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Social Science
SOSC 1040
Claudio Colaguori

Environment and Consumption - Robbins  Culture is also destructive to human existence when short-term goals lead to long-term consequences that are harmful to human life  Greatest factor in environmental consumption is our (North America’s) high level of consumption (a function of our culture) (Not population/technology) o Production, processing, consumption require use of natural resources, creates toxic byproducts, use of commodities themselves creates pollutants and waste {driving a car} o Most difficult to change (requires massive cultural overhaul & severe economic dislocation)  Maintenance of perpetual growth, cycle of production & consumptions essential in culture of capitalism isn’t good for the environment o Consumer culture created by the abundance of goods w/ technology; not enough ppl & $ to buy them so had to convince ppl to buy things, altering basic institutions, generating new ideology of pleasure o Interaction b/t capital, labour & consumption in culture of capitalism creates an overproduction of commodities & this relation to environmental production  Advanced productive technology decr # of jobs available to ppl o Results in overproduction of goods; leads to shut down plants (seen as bad!) but it’s someone else’s problem so just continue to produce o Solution: to create more demand for these cars {in countries where there aren’t as many cars like China}  Environmental problem could be alleviated if consumers stopped consuming as much as they do; but would likely cause severe economic depression  Is our pattern of consumption only a matter of taste & choice or so deeply embedded in our culture as to be impervious to change?  Sugar and beef (both are bad for us in the amounts that we consume them, production & processing both degrade the environment, parallels other things that we consume that have significant environmental effects, foundations of the American diet with the rise of fast food o Sugar: fields/forests must be cleared to plant it, lots of fuel needed for the refining process .: lots of pollution; luxury turned into a necessity o Began to consume it in greater and greater quantities; lower prices, authorities claiming it to be a “cure all”, sweeteners for tea, coffee, cocoa, reputation as a luxury good led to middle classes to use it to emulate the wealthy, many ppl profited from it (planters, slavers, shippers, bankers, refiners, grocers, etc) o Cultural and social constraints of time and cost + convenience + push by profters shaped the diet.  “drug food” – deaden hunger pangs and stimulate effort w/o prviding nutrition and do so cheaply  Beef: o Takes a lot of resources to raise the same amount of beef protein as it does vegetable protein  Needs a lot of grain to feed them; thus land needed for grain production and for them to range in  Thus destruction of forests to make way for land  Consumes more water, produces methane gas in the waste (contributes to environmental problems)  Species are threatened by cattle grazing: elk disappeared from rangelands, “predators” are being killed by shepherds  Rangelands are in “unsatisfactory condition” b/c of overgrazing  In Africa, traditional means don’t have much environmental damage; but introduce Western practices & technologies and result is a desert and loss of wild animals b/c of overgrazing  As a source of food, is very inefficient; linked to cardiovascular disease and etc  Americans are the highest consumers of meat in the world; exporting taste to other places; traditionally, meat was a side to complex carbs o Possible solution: polyculture instead of monoculture o Consumption patterns of core countries are the primary cause of environmental pollution and etc, they suffer less environmental problems than peripheral countries who don’t have the same consumption patterns  Exporting pollution to less developed countries b/c a clean environment is a luxury good, those places are less polluted so more pollution won’t do as much, and their lives are worth less than those in “advanced” capitalist countries.  Have put an economic price on life; some ppl are valued more than others; will never sacrifice economic growth and capital accumulation for environmental reform o Historical and cultural dynamic that drives the consumption of specific commodities & our attitudes about the environmental damage that results, and is an intrinsic part of our way of life Origins & Potential of Food Sovereignty - Wittman  Problems in global food system are complex and deep-seated o Vulnerabilities: climate change, loss of biodiversity, security of supplies  Proponents of neoliberal globalization: crisis is b/c of shortages and market failures o Sol’n: prevent national governments from intervening in the market, incr production w/ genetically modified seeds (GMOs), further liberalize food o Powerful advocates & enforces:  IMF: internation monetary fund  WTO: world trade organization o Not a real sol’n; fail to eradicate hunger & reduce poverty  Alternative: Peasant movements {La Via Capesina}, urban-based social movements, non-governmental orgazinations (NGOs)  Food sovereignty: the rights of nations & peoples to control their own food systems o Aims to transform dominant forces, including those related to politics, economics, gender, environment, and social organization. o No longer see potential in “food security”: emphasizes maximizing food production & access opportunities w/ no attention on how, where and by whom food is produced o Food security is pursued by incr agricultural trade liberalization, [food] in fewer, larger agri-business corporations; excess production is offloaded through “dumping” (target export markets where they can sell for really cheap; destroys domestic agricultural systems b/c they can’t compete) o Food is not just a god; has social connections in everything to do with it o Current system: distances producers from eaters (literally & conceptually)  Displacement & relocation of rural families from their land to the growing cities  Industrialization, capitalization & commodification of food have altered our relationships to food, land and place. o Industrialized food production: chr-ized by intensification, chemical inputs, water & soil degradation, unsustainable resource exploitations  Cause major ecological disruptions  Seeds are a “poster child” for current corporate food system; trying to be patented, genetically engineered, while they’re tied to complex cultural meanings & customs. Saving Our Planet – Zeitlin  Advancement in technology changed the perceived relationship between humans and nature, and this started soon after the Industrial Revolution. Humans were placed as above nature instead of being a part of it, with nature as an object that we could control without resistance. “Nature was thus reduced to ‘natural resources’ and ‘raw material’” (Zeitlin, 362), and entailed no giving back on the part of humans.  There are many dire consequences as a result of the view that humans have become more socially evolved after the Industrial Revolution. Societal structure has changed, and now many people do grueling work in factories for the benefit of a rich few. The way of life for most people has become much more rushed and less enjoyable overall.  In addition, there are many environmental effects as a result of global industrialization, which are harmful not only to humans, but also to all other forms of life on the planet. In the pursuit for the advancement of human society, people have neglected to think about the possible consequences of their actions.  Global warming is a result of the buildup of CO 2evels in the atmosphere, which prevents solar radiation from going back into space after entering the atmosphere. This buildup is from the large use of fossil fuels as well as deforestation. As a result, rainfall patterns for the planet would change and the Earth’s ocean levels would rise because the increased temperatures would cause the ice in the North and South poles to melt more than normal.  The current ways of transportation and production are unsustainable by the planet. Production of vehicles results in the creation of many toxic pollutants, which go into the air and water and affect all forms of life and the abiotic environment. They have an immediate detrimental effect on people’s health, but in order to change this, an extremely large amount of money is required to even reduce emissions. This poses the problem of who is responsible and willing for paying this amount.  Tropical rain forests, such as those in the Amazon and Brazil, are being destroyed at a rapid pace for things such as logging and cattle grazing. Not only are these activities extremely unproductive, the rich biodiversity of the rainforest is threatened and many of the species there have already become extinct. The rainforest acts as the “earth’s air- conditioner” (367) because of it’s large rate of evapouration, and with the destruction of the rain forest, life everywhere else will be detrimentally affected. Having parks and reserves are not a solution by themselves because the rainforest depends on itself and the remaining sections may not be able to sustain themselves with the loss of the rest of the rainforest.  Similar things are happening the forests of North America, where the rights to log were sold by the government. The forests in British Columbia help to keep the climate cool, and with the destruction of it, changes in the climate could also contribute to global warming. There are no laws forcing loggers to reforest and as a result the trees are disappearing and no one is compelled to replant any of them, again showing the lack of give and take in the new attitude the Industrial Revolution has given to people.  Acid rain, another by-product of the pollutants that are released from modern technology, increases the acidity of the soil and water, creating an adverse environment for all life. It damages the trees that get their nutrients from the ground, as well as the fish and other life that depend on the lakes. Some lakes have become so acidic that it can no longer support any aquatic wildlife and have become in essence dead. This has a detrimental effect on the ecosystem and the food chain. Anything, including humans, eating the fish that come from acidic lakes which also ingest the increased levels of metals, which can lead to many health effects such as mercury poisoning.  Humans are also causing a detrimental effect on the world’s oceans through overfishing and pollution of the water. Humans use the oceans as a place to dump all kinds of waste, which affects the wildlife that live in them. This as well as overfishing, which has already lead to the extinction of many species, can have dire consequences on the overall food chain in the oceans and eventually this will be felt by other organisms on land, including people
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