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The New Ecological Paradigm

   According to Riley Dunlap (2002) most classic sociology has been influenced by the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm (HEP). This paradigm emerged from sociologist’s attempt to carve out a separate space for sociology as a discipline. The paradigm assumes that the importance of culture in human society means that sociology studies a completely different sphere from nature. Consequently, the discipline was premised on a set of background assumptions or paradigm that led most sociologists regardless of their theoretical orientation to see modern societies as being exempt from ecological constraints. The result being that it ignored the biophysical environment and the ecosystem dependence of all human activity. Dunlap believes that a new perspective is required: New Ecological Paradigm. This perspective has societal- environmental interactions as its central focus and moves away from looking only at social facts to explain sociological phenomena. Humans are different from other living organisms in having characteristics such as culture and technology, but they are still just one of many species that live within a global ecosystem. Social and cultural factors shape human society, but society is also shaped by intricate linkages of cause, effect, and feedback in the web of nature. While sociology has assumed that the bio physical environment is largely irrelevant the NEP stresses the importance of a finite biophysical environment that imposes potent physical and biological restraints on human affairs. Traditional sociology has assumed that there can be indefinite progress in the accumulation of greater technological and social knowledge and understanding. The NEP argues that this is a myth and that the inventiveness of humans cannot defy ecological laws which limit the capacity of the earth as an ecological system to accommodate damaging human activity.

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