Amel Belmahdi SOC103H1 Wednesday, July 8, 2013
Lecture 2 – Population, Urban Life and the Environment
Cities as Miniature Staging Groups:
− Competition between humans and other species (ex. Insects, etc).
Population Growth and the Environment:
- Can the human race survive the population size and the rapid incrase of population size?
− Demography → the study of population.
− Several demographic variables have an effect on the environment, the first of which is
− Alarge population puts more pressure on the natural environment than a small population.
− However, a large population is almost more likely to innovate – to invent new technologies and
new ways of producing food and wealth.
Growth Leads to Differentiation:
− The larger the population gets, the more social differentiation (specialization – kind we're
accumosted to in modern, urban societies) there is.
− In hunter-gartherer societies – there isn't much differentiation (with the exceptions of gender
− Different kinds of communities with different compositions of people that effect the kinds of
experiences people face in these communities.
Different Approaches to Population Growth:
− Issue due to population growth vs. the natural envrionment.
− Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was the first to suggest that population problems could threaten
− Malthus was certain that, without preventive checks, population would always outgrow its food
− There would inevitably be a “point of crisis” where people would start to die off in large
numbers, through famine, disease, or war. Because they'll reproduce until no more food and
they'll fight each other to survive, or diseases will circle around the population and they would
pass diseases, killing people. He called these “positive checks.” − Since human beings are animals, they'll have sex when they can. With more sex, there's an
increase in offspring, increasing population size (no longer a big issue in this society with all
ATheory of Population Equilibrium:
− Functionlist theories are about equilibrium too.
The Role of Checks and Limits:
− Malthus only believed in abstinence and delayed marriage (didn't believe people have sex for
fun – found it immoral, so people get married to have sex – if poor and can't afford raising the
kids, then don't get married or don't have sex).
Demographic Transition Theory: Another Equilibrium Theory:
− With development, there's a process called “demographic transition” where a population would
go from high birth and death rates, to low birth and low death rates.
Cities as Functional Units:
− As populations grow, settle and produce a food surplus, cities develop.
− Cities are where the most important social, cultural, political, and commerical advances occur.
− However, the key features of a city-namely, size, variety, and fluidity-also promote social
disorganization (confusion, anxiety and uncertainty) and weak social controls.
Cities as Dysfunctional Units:
− Rural communities – Everyone knows each other.
− Urban-industrial society – Everyone is doing their own thing.
Urban Industrial Society tends to Harm the Natural Environment:
− Disruptive of nature.
− Karl Marx argued against Malthus.
− Underdevelopment → Low level of material properity and industrialization.
Conflict Theory in Pictures:
− In the interest of developed nations to maintain well-being of underdeveloped nations.
What Causes Poverty?:
− Conflict theorists (Karl Marx) vs. Functionalist theorists (Thomas Malthus). What Causes Urban Problems?:
− Conflict theorists see that people in big cities are segregated in certain ways (ex. rich live in rich
areas – main subway lines in Toronto for example, poor people live in poorer areas – for
example in Toronto, Scarborough, near airports, Jane and Finch).
− Least likely to have good services, sanitation, and attention.
Example: Nimbyism – Condo-dwellers Wary of Downtown Needle Exchange:
− Nimyism (dictionary) → The practice of objecting to something that will affect one or take
place in one's locality.
What Causes Human Disasters?:
− Economic inequality is also important for the environment.
− Consider what are often thought of as “natural” disasters.
− Over 90% of disaster-related deaths occur among the poor populations of developing countries.
− These “natural” disasters have social consequences because they have social causes as well as
− Ex. The effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
− Ex. In Montreal, railway that carries cart filled with flammable chemicals and for 5-6
hours the train would be unattended in the middle of the cities and there were 5-6
control systems on the train but there's only one that commits to the break system which
failed and nobody knew, so the train went down the hill and it drifted off the tracks and
exploded (not a natural disaster).
The Human EcologyApproach:
Poor People Get the Worst City Experiences:
(How) Do These Issues Enter Our Consciousness?:
AClassic Study: Meadows et al.'s The Limit