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Environmental Problems & Sociology

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Tamra Gilbertson

on 23 September 2018

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Transcript of Environmental Problems & Sociology

Overview of Today

- Announcements and Questions


State of the Environment: what we know
Environmental Sociology - what is it?
Major Areas of Study
The social roots of environmental problems
Cultural and Structural
Potential solutions to environmental problems
From the individual to global level

Environmental Problems & Sociology
What are some key environmental problems?
State of the Environment
Around 50 thousand square miles lost each year (about 36 football fields a minute)
Indigenous and Forest-Dependent Communities blamed instead of logging Corp's

Soil Degradation:
25% of Earth's land surfaced "highly degraded"
U.N. definition leads to land-grabbing by Corporate actors

Over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released by industry into US land each year
1.3 million human deaths are attributed to air pollution

Climate Change:
Rise in Earth's temp by 2 degrees in the last century
2015 was the hottest recorded year on earth

Sources: Food and Ag Org, UN 2011;
Scorecard 2011; WHO 2011
What is environmental sociology?

The study of
human-environment relationships
how humans affect the environment and how the environment affects humans explains the
social roots
of environmental problems
Major Areas of Research in Environmental Sociology
Political Economy of the Environment
What drives environmental harm?
Who gains the most and who suffers the most?
Environmental Concern and Values
What and who constitutes "environmentalism"?
Environmental Politics and Movements
Who are the actors trying to change human-environment relationships?
What are some potential "solutions" to environmental problems?
Who is pushing these "solutions" and
who benefits / who loses?
Political Economy and the Environment
social systems and structures
create practices and policies that harm the environment
Looking at the
social roots
of environmental problems
Create and perpetuate
environmental problems
Powerful people and groups
control many decisions related to the environment - which makes change hard!
Roots of Environmental Problems
Environmental Problems have both cultural and structural sources
Humans and "the Environment"

Humans, as animals / species are interdependent with our ecosystems
More recently (think Colonialism / Industrial Revolution etc.) humans have altered physical environments in harmful ways
for sustenance and resources
as a waste repository
as a living space

social, cultural & political systems
, however, exacerbate these uses, creating environmental degradation.

Tamra Gilbertson SOC 110
environmental harm is often centered in disadvantaged communities
Poor people and people of color are most likely to be affected by environmental problems

Environmental Justice Movements focus on this dimension
Cultural Sources
: shared ideas, values, beliefs that legitimize and encourage environmental degradation

Ex. Cornucopia view of nature: nature is limitless
Ex. Faith in technology:
science will save us!
Ex. Materialism:
throw-away and replaceable products

Structural Sources:
: societal arrangements that create and perpetuate environmental problems

Ex. Growth Ethic:
constant growth economy
Ex. Political systems:
corporate power influencing political decision-making
Ex. Marginalized communities blaming communities and
imposed regulation
Source: Cable and Cable 1995
Environmental Values and Concerns
How environmental concern
differs among social groups
(class, sex, race, nationality, culture, etc.)
Ex. How men and women view environmental problems over time
Ex. How people in the US differ from people in Tuvalu on environmental concern
This challenges
how we view "environmentalism"

Historically, environmentalism has had classist and racist
Ex. Hardin
Ex. Conservationalism
Solutions must address both cultural and structural roots
and engage with multiple geographic scales.

Individual / Regional level:
Recycling, composting, carpooling, growing food

State/Nation level:
Major changes to culture and structure
Stringent environmental laws and regulations
Changes to ineffectual laws and regulations

Global level:
Binding global treaties and commitments
Changes to consumption patterns / neoliberal economy
Paradigm shift!!!

Solutions more complex the more social they become
Social and System Change!!!!
Addressing Environmental
Unequal growth
and consumption
Full transcript