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Sociology and the Environment

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University of Toronto St. George
Adam Green

Topic 7 J Sociology & the Environment (Week 7 lecture + NS Chp 16 + SIQ Chp 26) Outline: 1. Relationship between technology and environment -- What are the most dangerous spin-offs of technology? - Global Warming; - Genetic Pollution; -- How to overcome some of these problems -- How does the risk of technologies distributed across the social groups? - The risk is socially constructed; - The risk is socially distributed; 2. Global economy[s impact on the environment. z Hiroshima -- e.g. Hiroshima (1945); 200,000 killed instantly; -- Two distinct periods: 1. Era of Nave Optimism (period before Hiroshima): - People believe that technology can improve human life; - People face technology with owe, reverence; - Pechnology = magic; technologist = priest 2. Period after Hiroshima: - Three weeks before Hiroshima the first bomb was tested in New Mexico by J. Robert Oppenheimer, who expresses worry and anxiety about the technology; - Growing pessimism; people start to question technology; z EventsDisasterFrankenstein Type Technology -- 1984 Gas Leak in a Pesticide Plant in India; 4000 deaths & 30,000 injuries -- 1986 Ukraine radioactivity explosion (30,40times of Hiroshima); human and animal mutation; -- 1989 Quebec cure oil spill in Alaska; z Normal Accident & Risk Society -- Charles Perow (mid-80s sociology) coined the term normal accident: -- e.g. computer program: - consists of millions of conditional statements - due to the complexity of these conditional statements, we can[t test the consequences of billions of these conditional statements; - therefore the complexity of technology will eventually fall (just like when your computer dies); -- Ulrich Beck (German sociology) coined the term Risk Society -- e.g. Toronto Brown Field (hazard materials and waster underground the city); some condos are build on these brown field; -- examples of the ^risks_: global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, etc;
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