LECTURE 7 – Technology and Global Environment
The world‟s first major nuclear reactor accident occurred in December 1952 at the Chalk
River nuclear facility about 125 kilometres (80 miles) northwest of Ottawa.
A partial meltdown of the reactor‟s uranium fuel core caused the four-tonne lid to blow
off the reactor, spurting radioactive water and creating lethal radiation levels.
Some analysts consider the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories one of the most
contaminated pieces of real estate in Canada, with toxic radioactive pollution seeping
from several nuclear waste dumps into aquifers, bogs, streams, and lakes, and ultimately
into the Ottawa River
1. US population multiplied by 4 in 20 .h
2. C02 emissions multiplied by 9.
3. Use of raw materials by 27.
4. Use of chemicals by 100.
5. Income rose a whopping 7 times.
6. Life expectancy rose from 47 years to 77 years.
7. The onset of major diseases such as cancer, heart and respiratory diseases has been
postponed by 11 years.
8. Total cancer deaths have declined despite an increase in overall population.
Globally, life expectancy doubled from thirty-one years in 1900 to sixty-seven years
In 1950, China‟s infant mortality rate was 190 per 1, 000 births; it‟s now 62.
In 1950, India‟s infant mortality rate was 190 per 1, 00 births; it‟s now 26.
In the developing world between 1970 and 2001, the proportion suffering from chronic
hunger declined from 37% to 17% despite an 83% increase in population.
Global average incomes in real dollars have tripled since 1950.
Since 1981, the proportion in the developing world living in absolute poverty has fallen
from 40% to 20%.
In the last 20 years, 200 million people in India have been raised from absolute poverty.
ECOLOGY: “The study of the interaction of living organisms and the natural
NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: “The earth‟s surface and atmosphere, including living
organisms, as well as the air, water, soil and other resources necessary to sustain life”
ECOSYSTEM: “A system composed of interactions of all living organisms and their
natural environment” ENVIRONMENTAL DEFICIT: “The long term negative consequences to the natural
environment caused by humanity‟s preoccupation with material affluence”
Sociology is interested in the environment because the environmental problems are like
- Global warming is another type of pollution – CO2 (a pollutant)
- The world is a single ecosystem; the globe is a single, interacting system
The environmental movement says that tropical forests are critical for the earth‟s
atmosphere; why? Plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen; so by cutting down forests,
you cut down the supply of oxygen; a threat to the atmosphere is a threat to North
Environmentalists don‟t like hamburgers, or too many cows
Hunter-gatherers are people that are nomadic; we all started out as hunter-gatherers
Society‟s at an intermediate stage of development – traditional people; horticultural –
engage in small-scale farming; pastoralism – part of the intermediate stage
- the reason why traditional people didn‟t harm the environment was because they
didn‟t have the technology
Agricultural societies farm on a wider scale because they use a plow
- Brookner – talks about “third worldism” – tends to depict traditional people as
innocent without malice
The third stage of development is the industrial revolution – the industrial revolution
transformed the environment (drilling for oil, huge cities, dams); technology creates
massive amounts of garbage, solid and liquid wastes; we become a consumer-society;
we‟ve become a throw-away society (we consume and then we throw away)
Conspicuous consumption (we consume conspicuously) and we also engage in waste in a
The state of the environment is a social issue and it reflects choices that we make; the
environment is damaged because of short-term game (or the profit motive) and the
environmentalists detest the profit motive
A volcano called Mount St Helens erupted and killed all the wildlife and so on;
environmentalists were predicting it would take 100 years for it to recover; however,
within 10 years, the land returned pretty quickly
Exxon Valdes (oil spillage) in California – however, the ocean handed the seepage well
Growth is a core feature of our cultural system and the environmental system as a whole
doesn‟t like it; environmentalists challenges the idea that science will make our lives
easier and more rewarding – this is called the logic of growth; environmentalists will
argue about the limits of growth
- The logic of growth says that if we over-populate the world, we can solve that too
by growing more food (the Green Revolution); if we exhaust raw materials, the
logic of growth says we can come up with a substitute raw materialEnvironment Misanthropy
Jacques Cousteau, environmentalist of the world‟s oceans: “…. We have to do away
with 350, 000 humans a day to deliver the earth from their terrible burden.”
David Foreman, lead author of the Deep Ecology movement and founder of “Earth First.”
Foreman holds that nature is always right and humans are always wrong. In 1987 when
Ethiopians were starving to death he said: “The worst thing we can do in Ethiopia is to
give aid (to starving children) ---- the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own
balance, to let people there just starve.”
Prince Phillip of England: “If I could be reincarnated, I would return as a killer virus to
lower human population levels.”
Stuart Brand, Whole Earth Catalogue: “We have wished, we eco freaks, for a disaster or
for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age.”
Earth First! Newsletter: “If radical environmentalists were to invent a disease to bring
human populations back to sanity, it would probably be something like AIDS.”
Dr. Van den Bosch, University of California expresses his lack of concern for “all those
little brown people in poor countries who might have been saved from disease if DDT
had been used.”
David Graber, biologist, National Park Service: “Human happiness and a certain human
fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planet; Some of us can only hope for
the right virus to come along.”
Charles Wurster, chief scientist, Environmental Defense Fund: “There are too many
people and this (banning DDT) is as good a way to get rid of them as any.”
Dr. Paul Taylor, professor of philosophy, City College of New York: “Given the total,
absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens not only would the Earth‟s
Community of Life continue to exist but the ending of the human epoch on Earth would
be greeted with a hearty „good riddance!‟ ”
“My own doubt came when DDT was introduced. In Guyana within two years, it has
almost eliminated malaria. So my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight, is that it greatly
added to the population problem” (Alexander King, Founder of the Malthusian Club of
Rome, in a biographical essay is reported to have said this
Rachel Carsons wrote a book called the “Silent Spring”; she argued that the use of
DDT (pesticide) would eventually cause the spring to be silent because it would kill all
the birds and it was harmful to humans; millions died in Africa needlessly due to lack of
use of DDT pesticide
There was a book called Limits of Growth (Do