Environmental Memes: Form, Function, and Reasons for Optimism

By Spencer S. Stober.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper describes the form and function of environmental memes. Memes are ideas, symbols, and practices that are transmitted within and across cultures from generation to generation. Environmental memes are a special category of memes that inform our view of nature. It is suggested here that environmental memes create principles in the minds of people, and we then use these principles as benchmarks to judge and mediate our interactions with nature. Memetic phenomena considered include Gaia, Pachamama, the concepts of stewardship, and the “green” movement. Some of these memes inspire us to experience a natural world with inherent value above and beyond the utility of her resources, whereas others cause us to judge our actions in light of the long-term environmental consequences. The transmission of these memes within organizations is of particular import because day-to-day decisions by leaders of organizations are crucial for environmental protection. Organizational carriers for memes and the decision-making process will be explored. It is concluded that while environmental memes vary in the principles they inspire, and even though differences do arise as to the appropriateness of our actions, the rapid proliferation of these memes may be reason for optimism.

Keywords: Memes, Leadership, Gaia, Pachamama, Green Movement, Stewardship

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.51-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 824.760KB).

Dr. Spencer S. Stober

Professor, Graduate Studies, Alvernia University, Reading, PA, USA

Dr. Spencer S. Stober is Professor of Biology and Director of the Ph.D. program in leadership at Alvernia University, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA. He has taught Biology for 30 years including undergraduate course in genetics, botany and environmental science. Since earning his doctorate at Temple University, with a specialization in educational leadership and policy studies, he teaches graduate courses in education and leadership. In 2005 he received Alvernia’s Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Stober also served in a number of key administrative positions at Alvernia University, including Department Chairperson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies. His research interests include sustainability, leadership and organizations, and the intersection between religion and science. Dr. Stober and Dr. Donna Yarri, Associate Professor of Theology at Alvernia University, recently coauthored a book, God, Science, and Designer Genes: An Exploration of Emerging Issues in Genetic Technologies, published by Praeger in 2009.

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