IDSB04H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Political Ecology, Environmental Degradation, Soil Contamination

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IDSB04 Chapter 10 Reading
Chapter 10 Health and the Environment
Key Questions:
- How are health and environmental conditions inter-related?
- What are the major challenges involving health and the environment and how should they be addressed?
- Changes in environmental conditions have contributed to health consequences
o These environmental changes have come with excessive manufacturing, deforestation, pollution etc.
- Scientists have demonstrated that environmental degradation, which is the contamination and depletion of natural resources
(and its harm to health) is not inevitable but rather provoked by various actions of humans
o This include production, transportation, settlement patterns
- Political ecology = conceptualizes relations of power as central to environmental dynamics
o It incorporates economic, social and political forces, actors and institutions that shape both environmental change
and health and disease patters
o It helps us to understand that the interactions are usually circumscribed where water, soil or air contamination have
localized effects
- Human activities amplify the global impact of many local events
o Thee’s fato podutio, agiusiess, iig hih ae ieasigl otolled ad iflueed  TNCs
o Thee’s esoue etaction that must be done in order to complete certain actions
Box 10-1 Definitions
Natural environment = physical, chemical, geological, and biological factors and process external to people, through potentially their making
Built environment = human-made commercial, public and industrial buildings, living areas, transportation, roads etc. as well as policies that relate to land use,
zoning, and community design
Social environment = conditions within which people live and work, where they are shaped by cultural, historical, social, economic and political relations and factors
Environmental health = the area of research, monitoring, control and assessment of the physical, chemical, geological, biological, and related factors outside to a
person and can potentially affect health
Ecosystem = system of interaction of a community of organisms and their natural environment
Ecology = study of ecosystems
Political ecology = the study of interacting social and ecological changes, focusing particularly on issues of power and inequitable relations
Framing Environmental Health Problems: The Motors and Drivers
Key Questions:
- How do different modes of production and consumption affect then environment and health?
- How does a political ecology of health approach frame the connections among capitalism, environmental health and inequity?
Past Interaction of Humans with the Natural and Built Environments
- Relationship with other dimensions of the natural world are required for animal species and humans to survive on a long-
term
- Agriculture transformed social and economic relations, emphasizing on built and natural environments
o As settlements grew, land productivity increased and crop surpluses were generated
o Irrigation systems were also made along with other innovations which allowed for more land to be cleared
- Wealth and power became a priority for Roman emperors they took some steps in order to do so
o They obtained, transformed, and traded precious metals and minerals when this occurred excessively, this is when
environmental degradation occurred
- The exploitation of natural resources accelerated during the transition from feudalism to capitalism, with the rise of
colonialism
o Transport routes to get more resources from distant places
- European imperialism made the environmental impact much larger
o The industrial revolution expanded energy demands, severe pollution
- Post-1800, the new geologic era: Anthropocene this is characterized by human-induced environmental changes that are
provoking a perilous climatic imbalance
Political Ecology of Health: How Imperialism, Production, and Consumption Patterns Shape Health and Environmental Degradation
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- Global capitalism has allowed for environmental change and health consequences to develop
o It accelerated in the post-war consumer-era, market and profit driven growth these have generated the
continuously growing demand for various goods with little regard for the environmental resource depletion and
contamination involved in the process
o This sector is contradictory because it provides jobs for the majority of people in the world but allows for
environmental degradation to occur
- Capitalism and neoliberal globalization allowed for the distance of consumption and the consequences of production
o Cosue pies do’t eflet the osts of air pollution or chemical waste from garment factories, or water and
forest contamination
- The political ecology framework looks at the power asymmetries between rich and poor
o Environmental contamination, depletion, and climate change are heavily shaped by TNCs, government policies and
population demands of HICs
o Those who are suffering the consequences are disproportionately located in LMICs where toxic waste generated in
HICs is exported to LICs
- The high costs of environmental degradation and its health consequences are given to those who are excluded from power
and decision making
o Environmental justice = fairness in the distribution of and protection from environmental risk
Figure 10-1: Political ecology of health: Determinants, effects and responses
Industrial Production and Toxic Agents
- Since WWII, more than 85000 new chemicals have been manufactured and released into the environment
o Constantly testing toxicity makes things more complicated and expensive
Box 10-2 Lead Contamination
- Large levels of toxic metal lead have risen
o This is present in paint, batteries, cosmetics, crayons, toys etc.
- When ingested or inhaled through air, dust, soil and water, lead causes increased blood pressure, cognitive deficits and other neurodevelopmental
problems
- Chronic, low-level lead exposure remains a significant public health issue, particularly among disadvantaged groups those who live in substandard
housing or near polluting industries of heavy traffic
- In HICs, the most common source of lead exposure among young children are ingested paint chips and water from corroded lead pipes
Military-Industrial Complex
- It is one of the largest sources of environmental contamination
- Testing, use and storage of weapons, military bases are major producers of toxic environmental waste and radiation
- The increased use of carcinogens has been linked with adjacent populations experiencing increased rates of leukemia, lung
caner etc.
Agribusiness
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- A lage peetage of the old’s ad ass is liked to agiusiess o lage fas
- Agribusiness is a main driver of contamination and for resource repletion it is the single biggest use of water
- Agribusiness irrigation also depletes the water table and aquified beneath, which contaminates the local soil and waterways,
particularly low-income, Indigenous, rural populations and migrant workers
Mining
- One of the most lucrative and destructive industries on the planet
- It has high occupation mortality and exploitation, and brutal wars over mineral resource control occur
- Gold mining processes require tons of water per ounce of gold, which leave behind toxic tailings
- Restoring vegetation in mining areas is hard because organic matter, nutrients, and water become too acidic or too alkaline
for plant growth
o The ipat loall is sigifiat hee the populatio’s pia soue of food fish has high oetatios of
cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury
Table 10-1 Selected Pollution Hotspots
Site Name and Location
Major Pollutants and Sources
Human Health Impact
Cleanup status as of 2013
Dzerzhinsk, Russia
Chemicals, toxic by-products, lead,
chemical weapons
Contaminated water supplies, increased eye,
lung and kidney diseases and cancers; life
expectancy up to 20 years lower than the
national average in Russia
Some facility close down and
remediation
Agbogbloshie, Ghana
E-waste dumpsite for large electronics
(ex. Refrigerators, microwaves,
televisions); sheathed cable burned to
recover copper
High levels of lead and other metals released
into air and soil proximity to homes,
markets, and other public areas
Occupational safety training and e-waste
recycling model being piloted to replace
burning
Citarum River Basin,
Indonesia
Contaminated with lead, aluminum,
and iron by industry and domestic
sources
Contaminated drinking and irrigation water
15-year, US$3.5 billion plan by
government for restoration
Matanza-Riachuelo River
basin, Argentina
Contaminated with toxic waste and
sewage from 15000 industries
Diarrheal diseases, respiratory diseases and
cancers due to contaminated soil and
drinking water
US$1 billion commitment for World Bank
funded project on sanitation and
abatement
Energy Extraction and Production
- The extraction, refining, and distribution of non-renewable fossil fuels plus the production of biofuels, make up almost four
fifths of the old’s eeg osuptio
- The largest effect is combustion which comes from oil drilling underground and offshore, transporting over long distances
through pipelines
- Coal mining is also linked to a range of environmental effects such as leaching of runoff into surface and groundwater and
the ambient release of particulate matter and gases such as methane and sulfur dioxide
- With e tehologies, isig oodit pies, uoetioal oil ad atual gas eseois that ee peiousl too
expensive to exploit have become profitable
Box 10-3 Disastrous Consequences of Energy Extraction and Production
- Oil spills have severe health and environmental consequences
- Nuclear energy production generates large quantities of hazardous radioactive waste with the potential for deadly disasters
o The Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 had consequences later on including elevated rates of cancer and congenital birth
anomalies
Box 10-4 Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found in pesticides, thermal cash register receipts, detergents, cosmetics, plastics, food and other household
products
- The imitate human and animal hormones, leading to pregnancy and birth outcomes, neurobehavioral disorders in children, breast, prostate and other
endocrine-related cancers and diabetes
Toxic Waste and Dumping
- Toxic waste is common to all industry
- With growing resistance to landfills in HICs, the problem has been pushed to other places
o Waste is exported to LMICs
E-waste from HICs, medical and pharmaceutical waste
Health Problems as Environmental Problems and Vice Versa
Key Question:
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