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Lecture 8

SOCA02- Lecture 8&9 (Environment).docx

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

March 15, 2012 1. SOCIOLOGY OF THE ENVIRONMENT (a) ECOLOGY AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT  Relatively new, 25-30 years old; concern to the environment is caused mostly by massive population growth; over the last hundred years, medical science has come along and cured us of many diseases; food production was increased and famine is virtually gone from the world today; population has increased significantly and combined with urbanization and industrialization, which has put a strain on the carrying capacity of the globe; the globe can put up with so much pollution beyond which you get collapse; environmental movement has changed substantially since the 1970s, when it was once called conservationism; environmentalism has been around well over a century; America was the first nation to set aside national parks; forest area in Canada has decreased(?) 50% since 1950; ecology is a place where the social sciences and natural sciences intersect; global warming is based significantly on some aspects of the physical sciences but the social sciences as well; the natural environment (see slide for definition)- we need it to live, but unlike other species we have the ability to make culture (and depending on the kind of culture, it can have a bad impact on the environment); a nostalgia for simpler times in the past runs through the movement; sociology is interested in the environment because of problems from pollution- acid rain was a big issue 25 years ago (produced by SO2); SO2 levels have been significantly reduced; in global warming, the pollutant is said to be CO2; pollution problems are created by humans which makes it a social issue, thus environmental sociology; the movement tries to create a global outlook; (b) A GLOBAL OUTLOOK  The world is seen as a single ecosystem (see slide for definition)- interconnectedness, a single interacting system; eco means house, and it is meant to convey that the world is our home and everything is related to everything else; environmental movement tend to be vegans; demand for beef has expanded ranching industry in Alberta, and particularly in Brazil and Costa Rica, more hamburgers, more beef, more range; the range is gotten by cutting down forests; tropical forces are critical to the earth’s atmosphere; plants absorb CO2 and give out oxygen; cutting down forests, cuts down the supply of oxygen; a threat to the atmosphere is a threat to North America and the rest of the world; another reason not to like cows is flatulence; (c) TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT  Technological stages- simple technology, hunter-gatherers are people that are nomadic (earliest forms of humans were hunter-gatherers and it doesn’t have an impact on the environment); no permanent settlement; society at an intermediate stage of technology- horticultural, and engage in small-scale farming, pastoralism (the herding of animals) is also a part of the intermediate stage, and finally agricultural society; traditional myth- that traditional people loved the environment, nature; the primary reason they did not damage environment that much is because they lacked the technology to change the environment significantly; a book by Bruckner, The Tears of the White Man: Compassion, an ideology called third-worldism- depicts traditional people as innocent, without malice; similar to Jean Jacques Russo (the noble savage); many more cultural societies were called slash and burn societies; in Dances With Wolves, there is a third world realism running through the film; the Sioux only killed enough buffalo to use, in reality the Sioux used to run buffalos off the edge of the cliff, therefore it is a bit of a myth; Pocahontas, Avatar; traditional people are treated as childlike who cannot get along without the help of the white man; traditional people need the paternalistic care of the western government; the third stage is the evil stage, the industrial revolution which changes things pertaining to the environment; machines burn fossil fuels, locomotives burned coal which produces CO2, same with automobiles with gasoline; it has transformed the environment; advance technologies create massive amounts of garbage, solid waste, liquid waste; industrial societies produce and consumer 100 times more than those lived in agricultural societies; we’ve become a consumer society, a throwaway society; conspicuous consumption (want to be seen) and waste in the same way; (i) ENVIRONMENTAL DEFICIT  See slide for definition; important because the state of the environment is a social issue that reflects choices that we make; it is damaged because of short term gain or profit motive; most environmental deficits were created by communism and socialism; deficit is reversible; the River Tams in England and the Clyde have both been cleaned up and have salmon again; these rivers were filthy in the 19 century; in 1980, in Washington State, Mount Saint Helen’s erupted, the top third blew off, causing devastation miles around, killing wildlife; environmentalists predicted it would take hundred years for it to recover, it took about ten years; land becomes very fertile; the Exxon Valdez was a huge oil tanker that ran into the coast of Alaska, and oil spilt into the ocean; off the coast of California, there is oil that seeps up into the ocean naturally and five years of seepage is equal to the Exxon Valdese spill; March 22, 2012  Gaia- God of modern environmentalism; comes from the book by James Lovelock (A New Look at Life), another book called A Book of Hymns to Gaia; some say it is the fastest growing religion in the US today; Lovelock argues that Earth is a super sentient (Earth can perceive or it is alive, has the power of perception, can feel, can experience, has consciousness, has self-awareness); reminiscent of the nature worship of the many tribal peoples of the past; nature is sacred; Deep Ecology; Sacred Ecology; Ecosophy; Creation Spirituality; you can find Gaian ideas in the following organizations: Earth First, Greenpeace, PETA, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club; United Nations is full of Gaians, they want a nation state; they say that a prophet is going to emerge who is a world spiritual teacher; Al Gore has taken up this cause; Misanthropism- to dislike human beings, especially those like to consume; Lovelock calls humans a pest species; Gaia is a spiritual goddess that cares for all life, and humans are a cancer and their numbers need to be culled; United Nations Global Diversity Assessment says that the two most harmful religions on Earth are Christianity and Islam because they have pulled people away from an affinity and attraction to the environment; Maurice Strong (a Canadian who spent most of his time in government and UN); in 1972, the Club of Rome made the argument of sustainability (a Gaian principle); Strong says that the only hope for the planet is that industrial civilization collapses and it is our responsibility to bring this about; it does have its scary aspects to it;  Jacques Cousteau (read slide), David Foreman, leader of the Deep Ecology movement; Prince Phillip wishes to be reincarnated as a killer virus to lower population levels; Stuart brand calls himself an Eco Freak; Earth First seems to have an affinity to AIDs because it’s a good way to get rid of people; Racial Carsons wrote a book called The Silent Springs in 1972, that the use of DDT would eventually cause the spring to be silent because it would kill all the birds and that it was harmful to humans; DDT was banned worldwide, except in India because it was the most potent killer of mosquitoes carrying the Malaria virus; use of DDT in Africa ceased and malaria returned with full force; between 1972 and 2007, DDT was not used in Africa, which lead to millions of deaths of mostly children; Charles Wurster said that banning DDT is a good way of getting rid of people; Dr. Paul Taylor, Earth is better off without human beings; DDT was introduced to Guyana, and malaria was almost eliminated; The Limits of Growth (published by the Club of Rome) makes the sustainability argument, that the population growth needs to be controlled;  Earth Liberation Front  Nature Conservancy  Wicca 2. IMPOSE LIMITS ON GROWTH? (a) THE FREIGHT TRAIN OF GROWTH  Material comfort is good; environmentalists would disagree; tomorrow’s wealth will exceed today’s wealth; again environmentalists would say not so fast; they also challenge the idea that science will make our lives easier and more rewarding; these ideas are the logic of growth- optimistic view of the world, faith in reason and progress; we have overcome things in the past, so we can do it again in the future; rely on the ingenuity of markets which have bailed us out in the past; towns used to be covered in horse dung, until the invention of the automobile; if we over populate the world, we can solve that as well by growing more food, which is what has happened over the past thirty years or so (called the Green Revolution); famine is a thing of the past; if we exhaust raw materials, we can come up with a substitute raw material; environmentalists counter this with the limits of growth  What is to be Done? The market and High-Tech Solutions  Leaded gas had mercury and arsenic in it, which can be deadly (b) INFINITE POPULATION, FINITE PLANET?  Limits of growth distrust the logic of growth with its Malthusian argument (Malthusian pessimists, based on Malthus’ argument that the planet is finite, whereas population can be infinite; claim logic of growth is flawed, and that clean air, water, woodland, top soil will be depleted if the population keeps rising; global resources are finite, while population is finite, therefore growth must have its limits; limits of growth people have been talking about environmental catastrophe which has not yet happen;  In modern environmentalism (after 1970), it went in a new direction, and acquired a religious element within it; it became hostile to material wealth, and material affluence, a preoccupation with wealth; the medieval church (Catholic church in the middle ages) has a similar argument that preoccupation with wealth is the deadly sin of avarice; believes in the apocalypse like other religions; humans are sinners and responsible for the demise of our planet (c) THE DISPOSABLE SOCIETY  the disposable society is an argument made by limits of growth people, based on the fact that people in developed societies consume too much; create too much garbage with unnecessary packaging;  found in the beverage industry; beer, pop, etc.;  products that self-destruct, batteries, cameras, razors, light bulbs, cars; environmental light bulbs last longer, use less power, but they also have a habit of blowing up which releases mercury needing a careful environmental clean-up; when thrown away, the mercury goes into landfills;  solid waste is another problem of modern society, and it takes up a lot of landfill space; many things in landfills do not decompose such as tires and diapers; this has brought to light the importance of recycling; cities like Guelph have extensive recycling programs; these programs are expensive and funded by the government; (d) WATER AND AIR (i) WATER SUPPLY  oceans, lakes, streams form part of the global ecosystem; water is important because we use it for irrigation, drinking, cooking, recreation, industrial purposes; hydrological cycle is the Earth recycling water, the sun heats the ocean causing water to evaporate to form clouds, which produce rain; water supply has been important in all civilizations; Ancient China, Egypt, Rome, all had water rights that were a part of law; these were irrigation societies, they used it to control the supply of water; irrigation economies (agriculture) were big in the East; in the West, rainfall agriculture; today, the limits of growth people say that the problem is critical in the Middle East; although technology has come to the rescue with desalinization plants (take the salt out of sea water); these are being built in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East; modern environmentalists are generally against these plants; we are using more and more water as population grows; we use 4 times more water globally than we did in 1950; in some parts of the world, ground water (underwater lakes called aquifers), in Tamil Nadu region of southern India has pumped up so much ground water that the levels have fallen about 30 metres; households in the world use about 10% of global use; industrial use is about 25% of the total; the rest is used by agricultur
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