1.1 ‘The environment’
Does the phrase ‘the environment’ refer to the totality of the global environment? Perhaps it refers to a national environment of a country? Or maybe it refers to a local area? The images in Figure 1 represent the environment at different scales – the single tree in a field, the wooded area, the European area and the entire Earth. Describing any of them as ‘the environment’ opens up a question of scale and the boundaries between them. When does ‘the local environment’ become ‘the national environment’?
Scale issues apart, the phrase ‘the environment’ also presents significant issues in terms of who is using the term and in what way. Is ‘the environment’ of one person the same as ‘the environment’ of another person? This question opens up the issue of perception. When you look at the single tree in Figure 1, do you see the same environment as someone else? This question is important because using the term ‘the environment’ implies the environment exists independently of the person perceiving it and can be recognised, known and described with some certainty to, and by, others.
In other words, the phrase ‘the environment’ implies everyone perceives and therefore is likely to understand the same thing in the same way. As you will explore in this free course, this is not often the case, with important implications for environmental management.