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Chapter 20

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SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Chapter 20 - Challenges to the Global Environment What is Environmental Sociology?  Study of interaction between human society and physical environment  Modern environmental sociology is recent addition to discipline  Ecology: study of hoe living organisms interact with the environment  Ecosystem: community of organisms living, feeding, reproducing and interacting in the same area o All organisms are independent and exist in an elaborate network of interactions  Relationship between humans and physical environment: o Physical environment is a warehouse of raw materials to be exploited  Nature has no intrinsic value o Physical environment has almost sacred and spiritual value  Human have unique obligation to act as stewards and protectors o Exist in harmonious relationship where human needs can be achieved without damaging physical environment  Pursuit of human material wealth doesn’t require domination of physical environment  Anthropocentrism: human beings are separate from, and above, the rest of nature o Environment exists for pleasure and exploitation of human beings  Human exceptionalism Paradigm: view that humans are exceptional but not exempt from natural world o Unique creatures in that they possess culture o Culture is highly variable, able to change more quickly than biological traits o Human differences not innately biological; result from social variation and are able to change o Cultural accumulation over time suggests that progress is unlimited and therefore that all social problems are solvable  New environmental paradigm; humans not exempt from natural world o Human social actions occur within ecosystem that has its own processes and limits  New ecological paradigm: emphasizes that modern industrial society is beginning to exceed limits of environment  Ecocentric: humans only part of global ecosystem Environmental Challenges: Today and Tomorrow Climate Change  Global climate change  Greenhouse effect: process by which Earth’s temperature is maintained  Greenhouse gases: gases trap long wave infrared radiation and are responsible for rising global temperatures and climate change o Acts as a blanket, increasing Earth’s temperature over time  Human activities contribute to accumulation of greenhouse gases in atmosphere  Latest increase due to industrialization and population growth  Carbon sink: natural matter that absorbs more carbon than it emits  Carbon source: natural matter that emits more carbon than it absorbs  Permafrost: ground that has been frozen for more than 2 successive years o Allows vegetation to thaw and decompose o Difficulties for construction, maintain pipelines, roads and bridges that rely on frozen foundation Biodiversity  Climate change alters what farmers can grow, melting ice caps and thawing permafrost  Rising temps not entirely negative o Warmer climate promote species diversity  Anthropocene: new geological era resulting from consequences of human activities on earth  Ecosystem diversity: number and variety of habitats for organisms within geographic area  Species diversity: number of species that exist in an ecosystem  Genetic diversity: amount of genetic information within single population species o Takes time and is natural process of cumulative adaptations to environmental stressors  3 impacts of climate change on biodiversity o individual species become extinct o ecosystems may be destroyed o species forced to move from one area to another Water  ¾ of Earth’s surface is covered with water, majority is salt water  clean water necessary for all healthy ecosystems  contaminated water is risk to all aquatic and terrestrial life  pollutant comes from runoff water from agricultural lands  rainwater carries pesticides and herbicides from farms into waters, ending up as drinking water Air pollution  major health threat and key risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory disease  outdoor air pollution is largely related to use of fossil fuels for transportation, generation of energy, other human activities  indoor air pollution lead to acute lower respiratory infections in children under 5 Cha
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