Notes on Environment & Society (Pessell)

Environment & Society by Paul Robbins, John Hintz, and Sarah Moore is a long book focusing on numerous subjects pertaining to the relationship between the natural or urban environments around us and societies around the world. Since there are so many chapters and an exuberant amount of topics to discuss within the book, I will focus on a few of the chapters I found the most interesting.

Chapter 4: Institutions and “The Commons”

Throughout my time here at Ohio Wesleyan, I have read and re-read the Tragedy of the Commons many times and, until reading this book, only had a vague idea of what it meant. I had understood it before but if someone asked me to explain it in my own words, I probably couldn’t have done it. However this book really broke it down in a way that made a lot of sense and gave it some really fascinating perspective. One thought that came across my mind as I read this chapter was how the Tragedy of the Commons was very Western. In Europe, land has always been seen as an object to be owned and if it was mistreated in any way, the owner was the victim in addition to the environmental ruin. It makes me wonder if this idea works in the context of cultures that see land not as an object to be bought and sold but as a home. This semester, I have been taking a class on Native American literature, and have learned that many Native cultures see the land as a “part of the family” so to speak. Land isn’t an object, it a provider. Would a society that saw land in that context really be so willing to take advantage of the resources in a way to bring environmental ruin? I am unsure because there is still the question of the people’s actions. It is said in the book that, in terms were people are allowed to collectively cooperate and discuss, there is a better chance for a mutually beneficial result. Humans have the opportunity to do that, especially in this day and age where countries and people are so connected. The example of the Montreal Protocol paints this idea in a positive light.

Chapter 11: Wolves

The reintroduction of wolves is a complex issue. Wolves in history and in the media are typically portrayed in negative ways. While I was growing up, I saw so many cartoons or other programs using anthropomorphic animals where the wolf was the villain. This negatively impacts the public view of wolves. In addition, there is the very real impact that wolves have on livestock. That reason makes sense when arguing against wolf reintegration. I myself have to agree with the ideas of conservationist biology. Wolves have an important part in ecosystems, have an interesting evolutionary tale, and just good things to have in the pursuit of animal diversity on Earth. Side note: I really hate the Minnesota state legislature. They ruined a perfectly reasonable accord for wolf reintroduction.

Chapter 14: Lawns

This chapter wasn’t exceedingly enlightening for me since I had previously read Paul Robbins’ Lawn People. Much of what is said in this chapter is also found in that book. The reason I bring this chapter up however is because over the summer, my father read Lawn People and he had said to me numerous times while reading it that it made him stress about or want to improve our own yard. It seemed to have the opposite reaction then the book was getting at. It is interesting that lawns are such an important American value that even criticizing the act of lawn care could increase the will to do it. Aside from that thought, I still find it strange how volitile people can get when they see an unmanicured lawn. Even I have done it and I’ve never cared about lawn care. But when I pass by a lawn and see it covered in patches of weeds or the lawn has overgrown grasses, or patches of dirt, I often question the owners morals. How could they leave their yard in such disrepair? The concept of lawn care is so prevelant and deeply rooted in our society that even those who believe that extensive lawn care is either a waste of time or bad for the environment still harshly critizice those who do not participate in lawn care for those same values.

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