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Chapter 16

New Society Chapter 16 Notes

Course Code
Sheldon Ungar

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Chapter 1604:05
Toward Env Sociology:
- socs interest in env goes back to only 70s several reasons:
1. term environment came to mean something diffEmile Durkheim & others of the
field downplayed the role of biological/physical factors in influencing human affairs,
elevating the importance of social facts, such as norms, groups and institutions
- in accounting for wide range of behaviours, from juvenile delinquency to racism,
sociologists opted for explanations that framed these in terms of nurture rather
than nurture
2. sociologists’ own view of tech/nat resources/human progressassumption that
world would see gains fuelled by unlimited availability of nat resources—tech was
seen as way humans could overcome challenges
human-exceptionalism paradigm: worldview that features ideals of soc progress
w/o taking env impacts into account featured ideals of steadily evolving soc
progress, increasing prosperity/mat comfort and class mobility
- nor was much consideration given to constrains that may be imposed on further
eco expansion bc of declining resources
- Dunlap & Catton distinguished between a sociology of env issues: concerned w/
environmentally related phenomenon such as resource management problems in
wildland recreation areas or origins/membership/beliefs of environmental
movement, and env sociology: focused on the physical env as a factor that may
influence soc behaviour suggests that the env can function as a contextual, an
independent/dependent variable—as background/cause/effect
* today: env sociology has become a catchfall for stuffy of all soc aspects of env—has
pros and cons
PROS: propelled sociological inquiry into # of imp new areas, IE studying opposition
to toxic wastes & recognition of existence of a key value conflict in soc between those
who hold an “env view of world and those who dont
CONS: breadth of field makes it diff to assemble a cohesive body of work built on
strong theoretical foundation & some terms have come to acquire several different
Environmental Value Conflict:
- values are guidepoints that help us sort out choices we make in life
- central focus of sociologists interested in env is value cleavage between
environmentalists and their opponents disagreement is long-accepted notion that
the env is something to be actively used/exploited
- how environmentalists differ from mainstream pop= 2 conflicting paradigms:
1. dominant paradigm: anchored by 2 core values: 1) moral imperative of
material-wealth creation & conviction that humans have right to dominate
nature/harness the env 2) progress is interpreted as the increasing encroachment of
civilization on wild geo environments
2. alternate environmental paradigm: rejects both pillars of enterprise
culture high priority to realization of non-material values & have little confidence
in science/tech to solve problems of material/energy shortages have a diff view of

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nature which stressed the delicate balance of ecological systems and possible
irreversible damage which may result from innovations of high technology
- ^ value the nat environment for its own sake, questioning human right to
dominationbelieve that small is beautiful & that soc should adopt small-scale,
decentralized eco/pol structures in harmony w/ nature
*the value conflict just described arches over a wide spectrum of issues related to
soc and env infuses debate over world pop growth as primary factor contributing
to env degradation
- major attempt to bridge difference between dominant/alternative env paradigm is
found in idea of sustainable dev: foresees new forms of eco growth, esp for
developing nations, that would be both environmentally aware/egalitarian,
integrating objectives for soc dev w/ sci demands
- criticisms of sustainable dev= diff to balance eco growth & nat-resource use w/ env
protection & requires extraordinary degree of cooperation/deep commitment to
Env Attitudes/Concerns/Behaviours:
- research tool to measure an env view of world was Dunlap & Van Lieres new
environmental paradigm (NEP) scale: survey data that measures extent of ppls’
agreement w/ statements like balance of nature is delicate/easily upset & humans
shouldnt adapt to nat env bc they can remake it to their liking found that
general public moderately accepted content of emerging env paradigm, whereas
environmentalists strongly endorsed it
- 2 other techniques= 1) ask ppl how worried/upset they are about a series of env
problems 2) ask respondents to weigh tradeoffs between env protection & jobs
- has public concern w/ env quality changed since 1970s? 2 hypotheses:
1. broadening-base hypothesis: predicts that env concern will eventually diffuse
throughout all groups
2. economic-contingency hypothesis: suggests that broadening of soc bases of
env concern depends on prevailing eco conditions
-^ when eco conditions worsen, those least well off will be 1st to shift their attention
from env to economy
- other researchers found instead that the level/soc location of support for env
protection remained stable for nearly 20 yrs
- 70s/80s= found that income/prestige weakly related to env concern high levels of
edu/youth/pol liberalism/urban resistance are best predicators of concern w/ env
- ppl may not be very consistent across various issues—ind env problems may affect
us in diff ways how concerned we will be depends on how activity in question
affects our interests; how wed be affected by its benefits/costs/risks
- study= those who indicated in survey that they were proactive in their positions
on env issues were significantly more likely to report engaging in pro-env
behaviours than those who described themselves as sympathetic
- those who score positively in env-concern polls dont show any particular interest
to go beyond low-cost/personal actions

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- support to help env declined when any change of personal habits were required
- most ppl provide lip service to protecting env and will behave responsibly as long
as its not more expensive/inconvenient to do so
- pro-env behaviours possess symbolic power than do others idea of reducing
“carbon footprint/concept of food miles are a kind of shorthand to talk about
climate change in general
The Env Movement:
- env concern has been most intensely concentrated in the env movement
- incorporates many elements of alternative env paradigm
Social Base and Composition:
- 19 c= env movement was largely the creation of an elite
- Canada= env initiatives (IE national parks/protection of wildlife) were more likely
to be developed by small groups of dedicated civil servants able to convince federal
gov to take actionIE: establishment of Banff national Park & signing of Canada-
US Migratory Bird Convention in 1917
- modern env movement in late 60s/early 70s favoured issues related to saving
nature over those relating to urban environments
- environmentalists have been identified as members of a new middle class 2
explanations for why members of new middle class tend to be more radical than pop
as a whole= 1) tend to be personally involved in problems faced by clients 2)
evidence: ppl who had higher levels of income/edu or were employed in public sector
were more likely to join the Vancouver Island wilderness-preservation movement,
although these factors didnt affect their level of participation after joining
Env Mobilization:
- socs are also interested in learning how environmentalists mobilize ppl to their
- research has focused on community-based, grassroots env orgs
- these citizens groups differ somewhat from rest of env movement bc they draw
their members from blue-collar and white-collar neighbourhoods
- most ppl want to avoid trouble & must be actively convinced that their present
situation is unjust/intolerable before they consider taking action
- ppl tend to accept the status quo & must be persuaded to redefine their situation
in such a way that they can see it as a violation of their basic rights
- ^ easier to do when citizens are ideologically primed to question the image of
progress as continual eco development
- based on research: 2.5 yrs of ethnographic fieldwork in Flammable, an Argentine
shabbytown surrounded by largest petrochemical compounds in country, conclude
that common neighbourhood perceptions about a toxic env dont form
easily/automatically 3 questions: how do ppl perceive an env risky situation?
when do they fail to understand what is objectively a clear/present danger? how/why
are (mis)perceptions shared within a community? 2 reasons:
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