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Environment Chapter.docx

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University of Waterloo
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Challenges to the Global Environment 11/21/2012 1:15:00 PM 1. What is Environmental Sociology?  Environmental sociology is the study of interaction between human society and the physical environment  Ecology is the study of how living organisms interact with the environment  Ecosystem is a community of organisms living, feeding, reproducing, and interacting in the same area o All organisms are interdependent and exist in an elaborate work  Relationship between humans and their physical environment can be seen in 3 broad orientations o Physical environment is viewed as a warehouse of raw materials to be exploited; nature by itself= no intrinsic value o Physical environment has an almost sacred and spiritual value, and humans have a unique obligation to act as its stewards and protectors o Physical environment and human beings exist in a harmonious relationship, human needs can be achieved without damaging the physical environment  Anthropocentrism is the view that human beings are separate from, and above, the rest of nature  Human exemptionalism paradigm is the view that humans are exceptional but not exempt from the natural world o Humans are unique among all creatures in that they possess culture o Culture is highly variable, able to change far more quickly than biological traits o Human differences are not innately biological; they result from social variation and are therefore able to change o Cultural accumulation over time suggests that progress is unlimited and therefore that all social problems are solvable  Dunlap and Catton argued that while humans were certainly exceptional, they were not exempt from natural world  New environmental paradigm is the view that human social actions occur within an ecosystem that has its own processes and limits  New ecological paradigm extends this thinking by emphasizing that modern industrial society is beginning to exceed the limits of the environment  Ecocentric is the opposite of anthropocentrism; the view that humans are only one part of the global ecosystem The Triple Bottom Line  Coined in 1994 by John Elkington  Triple bottom line is a company’s balance sheet according to profit, people and the planet o First; measuring expenses vs revenue o Second; measure of how socially responsible an organization has been throughout its operations o Third; a measure of how environmentally responsible the company is in the production of its goods and/or services Sociology of Food  Food is not only a necessity for life but is also an expression of human diversity  Growing interest to know where the food in supermarkets come from  Growing recognition that our diets are slowly killing us  People are beginning to question how the food supply is regulated and governed 2. Environmental Challenges: Today and Tomorrow Natural vs. Technological Disasters  Ulrich Beck investigates how technology is creating global challenges that we would have never predicted  Last few generations human beings have created forms of technology that can have global consequences  We have less experiences dealing with disasters resulting from technology (oil spills, climate change, plane crashes, etc.) 3. Climate Change  Greenhouse effect is the process by which the Earth’s temperature is maintained (Earth absorbs and retains heat much like a greenhouse)  Greenhouse gases are gases that trap long-wave infrared radiation and are responsible for rising global temperatures and climate change  Without greenhouse gases, Earth would be -18 degrees celcius instead of current avg of 18 degrees  Since Industrial Revolution concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 30%, methane by 145% and nitrous oxide by 15%  Carbon sink is natural matter that absorbs more carbon than it emits  Carbon source is natural matter that emits more carbon than it absorbs  Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for more than two successive years  Canadians burn 50x more oil than avg person in Bangladesh  Energy sector in Canada accounted for 81.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada (2005)  Alberta and Ontario emit highest amounts of carbon dioxide 4. Biodiversity  Paul Crutzen coined the term anthropocene as a new geological era resulting from the consequences of human activities on the Earth  Biologists identify 3 different levels of biodiversity o Ecosystem diversity o Species diversity o Genetic diversity  Ecosystem diversity refers to the number and variety of habitats for organisms within a geographic area  Species diversity is the number of species that exist in a given ecosystem  Genetic diversity refers to the amount of genetic information within a single population species  Impact of climate change on biodiversity o Individual species may become extinct o Ecosystems may be destroyed o Species will be forced to move from one area to another  Rate of extinction is 1000 time higher than the natural rate = 9% of all organisms becoming extinct every million years  Human footprint is the impact of human activities around the world Water  2.5% of water on earth is fresh water and 99.6% of al
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