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Environmental Problems and Environmental Justice

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Elizabeth East

on 8 January 2018

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Transcript of Environmental Problems and Environmental Justice

Environmental Problems and Environmental Justice
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

- Next week: Animals in Society Lecture and Reading Discussion
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
Political Economy of the Environment
Environmental Politics and Movements
E. East 2017
Class Next Week
Animals in Society
Tuesday - Lecture
Thursday - Reading Discussion
Major Areas of Research in Environmental Sociology
Political Economy of the Environment
What drives environmental harm 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 do solutions to environmental problems look like?
social systems and structures create practices and policies
that harm the environment
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!

Environmental Values and Concern
Roots of Environmental Problems
Potential Solutions to
Environmental Problems
Solutions must address both cultural and structural roots and engage with multiple geographic scales.

Individual level:
All those individual actions:
Recycling, composting, carpooling, growing food
Societal 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

Solutions more complex the more
they become
How environmental concern
differs among social groups
(class, gender, race, nationality, etc.)
Ex. How men and women view environmental problems over time
Ex. How people in the US differ from people in the Maldives on environmental concern
Helps to
how we think of
Definition of environmentalism historically has had
Environmental problems have both
How 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 Movement
focuses specifically on this dimension

Focuses on
specific actors
attempting to change or perpetuate human-environment relationships and
the politics between
these actors.
Environmental Movement/Activists
Governmental bodies (within and across states)
Scientific Community
Business Community and Corporations
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: treadmill of production
Ex. Political systems bending to polluters
Source: Cable and Cable 1995
Humans and "the Environment"
Humans, as a species and in an interdependent ecosystem, have always altered and used their physical environments
for sustenance and resources
as a waste repository
as a living space

Our social systems, however, exacerbate these uses, creating
environmental degradation.

What are some commonly known environmental problems?
State of the Environment
Around 50 thousand square miles lost each year (about 48 football fields a minute)

Soil Degradation & Erosion:
Half of the planet's topsoil lost in the last 150 years
25% of earth's land surfaced "highly degraded"

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 F in the last century
2016 was the hottest recorded year on earth
Sources: Food and Ag Org, UN 2011; WWF 2015; Scorecard 2011; WHO 2011
but who controls river?
is fishing a sustainable livelihood or done in a sustainable manner?
does fishing pollute the river?
Environmental Racism:
links racism with environmental actions, experiences, and outcomes poor communities of color more likely to environmental hazards and negative environmental policies
Environmental Sacrifice Zones:
“fenceline communities” of low-income and people of color, or “hot spots” of chemical pollution where residents live immediately adjacent to heavily polluted industries or military bases
Environmental Justice Issues
Climate Change
Scientists in the United States and the world have reached an overwhelming consensus that climate change is real and caused primarily by human activity.

Respected scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Meteorological Association (WMO) have all identified climate change as an urgent threat caused by humans that must be addressed.

“The need for urgent action to address climate change
is now indisputable.”
— National Academy of Science
Source: WWF 2017
Full transcript