Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction provided a lot of new information and concepts along with a lot of information we had already discussed in previous books. Paul Robbins et al go over in great detail such questions as what we mean when we talk about nature, and how it intersects with political and economic theory. The book is also filled with descriptive analogies that help explain some of the more abstract ideas, although they can get a little tedious at times.
In the first chapter chapter of the book we are shown a park in the Netherlands that has been set aside for wildlife. Robbins et al explain how the wild cows living there were actually brought into the park and that the park itself, like much of the Netherlands, was originally underwater until humans transformed the land for settlement. We are then asked the question of whether this “rewilded” land is actually natural. This question of what exactly is and is not nature is debated throughout the book. Robbins et al even cite Cronon in chapter 8, who we read about all the way back in the second week of class, where he talked about Yosemite national park and how the Native Americans living there were removed in order to keep the area “natural”.
Robbins et al also discuss a variety of political and social elements to environmentalism that we really have not talked about in class yet. In chapter 7 he talks about how membership for most environmental group memberships are made up of 60 to 80 percent women, suggesting that women are more keen to how to the environment impacts their lives and the lives of their loved ones because of their traditional role as homemakers. This is related to a point made in chapter 2 about how overpopulation alarmists tend to unfairly put the blame on women and their bodies.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book and found a lot of new information in it. If I had to come up with one complaint it would be that Robbins et al spend an unnecessary amount of time on certain analogies. For example, when explaining the Prisoner’s Dilemma in chapter 4 it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. There were a few other parts of the book that I chose to skim because of their repetitiveness.