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Social rights and natural resources

Dean, Hartley (2014) Social rights and natural resources. In: Fitzpatrick, Tony, (ed.) International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment. Elgar original reference. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 401-418. ISBN 9780857936127

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This chapter considers the competing ways in which human beings socially construct their claims upon natural resources. The axis around which conventional thinking tends to revolve is a distinction between anthropocentrism on the one hand and eco-centrism on the other. The former entails a set of assumptions about the primacy of humanity over Nature: assumptions that are challenged by the latter. The foundations of anthropocentrism run deep. The Biblical account of the Earth's creation conceptualises the Earth as an environment created for humanity: a world created for a free-willed species supposedly made in the creator's image. The Genesis narrative has not only informed the major religions of the world, but its allegorical potential has resonated with Western Enlightenment thinking, insinuating itself into the conceptual ethos and cultural norms of believers and non-believers alike. The challenge to this orthodoxy has equally ancient roots in Greek mythology, which on the one hand warns humanity against the hubris of Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods to give to mere mortals, while on the other celebrating Gaia, the primordial Earth Mother, whose name has been appropriated by a contemporary hypothesis that the Earth as a self-sustaining organism will defend itself against the reckless encroachments of mortal humanity.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Edward Elgar
Divisions: Social Policy
Centre for Economic Performance
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2014 09:19
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:18

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