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SOC 101 Lecture Notes - Ecosystem Diversity, Paul J. Crutzen, Shortwave Radiation

Course Code
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

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Challenges to the Global Environment
5:12 PM
Environmental sociology: the study of the interaction between human society and the physical
Emerged after 1970 Earth Day, inspired social consciousness about the environment
Ecology: the study of how living organisms interact with the environment
Ecosystem: a community of organisms living, feeding, reproducing and interacting in the same area
o All organisms are interdependent
Environmental sociologists apply biological insights to enhance their understanding of the
relationship between human society and the physical environment
Emphasis on how social factors affect the environment and the way society tries and fails to solve
the problem of environmental degradation
Relationship between humans and their environment
o Physical environment viewed as a warehouse of raw materials to be exploited; nature has no
intrinsic value - consistent with scientific or economic approach to the environment
o Physical environment has sacred or spiritual value, humans have an obligation to act as
protectors - consistent with mystical approach and deep ecology
o Physical environment and humans act exist in harmonious relationship wherein human needs
can be achieved without damaging physical environment; pursuit of material wealth does not
require domination of the physical environment - consistent with sustainable development or
utopian thinking
Anthropocentrism: the view that human beings are separate from and above the rest of nature
o Enforced by scientific and technological advances that gave people the impression that they
were superior to all living things
o Early sociologists shared the view that the exceptional characteristics of our species excludes
humans from the forces of nature
Human exceptionalism paradigm: the view that humans are exceptional but not exempt from the
natural world
Catton and Dunlap's 'human exceptionalism paradigm' based on the following:
o Humans are unique because they possess culture
o Culture is variable and able to change more quickly than biological traits
o Human differences not innately biological; result from social variation and are therefore able
to change
o Cultural accumulation over time suggests that progress is unlimited and therefore all social
problems are solvable
Also known as 'new environmental paradigm' or 'new ecological paradigm'
New environmental paradigm: the view that human social actions occur within an ecosystem that
has its own processes and limits
o Recognises that human societies and nature interact and that human actions affect nature
New ecological paradigm: emphasises that modern industrial society is beginning to exceed the
limits of the environment
o Intended to present as less anthropocentric and more ecocentric: the opposite of
anthropocentrism; view that humans are only one part of the global ecosystem
Environmental sociology thought of as a conscious endeavour to overcome anthropocentrism of our

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Environmental Challenges
6:02 PM
Climate Change
More common phrase is 'global warming'
Earth's temperature regulated by greenhouse effect: the process by which the Earth's temperature
is maintained (Earth absorbs and retains heat like a greenhouse)
Shortwave radiation from the sun is passed through Earth's atmosphere where it is absorbed by land
and water and warms the planet. Part of the absorbed energy is reradiated in to the atmosphere in
the form of long wave infrared radiation.
Little radiation escapes into space because it is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere;
greenhouse gases: gases that trap long wave infrared radiation and are responsible for rising global
temperatures and climate change. Ex. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour
Estimated that Earth's average temperature without greenhouse gases would be -18C instead of
current average 15C
Gases are necessary for life on the planet, but human activities contribute to an accumulation of
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The gases take centuries to break down
Since the industrial revolution, concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 30%, methane by
145% and nitrous oxide by 15%. Levels are higher today than they have been in the past 800 000
Latest increase result of population growth and industrialisation - burning of fossil fuels to generate
electricity, fuel cars etc
Urbanisation and agricultural development result in deforestation of vast amounts of land which
decreases Earth's ability to absorb and store greenhouse gases and naturally regulate the
Carbon sink: natural matter that absorbs more carbon than it emits
Carbon source: natural matter that emits more carbon than it absorbs
Humans have altered global weather patterns by increasing amount of greenhouse gases
o Higher temperatures threaten boreal forests, increase risk of fires, decrease availability of
fresh water, increase frequency of severe weather systems, and enable tropical diseases to
move northward
In Canada:
o Climate change will affect foods and crops and higher temperatures and droughts will become
more common
o Higher temperatures will remove vegetative ground cover and melt permafrost: ground that
has been frozen for more than two successive years
o Estimated that 90% of northern permafrost gone by 2100
o 33 million Canadians use more energy than all 760 million people in Africa
o Each Canadian burns equivalent of 7700 litres of oil annually, 50 times more than average
person living in Bangladesh
o Canada's carbon dioxide emissions second only to the US, rising faster than all other countries
except China
o Natural resources fall under authority of the provinces, but international agreements handled
by federal government
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