Reflections on Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction by Paul Robbins, et. al.

Though it was long and broad, this book was clear and easy to read. This makes sense because it is a textbook, rather than a treatise. Additionally, it dealt with many of the same concepts we have been discussing in environmental geography, or that I have learned about in other geography/environmental classes.

One of the primary concepts was the fact that the line between “civilization” and “pristine nature” is either nonexistent or incredibly blurred. This was the central theme of The Meadows, the Cronin reading, and Nature: Western Attitudes since ancient times. This book uses new examples, however, citing a human constructed coffee plantation with plenty of thriving wildlife and Oostvarderplassen, a Dutch recreation of the prehuman grasslands of northern Europe. It follows that the idea of a civilization that was completely ecologically virtuous is not true, but compelling nonetheless.

This book explores population in an interesting way that shows all sides of the argument. First, there is the Malthusian pessimism which states that population grows exponentially while food production grows arithmetically, so there is never enough resources to keep up with the growing population and people starve. This book also points out that recent data refutes this idea, in part because when people become wealthier and have better access to resources they actually have fewer children.

Political economy is also looked at. This is the idea of looking at the intersection of economy and political power in the study of history. It concludes that economies tend toward the acccumulation of more resources in fewer hands and the production of a great deal of waste in order to create a greater profit. This makes sense because if a company wants to sell their products at a consistently profitable level, they need to design things that will break down and have to be wasted.

This book also looks at the many ways to mitigate pollution and climate change, through the market, through the state, and through both. It points out that there is no perfect solution and that the “commons” involved in the process are so broad and boundless that they are difficult to regulate.


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