Modern socio-cultural reality and ecology



The paper is concerned with the attempts to understand the origins of the environmental crisis that characterizes the current state of civilization. The controversial nature of interactions between society and nature is shown. Referring to the last stage of the human sociality formation, the authors trace changes in the attitude of man to the environment and conclude that the solution of the environmental problem is associated with changes in value priorities. This position is reflected in many modern philosophical and biological studies.

JEL classification: Q5, Q57


Tablet of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Literature Review

3. Methodology

4. Empirical Findings

5. Conclusions


1. Introduction

Biological sciences are in a new stage of their development, which is called bioengineering, with such research directions as genetic engineering, cell engineering, biogeochemists engineering being put in the forefront. Biotechnologies that are based on gene and cell engineering allow overcoming evolutionary barriers, carrying out arbitrary construction and transfer of genes between organisms that do not have natural possibilities for entering genetic contacts. F. Fukuyama, assessing the achievements of the modern biotechnological revolution, considers this revolution not only to violate the measured course of natural processes, but to lead to the fact that the future of humanity is open and depends crucially on our current actions (Fukuyama, 2002). These innovations are based on the experience of the negative effects of the scientific-technological progress that mankind already has, including the depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, etc., resulting in the destruction of environmental links in the Earths biosphere. The humanity has come to the point of an urgent need to look back to rethink its interrelation with the surrounding nature. Here, a whole range of problems and questions arise concerning various aspects of the situation (Foerster, 2003).

This paper is focused on analyzing the origins of the current environmental situation if it is inevitable because of the man nature and society, or it is the random result of tasks that were incorrectly set by humanity. Worded in a similar way, the goal of the research involves identifying such characteristics of a person and society, which, on the one hand, reflect the specificity of the studied phenomena, and on the other hand, make it possible to generate complex environmental problems that humanity faces today.


2. Literature Review

Publications reviewed in international issues prove modern environmental studies to be often narrowly local and devoted to problems arising in exploitation of nature.

We should mention the works of European researchers devoted to the problems of combining the modern anthropogenic landscape with nature conservation zones (Lanzas, Hermoso, de-Miguel, Bota, & Brotons,

2018), (Carlier & Moran, 2019), as well as to the problems of co- ordination of interests of business and social groups for environmental management, and the role of political structures in their regulation (Martino, Tett, & Kenter, 2019). Chinese environmentalists focusing on the study of factors and special programs to restore natural systems research in a similar way (Qin, Li, Liu, Yan, & Huang, 2019), (Sheng, Zhen, Xiao, & Hu, 2019). The work by Chilean specialists is also of considerable interest. They believe that quantification, mathematization, and the cult of measurement as a criterion of objectivity associated with Eurocentricism, caused to choose the way of relating to nature that led to an environmental crisis at present (Blanco & Aguiar, 2019).


3. Methodology

The research methodology involves the identification and analysis of factors that ensured the separation of human society from the natural environment. The research is also connected with the analysis of the factors determining the immersion and inseparability of human being from nature. The material of research is to study various life aspects of archaic societies, their beliefs and rituals, observations of animal communities, philosophical studies on the problems of social being, human nature, and the interrelations of society and nature.


4. Empirical Findings

In human interactions with the environment, two opposite vectors can be distinguished. The first is related to the tool (labor) activity. Its directionality goes from a person to the environment external to him, with the help of a tool the person transforms nature. This is a feature of human adaptation: unlike animals, man does not adapt to the environment, but adjusts the environment to his needs. In relation to nature, this is a destructive vector: a person or society takes what is necessary from nature, uses it, transforms it to satisfy his own needs, returning waste or used tools to nature. It is this very vector of activity that demonstrates an unusually high level of development today. Until recently, the impact of society on the biosphere was not so significant as to affect its condition.

The situation changed dramatically when wood fuel was substituted with mineral one. This happened during the industrial revolution in the 17-18th centuries, when within a few decades, enormous masses of matter and energy accumulated in the biosphere during millions of years were thrown into the environment. This immediately affected its state, for example, fresh water reserves decreased dramatically, and the air, soil and bio-resources deteriorated. It became clear that the natural use of the biosphere came to an end and it was necessary to regulate the biosphere usage.

Another vector is associated with the building” of society. It is a creative vector by its nature, it is associated with openness as one of the fundamental traits of man, separating him from animals. In philosophy, there is a tradition of viewing a person as an open being, and here we mean the social level of openness, i.e., society. Society is not associated with man by nature, it is created and functions due to people (Nagornykh, 2011), (Pogulyaeva, 2018), (Bodriyyar, 2018).

If in the infancy of mankind, the external vector was aimed at interacting with nature, opposing man (man is nature), then the internal vector was aimed at regulating the man-man” interaction, i.e., at transformations of people’ relationships. At the junction of these two processes, a qualitatively new artificial environment was formed to become the human habitat. This artificial environment is a fragment of the natural environment, transformed by the creativity of people acting as a society. The destructive nature of the external vector in this synthesis is overcome, initiating creative activity to generate culture.

What in the implementation of the internal vector provides this transformation? The destruction of biological mechanisms necessary for community functioning as innate behavioral patterns absent (human openness also manifests itself in them) and the complication of our ancestors’  activities  could  lead  to  chaos  and  destruction  of  any community. The basis of social being is a special mechanism that generates some specific attitude of a person towards a person, ensuring people’ unification and the maintenance of cooperation order. Morality becomes this mechanism. At the same time, moral norms should have been of a general” character, i.e., related not to a specific situation, but to people’s general behavior in relation to their relatives. These norms required justification (in the form of myths) and systematic special reinforcement (in the form of rituals), since other norms of human interaction were perfected” by the centuries-long joint actions of ancestors (for example, hut building or hunting).

Under the conditions of the appropriating farm, the formation of ideas justifying the obligation of ethical norms took place based on the vector of instrumental activities, since the primitive team was immersed in the natural environment and was completely dependent on it. Totemistic beliefs reflected this process. Totemistic notions and the associated clan organization “equated” people to animal communities. By this, people identified themselves in the forming mythological picture of the world.

Each person (tribesman) became the same (equal) as hundreds of animals representing the totem. Conceptions of their equality were formed, for their own special rules were created: how to treat them and act. These rules did not apply to others. Thus, the primitive team delimited itself as a special society from other people but used for this the way of identifying itself with animals, because the habitat of these people was the natural environment little physically transformed by them.

At the stage of the producing economy, a reverse movement took place: the person began to transfer the changed social relations to instrumental  activities,  i.e., on the interaction with nature. The appropriating economy radically changed the environment, making it different to the natural environment. The artificial environment in its synthesis with society, through which the natural environment was perceived, came to the first place in peoples perception (Plotnikov, 2001). But society is heterogeneous socially and economically, and the farther its heterogeneity goes, the more it grows. Its unity is supported by traditions, rituals, some certain ideas, the basis of this complex being the moral that defines common, equal to all rules, relationships and principles of interaction. Nature, however, is increasingly acting as a foreign environment, not cultivated, constantly destroying the peoples efforts to maintain the proper condition for the developed space, ethical rules serving the human society. Thus, a wedgeoccurs in the tie man- nature”. Once the natural environment has acquired the status of an alien, then ethical norms and rules do not apply to it, one can treat it as an alien.

This trend gradually intensified in the historical development of mankind. The current situation showed that this dynamic reached its limit.

The way out is seen as the ways of returning nature the status of being equal to humanity. It is necessary to focus on the understanding of nature organism. Interactions with nature cannot be built only based on immediate benefits. In the article Ecological culture as the highest form of humanism” E.V. Girusov emphasizes that it is necessary to shift the vector of considering and solving the environmental problems from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism. Thus, he understands the manifestation of a new humanism assuming the intrinsic value of life and freedom not only for humans, but also for all living beings and all-natural objects (Girusov, 2009).

Although the term “ecology” was introduced by Haeckel, even in antiquity the great Aristotle coined the word oikonomia” to denote the science of proper housekeeping, because he believed that the household should be managed on a scientific basis, rationally and reasonably.

Nowadays, the common home for all humans is the planet Earth, and therefore our common household” also needs to be managed and improved. First, it is necessary to take measures against environmental pollution: this includes the protection of the water and air basins, the protection of the soil, the preservation of flora and fauna, the preservation of the genetic resources. In solving all these problems, the key role belongs to man, since he is not a passive victim of the world development course, but the key figure.

The central concept of social ecology is the society-nature system, which implies the applying the laws concerning the part-to-whole ratio to society, with the biosphere being the whole in relation to society. We live in an era of transition from the pre-ecological phase of interaction between nature and society to the ecological one. The fate of humanity depends on the success of this transition. Under these conditions, philosophy acquires a new mission of revising the ideological orientations associated with the critical approach to all manifestations of human activity (Picot della Mirandola, 1991). Therefore, it is necessary to develop mutually agreed ethical, legal, economic regulations that would reflect the laws of the co-evolutionary development of the man-society- nature” system: this broad ethical, economic and legal approach makes it possible to transform environmental imperatives from some of the most important intentions and trends into visible realities of our time, supported by a new environmental education(Liseev, Petrov, Fesenkova, & Khen, 2016).

If earlier the nature-transforming function of culture was emphasized, now it is necessary to focus on the nature-preserving function, which means not the opposition of nature and society, but their combination.

Therefore, the call Everything for Nature”, including man as a part of nature, sounds more relevant. The former aim concerning the conquest of nature is becoming more and more dangerous. The intention to conquer nature must be replaced with an idea of cooperation with nature, of respectful attitude towards it. Since we remain living in nature, we must obey its laws. It has to be stated that a person still does not possess the main property for any living organism – the property of ecological self- sufficiency. But without this property, man and mankind have no future.

Developing the noosphere theory V.I. Vernadsky showed that with the development of production activities, the role of the main geological factor begins to shift precisely to man (Vernadsky, 2014). Therefore, the most important task that humanity currently faces is to prevent such changes that would harm the natural environment and all forms of life, including humans. It is necessary to make this process rational. However, it must be stated that so far, the impact of society on the biosphere does not contribute to the improvement of its organization, stability and integrity. Therefore, it is extremely important to develop the scientific foundations of human economic activity, which would consider the consequences of all the changes of natural processes that people make, because any societys impact on nature boomerangs, and the more significant is the interference, the stronger is the effect. V.I. Vernadsky believed that the noosphere creation would provide a harmonious combination of social processes with the processes in the biosphere. And here it is impossible to overestimate the role of the moral state of society, since morality is a way of existence of rational beings, it represents a system of norms, rules, assessments governing communication and behavior of people in order to achieve social and personal interests. And ethics reflects morality, it is based on what has already happened in the real sphere of human behavior (Pruzhinin, et al., 2017).

Modern ethics is made up of many concepts, the main ones being the ethics of virtues, the ethics of duty, and the ethics of values. The basic ideas of the ethics of virtues were first developed by Aristotle, who by virtue understood mans qualities necessary to control his passions. He identified evil as the paucity of virtues (Aristotle, 2002). The ethics of duty is associated with I. Kant to imply the requirement to submit to the categorical imperative, the essence of which is to ensure that no one is harmed and never treat a person as a means (Kant, 1965). The ethics of values was developed by M. Scheler and was of a sociocentric character, with the values of justice and freedom being the main ones (Scheler, 1988). In the second half of the 20th century, H. Lenk proposed a new version of the concept of values and called it as the ethics of humanitys responsibility for its future, including inanimate nature and wildlife (Lenk, 1989). In this concept competence is highlighted. First, it is the scientists who should be responsible for the results of their activities, for the quality of researches, for the fulfillment of their professional duties.

This is especially relevant today, because in the market conditions even scientific activity is actively involved in the market of goods and services and, therefore, is subject to the same aberrations as any other product; advertising also works, often manifesting charlatanism. The form of ethical self-control is the relevant charters and codes including the representatives of different professional communities, for example, engineers, physicians, environmentalists, etc. Thus, starting from the second half of the 20th century, theoretical ethics begins to give way to applied ethics, where morality is increasingly identified with the expediency and good quality of decisions in specific areas of human activity.

Environmental ethics emphasizes that respect for nature is important not only from the utilitarian and practical position, but from the moral one. Long before mankind almost felt the burden of environmental problems, some representatives of Russian cosmism stated this (N.F. Fedorov, V. I. Vernadsky and others), (Fedorov, 1995), (Vernadsky, 2014). Reckless activism to nature should be limited. And the education system should play a special role here. In 1979, the Club of Rome prepared  a  report  entitled  There  are  no  limits  to  learnability” emphasizing that it is necessary to overview moral guidelines to be suitable to the modern era, that the fate of the world depends not only on science and technology, but also on spiritual order. Human qualities and their formation depend on the education system (Pechchei, 1980). In this sense, its mission is global since it is here that the spiritual, intellectual resource that is realized in the subsequent human life is laid. And since the rate of changes taking place in our days in society is unprecedented, the educational system must be continuous, multi-level and diverse. Every person during his life should be ready for professional retraining repeatedly, or radical professional changes.


5. Conclusions

This study is devoted to finding out the origins of the environmental crisis. The authors tried to understand the internal nature of the process of societys adaptation to the environment. For this purpose, material was used in relation to the anthropogenesis completion and the first stages of human history. The contradictory nature of the interaction between society and nature was shown, the dynamics of changes in their relationships and the origins of the consumer attitude towards nature were revealed. In the authors’ opinion the ways to solve modern environmental problems depend on changing value priorities. It is necessary to agree with several modern researchers, that the most important task facing humanity today is the creation of a new ethic.


The Authors:

NAGORNYH Elena [1]

POGULYAEVA Svetlana [1]

[1] South Ural State Agrarian University, Troitsk, the Russian Federation (RUSSIA).


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