1st Edition

Environmentalism: An Evolutionary Approach

ISBN 9781138502420
Published December 5, 2017 by Routledge
254 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $56.95

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Book Description

The premise of this book is that our environmental dilemmas are products of biological and sociocultural evolution, and that through an understanding of evolution we can reframe debates of thought and action. The purpose is to explain the wide variety of environmental worldviews, their origins, commonalities, points of contention, and their implications for the modern environmental movement.

In three parts covering the origins, evolution and future of environmentalism, it offers instructors and students a framework on which to map theory, case studies and classical literature. It is shown that environmentalism can be described in terms of six human values—utility, stability, equity, beauty, sanctity, and morality—and that these are deeply rooted in our biological and cultural origins. In building this case the book draws upon ecology, philosophy, psychology, history, biology, economics, spirituality, and aesthetics, but rather than consider these all independently it integrates them to craft a mosaic narrative of our species and its home. From our evolutionary origins a story emerges; it is the story of humankind, how we have come to threaten our own existence, and why we seem to have such difficulty in acting together to ensure our common future. Understanding our environmental problems in evolutionary terms gives us a way forward. It suggests an environmentalism in which material views of human life include spirituality, in which our anthropocentric behaviors incorporate ecological function, and in which environmental problems are addressed by the intentional relation of humans to the nonhuman world and to one another. Aimed at students taking courses in environmental studies, the book brings clarity to a complex and, at times, confusing array of ideas and concepts of environmentalism.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Foundations, Dimensions and Perspectives

Chapter 1: Foundations of Environmentalism

Chapter 2: Dimensions of Environmentalism

Chapter 3: Many Ecologies

Part 2: Evolutionary Context

Chapter 4: Sociobiological Evolution

Chapter 5: Sociocultural Evolution

Chapter 6: Socioeconomic Evolution

Chapter 7: Socioecological Evolution

Chapter 8: Sociospiritual Evolution

Chapter 9: Socioaesthetic Evolution

Part 3: Environmentalism Evolving

Chapter 10: Psychological Discord

Chapter 11: Dimensions Revisited

Chapter 12: Evolving Still

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Douglas Spieles is a Professor of environmental studies at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, USA. He teaches courses on environmental science, ecosystem management, wetland ecology, and geographic information systems. His previous works include the book Protected Land: Disturbance, Stress and American Ecosystem Management.


"Dr. Spieles’ book is timely, ambitious, well-researched, and wonderfully comprehensive. It integrates myriad perspectives on environmentalism, analyzing our current and historical relationship to the environment from biological, sociocultural, psychological, and spiritual angles. We are in an age of intense global "environmental anxiety" as we grapple with the implications of anthropogenic climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, expansion of human populations into natural areas, and overexploitation of our natural resources. This comprehensive text helps make sense of how our relationship to the environment developed through the course of our evolution, and how current conflicts and tensions have arisen as a result of differing perspectives on environmentalism. It also provides a roadmap for how we might seek resolution to these conflicts and achieve a more unified vision of environmentalism. Environmentalism: An Evolutionary Approach is eloquently and concisely written and should serve as a trusted handbook for students as they navigate the complex waters of the environmental sciences." – Elena Berg, The American University of Paris, France

"Environmentalism: An Evolutionary Approach is the first textbook to take a multidisciplinary approach to fully integrate the principles of biological and sociocultural evolution in the context of environmental issues. By exploring a diversity of worldviews and their roots in shared human values, the text seeks to understand the evolution of our place in, and dependence on, the natural world and our sometimes conflicted relationship with it. It is truly a unique and refreshing perspective, building a rich understanding of the relationship of humans and the environment, and highlights a way forward in our efforts to cope with the critical environmental issues of our time." - Siobhan Fennessy, Kenyon College, USA