solutions. Thus, we explore a dialectic of human consciousness that has profound implications for discussions about the ability of humans to solve environmental problems.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Barchas, P.R. (1984). Social Cohesion: Essays Toward a Sociophysiological Perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, U. (2000). What is Globalization? Malden, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berger, P.L. (1963). Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  5. Berger, P.L. (1967). The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, 1st edition. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  6. Berger, P.L. and Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  7. Bromage, T.G. and Schrenk, F. (Eds.). (1999). African Biogeography, Climate Change, and Human Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, B. (1985). Human Evolution: An Introduction to Man's Adaptations, 3rd edition. New York: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  9. Daly, H.E. (1977). Steady-State Economics: The Economics of Biophysical Equilibrium and Moral Growth. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  10. Dawkins, R. (1987). The Blind Watchmaker (1st Norton paperback edition). New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  11. Dennett, D.C. (1991). Consciousness Explained, 1st edition. Boston: Little Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  12. Dennett, D.C. (1995). Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  13. Descartes, R. and Clarke, D.M. (1999). Discourse on Method, and Related Writings. London: New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  14. Dickens, P. (1996). Reconstructing Nature: Alienation, Emancipation, and the Division of Labour. London: New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Drake, F. (2000). Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change. London/New York: Arnold. [Co-published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press.]Google Scholar
  16. Durant, J.R. (Ed.). (1989). Human Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ekins, P. (1992). A New World Order: Grassroots Movements for Global Change. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Gehlen, A. (1988). Man, His Nature and Place in the World. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Groves, C.P. (1989). A Theory of Human and Primate Evolution. New York: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  20. Katz, B. (2000). The Federal Role in Curbing Sprawl. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 572: 66-77.Google Scholar
  21. Lowe, M.D. (1992). Alternatives to Sprawl: Shaping Tomorrow's Cities. The Futurist 26(4): 28-34.Google Scholar
  22. Marx, K. (1978). Alienated Labor. In: D. McLellan (Ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings, pp. 73-112. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Natanson, M.A. (1986). Anonymity: A Study in the Philosophy of Alfred Schutz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Prugh, T., Costanza, R., and Daly, H.E. (2000). The Local Politics of Global Sustainability. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  25. Schutz, A. (1962a). Common-Sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  26. Schutz, A. (1962b). On Multiple Realities. In: M. Natanson (Ed.), Collected Papers i: The Problem of Social Reality, pp. 207-283. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  27. Sherman, L.W. (2000). The Hole in the Doughnut: Center Cities and Sprawl. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 572: 50-53.Google Scholar
  28. Thomason, B.C. (1982). Making Sense of Reification: Alfred Schutz and Constructionist Theory. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  29. Washburn, S.L. and Dolhinow, P. (Eds.). (1972). Perspectives on Human Evolution 2. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.Google Scholar
  30. Williams, J. (1998). Knowledge, Consequences, and Experience: The Social Construction of Environmental Problems. Sociological Inquiry 68(4): 476-497.Google Scholar
  31. Williams, J.L. (2001). The Rise and Decline of Public Interest in Global Warming: Toward a Pragmatic Conception of Environmental Problems. Huntington, NY: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerry Williams
    • 1
  • Shaun Parkman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyStephen F. Austin State UniversityNacogdochesUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

Personalised recommendations