Although nature often has been treated as an unproblematic reality, I argue for treating it as a contested concept, suggesting that "nature" is a cultural construction. Drawing on interactionist and ecological theory, I claim that the creation of social problems involving the environment is inevitably grounded in cultural choices. Through a set of ideological structures (a protectionist vision, an organic vision, and a humanistic vision), social actors develop templates for understanding the proper relationship between humans and nature. Based on an ethnography of mushroom collecting, I contend that these models lead us to experience nature through cultural eyes - wishing to be away from civilization, to be at one with nature, and to engage in the pragmatic use of nature for personal ends. Conflicting stances toward nature account for debate over the moral acceptability of the commercial collection of mushrooms and the "problem" of overpick. Templates of human-environmental interaction, leading to models for experiencing the wild, provide the basis for understanding the conditions under which environmental change is defined as a social problem.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science