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Sociology | Class 11 | Environment and Society


Social interactions with the environment have evolved over time and differ depending on the location.

Every society has an ecological foundation. When we use the word ecology, we are referring to a network of physical, biological, and human systems and activities. Ecological components include rivers, mountains, oceans, plains, and animals.

The relationship between a place's geography and hydrology has an impact on its ecological as well. Human activity has changed the ecology. Aridity or flooding, for example, which seem to be aspects of the environment that are naturally occurring, are frequently the result of human activity.

Differentiating between natural and human influences on ecological change can be challenging.

The combination of biophysical ecology and human intervention led to the development of the social environment. It is a two-way process, just as society shapes nature and nature shapes humanity.

  • For instance, the Indo-Gangetic floodplain's fertile soil makes it possible for extensive cultivation. Due to its high productivity, which enables settlements with a high density of people and produces surpluses sufficient to support other non-agricultural activities, complex hierarchical societies and states can develop.

  • Similar to this, capitalist societal structures have influenced nature all across the world. Nature has been impacted by urban air pollution, regional conflicts, oil wars, and global warming.

Relationship between environment and society

Social organisation influences how the environment and society interact. It essentially refers to how various social groupings see property. The use of natural resources is governed by this property relation, including how and by whom. Women and landless workers will relate to natural resources differently from men. Due to the fact that women typically perform jobs like collecting fuel and fetching water in rural India yet do not manage these resources, they are more likely to experience resource constraint more severely.

Different interactions between the environment and society also reflect various social norms, values, and knowledge systems.

A river's many cultural connotations, including its ecological, practical, spiritual, and aesthetic value, are reduced to a single set of calculations regarding an entrepreneur's profit and loss from the selling of water.

Different viewpoints exist regarding the environment and how it relates to society. The "nature-nurture" debate is one example of these discrepancies.

  • According to the "nature" camp, genetics and biology have a major influence on how individuals are.

  • As an alternative, the nurture side contends that social interaction is the most significant influence on our personality and behaviour.

The social contexts in which theories and data about the environment and society arise have an impact on them. Thus, as concepts of equality grew during the social and political upheavals of the 18th century, the presumptions that women are fundamentally less capable than males and that Black people are inherently less capable than White people were contested.

As a result, society is shaped by the environment, which in turn influences how people behave.

Social organisation influences how the environment and society interact.

Significant environmental risks and problems

Resource Depletion

  • While fossil fuels, particularly petroleum, get all the attention, the devastation and depletion of water and land are possibly happening even faster.

  • In order to fulfil the rising demands of intensive agriculture, industry, and urban centres, aquifers that have stored water over hundreds of thousands of years are being depleted within a few decades.

  • The other significant resource that is rapidly running out is the habitat for biodiversity, such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands. This is mostly because of the growth of agricultural land.


  • In both urban and rural locations, air pollution is thought to be a serious environmental issue that contributes to respiratory and other health issues.

  • Another significant risk is the indoor air pollution caused by cooking fires.

  • Water contamination is a very important problem that affects both surface and groundwater.

  • Cities are also plagued by noise pollution, which has been the focus of numerous court judgments.

Global Warming

  • A "greenhouse" effect is caused by the release of specific gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which prevent the sun's heat from escaping and instead retain it. Global temperatures have risen somewhat but significantly as a result of this.

  • Global climate change is projected to cause more erratic and unpredictable weather patterns. China and India are now major global producers of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide.

genetically altered organisms

  • By importing genes from one species into another using modern gene-splicing techniques, scientists can introduce new traits.

  • Crops can be genetically modified to grow faster, grow bigger, and last longer on the shelf. The long-term impacts of genetic alteration on humans who consume these foods and on ecological systems are little understood.

Natural and Man-made Environmental Disasters

Because the environment has a direct impact on society, environmental concerns are also social problems. For a very long time, man has been damaging the environment and using the natural resources for his own gain. Humans' actions are causing nature to deteriorate, and this is why man is experiencing a wide range of environmental issues.

The most recent examples of both man-made and natural environmental disasters are the Bhopal tragedy in 1984, which resulted in the deaths of around 4,000 people when a toxic gas spilled from the Union Carbide facility, and the tsunami in 2004, which claimed thousands of lives.

Several environmental topics that are contentious include:

  • The Chipko Movement (Uttarakhand)

  • Narmada Bachao Andolan (MP and Gujarat)

  • Industrial Accident in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh)

Why Environmental Problems are also Social Problems?

  • Because the environment is the primary justification for surviving, there is a significant need to conserve it. We won't be able to live healthy lives and there won't be enough natural resources for the next generation if the air becomes contaminated.

  • The degree to which people can protect themselves from or overcome environmental catastrophes depends on their social rank and authority.

  • A sociological analysis demonstrates that how public priorities are established and pursued may not always be advantageous. Securing the public interest may, in reality, harm the interests of the underprivileged and politically unsound or support the interests of powerful economic and political entities.

  • The school of social ecology emphasises how social ties, in particular how property and production are organised, influence how people perceive and behave in regard to the environment.

Important terms

  • The phrase "administrator-anthropologist" refers to British administrative staff who worked for the British Indian administration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and who were very interested in anthropological study, particularly surveys and censuses. Following their retirement, some of them rose to prominence as anthropologists. Edgar Thurston, William Crooks, Herbert Risley, and JH Hutton are a few well-known names.

  • Deforestation is the loss of forest land as a result of tree cutting and/or the use of the land for other purposes, mainly agriculture.

  • Emissions are the waste gases produced by human-initiated processes, frequently in the context of businesses or transportation.

  • Ecology: The network of biological and physical processes and systems, of which humans are a part.

  • Effluents: Waste products from industrial processes that are liquid in nature.

  • Hydrology: The source of water and its flows; or the overall structure of water resources in a nation or region. Human science: The branch of anthropology that studied the human type by measuring the human body, particularly the cranium (the volume of the skull, the circumference of the head, and the length of the nose).

  • Urban community: A group of people who reside in an urban setting.

  • Assimilation: The process through which one culture (often larger or more dominant) progressively assimilates another. At the end of the process, the integrated culture has merged with the dominant culture and is no longer alive or discernible.

  • Metropolis: A city is referred to as a Metropolis when it has strong social and economic ties to its suburbs, nearby towns, and rural areas.

  • Primitive city: The term "primitive city" refers to huge urban areas in industrial cities with a high population density.

  • Magnet cities: Urban areas that draw a lot of rural residents in search of greater economic prospects.

  • Licences - Fair: A French expression (literally, let's or "leave alone") that refers to a political and economic doctrine that supports less government involvement in the economy and economic relations, typically based on a confidence in the effectiveness of the free market and regulatory authorities. So, go beyond your forebears.

  • A suburb is a neighbourhood that is just outside of a city and has a lower population density.

  • Environment: Refers to both geographical and biological factors.

  • Aquifers: Underground geological structures at a place where water is naturally stored.

  • When there is only one type of plant in an area, it is referred to as monoculture.

  • Urban ecology is a subfield of urban sociology that examines how people interact with their urban environments.


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