Environment and Society - Solutions

 CBSE Class 11 Sociology

NCERT Solutions
Chapter 8
Environment and Society

1. Describe in your own words what you understand. by the term 'ecology'.


  • The term 'ecology' denotes the web of physical and biological systems and processes of which humans are one element.
  • Mountains and rivers, plains and oceans, and the flora and fauna that they support, are a part of ecology.
  • The ecology of a place is also affected by the interaction between its geography and hydrology. For example, the plant and animal life unique to a desert is adapted to its scarce rainfall, rocky or sandy soils, and extreme temperatures.
  • Ecological factors limit and shape how human beings can live in any particular place. For instance, the use potato today in India though seems to be natural was actually a modification in environment by cultural interventions due to human actions.

2. Why is ecology not limited only to the forces of nature?

  • Ecology is not limited only to the forces of nature because it has has been modified by human actions over a period of time.
  • What appears to be a natural feature of the environment such as aridity or flood proneness is often produced by human intervention.
  • Deforestation in the upper catchment of a river may make the river more flood-prone.
  • Another such instance of the widespread impact of human activity on nature will be the climate change brought about by global warming.
  • Over time, it is often difficult to separate and distinguish between the natural and human factors that brings ecological change.
  • An agricultural farm is a human transformation of nature. The city environment is also a human artefact.

3. Describe the two-way process by which 'social environments' emerge.

  • Social environment emerges from the interaction between biophysical ecology and human interventions.
  • This is a two-way process just as nature shapes society, society shapes nature. For instance, the fertile soil of the Indo-Gangetic floodplain enables intensive agriculture. Its high productivity allows dense population settlements and generates enough surpluses to support other, non-agricultural activities, giving rise to complex hierarchical societies and states.
  • In contrast, the desert of Rajasthan can only support pastoralists who move from place to place in order to keep their livestock supplied with fodder.
  • These are instances of ecology shaping the forms of human life and culture.
  • On the other hand, the social organization of capitalism has shaped nature across the world.
  • Private automobile is one instance of a capitalist commodity that has transformed lives and landscapes. Air pollution and congestion in cities, regional conflicts and wars over oil, and global warming are just a few of the environmental effects of cars.

4. Why and how does social organisation shape the relationship between the environment and society?

Ans. The interaction between environment and society is shaped by social organization.

  • It is basically the relationship that different social groups have with property. This property relation determines how and by whom natural resources can be used.
  • Private ownership of natural resources will affect whether others can have access to resources and if yes, on what terms and conditions.
  • The ownership and control over resources is also related to the division of labour in the production process.
  • Social organisation influences how different social groups relate to their environment.
  • The relationship between environment and society also reflect different social values, norms and knowledge systems. For instance, values underlying capitalism have supported commodification of nature, turning it into objects that can be bought and sold for profit.
  • Socialist values on the other hand, leads to seizure of lands from large landlords and their redistribution among landless farmers.

5. Why is environmental management a complex and huge task for society?

Ans. Environmental management is a complex and huge task for society because:.

  • Difficult process to predict and control them.
  • Human relations with the environment have become increasingly complex.
  • With the spread of industrialisation, resource extraction has expanded and accelerated, affecting ecosystems in unprecedented ways.
  • Complex industrial technologies and modes of organization require sophisticated management systems which are often fragile and vulnerable to error.
  • We live in risk societies using technologies and products that we do not fully grasp.
  • The occurrence of nuclear disasters like Chernobyl, industrial accidents like Bhopal, and Mad Cow disease in Europe shows the dangers inherent in industrial environments.

6. What are some of the important forms of pollution related environmental hazards

Ans. Pollution is one of the major environmental problems. Different types of environmental pollution are:

  1. Air pollution
  2. Water pollution
  3. Noise pollution
  • Air pollution is considered to be a major environmental problem in urban and rural areas. Sources of air pollution include emissions from industries and vehicles, burning of woods and coal for domestic use. Indoor air pollution from cooking fire is also a major source of risk especially in rural homes due to poor ventilation
  • Water pollution is a serious problem affecting surface as well as groundwater. Sources of water pollution include domestic sewage, factory waste, runoffs from agricultural farms using synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Noise pollution is mostly caused in city. Sources of noise pollution include amplified loud speakers, political campaigns, vehicle horns, traffic, construction works, etc.
  • Various risks or consequences due to pollution
    • Air pollution can cause respiratory problems resulting in serious illness and death.
    • Indoor pollution from fire used for cooking inside poorly ventilated homes can put village women at serious risks.
    • WHO estimates that almost 600,000 people died due to indoor pollution in Indian in 1998 and almost 500,000 of them were in rural areas.
    • Water pollution can cause water borne diseases, contaminated drinking water.
    • Noise pollution can cause hearing impairments due to sound energy produced.

7. What are the major environmental issues associated with resource depletion?

  • Resource depletion refers to exhaustion of non-renewable natural resources. Using up of non- renewable resources is one of the most serious environmental problems.
  • Depletion of fossil fuels like petroleum is always in news. The depletion and destruction of water and land is occurring at a rapid pace as aquifers accumulated with water are getting emptied to meet growing demands of intensive agriculture, industry and urban centres.
  • Construction of dams and diverting course of rivers has caused irreversible damage to the ecology of water basins.
  • Soil erosion, water-logging and salinisation due to poor environmental management have depleted top soil reserve. Adding to this problem is also due to the production of bricks.
  • Other major rapid resource depletion includes biodiversity habitats like forests, grasslands and wetlands largely due to expansion of agriculture.
  • The risks or adverse consequences due to resource depletion are many fronts. For example, water crisis, loss of fertile soil, flood risk, etc.

8. Explain why environmental problems are simultaneously social problems.
 Environmental problems are actually social problems because:

  • Environmental problems affect different social groups differently due to social inequality.
  • Social status and power determine the extent to which people can protect themselves from environmental crises or overcome them.
  • Overcoming environmental problems by certain groups can sometimes actually worsen environmental disparities.
  • Certain environmental problems might be of universal concern and not related to specific social groups but how these problems are pursued may not be universally beneficial to all due to how public priorities are set.
  • Securing public interests from environmental crises can actually serve the interests of particular politically and economically powerful groups and hurt the interests of poor and politically weak.

Thus, environment as a public interest is a hugely debated topic.

9. What is meant by social ecology?


  • Social ecology literally means recognising the often overlooked fact that nearly all our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems.
  • Present ecological problems thus cannot be understood without resolutely dealing with problems within society.
  • Many economic, ethnic, cultural and gender conflicts, etc. lie at the core of the most serious ecological problems we face today apart from those that are produced by natural disasters.
  • The school of social ecology points out that social relations like organisation of property and production shapes environmental perceptions and practices in societies. Therefore, different social groups stand in different relationships to the environment and approach it differently.
  • To address environmental problems, it is required to change the environment-society relations that exists in society. To change environment society relations, it needs efforts to change relations between different social groups.
  • Changed social relations between different social groups will give rise to different knowledge systems and modes of managing the environment.