Culture and Environment Interaction


Culture is a fundamental makeup of human beings it defines human (homo sapien sapiens). As a result, it is an inescapable factor influencing an array of human life such as education, wealth distribution, health, environment interaction and preservation and climate change. While in no way is culture the only factor influencing this aspect of life it is a primary factor in a significant effect on the cause and or outcome of different behaviors, beliefs, actions and or inactions that contribute varying impacts of life. As a result of cultures influence on values, preference, cognition and measures it significantly affects how humans interact with the ecosystem, this is defined as the interaction between human culture and the environment. The nature of this interaction is varying from one culture to another who is dependent on the type of influence culture exerts on human behavior. For example, cultures that reinforce an individual sense of responsibility is more likely to reflect a more environmentally conscious society. Similarly other characteristics of culture influence may be noticeable in the human use and treatment of the biosphere. Individualist cultures may, for example, agitate for self-progress at the expense of common concerns such as climate.

The thesis of the paper states that the relationship between an ecosystem and culture is different dependent of the nature of values a given society prescribes to. The argument maintains that culture has a significant effect on the environment both direct and indirect influence.  This is dependent on the assumption that some cultural values directly affect the environment as they are associated with deforestation and primitive cultural practices such as poaching that are injurious to the environment. Further, the research thesis holds that societies guilty of massive ecological pollution are liable to the destruction climate change exerts on low emission societies. The thesis also contains that cultural practices not harmful to the environment should not be inconvenienced, but instead the focus should be placed on environmentally destructive values and practices as a means to mitigating pollution thus slowing global warming.

The paper seeks to answer the question of how different cultures affect human interactions with the environment. Particular focus is on the nature of impact that certain cultures exerts on the environment. The four tenets of culture discussed in the paper should shade light on the environmental impact on human life and how culture vice versa affects the environment. Through understanding the interaction between culture and the environment the paper will satisfactorily draw conclusions on the degree of liability high-emission countries have on the destructions caused by global warming on none emitting societies. The main reason for the choice of the topic is because most high carbon emitting countries feel negligible impacts by global warming and subsequent rising water levels. Instead, many suffering societies mostly island dwellers are small emitters. Notably, the prevailing cultures in both high and low carbon emitting societies in some cases are negligible however it is evident that culture has an impact on the environment.

 The study of culture many at times relies on four major tenets including individualism vs. collectivism, feminism and masculinity, power balance and uncertainty avoidance. Collectivist societies put individual interests below group interest while individualist cultures are centralized on people looking out for themselves. Power distance is used to define societies views on equality and power distribution; high power societies bestows privileges to the powerful and accept power positions may be inherited by use of force, while, Low power distance represents believe that power should be equally distributed. Masculine societies are defined by high value attached to progress and material success, while feminine cultures represent modest and caring values. Uncertainty avoidance is the measure of societal tolerance for uncertain/unknown situations. High avoidance societies have defined regulations and laws detailing protocol in events or occurrences that the society holds direct interests. These tenets represent different societies and the nature of a given culture defined by this viewpoint influences how the culture reacts with behaviors such as environmental interaction and others.

Research Problem

NickolaosTzeremes and George Halkos, both economists in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, discusses the extent to which values influence environmental attitudes. The two economists evaluate the impact of value influence on the relationship between ecological efficiency and major cultural dimensions. Ecological efficiency is measured by environmental performance Indexes (scorecards) that rank a country's ecological efficiency policy based on outcome-oriented indicators relying on the Millennium Development Goals. EPI’S are criticized as only compatible with uniform data lacking of observation in the extremes. As a result of this limitation in macro level environment indexes,  this research employs the use of nonparametric frontiers to analyze the environmental efficiency of societies based on the four cultural dimensions investigating relationships between given inputs and outputs considered as proxies for environmental performance. Particularly detail is drawn to the two largest greenhouses gasses sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide and the four major facets of culture, uncertainty avoidance, feminist vs. masculine, power distance and collectivism and individualism values.

Culture and Environment Interaction

Learning interactions with environment produce both negative and positive effects. The relationship between a society and its environment is dictated primarily by the community’s characteristics. The people in a community what features do they bear as members of the species (human), as members of groups and as individuals. These characteristics are partly cultural, psychological, evolutionary and partially biosocial. Notably culture itself has evolved with humans and thus may be considered as playing even roles. Culture affects psychological characteristics such as the power of evaluation, response, meaning and preference in varying degrees. Cultural impact on behavior and psychological characteristics exert the ultimate variability among humans and as a consequence the effects of culture on the environment.

Another aspect of culture and environment interaction is centered on the consequences of a given environment on individuals or groups of people. Understanding the circumstances of such scenarios, the underlying reasons and how the environment affects the society is important as it highlights the justifications for human reactions to environmental effects which may or may not further degrade the environment.  Human variability is underlined by the different individual and group response to similar environmental attributes. Similarly, various environmental aspects become salient for some groups. This discrepancy in the reaction is a result of varying environmental quality evaluation by different ideals, values, schemata, and images.  Variation in human Habitat choices is considered one of the primary environmental effects on people. Cultural landscapes as represented by architectural expressions are a reflection of how society decodes an environment and varies as a result of cultural variables.

Given that the interaction between culture and environment is two way the last aspect of this relationship are the links. Perception, preference, cognition, meaning, congruence, supportiveness and affect are all variedly influenced by culture. This three aspects of the relationship between people and the environment can be empirically represented to estimate the level of effect and impact each has on the other.

In a study conducted by George Halkos and NickolaosTzeremes published in the Chicago Policy Review Energy and environment research brief section the authors adopts a performance measure framework that uses a countries GDP per capita data as outputs and considering per capita emissions data as inputs.  Through this context, the author examined the ratio of emission created against the economic value gained thereof which she then defines as a countries eco-efficiency. Halkos et al. adopts an additional variable to identify the effect of greenhouse emissions on environmental valuation where pollutant free environments have the highest value thus allowing the author to draw relationships between output and input data and four selected cultural dimensions. A positive regression line indicates favorable cultural effects on the levels of a country’s eco-efficiency while negative curves indicate unfavorable cultural effects.

Power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and collectivism vs. individualism all show a significant effect on environmental consciousness. Masculinity and feminism are the least factors affecting eco-efficiency. Individualistic societies exerted the strongest force on environmental consciousness as opposed to collective societies this is explained as a result of a greater sense of duty and responsibility associated with individualistic values. Uncertainty avoidance is highly related to low eco-efficiency. The authors also note that even in countries with ecological efficiency disparity in cultural values and attitudes.

Given the interaction between environment and culture the research understands the reactions of different facets of culture to the environment and thus helps understand humans affect the biosphere. Consequently, the environment also to some extent affects people and their culture. The environment shapes a lot of values, belief and behavior, this impact leads to change in culture, the death of cultural practices, cultural merge, and cultural extinction among individuals and groups. The relationship interaction between environment and culture is key to strengthening culturally appropriate conservation measures.

Culture Comparison

To further explore the interaction between culture and environment it is prudent to compare two diverse societies. The United States of America and the Republic of Suriname both share similarities in the varied and dynamic nature of their cultures.   The emission differences between the two countries are large. The Suriname Republic produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gasses while the United States is the largest greenhouse gas emitter and yet relying on the study conducted by Tzeremes and Halkos the individual culture dominant in the United States exerts environmental consciousness as opposed to the Surinese collective society. Evidently, the United States Environmental pollution is a result of underlying capitalist notions precipitated by the urge for material wealth through businesses that in some case indiscriminately degrades the environment.  On the other hand, the Surinese culture that is still highly conservative enhances eco-efficiency through the limited use of mass production processing industries and high quantity fossil fuels a result of its conservative nature the environment in Suriname remains relatively unexploited and therefore less degraded.

In the United States, exploitation of the environment is stretched, pressured by high resource demand and replenishing natural resources, many of America’s resources are getting exhausted. In contrast, the situation in Suriname remains largely under-graded; this is facilitated by the low resource demand due to a low population.  Destruction of the environment in the United States is further precipitated by the emission of carbon and sulfur dioxide. The high quantity emissions of greenhouse gasses is a consequence of the highly industrialized environment some industries dating back as far as the seventeenth century. The rapid spread of industries is a result of the common American value for hard work and success measured in wealth that has led to cases of non-adherence to environmental protection policy and disregard to a business social responsibility to protect their environment. On the other hand, Suriname is less industrialized thus less emission as a result of collective responsibility to protect the environment. 

Indigenous tribes living the Atlantic island of Suriname were faced by colonization by white colonialists in led by Spaniards and Dutch. The island is also a home of freed slaves. In the earlier years of domination the environmental concerns were addressed by unconcerned colonialists that led to high resource exploitation, however, after independence the residents of the island have taken responsibility for the protection of the ecosystem that they relied on for food, trade items, and habitat.

 Notably, domination leads to higher environment destruction as colonizers seek to exploit the system as much as possible without considering the outcome of these exploitations. Similar to the US the surinese Republic was colonized but less exploited as a result of its low profile. The United States, on the other hand, suffered brutal exploitation under its colonial masters, luckily as a result of its vast resources exploitations even when destructive had a negligible impact. However, cultural diffusion of the colonialists mix up with natives produce a culture that focused on the individual well-being and thus minimal regard to environmental consciousness later worsened by the use of fossil fuels in industries.

Unlike the United States, the Suriname society has not been forced to make a lot of modifications into their culture to adapt to the environment. Long interactions with the Dutch, Africans, Asians and Europeans have made the Surinese society a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and culturally diverse society. Modifications have only resulted in global warming occasioned by high greenhouse gas emitters such as the United States. Interestingly Suriname is more endangered by global warming than is the United States.

Small conservative societies with the least contribution to global warming continue to face a significant risk as a result of rising water levels caused by climate change. On the other hand, the largest carbon effect contributors remain in some instances unharmed by the effects of environmental pollution. From this considerations is it, therefore, appropriate for high emitting societies to compensate less polluting societies as a redress for the danger they are exposed to.


In conclusion, it is clearly evident that culture affects the environment in different manners. The interaction between culture and environment measured the levels of society’s eco-efficiency indicates significant effects of culture on the environment. Similarly, environment evidently has an impact on culture. However, discrepancies in how the environment effect on one culture compared to another are notable. This phenomenon is explained by how the four tenets of culture influence a society’s values, actions, behaviors, cognition, and preference. As a consequence of how this tenet affects the behavior of individuals and groups defines how this community reacts and or interacts with the ecosystem. It proves the thesis that culture affects the environment.

The thesis is evidently supported by indications that individualized, high uncertainty avoiding societies tended to produce self-centered individuals focused on their individual roles and responsibilities for individual successes outside collective concerns such as climate and environmental protection. Further, it is important high pollution societies suffer less or equally as non-emitting societies thus disadvantaging societies and values that protect the ecosystem. Consequently, the research concludes that high emitting countries are liable to global warming effects on non-emitting societies and as such should take the responsibility to compensate for its effects such as destruction of property by rising water levels. The interaction between the environment and culture is highly robust except in some cases result in environmental degradation which increases the risk of global warming.

Further, different societies contribute differently to environmental preservation of otherwise destruction. Similarly, some societies are more vulnerable to global warming effects than others this is independent of the communities contribution to either protection or exploitation of the environment. As a result, it is prudent that high greenhouse gas emitting societies should take up more responsibility for the effects of global warming and mitigating measures.  This is necessitated by the knowledge that the consequences of global warming are not restricted to polluting countries but instead may be more adverse to non-degrading countries than the actual environment polluters. Culture also remains an important component is the protection of the environment and determines whether a society is conscious or otherwise of the environment.

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