Global Environmental Politics and the Grand Old Theory of ‘Human Nature’

Helen Kopnina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the causation theories of recent environmental problems, such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change, in relation to the concept of ‘human nature’. While the notion of ‘human nature’ has devaluated from the status of ‘grand theory’ to a marginal anthropological debate, the author argues that this notion deserves to be resurrected in order to comprehend some of the explanatory gaps inherent in other theories. The author argues that industrialization signifies a turning point in human history, which in combination with certain ‘universal’ human traits led to recent environmental problems. Most observers agree that the problems associated with the environmental degradation are global, in scale and can only be approached through a complex system of coordinated global governanace (Paterson, 2009; Smith, 2009). The explanation for this degradation can be found not only in socio-economic and political theories, but also in the complementary theories of human nature. The author will particularly discuss human universals such as propensity for technological innovation; the desire to elevate oneself above one’s social class or status; and preoccupation with social justice. The author argues that these universal features, in combination with the condition of industrial capitalism or socialism, lead to an unfortunate although mostly unintended effect resulting in environemntal degradation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-105
JournalJadavpur Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


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