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February 28, Sociology of environment and technology.docx

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SOCI 1002
Christian Carron

Sociology of environment and technology Paradox of Technology - Paradox role of technology - An example is the destruction of the ecological and climatic equilibrium of the planet - The natural resources of the earth are depleted in the pursuit of profit, but there is nothing inherent in such pursuit that operates as a check upon such behavior Paradox of technology - Industrial organizations/businesses which bring us many pieces of technology that while producing pollute air and water - The explosion of private cars and motorways, airports and aircraft once expected to resolve the problem of mobility and transportation, creates traffic jams, air and noise pollution, destroys whole areas of human settlement Whose responsibility? - Nowadays we hear, time and again, heated debates about who should pay for, say, polluting the supplies of fresh water, disposing of toxic waste, or the damage caused to the landscape by new opencast mines or motorways - No one seems to assume responsibility for their existence and consequences Cost of technological progress - There is no doubt that modern times have given rise to spectacular achievements. Denying those is not the issue - The issue is that we are now facing not only the benefits, but also the costs of technological progress - These are not restricted to small enclaves of order, as the affect our entire futures. What is now required is some understanding of the weaknesses, as well as strengths, of the ways in which we view each other, our ways of thinking and acting and the environments that we all inherit Technology - Overall, North Americans value science and technology highly • But also is awareness that technological advance not always beneficial and not even always benign - Term “normal accident” introduced by Perrow and refers to accidents that occur inevitably- though unpredictably- because of very complexity of modern technologies • Ex: BP did not plan the oil spill. It just happened Technology and “Risk Society” - Beck coined term “risk society”:Apostmodern society defined by way in which risk is distributed as a side effect of technology • Technology distributes danger among all categories of population, with some categories more exposed to technological dangers than others  Danger not just from technology but from mounting environmental threats as well Risk society - Risks are outcomes and side-effects are difficult/impossible to calculate and define - Genetically modified (GM) food as an example the debate revolves around uncertainty in terms of not knowing the price that will be paid in the future for current decisions Globalization and risk - Globalization is taken to be a process which no one controls - This is often invoked as a reason for inaction in the face of what are seen as overwhelming and abstract forces - Government policies can and do mediate, dilute and ameliorate these effects Globalization and risk - Risks are the kinds of dangers we do not see or hear coming and of which we may not be fully aware - We do not experience directly- see, hear, touch, and smell- • The rising carbon dioxide in the air we breath • The slow yet relentless warming up of the planet • Those chemical substances used to fatten up the meat we eat Technology - Technology- techne/ opoly - The study (opoly) of • Art • Skill • Craft (techne) - Everything from tools to know-how - Fire, wheel, printing press, telephone, satellite - Technology: the practical application of scientific principles Technopoly - Technopoly: Form of social organization in which technology compels people to try to solve all problems by using technical rather than moral criteria, even though technology is often source of the problems - Postman (1992) refers to United States as a technopoly and argues United States is first country in which technology has taken control of culture • He coined the term technopoly Economic Incentives and Research - Many researchers now influenced by the following: • Large research grants • Well-paying jobs • Access to expensive state-of-the-art equipment • Possibility of winning patents and achieving commercial success - Alot of misgivings of researchers that spring from consideration of optimum benefits for humanity or possibility for harm of military- and corporation-funded research are quieted at prospect of doing cutting-edge research Environmental Degradation: Global Warming - Side effect of technology most troublesome for many is environmental degradation - Our increased dependence on fossil fuel burning since Industrial Revolution has contributed to global warming, i.e., gradual worldwide increase in average surface temperature • There is concern global warming is responsible for serious climatic change that is fueling upswing in (i) extreme meteorological events; (ii) partial melting of polar ice caps; and (iii) rising sea level  There is also concern about potential for rising ocean levels flooding some heavily populated regions throughout world - Global warming: the gradual worldwide increase in average surface temperature Environmental Degradation: Industrial Pollution - Industrial pollution is emission of various impurities into the air, water, and soil through industrial processes - In Canada, most pollutants are especially highly concentrated in southern Ontario and southern Quebec Environmental Degradation: Industrial Pollution - Pollutants affect us both directly and indirectly: • Directly, by seeping into our drinking water and air we breathe and causing a variety of ailments ranging from asthma to cancer (particularly among the young and seniors)  Pulmonary system either developing or fragile will suffer more • Indirectly, by coal-burning power plants, pulp-and-paper mills, and motor-vehicle exhaust emitting sulphur dioxide and other gases that then form acid rain  Acid rain: a form of precipitation whose acidity eats away at, and eventually destroys, forests and ecosystems of lakes… Environmental Degradation: Industrial Pollution - Pollutants also indirectly affect us through CFCs, which once were widely used in industry and by consumers (e.g., in refrigeration equipment) - CFCs contain chlorine, which is responsible for depletion of ozone layer, 8 kilometers to 40 kilometers above earth’s surface • Ozone layer: 8 kilometers to 40 kilometers above the earth’s surface. It is depleted by CFCs. The depletion of the ozone layer allows more ultraviolet light to enter the earth’s atmosphere, which increases the rate of skin cancer. - Depletion of the ozone layer allows more ultraviolet light to enter earth’s atmosphere, which increases rate of skin cancer… Environmental Degradation: Industrial Pollution - Another pollutant that affects us indirectly is radioactive waste, which results from burning nuclear power - Waste is radioactive for estimated 10 000 years and must be placed in sturdy, watertight copper canisters and buried deep in granite bedrock where chance of seismic disturbance and water seepage is small • But is public resistance to having nuclear waste facility nearby  Result: Spent fuel rods have been accumulating since 1950s in “temporary” facilities that pose safety threat to NorthAmerican public Environmental Degradation: The Decline in Biodiversity - In recent decades, has been decline in biodiversity, i.e., enormous variety of plant and animal species inhabiting the earth • Biodiversity: refers to the enormous variety of plant and animal species inhabiting the earth - The environment has become so inho
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