Human Behaviour, the Ecological Crisis, and Environmentally Sustainable Society (Annotated Table of Contents: Project Outline)



Citation:

Axel Dorscht, George Emery, and D. Wendy Thatcher (1992) ,"Human Behaviour, the Ecological Crisis, and Environmentally Sustainable Society (Annotated Table of Contents: Project Outline)", in SV - Meaning, Measure, and Morality of Materialism, eds. Floyd W. Rudmin and Marsha Richins, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 77-81.

Meaning, Measure, and Morality of Materialism, 1992      Pages 77-81

HUMAN BEHAVIOUR, THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY (ANNOTATED TABLE OF CONTENTS: PROJECT OUTLINE)

Axel Dorscht, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa

George Emery, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa

D. Wendy Thatcher, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa

Keith Wilde, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa

Jerzy A. Wojciechowski, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa

INTRODUCTION

The focus of the project is the ecological crisis -ecosystems (rivers, lakes, forests, atmosphere, ate.) pushed to the edge of their regenerative capacity. More specifically, the focus is on human behaviour [The terms human behaviour, human conduct, and human action are used interchangeably in this paper.] that pushes ecosystems beyond their regenerative capacity. In general, human beings endanger ecosystems in the process of meeting their material needs; in the process of extracting natural resources, of transforming natural resources into material goods, and through the use and the disposal of these material goods.

Most of today's efforts in dealing with the ecological crisis are of a technological nature. The focus is on technology as a means to save the environment and to minimize future damage. The focus is on improving technologies and processes of extracting natural resources and the production, use, and disposal of material goods.

In the short and medium term technological solutions are necessary. In the long run, however, they are insufficient to prevent irreversible damage to ecosystems and the destruction of the natural environment. In the longer-term saving the natural environment requires changes in human attitudes and behaviour. It necessitates changes in the dominant beliefs, views, perceptions, principles, and values underlying human behaviour.

Changing cultural beliefs and values means moving beyond conventional wisdom. it requires expanding understanding beyond this point as conventional wisdom got us where we are, ecologically speaking. Saving the natural environment requires moving beyond confirming conventional wisdom.

The project is an ongoing effort to move the focus of investigation (of the relationship between human behaviour and environmental destruction) beyond conventional wisdom. Step one of the project is an investigation of the nature of and the operative logic underlying human beings and human behaviour, as well as the nature, role, and process of production of understanding and knowledge. Step two focuses on the human being and human behaviour in the contemporary cultural setting. The focus is on North American culture, as the globally dominant culture today, its patterns of behaviour and governing beliefs, views, and values. This includes an examination of the dominant organizational and institutional structures as well as social, professional, and individual practices and how they reflect cultural values and reinforce patterns of behaviour. As well it includes an examination of environmental, social, and human consequences of the pattern of behaviour and developmental trends and directions of North American culture.

The preliminary conclusions are: environmentally destructive human behaviour is not wilful or conscious behaviour. It is the result of neglect and ignorance. Essentially, we abrogate responsibility for our psychological well being. We fail to develop the understanding and skills necessary to manage psychic processes. We focus almost exclusively on physical well being and on the development of understanding and skills necessary to manage physical processes. We attempt to meet psychic human needs with material goods and material wealth. This focuses us on the accelerated creation and accumulation of material wealth. The consequences are demands on the natural environment that are not driven by our physical needs. Rather the exploitation of the environment is driven by accelerating demands and expectations for material goods and material wealth.

The next phase of the project centres on identifying the belief and value structures, the pattern of behaviour, the organizational and institutional structures and practices necessary for environmentally sustainable society.

OPERATIVE LOGIC

This section explores the nature of and the operative logic underlying the human being  [The human being is understood as a composite, including its physical and psychic make up.] and human behaviour. [The objective is not to construct a cosmology of the human being and of human behaviour. The objective is to establish the understanding of the human being and human behaviour necessary to change that aspect of human behaviour that causes damage to the natural environment.] As well it looks at the nature, the role, and the process of the production of understanding and knowledge.

Changing human behaviour requires knowledge and understanding, of the human being, human behaviour, and the operative logic (processes, relationships and stimuli and effects) underlying them. We need to differentiate between inherent and culturally conditioned features of the human being and human behaviour. We must differentiate between inherently determined, fundamental human behaviour and culturally conditioned behaviour modifications. Inherent features of the human being are not changeable, only cultural conditioning is variable. Fundamental human behaviour is not changeable only cultural modifications are changeable. We need to comprehend the relationship between human behaviour and understanding and knowledge, and the nature, role, and processes of the production of understanding and knowledge.

Human Being

The human being is a composite of inherent and derived [The terms inherent and derived are used interchangeably with the terms nature and nurture.] features, both of which determine human behaviour. Inherent features are unchangeable, and are common to all human beings. Derived, or culturally conditioned [The term conditioned is used interchangeably with the terms socialized and learned.] features are changeable and differ across cultures and time. This section considers the inherent and derived features that define the human being.

Inherent Feature" of the Human Being ............

Individually Independent, Psychologically Dependent Being .....................

Drive for Physical and Psychological Survival and Well Being ..................................

Thoughts & Feelings .........................

Ability to Reason (Comprehend Relationships, Processes, and Causes and Effects) ...........

Ability to Act on Understanding .....

Ability to Understand the Requirements for Survival and Well Being and the Elements with which to meet them Ability to Understand and be Aware of our Individual Behaviour, Action and Interaction...............................

Human Action is only Focused on Meeting Requirements for Survival and Well Being .......

Individual Responsibility for Personal Physical and Psychological Well Being .........

Individual Responsibility for Development of Personal Human Potentials ............

Existence within (not Separate from) Physical Reality ...........................

Requirements for Survival and Well Being .........

Requirements for Physical Survival and Well Being ..............................

Requirements for Psychological Survival and Weil Being ...........................

Recognition and Relevance ..............

Certainty and Security ..................

Physical and Mental Interaction with Others .............................

Derived Features of the Human Being ............

Cultural Conditioning .......

Views ..............................

Beliefs .............................

Values ..............................

Practices ............................

Human Behavior

Human behaviour is governed by inherent and derived (culturally conditioned) features of the human being. Inherent features determine the fundamental characteristics of human behaviour. The culturally determined features define the modalities of human behaviour. This section explores the elements that govern human behaviour.

Inherently Determined Human Behaviour ........

Culturally Modified Human Behaviour ..........

Understanding and Knowledge

The following section contras on understanding and knowledge. Managing physical and psychic reality to meet the needs for survival and well being requires understanding and knowledge and skills to manage physical and psychological processes. Comprehending the nature, the role, and the processes of production of understanding and knowledge is vital to understanding and changing human behaviour.

Nature of Understanding and Knowledge  .............

Understanding is Private .............

Knowledge is Public ................

Role of Understanding and Knowledge ..............

Guiding Human Action in Managing Physical and Psychic Reality .............

Production of Understanding and Knowledge ......

Production of Understanding is a Mental Process ................................

Production of Knowledge is a Physical Process

Conclusion

Destructive Behaviour is not Conscious or Deliberate ...............

Destructive Behaviour is the Result of Ignorance or Neglect ...............

The Cause: Meeting Requirements for Survival and Well Being with Inappropriate Mews ..................

The Problem: Failure to Develop Human Intellectual Potential and Failure to Manage Human Existence within Psychic Reality....

CONTEMPORARY SETTING

Section two contras on the human being and human behaviour in the contemporary cultural setting. Specifically, the focus is on North American patterns of behaviour and governing beliefs, views, and values, as North American culture is the globally dominant culture of today. The Section also looks at organizational and institutional structures and social, professional, and individual practices and how they reinforce the patterns of behaviour. Finally, the section examines the environmental, social, and human consequences of the patterns of behaviour, and developmental trends and directions in the dominant culture.

The destruction of the environment results from human interact with the environment in meeting the material requirements for their survival and well being. Changing environmentally destructive human behaviour means understanding the culture beliefs, views, and values that govern this behaviour, and the organisational and institutional structures and the social, professional, and individual practices that reinforce them.

We are lose concerned with the way human beings use ecosystems to most our material needs, i.e., the processes of the extraction of natural resources, the processing of resources into goods and products, the usage of these goods and products, and of disposal. We are more concerned with how human beings define their material needs. We are concerned with understanding how, within the dominant culture, material demands are defined, rationalised and logitimised beyond the material requirements for survival and general well being. Advanced industrial culture has expanded material human requirements into the realm of demands and expectations far beyond fundamental requirements. We are concerned with understanding the cultural foundation behind material demands and expectations that destroys the environment.

Identifying human behaviour that is detrimental to the environment requires analysis of human behaviour in the contemporary setting. We need to understand how the dominant culture, its beliefs, views, and values structure human behaviour. We also must understand how organisational and institutional structures and social. professional, and individual practices reinforce the structure of human behaviour.

Dominant Culture

There are a multitude of cultures found globally. But there is one dominant, hegemonic culture that determines, shapes, and governs global developmental trends and directions more than any other culture. Destructive human behaviour that is informed by the dominant culture, its beliefs, views and values is most damaging to the natural environment. This section looks at the global dominance of North American culture.

There is Cultural Diversity but there is one Global Hegemonic Culture ..................

The Hegemonic Culture is the North American (NA) Culture .....................

The NA Culture is a Bourgeois (Business) Culture .................................

The NA Cultural is characterised by Self-Centred Competitive Individualism and the Accumulation of Material Wealth ...........

The NA Culture Governs the Corporate Worldview ...............................

Historically: European-Generated Bourgeois (Business) Culture Developed Unrestrained in the NA .....................

Contemporary Europe & Japan have Incorporated the NA Corporate Culture .........

The NA Culture is at Centre of Corporate Global Agenda .....................

The NA Culture is Expanding Globally ............

The Bourgeois Corporate Culture is Legitimized in NA ........................

Dominant Human Behaviour

Human behaviour is fundamentally determined by inherent features of the human being. Cultural conditioning modifies this behaviour, To understand contemporary human behaviour and its detrimental effect on the environment we have to understand how fundamental human behaviour is modified by cultural conditioning. This section looks at how the inherent features of the human being and human behaviour are modified by the North American culture. (Lines with marked an asterisk (") are inherent features of the human being identified earlier in the Section on Operative Logic. The lines below are the cultural modification in North America culture.)

Individually Independent, Psychologically Dependent Being ....................................

Individually Independent, Self-Contained Being ..........

Drive for Physically and Psychologically Survival and Well Being ...................

Focus is on Physical Well Being (at Expense of Psychological Well Being) ........

Thoughts & Feelings ...........

Common Sense (Human Thoughts & Feelings) Cannot be Relied on ..............

Ability to Reason (Comprehend Relationships, Processes, and Causes and Effects) ...........

Ability to Reason is Underemphasized ......

Ability to Act on Understanding ...........

Acting on Knowledge (not on Understanding) ........

Ability to Understand the Requirements for Survival and Well Being and the Elements to meet them ...

The Focus is on Physical Requirements (at Expense of Psychological Requirements)..........................

Exaggerated Demands for Material Goods .......

Ability to Understand and be Aware of our Individual Behaviour, Action and Interaction ..............

We Ignorant about our Individual Behaviour, Action, and Interaction (Living out Images) ..............

All Human Action is Focused on Meeting Requirements for Survival ....................

Human Action are not necessarily Focused on Meeting Requirement for Survival...............................

Responsibility for Individual Physical! and Psychological Well Being .......................

Abrogation of Responsibility for Individual Psychological Well Being .........................

Management of Psychic Reality is Subconscious and Reactive ................

Individual Responsibility for Development of Human Potentials ................................

The Focus is on Development of Understanding and Skills of Managing Physical Processes (at the Expense of Understanding and Skills of Managing Psychic Processes) . ....................

Existence within (not Separate from) Physical Reality ...................

Manipulating and Exploiting Physical Reality (at the Expense of Managing Human Existence as Part of  Physical Reality) .....................

Conclusion .................................

We Meet Human Needs (Physical and Psychological) only with Material Means ........................

All Problems are seen as Problems of Managing Physical Reality ................

We Separate the Human Being into Physical- Reality-Managing Being and Psychic-Reality-Managing Being............

Governing Beliefs and Values

Understanding culturally modified human behaviour means to understand underlying beliefs, views, and values. They may not be consciously hold, but they are acted out. Cultural beliefs, views, perceptions and values hold may be contradictory and may be acted out inconsistently. Yet, there are discernable trends and patterns of culturally modified behaviour. This section centres on the dominant beliefs (regarding the natural environment, the human being, and the operative logic underlying both), values and focus of North American culture.

BELIEFS ...................................

Natural Environment ........................

The Natural Environment is Separate from and Subordinate to the Human Being ........

The Natural Environment is at the Disposal of Humankind to Exploit ...........

Physical Reality is Comprehensible ..............

Human Beings....................

Human Beings are the Product of Creation .................

Human Life is Sacred .............

Human Beings are Individual, Independent, Self-Contained Beings .........

Expansion and Growth in Controlling and Transforming Physical Reality are a Necessary Conditions of Human Existence, they are the Reason for Human Existence .......................

Psychic Reality is not Fully Comprehensible ........................

The Elements that Govern Human Behaviour are not Completely Understandable .........................

Intuitive (Undirected and Unrestrained) Self-interest is the most Beneficial Guiding Principle of Human Action ..........

Operative Logic ............................

Human Actions are Acts of Creation (in Contrast to Acts of Managing ongoing Processes (Evolution)) ..................

Understanding and Skills Necessary to Manage Psychic Reality Evolve with Age...................

All Problems are Problems of Managing Physical Reality .........................

Science and Technology are the Solution to ail of our Problems ...........

There are a Multitude of Equally Correct Understandings of Reality, as well there are a Multitude of Optimum Solutions and Answers to Every Problem and Every Question .........................

Understanding and Knowledge are Intuitive ...............................

Common Sense Cannot be Trusted ............

There exists an Automatic Linkage Between Understanding and Action ..........

Separating the Management of Physical Reality from the Management of Psychic Well Being ensures Effectiveness and Efficiency ..............

Segmentation and Specialization are Useful in Managing Physical Reality ..........

Guiding Human Performance with Knowledge (in Contrast to Understanding) is Practical ................

VALUES ............

Progress, Growth, and Development .. ...............

Progress, Growth & Development are defined only in the Area of Managing Physical Reality . .........................

Accumulation of Material Wealth ................

Human Well Being is Defined in Terms of Material Wealth .......

FOCUS ............................

Creating now Realities (in Contrast to Improving Existing Reality) ..................

Managing Physical Reality (not Psychic Reality) .................................

Professionalism in Managing Physical  Processes, Amateurism in Managing Psychic Processes.....................

Self-Centred Competitive Individualism ...........

Private Accumulation of Personal Material Wealth ....................

Organizational and Institutional Structures

This section analyses dominant organizational and institutional structures in North America, how they reflect the governing beliefs, views, and values, and how they reinforce the culturally modified patterns of behaviour and activities.

The Fundamental Categories of Human Activities are: Managing Physical Reality & Managing Psychic Reality

Economic Organizations & Institutions ........

Market Economy ..........................

Business Corporations ......................

Financial Institutions .......................

Political Organizations & Institutions ...............

Educational (Knowledge) Organizations & Institutions ................................

Social Organizations & Institutions ................

Media Organizations & Institutions ..............

Religious (Church) Organizations & Institutions ..............................

Health Care Organizations & Institutions ..........

Psychological and Psychiatric Organizations & Institutions ....

Conclusion ...................

All Organizations and Institutions are Focused Essentially on 'Managing' Physical Reality .........

Social, Professional, and Individual Practices

The section discusses prevailing social, professional, and individual practices in terms of how they reflect the governing cultural beliefs, views, and values and how they reinforce the patterns of behaviour in the management of physical and psychic reality.

Managing Physical Reality ...........

"Managing" Physical Reality (Not Managing Ourselves within Physical Reality) ...................

Exploiting Physical Reality, Including Human Beings (Not Managing Physical Reality) ...............................

Treating Patterns of Human Behaviour (Action) as Independent Physical Entities ......

Focus on Production of Material Goods and Material Wealth .........................

Exploiting Psychic Problems to Market Material Goods ........

Managing Psychic Reality ...

Abrogation of Responsibility for Personal Psychic Well Being to Higher Authority .........

Managing Psychic Reality Subconsciously and Reactively ...........................

No Preparation for Management of Psychic Reality ................

No Updating of Beliefs, Views, Values ...................

Using Power to Control Challenges to Psychic Reality ...........................

Environmental Social, and Human  Consequences

Rising Material Consumptive Demands and Expectations .............................

Growing Gap between Have and Have Not ........

Expanding Global Population ....................

Rising Social and Political Conflicts ...............

Declining Natural Resources and Rising Scarcity ......

Mounting Environmental Destruction ..............

Declining Human Physical and Psychic Well Being ....

Developmental Trends and Directions

ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

Cultural Values

Social Economic, and Individual Practices

Organizational and Institutional Structures

----------------------------------------

Authors

Axel Dorscht, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa
George Emery, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa
D. Wendy Thatcher, Institute for Social Research, Ottawa



Volume

SV - Meaning, Measure, and Morality of Materialism | 1992



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