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Chapter 20

Sociology Hiller Chapter 20

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Sociology 2152A/B
William Marshall

Environmental Science Notes (Readings from Week 1-2) • Environment = a broad term that describes the surroundings or conditions (including living or non-living) in which any given organism exists • Environmental Science = a field of research that is used to understand the natural world and our relationship to it. It relies on a range of natural and applied science (such as ecology, geology, chemistry, and engineering) to unlock the mysteries of the natural world, and to look at the role and impact of humans in the world. It also draws on social sciences (such as anthropology, psychology, and economics) and the humanities (such as art, literature, and music) to understand the ways humans interact with, and thus impact, the ecosystems around them. o Environmental Science is both an empirical science (it scientifically investigates the natural world through systematic observation and experimentation) and also applied science (we use its findings to inform our actions and, in the best cases, to bring about positive change) • Environmental Literacy = the ability to understand environmental problems o Any given solution to an environmental problem is most likely involves a significant trade-offs = no holy grail o Scientists refer to such problems as “wicked problems” o In solving them we must consider the triple bottom line = we must consider environmental, economic, and social causes and consequences o Wicked problems can lead to a society’s ultimate demise • 5 Factors that will led to society’s demise or success o 1) Natural environment o 2) failure to properly respond to environmental changes o 3) Self-inflicted environmental damage o 4) Hostile neighbours o 5) Loss of friendly neighbours • The Greenland Viking’s demise was caused by natural events and human choices o Environmental did not support growing crops as their lifestyle o Failure to change their habits when environmental changed o Self-inflicted environmental damage = too much grazing = soil erosion o Hostile Neighbour = Inuit consider them inferior o Loss of friendly neighbours = no more trade • Responding to environmental problems and working with neighbours help a society cope with changes • Sustainable Development = a solution that allows people to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same • Humans are an environmental force that impacts Earth’s ecosystem o These negative impacts stems from a disconnect in our understanding of the relationship between our actions and their environmental consequences • Carrying Capacity = the population size that an area can support indefinitely o Earth’s population is increasing like never ever o Some of our actions are decreasing carrying capacity • Ecological Footprint = a evaluation of the impact any population has on its environment = due to the resources it takes and the waste it produces • Anthropogenic = consequence of a larger population, increasing affluence, and more sophisticated technology = modern humans are faced with increasing temperature caused largely by our own actions (use of greenhouse gases) • Human societies cane become more sustainable • A sustainable ecosystem is one that makes the most of renewable energy = energy that comes from an infinitely available or easily replenished source o Must have matter that can be recycled too (the key is to recycle faster than the matter being used) o Sustainable ecosystems depend on local biodiversity (the variety of species present) to perform many of the jobs mentioned • Humans tend to rely on non-renewable resources – those whose supply is finite or is not replenished in a timely fashion (fossil fuel) • Biomimicry = involves using nature as a model (what to do), as a mentor (how to do it), and measure (level of response that is appropriate) for our own systems • Humanity faces some challenges in dealing with environmental issues • Social traps = decisions by individuals or groups that seem good at the time and produce a short-term benefit, but that hurt society in the long run • Tragedy of the commons = the tendency of an individual to abuse commonly held resources in order to maximize his/her own personal gain • Time delay = Actions that produce a benefit today set into motions event that causes problems later on • Sliding reinforce = Actions that are beneficial at first but that change conditions such that their benefit declines over time • Education is our best hope for avoiding such traps • Another obstacle to sustainable growth is wealth inequality (20% of the population holds 80% of the resources of the world) o Fighting over resources has long been one of the contributing factors to societal decline and collapse • Conflicting worldviews are another challenge to sustainable living o Worldviews = the windows through which we view our world and existence = are influenced by cultural, religious, and personal experiences, they vary across countries and geographic regions even within a society o People’s worldviews determine their environmental ethic = how they interact with their natural environment, how they respond to environmental problems • Anthropocentric Worldview = one where only human lives and interests are important o Other species were seen as having only instrumental value – valued them only for what they could get out of them • Biocentric Worldview = Every organism has an inherent right to exist, regardless of its benefits (or harm) to humans, each organism has intrinsic value o This worldview would lead us to be mindful of our choices and avoid actions that indiscriminately harm other organisms or put entire species in danger of extinction • Ecocentric Worldview = values the ecosystem as an intact whole, including all of the ecosystem’s organisms and the nonliving processes that occur within the ecosystem o Try to protect the nonliving processes that make the resources available • Montreal Protocol = administered by the United Nations, outlined a series of deadlines over the next decade for cutting back production of CFCs. Governments would have to put in place their own plans for achieving a desired outcome or policy for reducing CFCs • Policy = A formalized plan that addresses a desired outcome or goal (translating our values into action) • Canada passed its first regulation on CFCs in 1980 under the Environmental Contaminants Act. This plan is implemented by both Environment Canada and provincial governments
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