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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC100
Professor
Bryan Sluggett
Semester
Fall

Description
November 19th 2013 Risk and Disaster Vested interest: Scientific facts are affected by standpoint. Science can also be affected by politics. The impact of a disaster is affected by political matters; a low class area will fare far worse than a high class area (due to higher level of poverty, poorer infrastructure, etc.) Scientists are not objective. For example a scientist working for a company needs to produce certain results to keep his/her job. Also certain terms are not concrete, and operational definitions vary. ● Ex. Asbestos industry: 63 papers had been published by 1960, 11 by parties associated with the industry, 52 by medical staff. The 11 claimed asbestos had no effect on the body, the 52 (who were independent from the company), pointed out the effects. ● “Clearly the perspectives of the doctors writing the reports were influenced by whether they were employed treating the victims of the diseases, or hired by the perpetrator” ­ Lloyd Tataryn1 Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the 2 Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming ● scientists paid to cause doubt = scientific mercenaries, embedded scientists Different Historical relationships to the environment ● Societal relationships to the environment change over time ● Cultural ideologies are conditioned by prevailing beliefs about the value of the environment ● Culture affects how people see natural disasters/events ● Hunter­and­gatherer (or forager) ○ relatively minimal impact, harvested wild crops, killed some animals, usually used everything, would allow species to grow before hunting it again ○ nomadic, environmental relationship was based on herd ● Farming cultures ○ larger impact, clearing land for crops, genetic modification ○ can result in deforestation, erosion, salinization, loss in soil fertility (Ex. The great depression) ○ environmental relationship was based on land ● Industrial ○ large impact, pollution, development of new disease (such as H1N1), increased 1  Canadian investigative journalist, written about danger in our environment, looks at places where, environmental science and politics combine. See pages 374 and 375 2 See page 377 for more waste, ○ environmental relationship was based on resources ● Post Industrial (not there yet) ○ awareness, reduction of carbon footprint Social Ecology ● Founded by Murray Bookchin ● As Bookchin puts it social ecology is the “recognition of the often overlooked fact that 3 nearly all of our present ecological problems arise from deep seated social problems.” What is a natural disaster? ● Impact of a natural disaster is largely due to the social factors of the place ○ Ex. California vs. Iran (Earthquake in California killed 60 people, one ¼ of magnitude killed 1000 in Iran) ● Poor housing in LA: frequently catch on fire, don’t spend millions making sure that these buildings are safer. VS Rich homes in Malibu: every few years firestorm, billions spent to rebuild (deemed natural disaster) ● Used to be called “hazard”, focus on calculating risk ● Now more focused on “disaster” as a combination of geography and sociology Politics of Vulnerability: ● Poorer classes are often more vulnerable to disasters ● Exceptions: waterfront properties tend to be owned by the rich ● Ex. Hurricane Katrina ­ Lower classes weren’t helped as much ● Ex: Edmonton ○ Risk portfolio: winter storms, flooding, fires, pollution from refineries and oil sands, influenza ○ Who is most at risk in an Ice storm? ■ homeless, people who can’t afford much insurance, people with poor housing, people who are isolated, ○ Certain groups are going to be hit harder than others Why is securing complex and dynamic risk environments so difficult? ● Large scale. ● Difficult to predict how all elements will react, what the effects will be etc. ● Time ­ disasters happen rapidly ● Mistakes and accidents are common ● Impossible to control or predict fully (might know general risk, 
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