Introduction: Studying Environmental Issues Sociologically

  • Steven Yearley


The day after I send the manuscript of this book to the publishers, some friends have promised me a boat trip from Queenscliff, a Victorian seaside resort. As well as the boat ride there will be a chance to visit the Ozone Hotel, a venerable establishment dating from the late nineteenth century. The hotel took its name from a paddle steamer that used to run day jaunts to Queenscliff, outings that were believed to offer urban trippers the chance to breathe in some invigorating - ozone-rich - sea air. On my day trip, I will be concerned with ozone in a different way. Because of the recent depletion of the ozone layer, I will have to take care to apply extra sun-cream to offset the effects of increased ultra-violet radiation. In about a century, ozone has gone from a blessing into an anxiety and somehow the Ozone Hotel’s name has retained its topicality. Just as in the naming of the paddle steamer and the hotel, we inscribe our views and concerns about the environment onto the cultural objects around us. The environment suffuses society and our treatment of cultural objects reflects back on our understanding of the environment itself. This basic observation lies at the heart of sociological approaches to the environment. Environmental sociology asks where our views of nature and the environment come from, how our conduct towards the environment is moulded, how we draw the distinction between nature and culture, and how our knowledge of the environment is shaped. The studies in this book are designed as empirical investigations of these themes, of various cultures of environmentalism.


Genetically Modify Sage Publication Cultural Object Sociological Approach Environmental Sociology 
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Copyright information

© Steven Yearley 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Yearley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of YorkUK

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