SOC101 NOTES- Environment
Normal accidents: mishaps that occur because the very complexity of modern technologies
ensures they will inevitably fail, though in unpredictable ways.
Tipping point: threshold beyond which a system unexpectedly, rapidly and dramatically
The tragedy of the commons: people try to maximize their economic gain by exploiting the
commons. The private company enjoys “free ride” because it profits from increased production
but does not have to pay the costs associated with pollution.
Externality: environmental impact that is produced by one party (industry) that does not take
responsibility for the consequences and are addressed by another party , such as the state.
Risk society thesis: contemporary societies have become preoccupied with issues related to
distribution of social “bads”, like the environmental risks and externalities produced by industry.
• Risk society: social system in which technology distributes danger and advantage
among all social groups, although some are more exposed than others are.
Economic contingency: public environmental concern depends on the state of economy. In
good economic times, more attention will be given to environmental issues.
Giddens: environmental issues are “back of the mind” because many environmental dangers
are not tangible, immediate or visible in the present.
Future discounting: psychological tendency to forgo future benefits in favour of immediate
Framing: the way people interpret and give meaning to events and things in their social
settings; how something is framed therefore influences how people act.
Peak oil: tipping point at which new oil reserves can no longer be found. The difficulties in
extracting oil will generate more greenhouse gas emissions.
• Natural resources in Canada are owned by the government where it issues a licence for
a private corporation to extract the resources by paying a royalty (percentage of
revenue obtained through its use).
• In Alberta, it has low royalty rate for oil extraction and the revenue generated from oil
royalties enables Alberta to forgo imposing provincial sales tax on its citizens (it collects
more revenue from oil than taxpayers). As a result, the public is less likely to scrutinize
how the government spends public funds since they pay little tax (taxation strengthens
Resource curse: arises in regions where valuable natural resources are especially abundant.
Such abundance discourages democracy because privately owned natural resource industries
provide government with most of its revenue, allowing them to exert excessive political influence
and rendering government insufficiently politically accountable to taxpayers. Environmental governance: attempts by those in power to regulate and alleviate
environmental problems; explores how environmental policies are developed and implemented,
and how government interacts with industry, social movements and consumers addressing
Environmental racism: tendency to heap environmental dangers on the disadvantaged.
Polluter pays principle: addresses the externality problem by charging fines/taxes to force a
corporation/country that causes pollution to pay the cost of environmental cleanup and
protection. However, this approach is too coercive because industry complies only reluctantly
with regulations to avoid legal liability and taxation. As a result,