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ENVS 2200 Study Guide - Final Guide: Ulrich Beck, Chemical Warfare, Risk Society

Environmental Studies
Course Code
ENVS 2200
Stefan Kipfer
Study Guide

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Environmental History IV: The Crisis of Modern
Reading notes:
One could characterize the modern world in the phrase- “the explosion of
humankind on an unparalleled scale”
Beginning in the 18th century, the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the
possibility of decreased rates of natural death due to greater security of food,
public health beginning, and the better understanding of disease all created
the population to grow immensely
At the same time, technology innovation creates the opportunity for humans
to use energy and natural resources to unparalleled levels
Arrival of oil economy= transportation of people, natural goods, and products
easier and faster now
German writer Ulrich Beck has described the modern world as a “risk society-
a society in the midst of a massive gamble with the future of the Earth and of
The gamble is: can economic growth and development generate the
resources which enable us to protect the planet from our impacts?
Warming of the Earth- climate change- is one example of the risks we are
Human beings are now able to affect global physical systems
Social and political struggles against the worst excesses of the Industrial
Revolution, in the conditions of work, and the struggles to determine who
would be in control of the new powers and wealth emerged shortly after the
Industrial Revolution
The three most important forces (other than the industries themselves) 1)
the emerging mass populations 2) the emerging middle class of
entrepreneurs and speculators on the new society and 3)
Force 3- Government: when Industrial Revolution emerged, the
governments (most tyrannical) were not well organized, unable to cope with
the demands of increased populations with increased demands. Their powers
were undermined by the growth in beliefs of human “rights” and the

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increasing focus on the individual as a counterweight to the emerging mass
mob. Government legitimacy (kings, nobility, priests) were eroded
As a result there were a series of revolutions, the first of which was the
American Revolution (1776), French Revolution (1789), and then into
the 20th century, The Russian Revolution (1917), so on.
These may have begun with the language of liberty and freedom- the results
of the revolutions were new governments were created that developed ways
on managing more people through bureaucracies
Idea of bureaucracies is to look for the “greatest good for the greatest
number” and implement it- involves gathering information about peoples
need, generating stats and influencing public policy
Bureaucracies were designed to be equal and neutral for everyone
Force 2- The Emerging middle class- the bourgeoisie= urban class of
people with no fixed roots and earned their salaries in management of
industries or in government or in investments in companies. They became
the main power in the modern world
Force 1- The Mass of the Population- irony that the Industrial revolution
which brought people from villages and towns to be concentrated in factories,
also brought an opportunity for them to meet and organize
Guilds and trade organizations grew in size and became trade unions whose
role was to struggle with the owners of the enterprises for various rights
(shorter work hours, restrictions on the use of child labor, environmental
protection, etc.) their weapon was the organized withdrawal of services or the
Another element of the modern world, related to management of large
numbers of people is the large scaling of war
Beginning with Napoleon, the idea of the mass army emerged
Mobilization for war= main cause of growth of bureaucracy and the
increasing interference of the state in ordinary people’s lives
Increasing fire power and size of conflicts= symbolized by First World War
Technologies such as chemical warfare, machine guns and tanks, huge losses
of men and the helplessness of people provided intelligent people with the

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idea that the progress might actually be a threat to human beings and not a
At the end of WWII the veil of “progress” and “civilization” fell
the discovering of the Nazi death camps where millions had been murdered
by the use of tools of modern life- bureaucracies, professionals, railroads,
factories, chemicals
the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (signaled
nuclear age) brought the foreground the possibility that science and
technology in human hands might wipe out the race
Ways in which the crises and threats of modernity led to rise of
oRomantic concern over industrialization raised concerns over whether
or not human beings were to be little more than machines themselves
and the Romantic response was to search for alternatives including
community and nature
oConcerns over runaway technologies and the prospect of “the suicide
of humanity” brought the idea of progress into question
oTrade unions and public institutions focused attention on the need for
public health measures, worker safety laws, and the external impacts
of industrial processes generally
oParks were possible places of refuge from the growing world of human
industrialization and places where one might “re-create” oneself
oDarwinism, ecological science and globalization increasingly joined in
the creation of a “web of global life” image/framework through
satellites and scientific achievements in natural science, within which
environmentalism could operate
1. Why does Timmerman describe the modern world as “an
explosion of humankind on an unparalleled scale”?
a. The modern world brought on the explosion of population, with
increasing healthcare, better medical understanding of disease ,
greater food security, etc. the rate of death was increased
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