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Earth, Air, Fire and Water: Humanistic Studies of the Environment Paperback – 31 Dec 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (31 Dec. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558492216
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558492219
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,818,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Different voice towards the conservation of our environment 25 Feb. 2003
By Amir Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Nature is an untamable and chaotic system that needs our protection, as so does humans. Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Humanistic Studies of the Environment edited by Jill Ker Conway, Kenneth Keniston, and Leo Marx., is a collection of essays gives an account on how humanists realized the importance of the study of the environment and how modern organizations have been very valuable in protecting the further degradation of the ecosystem due to industrial progress. This book is a valuable tool for an introductory academic study of the initial stages in policy making as it recollects the real-life examples on how humans have affected the natural course of ecological environment due to the implementation of programs and projects that have failed due to the lack of information and knowledge of this specific science. The intention of these set of essays is to incorporate the different narratives produced by different environmentalists over the period of time, how culture, politics and gender has played an important role in the conservation of nature that had led to a myriad of ways of protecting it. In a broad view nature is a set of chaotic events that can neither be modified nor controlled. Through history human beings have been led to the idea that through technology nature can be tamed, but different catastrophes have forced us to realize its fragility and how in the event of few years we have reverted evolution that have evolved over the course of millions of years. Now, that humanity has science to measure change, it is expected that we will make better decisions however, other players come into the game such as politics, economy and the unavoidable power necessity.
Scientists have acknowledged that humans are responsible for the radical change in the environment. According to the editors, there is a new trend on how different institutions, men and women respond to these problems. The interest nowadays is how "environmental degradation" affects people and culture and how they respond to these problems respectively. The following set of essays provide social perspective on how environmentalists have used the idea of sacredness to protect places. Many of these ideas of sacredness come from non-European civilizations. Europeans viewed Native Americans as being "more close to nature", savage due to their nakedness and their closeness to natural environments. However, these essays provide a new perspective because they demystify culture by explaining that many environmental problems come from Indian practices such as burning, that rural communities in the Amazon will not care if they are polluting the environment as when it comes to doing business, it means more money for their families. In terms of institutional intervention, two other essays address how environmental activism has strengthen due to the proliferation of toxic dumps near poor minority communities, something nowadays called "environmental racism", likewise, how the Russians have no interest in environmentalism due to the collapse of their government, and women's participation in initiatives in their rural communities are decisive because they are the ones who gather fuel wood from forests and the destruction of forests make it difficult for their survival. As it seems, these essays provide a culture-based perspective on modern environmental issues. Nature is been affected directly by human intervention, these changes occur on the localized level therefore, environmentalists should stay focused on specific issues.
However, with new environmental issues on the horizon, environmentalists are lead to new perspectives in addressing these problems such as a new movement called "eco-feminism". Women are viewed in a pastoral interpretation as being "closer to nature" (such as Indians as described in a previews essay). The essay proposes that the environment has been degraded by men. Historically women have neither had real influence nor participation in institutions that have had part in "contemporary environmental destruction". Men are environmental hazards due to male-related activities such as hunting. Women on the other hand are more concerned on nature related issues due to childbearing. On the other hand, another essay acknowledges new perspectives on modernity and its analysis on the Enlightenment perspective on technology, and how in a modern perspective "scientists and engineers are associated with the devastation of nature". Scientists are viewed as custodians of nature. They identify that the problems in nature are a consequence of different institutional effects. It is therefore, necessary to understand first hand the socioeconomic context of the said issue before dealing with it. These specific problems are rooted in history and culture and leave "presentism"on the side. Presentism by itself accuses modern scientists of the problems that exist in the present. The editors of the book call for a new postmodern thinking that will be inclusive and will recognize the social role of science and engineering.
Since the book has different voices that address many problems, it can serve as the first step towards the education of our fragile environment. All of the essays are very well written and contain a large bibliography that can serve as a reference for future research. As the title suggest, nature is composed of different elements such as the earth, air, fire and water, they are all interrelated, therefore should be studied by an interdisciplinary approach. All problems are caused by individual issues related to culture, politics and history, therefore environmentalists should unite their efforts to address specific and localized problems by including all social institutions and citizens in the conservation of our natural environment.
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