The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

This thoroughly revised Handbook provides an assessment of the scope and content of environmental sociology, and sets out the intellectual and practical challenges posed by the urgent need for policy and action to address accelerating environmental change.
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Chapter 3: From Environment Sociology to Global Ecosociology: The Dunlap–Buttel Debates

Jean-Guy Vaillancourt


3 From environmental sociology to global ecosociology: the Dunlap–Buttel debates Jean-Guy Vaillancourt Introduction Today, many European and North American environmental sociologists recognize the central role played by Fred Buttel, who died in January 2005, and by Riley Dunlap in the emergence of environmental sociology (Redclift and Woodgate, 1997; Yearly, 1991; Murphy, 1994; Hannigan, 1995). The ideas of those two major pioneers of US environmental sociology follow parallel and eventually converging trajectories. In fact, they both contributed to the transition from human ecology to environmental sociology, and then to an emerging global ecosociology. Their ideas evolved in seminal publications and through lively debates over many years. This chapter is based on the extended time span covered by their respective works. Human ecology and social ecology: the HEP–NEP debate revisited At first, like the Chicago human ecologists who inspired him, Dunlap (with William Catton) tried to show that modern societies depend on their natural environments. They were among the first sociologists to write that sociology overestimates the independence of human beings from their material environment. For them, mainstream sociology did not put enough emphasis on environmental factors, even though the earlier neo-Malthusian debate concerning the scarcity of resources showed that the natural environment influences social life. Dunlap explained why sociologists had lacked interest in the impact of biophysical factors on society. Sociology emerged when the dominant sociological paradigms upheld unrealistic ideas concerning the power of human beings over nature (Dunlap and Van Liere, 1978: 1–2; 1984). According to Dunlap,...

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