What do you understand by the term ‘environment’? Explain the different perspectives to understand the human-environment relationship.
'Environment' refers to all that is around us. Literally, it means everything that surrounds us including the physical, Social world and cultural environment. In general, it includes all the forces outside the human beings to which they respond in some way.
There is more than one way of looking at the human-environment relationship.
A psychologist named Stokols (1990) describes three approaches that may be adopted to describe the human-environment relationship.
(a) The minimalist perspective assumes that the physical environment has minimal or negligible influence on human behaviour, health and well-being. The physical environment and human beings exist as parallel components.
(b) The instrumental perspective suggests that the physical environment exists mainly for use by human beings for their comfort and well-being. Most of the human influences on the environment reflect the instrumental perspective.
(c) The spiritual perspective refers to the view of the environment as something to be respected and valued rather than exploited. It implies that human beings recognise the interdependent relationship between themselves and the environment, i.e. human beings will exist and will be happy only as long as the environment is kept healthy and natural.
The traditional Indian view about the environment supports the spiritual perspective.