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Environmental Attitudes through Time
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Book description

Our attitudes to our environment are widely and often acrimoniously discussed, commonly misunderstood, and will shape our future. We cannot assume that we behave as newly minted beings in a pristine garden nor as pre-programmed automata incapable of rational responsibility. Professor Berry has studied nature-nurture interactions for many years, and also been involved with many national and international decision making bodies which have influenced our environmental attitudes. He is therefore well-placed to describe what has moulded our present attitudes towards the environment. This book presents data and concepts from a range of disciplines - genetic, anthropological, social, historical and theological - to help us understand how we have responded in the past and how this influences our future. Beginning with a historical review and moving forwards to current conditions, readers will reach the end of this volume more capable and better prepared to make decisions which affect our communities and posterity.


'For those who think that environmentalism is a twenty-first Century obsession it will be a surprise to find that the burning of coal was banned in London because it was ‘prejudicial to health’ as long ago as 1273! These and a myriad of other facts litter the pages of this magisterial book which surveys centuries of environmental concern. Professor Berry shows that there is no human activity that is environmentally neutral. Drawing on science, philosophy, ethics and theology he examines the relationship between humanity and nature. From the Earth Charter to Ecosystems, from Gaia to God he explores the shifting attitudes to caring for creation. He is one of the elders of the environmental movement with his own distinctive and influential voice. His chapter on Awe is the best bridge over which any one could walk to survey the imaginary chasm between science and religion.'

The Right Reverend James Jones, KBE - formerly Bishop of Liverpool

'The developments of science and conservation over time are intricately woven together in this scholarly account of human attitudes to nature. This walk through the history of interactions with the environment brings together science, politics and philosophy in a most engaging way, and offers a factual and historical account of what humans are doing to destroy or to research and preserve the natural environment from classical times to the present day. The author, a naturalist, ends by stressing a post-materialist view that recognises the awe of nature and concludes that to halt destruction an ethical and moral solution is needed. Anyone concerned about the protection of nature will gain a lot from this compendium of attitudes to the environment over time. I am sure that this book with so much information from the past will help to change attitudes to nature today.'

Sir Ghillean Prance - Former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

’This is a very enjoyable book, rich in detail and broad in perspective, exploring the history of human relationships with the natural world, and their longer term consequences. Clearly written and authoritative, it is informed by R. J. Berry’s wide experience from a lifetime in ecology and his regular engagement with environmental policy and conservation. He considers human history, and people’s progressive emancipation from environmental risks and hazards, but also their ultimate dependence on nature. He outlines the logical case for accepting a responsible environmental attitude. I recommend this to anyone interested in understanding the history of environmentalism. R. J. Berry shows clearly that this understanding is key to taking proper responsibility for the environment, but that to do so successfully we have to accept that we are a part of nature, while at the same time we are apart from nature.’

Dame Georgina MacE - University College London

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