Environment and Society: A Critical Response

Unlike all the other books we have read thus far, this was set up more like a text-book so I thought it was going to be more generalized and drier material.  However the book gave many new ideas about topics that we have already broached either in class or in other readings.  This mainly includes the idea of nature which this book describes well by defining it and then going on to talk about the problems with how nature is being defined and also how nature is consumed both literally and figuratively.  Robbins uses the definition that nature is “the natural world everything that exists that is not a product of human activity.”  More importantly he goes on to say how this definition is problematic because it is difficult, if not impossible to categorize and separate the entire world into discrete natural and human components.   Another important remark that Robbins has about “nature” is that nature has become something that has much of its value riding on the fact that it is useful to humans. Nature has become an object to us, especially a one with monetary value. This is seen in various ways across the spectrum: objects actually being sold to us like bird feeders, remote-controlled toys that are animals, butterfly nets, I think even something like hiking boots would fall into this category of using nature and its contents and rigors to make a profit.  Even something as having nature in the name also has proved profitable for the Discovery Channel which as made a killing by selling petrified woods, books on penguins and other things to people looking to “go green.”


There are even first person shooter/action video games that commodify nature for profit.

The book then goes on to discuss objects of concern which include: CO2 emissions, trees, wolves, tuna, bottled water and fries.  Each of these things are examined in quite explicit detail and given accordance for their environmental impact.  The way in which this is done is the most striking thing to me because most of these things are fairly common or at least everyone knows about them but it is unusual for them to be examined under a scope that takes into account how they interact with other aspects of the environment for better or worse. Another aspect of these 6 things is how some are actually related.  The trees, carbon and tuna are all similar in the fact that people have gotten so efficient at catching, using, and cutting these things that the world can no longer keep up.  Pre-industrial revolution there were carbon emissions but not on the scale that occurs now.  The book points out that now fishermen are out catching as big of catches as possible which doesn’t allow the fish populations to recover.  Trees are suffering from massive deforestation that wipe out entire old growth forests. Overall I think this really stayed away from the traditional style of text books that drones on while rattling off facts.

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