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Chapter 16

SOC101Y Chapter 16 Sociology and the Environment.docx

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Robert Brym

SOC101Y Chapter 16 Sociology and the Environment Reasons for environmental neglect in sociology -downplay of biological/physical factors influencing human affairs while emphasizing importance of social factors -human exceptionalism paradigm: worldview that features the ideals of steadily evolving social progress, increasing prosperity and material comfort, and class mobility for all segments of society while ignoring the environmental costs of economic growth **assumption that technology is fueled by unlimited natural resources -finally started to focus on environmental issues in the 1970s “sociology of environmental issues” is concerned with environmentally related phenomena (resource management problems in wildlands or origins, memberships and beliefs of environmental movement). “environment sociology” deals with how physical environment may influence social behavior ENVIRONMENTAL VALUE CONFLICT -dominant paradigm: widely accepted view of the world that emphasizes the moral imperative of material wealth creation and the moral conviction that humans have the right to dominate nature and harness the environment to that end **stresses materialism, economic growth and the human right to dominate nature , in other words ,economic growth at the expense of the environment -alternative environmental paradigm: set of beliefs that challenge the centrality of economic growth, technological progress and the human domination of nature. Stresses the need to adopt small scale, decentralized economic and political structures that are in harmony with nature  small scale growth not at the expense of the environment -sustainable development “Bruntland report”: economic development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs . *best of both worlds: economic growth not at the expense of the environment , but this is very difficult, needs an unrealistic level of cooperation and commitment ENVIRONMENTAL ATTITUDES, CONCERNS and BEHAVIORS 1. Attitudes -public attitudes were found using polls, where the public moderately accepted the content of the environmental paradigm by agreeing with the statement “the balance of nature is very delicate and easily upset” 2. Concerns -public concerns are measured by asking people how worried they are about environmental problems and asking them to weigh environmental protection vs importance of jobs -broadening-base hypothesis: predicts that environmental concern will eventually diffuse throughout all groups -economic contingency hypothesis: broadening of social bases of environmental concern depends on economic conditions. (when economy is down, people concerned with the environment will shift their focus to the economy), economy is more important -both hypotheses have little support, as support for environmental protection has remained stable *higher levels of education, youth, political liberalism and urban residence people are the best supporters, and not so much income and occupational prestige -environmental concerns are complex, subtle and inconsistent because individual environmental problems affect people in different ways 3. Behaviors – most people say they will help with problems but do very little -pro-active people in positions on issues more likely to engage in pro-env behaviors than people who say they are sympathetic to the issues, but still behaviors are limited by money and limited by convenience, -majority of people recycle, eat “green” and act positively towards the environment because it doesn’t take time/money -food miles: people reduce the carbon footprint by eating locally produced foods. *symbolic power ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT -concerns/behaviors of pro-env exist mostly in movement activists, whether it be voting for policies or getting involved in demanding behaviors such as protests, letters and battles with specific companies Social Base and Composition -initially, environmental movements started from the creation of an elite: organizations were started from tightly knit network of lawyers, educators, and wealthy businessmen -in Canada, environmental initiatives started from small groups of civilians who were able to convince government e.g national park conservations -new middle class: social/cultural specialists (teachers, social workers, journalists etc.) make up the majority of the social movement of env. issues because they work away from businesses who are hostile to the env. values and because they usually become the advocates Environmental Mobilization -people tend to accept the status quo and must be persuaded to redefine their situation in such a way that they can see it as a violation of their basic rights (either people care or don’t based on the general consensus) -environmentalists develop frames: interpretations of events and their meanings. Three elements: diagnostic (identifying a problem and assigning blame for it) prognostic (proposed solution to the diagnosed problem) and motivation (take specific corrective action) - carrying capacity: the optimum population size that the planet can support under present env. conditions. **environmentalists play up the possibility of global collapse: global warming, ozone layer holes and loss of animals via uncontrolled overpopulation and industrial growth. Expanding economy= environment is threatened by both unsustainable development and unsustainable impoverishment . this is a tactic to get peoples attention -the solution of environmental issues is the alternative environmental paradigm: draw back and ease down to conserve resources and reduce pollution and restrict population increase. Ideological Divisions -resource conservatives: manage natural resources via new techniques -preservation conservatives: thought it is necessary for the government to intervene in order to preserve nature -certification schemes: to establish public confidence by reassuring that company’s products are derived from well-manages resources (e.g loggi
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