The Environment: A Sociological Introduction
April 2007, Polity
Is sustainable development really possible?
Can environmental risks be avoided?
Is our experience of nature changing?
This book shows how questions about the environment cannot be properly answered without taking a sociological approach. It provides a comprehensive guide to the ways in which sociologists have responded to the challenge of environmental issues as diverse as global warming, ozone depletion, biodiversity loss and marine pollution. It also covers sociological ideas such as risk, interpretations of nature, environmental realism, ecological modernization and globalization. Environmentalism and green politics are also introduced. Unlike many other texts in the field, the book takes a long-term view, locating environmental dilemmas within the context of social development and globalization.
The Environment: A Sociological Introduction is unique in presenting environmental issues at an introductory level that assumes no specialist knowledge on the part of readers. The book is written in a remarkably clear and accessible style, and uses a rich range of empirical examples from across the globe to illustrate key debates. A carefully assembled glossary and annotated further reading suggestions also help to bring ideas to life.
The book will be a valuable resource for students in a range of disciplines, including sociology, geography and the environmental sciences, but also for anyone who wants to get to grips with contemporary environmental debates.
1 Natural Environments 1
Defining Nature and Environment 1
Humans in Natural Environments 7
Natural and Artificial Environments 14
2 Knowing the Environment 18
Involvement and Detachment 18
The Scientific Revolution 22
Social Constructions of Nature 26
Critical Realism 32
3 Experiencing the Environment 38
An Environment of the Senses 38
Experiencing Environments 41
Ecological Identifications 44
Ecological Citizenship 52
4 Transforming the Environment 55
Social Development and the Environment 55
The Treadmill of Production and Consumption 67
5 Polluting the Environment 72
Types of Pollution 72
Awareness and Significance of Pollution 74
Sensitivity to Risks 80
6 Defending the Environment 91
Changing Attitudes 91
The Modern Origins of Nature Conservation 95
The Development of Environmentalism 99
7 Politicizing the Environment 109
A Politics of Nature 109
Ecologism: A New Political Ideology 113
The Emergence of Green Parties 116
8 Sustaining the Environment 126
The Idea of Sustainable Development 126
A Brief History of Sustainable Development 130
Sustainable Development in Practice 135
Can Societies Become Sustainable? 139
9 A Global Environment 144
What is Globalization? 144
The Biosphere as Environment 148
Global Problems, Global Solutions? 150
References and Further Reading 170
- A truly introductory text offering comprehensive coverage of the sociology of the environment
- There are no other general texts on environmental issues aimed at first year undergraduate level
- An accessible, systematic and empirically grounded text, which avoids abstract theorising and overly technical language
- Includes boxed case studies and illustrative materials; recommended reading at chapter ends; glossary of key terms
Times Higher Education
"This book is an excellent introduction for students new to this area of inquiry and should enthuse them to deepen their investigation of some of the most important issues of the 21st century."
“In a relaxed and readable style, Sutton introduces key concepts with a light touch, illustrating theories with major events and relevant contemporary issues.”
"Phillip Sutton has crafted a systematic and thorough introduction to the social science of the environment: its definition, transformation, politicization and defence. He expansively charts the emergence of the field and points to how global changes and politics will affect its future. This book will become a key resource for new students of environmental sociology and a point of engagement for future discussion."
Hank Johnston, San Diego State University
"Philip Sutton combines an excellent introduction to the sociology of the environment with an innovative approach to the field. A stimulating and wide-ranging text."
Tim Newton, Exeter University
"Written for undergraduate students, Philip Sutton’s The Environment demands no prior knowledge of sociology. Remaining faithful to its subject matter, the book ranges freely across human and environmental sciences. Sutton rejects the “retreat into the present” that characterizes much contemporary sociology and frames environmental problems in relation to very long-term processes of human social development. This “sociological introduction” is challenging in all the right ways."
Stephen Quilley, Keele University