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Chapter 24

Chapter 24 - The Environment.docx

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SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Chapter 24: The Environment Sociology: a Canadian Perspective Basics of environmental sociology  Economic prosperity after world WWII helped deflect the attention of youth from material and social concerns to the uneven distribution of political and economic power  New awareness made environmental protection a cause  Civil rights cause and anti-war causes provided background for its activism and framework for a successful movement  Development of environmental sociology aided by human ecology developed through the Chicago School of sociology  Legacy of human ecology provided a theoretical perspective that can be resumed at the moment when the environmental movement crystallized a broadly based sociological interest in the environment  Focus on relationship between human social organization and the physical environment o Environment refers to as a socio-cultural or symbolic system o Environmental sociology is unique as it considers ‘environment’ as both a physical entity and a socio- cultural phenomenon o Sociologists are critical of their colleagues for treating the physical environment as merely a backdrop to social activity o Environmental sociologists also criticized for studying an area of natural science that they have little training in  Conflict caused by competing social groups for scarce resources that may be considered as common property, etc.  Economic expansion results in the environment: pollution, waste, destruction of non-renewable resources v. economic and social provisions while providing prosperities that communities need to deal with environmental issues  Economic growth v. environmental protection – ‘socio-environmental’ dialectic o Economic policies that are regressive are more likely to environment policies that are less sensitive to the environment o Economy put before environment; therefore healthy economy is needed for environmental preservation o Sustainable development principle – only through significant improvements in the economy of developing nations can global ecological disaster be avoided The environment and ecological scarcity  Scarcity related to the overuse of natural resources until their exhaustion, waste, or destruction by contamination or misuse  Immense reliance on scarce resources  Interest in scarcity addresses world population growth, limits of global carrying capacity, and the relationship between development and scarcity Population growth  Rate of world population increase is substantial – 2050 population likely to be more than 1/3 of its size today  Regarded as one of the most serious environmental threats  Demographic transition theory explains the relationship of fertility and mortality (based on economic and social progress in societies) o First stage at pre-transition, society experiences high fertility and mortality rates o Second stage at transition, mortality declines due to scientific and technological advances while fertility remains high o Final stage at post-transition, death rate remains low as birth rate decreases due to contraception and societal changes – population remains stable (only 20-30% of world population)  Developing countries benefits from technology but mortality rates are high while large based on extended family for economic survival  Poverty is main reason why countries remain at the transitional stage  Only improvements to economies of developing nations will help them move from poverty to the final stage – not necessarily possible due to labour and taking advantage Limits to growth  The extent of the planets ability to sustain its population  Important for environmentalism and conservationism  Economic expansion v. economic restriction o Arguments stating that earth is reaching its limit of self-sustaining and ecological collapse is a possibility unless growth is curbed soon o Contradictive view that any immediate crisis and claiming that resources are abundant and people have reason to adapt to shortages  The Limits of Growth as a model showing the ecological disaster and its imminence o Notable impact as a warning against unchecked growth and responsible for creating opposition to economic expansion  Some arguments state that growth is essential for ameliorating the conditions of the poor in the Third World – will lead to reduced population growth and ultimately preservation to soil, water, and other resources o Argued that even in industrialized nations, limits on growth will have effects on the working class and poor  Another view states that economic growth is necessary to provide the profits to invest technologies for waste reduction and pollution control  Growth v. no-growth debates remains central to discussion Sustainable development  Developed from economic development and environment conservation as compatible goals  Calls for reconciliation between two ends o Environmental integrity, protection of ecosystems and biodiversity and meeting of human needs, and positive economic growth and equitable distribution of the benefits of environment and resources among nations and social classes  Under skepticism o No more than a legitimization of development under the guise of environmental stewardship o Others claim that principles of ecology and the scientific community are being co-opted to support the further destruction of nature on the grounds of scientific rationality  Still widely adopted as a planning goal The environment and social theory Human ecology  Application theory similar to sociological analysis  Under Robert Park and Enerst Burgess  Sought to explain human spatial and organization by concentrating on the process of competition and succession that influence human social organization  Focus on rapidly changing society physically accommodated increases in population and changes in the industrial and cultural organization of the city  Focus on symbiosis (interdependencies that bind people in communities together and lead to particular living arrangements)  Influenced by Durkheim where he addressed the development of social complexity from human population growth and density  As population grow, threats to available resources is crucial as it leads to competition and conflict – scarcity can therefore affect societal organization  Human have great capacity for adapting to scarcity through competitive cooperation  Revised with a few shortcomings o Overemphasis on the spatial arrangements of populations at the expense of understanding societal- environmental relations and the neglect of culture and values Human exemptionalism and the new environmental paradigm  Catton and Dunlap argued that the competing theoretical sociological perspectives were part of a larger paradigm – basis of similarity was their shared anthropocentrism o This assumption as the product of 500 years of Western culture in which societies have behaved as though nature existed for human use – human exemptionalism paradigm o HEP comprises several assumptions that sociologists accept  New approach as new ecological paradigm (NEP)  HEP v. NEP differences on p.585 NEP v. classical sociological theory  HEP v. NEP and its relationship with classical sociological theory for understanding problems  Concerns include HEP-NEP distinction should or should not be regarded as a simple manifestation of the long- running theoretical debates in sociology regarding order v. conflict  Structural functionalist school  image of society is that of a social system needs – actors and institutions have competing needs and state acts as the impartial arbitrator o Environmental problems associate with process of modernization o Positive functions related to needs of economic growth, abundance, and social stratification sometime leads to environmental harm o Results into social reform, modified social values to adapt to environmental exigencies, enactments of protective environmental legislation  Conflict approach  o Environmental problems as irrationalities within capitalist system leading to social conflicts o Class struggle is the permanent condition of society because the state fa
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