Essay on Relationship between Cultural Change and the Environment

Essay on Relationship between Cultural Change and the Environment

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Relationship between Cultural Change and the Environment

The association between culture and human technologies is central to the issue of today’s worldwide environmental degradation. This relationship is often viewed as quite simple: as a culture develops, needs arise and are met by new technologies. The culture is then transformed by the effects the technologies have on the people’s way of life. It seems logical that new technology would only be developed as a result of incentive or passion inspired by the needs of a culture. Yet it is not always the case that a culture influences human technologies; technological evolutions are also powerful factors in the shaping of cultures.

Culture is often though of as the development, improvement, or refinement of the intellect, emotions, interests, etc that results in the improvement of a society. It is the ideas, skills, customs, and arts unique to a certain group (Compton’s Interactive). Technology is both the application of scientific knowledge to endeavors of human life, and the change and manipulation of the human environment. Renowned American anthropologist Leslie White viewed culture as an inevitable natural process that develops from mankind's increasing ability to harness energy and use it effectively (AP Environmental Science, 2004, class discussion). This perspective suggests that social and psychological makeup of a culture is determined by its technology, and not the other way around. The correlation between technology and culture is clearly not a one-way street – it is a dynamic, interrelated, cyclic relationship.

In his book Human Natures: Genes, Culture and the Human Prospect, Paul Ehrlich supports the concept that the development of culture and the advanceme...

... middle of paper ...

...s that, like the seal population, our environment is suffering.

Ehrlich stresses that it is our duty - “our job” - to steer advancement of our culture in a direction that will allow us to have a sustainable society. “People don’t think enough about what we’re doing as we change the culture,” he says, implying that there are technological advancements being made that people are not yet prepared to handle. This, he believes, is a leading factor in today’s environmental crisis.


Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia Deluxe. 1999. The Learning Company, Inc.

Ehrlich, Paul R. Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect. Washington D.C.: Island Press. 2000.

Temple, Robert, “The Genius of China: 3,000 years of science, discovery and invention”

Teresi, Dick, Lost Discoveries: The ancient roots of modern science, Simon and
Schuster, 2002.

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