Catton & Dunlap discuss the paradigms of HEP and NEP, which both offer different outlooks on trees and their potential values. Firstly, Catton & Dunlap define a paradigm as “an image shared by members of a scientific community telling them the nature of their science’s subject-matter” (250). Each of these paradigms therefore creates different images of trees, and what the nature of trees is. Each paradigm has a different outlook on how humans interact with the ecosystem. Biologists define an ecosystem as “the interacting biotic community and its environment” (Dunlap & Catton 251). HEP and NEP each look at the interaction between humans and their ecosystem (or the lack thereof) in order to argue what is most important. Each of these paradigms would view my tree, Mr. Burr, in a different way.
The first paradigm, Human Exceptionalism Paradigm (HEP) represents a world view that makes it difficult to recognize the reality and full significance of environmental problems and constraints we now face. The HEP paradigm does not mean ”that Homo sapiens is an ‘exceptional’ species but that the exceptional characteristics of our time (culture, technology, language, elaborate social organization) somehow exempt humans from ecological principles and from environmental influences and constraints” (Dunlap & Catton 250). HEP argues that humans are superior to all other species on this planet. Because we have technology, culture, language, and elaborate social organizations, HEP argues that we have become exempt from taking responsibility for our environmental impacts. Therefore, we have little incentive to protect the environment because HEP does not recognize that the human way of life cannot exist without the environment around it. Just in the last century, human societies have begun to have an unprecedented and dangerous impact on the global environment, and have done little to counteract these negative impacts. HEP ignores the ways in which the environment influences human society, because it argues that humans are exempt from trying to fix it. HEP doesn’t talk about the adequacy or inadequacy of natural resource supplies as a result of our “resource-hungry technologies” (Catton & Dunlap 257). HEP argues that these technologies we have developed are more important than the ecosystems that they destroy. In summary, HEP ignores the ecosystem-dependence of human societal life.
NEP, or the New Environmental Paradigm, is the second paradigm discussed by Catton & Dunlap. NEP argues that human societies “necessarily” exploit our ecosystems in order to survive. NEP acknowledges that there is no way around this fact, but some societies exploit more than necessary to sustain life. Societies that aim to prosper to the extent that it overexploits the ecosystem will likely end up destroying the entire ecosystem. The inevitable truth is that excessive prosperity achieved through the exploitation of the ecosystem will eventually lead to the demise of the human race. For the human race cannot survive without the surrounding ecosystem. NEP argues that we must restructure how our resources are distributed in order to allow everyone access to a safe environment. NEP brings attention to how redistribution may mean “leveling down” due to resource limits. This means that those who overexploit resources must reduce their consumption in order to allow others to have access to the same resources. All industrial societies rely heavily on exhaustible resources, and the exploitation of these resources means that some people are left without. Environmental Sociology has emerged as a way to better understand the relationship between human behavior and the physical environment, and it adopts the NEP paradigm. Fundamental characteristic of environmental sociology is the importance attached to the environment as a factor that can influence and is influenced by human behavior. Environmental sociology examines the relationship between the physical environment and the social complex, and how humans exploit this relationship and the problems this creates.
I definitely agree with the NEP paradigm. NEP acknowledges that humans are can impact and are impacted by the surrounding ecosystem, and as a result, we have a huge responsibility to take care of it. The problem with HEP is that it ignores the fact that the exploitation of these natural resources will eventually end when they are gone, and humans will inevitably perish as a result. NEP argues that we must take care of our environment so that it can take care of us, as it has for thousands of years. Following a NEP paradigm is the only way to ensure that this earth and its ecosystems will continue to support human life for thousands more years…. If the HEP’ers haven’t already doomed us.