Human interaction with the natural environment has a dual character. By turning increasing quantities of natural substances into physical resources, human beings might be said to have freed themselves from the constraints of low-technology survival pressures. However, the process has generated a new dependence on nature in the form of complex "socionatural systems," as Bennett calls them, in which human society and behavior are so interlocked with the management of the environment that small changes in the systems can lead to disaster. Bennett's essays cover a wide range: from the philosophy of environmentalism to the ecology of economic development; from the human impact on semi-arid lands to the ecology of Japanese forest management. This expanded paperback edition includes a new chapter on the role of anthropology in economic development.
Bennett's essays exhibit an underlying pessimism: if human behavior toward the physical environment is the distinctive cause of environmental abuse, then reform of current management practices offers only temporary relief; that is, conservationism, like democracy, must be continually reaffirmed. Clearly presented and free of jargon, Human Ecology as Human Behavior will be of interest to anthropologists, economists, and environmentalists.