Reflections on Robbins et. al. Environment and Society Part I.

Environment and Society written by Robbins et al was a fairly comprehensive textbook style book that provided chapters of information in a fairly easily read format. I appreciated this text’s use of vocabulary boxes, blurbs for more thought, and questions at the end of each chapter. The book briefly discussed many of the most important topics in society’s environmental history, some of which I’d learned plenty about in other classes, and others which I’m interested in discussing further.

  • So even if human population will never truly “exhaust” the earth it is reasonable to ask what quality-of-life might be expected in specific places with large populations and ask what obligations the wealthy have to the earth upon which they tread so heavily (19) — I have this question too. The book talks about how difficult it is to get individuals or organizations to take responsibility for their impacts on the environment (and explains Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, which we talked about extensively in Environmental Alterations).

“Overpopulation, as this logic goes, is inevitable without some form of enforcement mechanism” (53)

“Conscience and goodwill, Hardin further asserted, were useless in the face of compelling, internal, adaptive, evolutionary logics” (53)

These ideas are still provoking for me – it’s not enough to hope that everyone will suddenly become compassionate and respect the Earth, there must be laws and costs for enforcing standards that we know are necessary to sustain the Earth, even if they are contradictory to the needs or desires of individuals.

  • I also found the discussion of techniques for population control intriguing (one child policy, sterilization). Where do our rights to have all the children we want end? Do they? I think these may be merely technical solutions that ignore the root of our problems. Additionally, these tactics target the less wealthy and so to me, appear to be inherently unjust.
  • Green revolution food production has doomed worldwide wheat production in India tripled between 1965 and 1984 far outpacing the rate of population growth (21) – so much excess!
  • Almost 30 percent of land in the United States remains under federal control today (70) The majority of the land is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (
    Federal Lands map
  • Also, I hadn’t thought much about the distinction between conservation and preservation, and will now definitely use the words more carefully. I think I may’ve used them interchangeably until now, but this is certainly an important set of goals to distinguish between.

Conservation: the management of a resource or system to sustain its productivity over time, typically associated with scientific management of collective goods like fisheries or forests

Preservation: the management of a resource or environment for protection and preservation, typically for its own sake, as in wilderness preservation

  • Endangered Species Act (73)

Passed overwhelmingly in 1973- regulatory protection, USFWS “designs and implements” a recovery plan for the species. “ESA prohibits the federal government form taking any action that would further jeopardize listed species” and “prohibits the killing or harming of listed species on all lands, whether publicly or privately owned” – super controversial, some say it has a low “success rate” – but also few animals have actually gone extinct since its institution.

  •  I agree with moral extensionism – the idea that we should extend our sphere of moral consideration beyond the human real (now, to “include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land”), but have never questioned the fact that I would do that.
  • ECOFEMINISM! (113)

One Response to Reflections on Robbins et. al. Environment and Society Part I.

  1. […] Week 7, Robbins et al. Environment and Society pt. 1 […]

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