Components of environment can be analyzed at various levels i.e. At
the level of activities, at the level of processes, and at the level
of orientations. Some of these issues and examples are discussed below.
Understanding environment involves studying the complex relationships between the people and the typical physical settings in which they conduct their daily lives. Environmental interest in studying human behaviour in the familiar, everyday physical environment where people live and work as well as its relevance to the environment design and social planning has made it especially responsive to the demands of today's world. Environmental studies are an area of social sciences where the focus of investigation is the interrelationship between the physical environment and human behavior and experience of man. Fig 1.4 presents this.
The other perspective of components of environment relates to environmental processes, its multidisciplinary and applied aspects.
Environment is new subject and a complex field of study. Therefore it is important to consider some of the characteristics that describe the what, how and why of the ways environmental processes work. In this section we attempt to explain the adaptation focus, physiological processes, the holistic view, interdisciplinary involvement and applied orientation of the subject matter.
Adaptation focus: The process of adaptation. It is of interest to study how people adapt to the complex demands of the physical environment. For example, how people live in crowded places or overcrowded setting. Robert White (1974) defines adaptation as encompassing all the processes with their environment. This includes most simple ways of dealing with minor environment and irritations to the most complex efforts to cope with major environment changes. These challenges in living system in interaction with the environment are the adaptation processes. The holistic view of the organism and environment is considered along with the active role of living organism in relation to their environment.
Physiological Processes: - The adaptation focus of the environment emphasizes the process that mediates the effect of physical setting on human activity e.g. the effect of classroom noise on student's grades.
Overall view: - Historically, the analysis of the environment was at very small and molecular levels but now the emphasis has shifted from micro to macro level. It is how environment and behavior must be seen as interrelated parts of an indivisible whole.
The positive and adaptive ways in which people cope with environmental challenges suggest active roles. This view looks into how people have varied and creative ways to cope with their environments.
The adaptation process model (Fig 1.6) shows how environment effect on behavior is mediated by a number of processes. . It shows that the direction of effect in the environment-behavior relationship is reciprocal i.e. people may act on the environmental conditions while the environment in turn also acts on human behavior. The negative effects of situation such as over- crowding may be reversed through effective coping processes.
Multidisciplinary Orientation: The branches of study
here have included not only environment but also other fields such as
Sociology, Psychology, Geography, Anthropology, Medicine, Architecture
and Planning etc (refer to fig 1.2). The study of human behavior in
physical settings requires the works of researchers in many social sciences
as well as of architects and planners responsible for the design of
human settings. The areas of study include.
The Applied Orientation:The environmental study has orientation
towards both the resolution of practical problem and the formulation
of new theories. Lewins (1974) action research is a useful model for
the intermingling of practical and theoretical needs of the environment.
For example The study of university housing environment is one research area where theoretical and practical objectives have been successfully combined. Thus one may understand the components of environment at various levels i.e. At the level of activities, at the level of processes and at the level of orientations.