Envrionment and Society, captivates several fairly relevant environmental factors and topics that have a great effect and impact on man and his surroundings. To begin with, Environment and Society talks about the problem of scarcity of resources and how the exponential growth of the human population negatively affects the survivor-ship and preservation of these resources. Scarcity of resources is a problem that must be adapted to by all living organisms. Thomas Malthus, a theorist on population in the late 1700s argued that population growth is not supposed to be continuously increasing, but that it should stay relatively the same. He explains that there are positive and negative checks on the environment, and that the negative checks are meant to control populations.
However, with the increase in technology and medical advancements, the negative checks in the environment are seen to be decreasing, which overall leads to an increase in population growth and a decrease in natural resources that can accommodate human population growth. Is Thomas Malthus right to argue that man should not focus so much attention to medical advancement because this in turn will not allow for proper control of the population? Can the human population control their own reproduction and death rates more efficiently?
Environment and Society continues to talk about scarcity in terms of economics. The authors note that as long as the natural market for goods can occur that, scarcity of goods will never be a problem because as a good becomes less and less common, its value will continue to increase, making the good less and less available to those who use the good. After taking an environmental economics course, I agree that the general theory in this is definitely true, and is in fact practiced commonly every day. In Europe, gas prices are extremely high because Europe does not have the access to available fossil fuels that the United States does. Therefore, towns and cities in Europe have evolved around not utilizing motor vehicles as much and instead utilize public transportation or moving closer to where their jobs are, etc. There are difficulties in dealing with scarcity and preservation of resources, however. Many of them have to do with the free-rider problem, in which case there is little that the current market today can do to respond to problems of market failure and externalities. Externalities are problems that affect society and the public, therefore it is more reasonable to ask the government to impose control on these issues, as opposed to the market. Another issue is obtaining proper value for resources. Although much advancement has been made in calculating non-use values, existence values, and future-use values, there is much yet to be explored about these economic models.
Hedonic valuation is one strategy that real estate agents can assess non-use values. For instance property values will increase, if there is good scenery, or an ocean-side view to a property.
I found it interesting that Part 1 of Environment and Society pulls in all of the human social constructs of the environment. Part 1 discusses the economic, political, ethical, and social practices of assessing scarcity of resources. It is important to note that all of these views are of a human construct and that it is impossible to obtain valuation from future generations or other organisms. It is in my opinion, however, that when assessing issues of scarcity that man keep in mind that it is the anthropocentric construct that is practiced when obtaining values.
This all relates back to the beginning of the book regarding the theories of Malthus. Should humans be so involved in creating controls for the environment? Is it more pragmatic to move away from these anthropocentric controls put into place and allow for a more “natural” balance of positive and negative checks to occur in the earth and its environs?