Environmental Study论文模板 – Critical Analysis of Malm’s Claim

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues today. As the world is warming up, many lives are put at risk by climate change which threatens to shift world ecosystems. The shift will make some parts of the world uninhabitable (Prudham, 2009). As the debate surrounding climate change is becoming more intense, several schools of thought have arisen, each with an explanation on the causes of climate change and solutions to prevent further warming. Among the contributors to climate change is Andrea’s Malm, who is a climate change philosopher. In his book ‘The progress of this storm: Nature and society in a warming world’, Malm calls for militant action against climate change. One of the most significant quotes from his book states that “in a warming world…it is more important than ever to distinguish between the natural and the social”. This paper presents an analysis of this statement in light of the current debates on climate change. The analysis proceeds in five major parts. In the first part, the meaning of the social and the natural is discussed with reference to modern developments and human advancement. The second part explores the purpose of this statement (what it intends to achieve). The fourth part analyses the wider meaning of this statement while the last part focuses on the implications of this statement on the general climate change discourse

The distinction between what is natural and what is social can be understood in the context of globalisation and capitalism (French, 2009). The ongoing large scale exploitation of environmental natural resources is widely believed to be the major cause of global warming (Klein, 2015). Since the 19th century, the impact of industrialization has significantly changed the world’s ecosystems. In some areas, desertification has set in and weather patterns permanently changed. In the climate change discourse, the natural environment means nature as it is without any form of human interference. The natural part of the environment is that which can sustain itself without human intervention or support (Roberts, Hite and Chorev, 2014). The social part of the environment is used to refer to human society. The combined effect of globalization and capitalism has to some extent blurred the distinction between nature and society. Humans have become extremely dependent on the natural environment and vice versa, which has formed the basis of some philosophers’ claim that there is no longer any distinction between nature and society (Latour, 2003).

The purpose of Malm’s statement is to respond to and take sides in the debate concerning the relationship between nature and society and its implications to global warming. As stated, there are various theories and viewpoints concerning the contribution of human society on climate change. One theory that is gaining unprecedented influence is that nature has come to an end (Chakrabarty, 2017). This theory proposes that due to the impacts of human activities in the environment, there is no longer any contrast between the natural and social part of the ecosystem. The proponents of this theory first suggest that the distinction between what is nature and what is not, no longer makes any sense. Secondly, the theory proposes that the environment as we know it now is a result of human action and not natural as it had been before (Latour, 2003). This means that the current environment is a product of human action as seen in the way capitalism has subdued the environment through excessive use of fossil fuels, oil spills and large scale mining that have fundamentally erased the natural environment (Kitcher, P., 2010).  Nature is therefore no longer acting independently but is dictated by human actions. As a result, the natural and the social have fused together and cannot be separated.  According to the proponents of this theory, the continued exploitation of the environment needs to go on, since there is no longer any nature to be protected. The fact that we cannot, and should not separate the natural from the social also means no amount of human intervention can reset the ecosystem to its former natural system.

The claim made by Malm in the statement is intended to scrutinize and give an answer to this theory which according to him undermines the efforts to reverse the effects of global warming. Malm’s claim responds to the end of nature theory by rejecting its foundational concepts of constructionism and hybridism. The concept of constructionism suggests that nature is not real, and is simply a social construct in the human mind (Latour, 1999). The concept is based on the assumption that what we perceive to be natural is the consequence of human activity and it cannot be said that human activities are changing a nonexistent natural environment. Constructionism, therefore, proposes that global warming cannot be blamed on human action, but is a natural course of events that could still take place without the intervention of humans. In connection with climate change, constructionism posits that it is not possible to reverse the global warming trend since its characterization as a consequence of human activities is also a social construct (Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly, and Oppenheimer, 2013). Malm’s statement rejects this idea and maintains that there is a clear distinction between the natural and social components of the ecosystem. Malm’s rejection of constructionism is based on the fact that the environment is real and tangible (Wright and Nyberg, 2015). The visible flora and fauna, together with the records of changes taking place are not simply in the human mind but a reality that is being felt. This argument relies on the scientific evidence of climate change as seen in melting of polar ice, changing rain patterns and the documented extinction of animals that rely on the natural environment (Shove and Spurling, 2013).

Hybridism is the belief that man and nature are so interdependent on each other than they cannot be separated. According to the proponents of this concept, the natural and social components of the ecosystem cannot be separated since it will lead to further disruption of the orderly system already in place. Any attempt to separate will spell doom for nature and humans (Boykoff, 2010). The statement by Malm contradicts this concept by suggesting that it is due to human interference with the environment that global warming is happening. According to Malm, the natural environment is an independent component that had survived for millions of years before the start of human interference. The claim that the natural depends on the social is untrue given the ability of the environment to regenerate every time human activities are halted (Taylor, 2014). Malm also rejects the concept of hybridism on the basis that restrained exploitation has been scientifically proven to reduce the impacts of human activities.

The other purpose of Malm’s claim is to expose the fallacies and inconsistencies in the proposals and concepts relied on by those who believe the natural cannot be separated from the social. One notable inconsistency is that the proponents of this idea are not scientists but general philosophers who are distorting facts and misrepresenting documented knowledge. Specifically, the claim is an answer to Bruno Latour, who is an ardent supporter of constructionism and hybridism, which Malm rejects. Despite not being a credible scientist, Bruno has gained a huge following for his misguided views on climate change (Malm, 2018). Such theories are a threat to the efforts to reverse the effects of climate change.

By rejecting the constructionism and hybridism concepts of inseparability, Malm’s ideas become clear. His ideas are meant to set the record straight using scientific facts to demonstrate that the theories claiming inseparability are misleading the public (Malm, 2018). The first meaning of Malm’s claim is that nature still exists and influences human activities. Within this interpretation, both the natural and social are interdependent, but exists separately (Wilson, 2012). This means nature is capable of existing on its own and that globalization is yet to consume nature to the point that the two cannot be separated. Malm views the relationship between the natural and the social from a historical materialism perspective. This perspective proposes that humanity has developed alongside the natural world, but is distinct from the natural world. In essence, Malm believes that society is still dependent on the natural world, but nature and society cannot be merged into one unbreakable entity. This argument forms the basis of Malm’s claim that global warming is a result of human activities (Cupples, J., 2012).

The second meaning of the claim is that we cannot reduce nature into purely human actions. While it is true that the scale of human reliance on the natural environment has significantly increased, it is not possible to absorb all the components of nature into human activities. This view is supported by the fact that humans have little control of weather conditions that have no connection to global warming. The arrangement of global climate patterns, the occurrence of major floods, cyclones, hurricanes, and storms cannot be linked to any human activity (Storm, 2009). The claim that nature is wholly dependent on human activities is therefore wrong since no human activity has the ability to cause or prevent the occurrence of these major climate phenomena. Essentially, nature is still there are affects human activities. Malm’s claim, therefore, supports the idea that the natural and the social are able to co-exist, and humans do not necessarily need to dominate the environment (Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly and Oppenheimer, 2013). When the coexistence approach is adopted, it is possible to separate the two and get a better understanding of how global warming work and the possible solutions.

The implication of Malm’s claim is that the separation of the natural and the social is good for the environment and humanity. First, separating the two means that the natural environment is recognized as part of the global ecosystem. The constructionist concept is dangerous since it seeks to convince people that nature is not real, and therefore no need to protect it (Lerbinger, 2012). It is only when the two are separated that we see nature as a component of the ecosystem that needs protection from human activities.

Secondly, separating the natural from the social enables us to appreciate the fact that global warming is a consequence of human actions. The danger of not separating the two is that we fail to recognize the part played by human actions since the two are assumed to be working as one entity. Separating the natural and the social enables us to pinpoint the causes of global warming without generalizing. The scale of exploitation will reduce and humans will start adopting measures that encourage the replacement of the lost parts of the natural environment after exploitation. Failure to separate the two means the current scale of exploitation will continue unabated and global temperatures will rise further thus threatening the global ecosystem. (Michaels, 2005)

Lastly, separating the two means humans will take more responsibility for their actions that are causing damage to the environment. The impact of separating the natural from the social will enable humans to see the scale of damage that the natural environment is undergoing. This will stir more people into action by holding those responsible to account, which is good for conservation measures (Brysse, Oreskes, O’Reilly and Oppenheimer, 2013). By assuming that the two are inextricably joined, no entity will take action since climate change will be perceived as a natural occurrence that cannot be avoided.

The claim made by Malm is not biased but is derived from scientific facts and documented evidence of the effects of human activities on the natural environment. As one of the respectable environmental philosophers, Malm’s viewpoint is credible and effectively counters the emerging theories that have the potential of derailing the global climate change efforts aimed at slowing down the rise in global temperatures (Bullard and Müller, 2012). The statement also brings to light the exact relationship between the natural and the social. The natural environment is existent and tangible as opposed to the constructionist theory’s suggestion that it is a social construction. Malm’s claim supports the need for more action on climate change.


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