An Ecology of Happiness

Eric Lambin

Eric Lambin

Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
184 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226466675 Published October 2012
E-book $7.00 to $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226466699 Published October 2012
We know that our gas-guzzling cars are warming the planet, the pesticides and fertilizers from farms are turning rivers toxic, and the earth has run out of space for the mountains of unrecycled waste our daily consumption has left in its wake. We’ve heard copious accounts of our impact—as humans, as a society—on the natural world. But this is not a one-sided relationship. Lost in these dire and scolding accounts has been the impact on us and our well-being. You sense it while walking on a sandy beach, or in a wild, woody forest, or when you catch sight of wildlife, or even while gardening in your backyard. Could it be that the natural environment is an essential part of our happiness? Yes, says Eric Lambin emphatically in An Ecology of Happiness. Using a very different strategy in addressing environmental concerns, he asks us to consider that there may be no better reason to value and protect the health of the planet than for our own personal well-being.

In this clever and wide-ranging work, Lambin draws on new scientific evidence in the fields of geography, political ecology, environmental psychology, urban studies, and disease ecology, among others, to answer such questions as: To what extent do we need nature for our well-being? How does environmental degradation affect our happiness? What can be done to protect the environment and increase our well-being at the same time? Drawing on case studies from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, Lambin makes a persuasive case for the strong link between healthy ecosystems and happy humans. 

Unique in its scope and evenhanded synthesis of research from many fields, An Ecology of Happiness offers a compelling human-centered argument that is impossible to overlook when we marvel at murmurations of starlings or seek out the most brilliant fall foliage: nature makes our steps a little lighter and our eyes a little brighter. What better reason to protect an ecosystem or save a species than for our own pleasure?

Gretchen Daily, Stanford University

“Rare is the environmental book that asks us to take a look at the impact of nature on ourselves, rather than chastising our human impact on nature. Eric Lambin’s unique approach reminds us just how essential the natural world is to not just our well-being, but also our sense of happiness. And by appealing to our quintessential searches for pleasure­—from the food we eat to the warm summer air we breathe in­—An Ecology of Happiness inspires a strong urge for environmental stewardship.”

 

American Scientist
"Eric Lambin draws on studies of how natural environments improve people’s psychological health to support his case. But his analysis goes much further, encompassing three major components: 'the subjective perception of a happy existence, health, and security.' Each of the book’s nine chapters offers a broad survey of research relevant to one of these factors, treating such subjects as microbes, war, urban planning and the relation between material wealth and happiness. He encourages readers to weigh not only their own happiness but also that of people living in areas with less economic privilege, who tend to bear the brunt of both environmental change and the unequal distribution of resources. "
David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance

“Human beings are endowed with the capacity of foresight, using our knowledge and experience to look ahead, recognize danger and opportunities, and deliberately choose a path into the future.  Humanity's 'success' is our achievement of unprecedented numbers, technological prowess and consumption that are now transforming the physical, chemical and biological properties of the biosphere on a geological scale. Far beyond satisfying our basic needs, we demand fulfillment of our endless desires, an impossible goal that is also biocidal.  But are we happier as a result of our current biocidal economic and social path?  What really matters in our lives?  These are the critical questions raised and answered in An Ecology of Happiness, a vital book in addressing a global eco-crisis.”

Library Journal
"In a manner of speaking, the book is an indirect and scientific defense of the Romantic poets who crooned over our wonderful planet, using subjectivity as much as reasoning to encourage us to love Earth. . . . Highly recommended.”

Contents
INTRODUCTION
Degradation of the Environment, Improvement of Well-Being,
The Important Question,
The Problem of “Free Riders,”
A Positive—Not Alarmist—Discourse,
Well-Being and the Natural Environment,
Separation,

1
THE EXPERIENCE OF NATURE,
Disappointing Materialism,
Let the Statistics Speak,
The Virtuous Quartet,
Biophilia,
Nine Perspectives on Nature,
Psychology of the Environment,
Explicative Theories,
Applications,

2
THE EXPLOITATION OF ANIMALS,
Healing through Animals,
Cows, Chickens, Pigs,
Eating Less Meat,
Healthy Eating,
The Giant Hecatomb,
Animal Rights,
Advances in Animal Well-Being,
Our Leisure, Not That of Animals,
Which Is Happier, the Horse or the Zebra?
A Less Unilateral Relationship with Animals,

3
AN INFECTIOUS ENVIRONMENT,
Emerging Diseases,
The Neolithic Revolution,
Infectious Diseases,
Zoonoses,
Gifts from Asia,
Vulnerability,

4
THE THREAT OF ARTHROPODS,
Vector-Borne Diseases,
Malaria and Climate Change,
Attack of the Ticks,
The Asian Tiger in Europe,
Sometimes It Really Is the Climate,
Disturbing a Complex System,

5
BILL GATES OR MICROBES,
Pandemics,
From Monkey to Human,
From the Pleasure of Transcontinental Travel,
SARS, Super-Asian Rapid Surge,
The Globalization of Microbes,

6
PARADOXICAL CITIES,
An Urbanized World,
The Cesspool of the First Cities,
Subtraction or Addition,
Unbreathable Air,
Dying of Heat in Cities,
Healthy Places,
A New Alliance,

7
ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICTS,
The Return of Malthus,
Environmental Security,
Theory Tested by Facts,
The Role of Institutions,
Too Many or Too Few Resources,
The First Climate Conflict?
The Shadow of the Military,
Politics rather than the Environment,

8
ENVIRONMENTAL REFUGEES,
Natural Disasters,
Millions of Displaced,
Waves of Refugees,
Demographic Studies,
Politics of Asylum, Political Asylum,
Another Advantage for the Rich,

9
WHEN POOR COUNTRIES SET AN EXAMPLE,
Liberalization and Intervention in Vietnam,
Ecotourism in Costa Rica,
The Middle Path in Bhutan,
Several Paths,

CONCLUSION,
Debriefing,
The Happiness of Some Creates the Unhappiness of Others,
Five Choices for the Future,
Five Situations with Dual Advantages,
Happiness and Environment,
Acknowledgments,
Bibliography,
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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