Human Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 449–460

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

  • Jerry Williams
  • Shaun Parkman

DOI: 10.1023/B:HUMA.0000003671.30924.8d

Cite this article as:
Williams, J. & Parkman, S. Human Studies (2003) 26: 449. doi:10.1023/B:HUMA.0000003671.30924.8d


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.

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

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