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Sociology of the Environment

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Robert Brym

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SOC101 rd March 23 , 2011 Sociology of the Environment th 20 century divided into 2 periods: 1) Period before Hiroshima known as one of naïve optimism technology could do no wrong 2) Post-war years, a growing number of citizens came to have doubts about the benefits of technology many people are beginning to think of technology in terms of skepticism • Ulrich Beck: coined term that stuck in the early 90s when he introduced the idea of a “risk society,” risk doesn’t just come from technological threats but from environmental ones as well • Environmental threats are ambiguous, unlike technological ones Important Terms: • Technology: is traditionally defined as the application of scientific principles to the improvement of human life. • Normal accident: term recognizes that the very complexity of modern technologies ensures they will inevitably fail, though in unpredictable ways. • Risk society: is a society in which technology distributes danger and advantage among all social groups. Some categories are, however, more exposed than others. There are dangerous risks of technological spin-offs: • Ever since the Industrial Revolution humans have been burning many fossil fuels accumulation of heat-trapping gas less heat escapes known as the “greenhouse effect” that contributes to global warming (heating of the Earth’s atmosphere) • Last 3 of the 20 century is when there is a take-off in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere • There has been dramatic warming of the earth since the Industrial Revolution (seen most dramatically in the North Pole) • Consequences of global warming: More water evaporates more water in the atmosphere increased rainfall & floods crops die, & people suffer • Rising sea-levels 1m rise means that places such as Bangladesh & Egypt will be completely flooded leading to displacement Technological Dangers: • Genetic pollution: refers to the health and ecological dangers that may result from artificially splicing genes together. • Recombinant DNA: is a technique that involves artificially joining bits of DNA from a donor to the DNA of a host. • Believe we can take evolution from nature’s hands & create more superior human beings & animals • Potential economic & health benefits of recombinant DNA • Genetic pollution problems: potential for the disruption of ecosystems increases with new species • Genetically modified crops: pollen & seeds that escape from genetically modified crops into the environment mean that superbugs & viruses will be born • Antibiotics increasingly used after WWII meant that viruses started to become resistant to penicillin, & thus new antibiotics had to be created (use of antibiotics to control infection cheaper thus used more after WWII rather than having a large staff to clean hospitals) Environmental issues become social problems when… 1) Policy-oriented scientists, the environmental movement, the mass media, & respected organizations must discover & promote issues 2) People must connect real-life events to the information learned from these groups 3) Scientists, industrial interests, & politicians who dispute the existence of environmental threats must fail to convince the public that the threat is illusory & human intervention is unnecessary • For ex. In the 80s the media began publicizing the effects of global warming, there was a drought and period of really hot summers that made people connect the theor
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