environmental sociology.doc

Unfortunately the ecological complex has not

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Unfortunately, the ecological complex has not generally been used by human ecologists within sociology for approaching what they themselves have said was their fundamental task-- namely, "understanding how a population organizes itself in adapting to a constantly changing yet restricting environment" (Berry & Kasarda 1977:12). Instead, sociological human ecologists have typically devoted their attention to social organization per se, rather than focusing on the role of organization (and technology) in enabling populations to adapt to their environments. Furthermore, it has seemed to environmental sociologists that sociological human ecologists have tended either to ignore the physical environment (Choldin 1978a:355) or to neglect aspects of the ecosystem that are not human or derived from human action (Dunlap &Catton 1979; Molotch & Foiler 1971:15-16). Page | 8
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Thus, "environment" in the ecological complex has been treated as a social, or at best spatial, variable--devoid of any physical substance (Michelson 1976:13-23). By giving that kind of meaning to "environment," sociological human ecologists have lacked a basis for becoming concerned with contemporary environmental problems. In contrast to the organizational focus of sociological human ecology, the fundamental characteristic of environmental sociology is the importance attached to the environment as a factor that may influence, and in turn be influenced by, human behavior (Catton & Dunlap 1978a; Dunlap & Catton 1979; Schnalberg 1972; Zeisel 1975). Moreover, for environmental sociologists, the "E" in the ecological complex denotes the physical environment rather than the social environment. The other three elements--P, T, and O - make up what Park (1936:15) called the "social complex." Thus, environmental sociology examines the relationship between the physical environment and the social complex. Just as biologists learned to see a biotic community and its environment as an ecosystem, so environmental sociologists can recognize Park s social complex together with its environment as the entity Duncan s ecological complex was designed to analyze. The proposed framework requires some elaboration of one element of the ecological complex, namely, organization." An understanding of all phases of human interaction with the physical environment requires consideration not only of the organizational forms of human collectivities, but also their shared cultural values and the personalities of their constituent members. Thus the sociologically familiar tripartite distinction of cultural system, social system, and personality system is substituted for the more general term social organization, or O. Each element in the resulting expanded version of Park s social complex--population, technology, cultural system, social system, and personality system can influence (and in turn be influenced by) the physical environment.
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