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CHAPTER SIXTEEN Sociology and the Environment John Hannigan
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-3 INTRODUCTION Will examine: Environmental value conflict The environmental movement (attitudes, concerns, behaviours, social base, mobilization, and ideological divisions) Risk and risk assessment Political economy of the environment Social construction of environmental problems*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-4 SOCIOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT Initially, sociology’s focus was on nurture, not nature Most early sociologists subscribed to human- exceptionalism paradigm: Worldview that focuses on Steadily evolving social progress Increasing prosperity and material comfort Class mobility for all segments of society But ignores environmental costs of economic growth*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-5 SOCIOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 1970s Environment became a sociological issue Impetus from increased societal attention to urban decay, pollution, overpopulation, and resource shortages Environmental sociology has developed from multiple nuclei (interests), but one unifying element: Recognition of a key value conflict between environmentalists and their opponents*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-6 ENVIRONMENTAL VALUE CONFLICT Difference between environmentalists and mainstream population rooted in two main environmental paradigms: 1.Dominant paradigm: Emphasizes moral imperative of material wealth creation and moral conviction that humans have inalienable right to dominate nature 2.Alternative environmental paradigm: Rejects views in dominant paradigm and stresses need to adopt small-scale, decentralized economic and political structures in harmony with nature*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-7 COUNTER-PARADIGMS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-8 BRIDGING THE GAP? Major attempt to bridge differences between the two paradigms is located in idea of sustainable development: Economic development that meets needs of present without compromising ability of future generations to meet their own needs Proponents argue is possible to have continued economic growth without harming the environment But many environmentalists are critical of concept, emphasizing difficulty in maintaining balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-9 ENVIRONMENTAL ATTITUDES, CONCERNS, AND BEHAVIOURS Are three methods for measuring people’s environmental view of the world: 1.Utilize new environmental paradigm (NEP) scale (12 items that measures respondents’ extent of agreement with various statements) 2.Ask respondents how worried or upset they are regarding series of environmental problems 3.Ask respondents to weigh tradeoffs between, for example, environmental protection and jobs*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-10 AVERAGE SCORES ON THE NEW ENVIRONMENTAL PARADIGM SCALE
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-11 ENVIRONMENTAL ATTITUDES, CONCERNS, AND BEHAVIOURS Two complementary hypothesis address question of whether public concern with environmental quality has changed since first survey results carried out in early 1970s: 1.Broadening-base hypothesis: Predicts environmental concern will eventually diffuse throughout all groups 2.Economic-contingency hypothesis: Suggests broadening of social bases of environmental concern depends on prevailing economic conditions*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-12 SUPPORT FOR HYPOTHESES? Little research support for either hypothesis: In North America, concern for environmental issues has remained stable for last two decades Income and occupational prestige only weakly related to environmental concern Best predictors of concern with environmental quality: High levels of education, youth, political liberalism, and urban residence Most people indicate concern for environment but will behave responsibly only if it is not appreciably more expensive or inconvenient to do so*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-13 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: SOCIAL BASE AND COMPOSITION Composition of 19 th century environmental movement:: In the United States Largely the elite In Canada Small group of dedicated civil servants who convinced government to undertake state initiatives*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-14 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: SOCIAL BASE AND COMPOSITION Composition of modern environmental movement that emerged in late 1960s and early 1970s: Well-educated professionals from urban and suburban backgrounds, and college students from white-collar backgrounds More recently, environmentalists identified as members of “new middle class,” including teachers, professors, social workers, etc. Often become involved with issues faced by population they serve*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-15 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: MOBILIZATION Local communities pass through four stages in process of challenging environmental polluters: i.Come to view themselves as “victims” of some corporate environmental crime ii.Make individual appeals to government regulatory agencies to take action or force end to the “crime” iii.Become disillusioned with slow pace or absence of official action; begin to seek environmental justice iv.Become organized and increase democratic pressure on government regulators*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-16 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: MOBILIZATION To convince people to participate, members develop frames (interpretation of events and meanings) with which to interpret environmental events Are three elements of successful framing: i.Diagnostic framing (identifies a problem and assigns blame) ii.Prognostic framing (offers proposed solution to problem) iii.Motivational framing (puts out call to take specific corrective action)*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-17 CONTEMPORARY ENVIRONMENTAL FRAMES Contemporary environmental frames frequently constructed around image of impending global collapse: In early 1970s Threat framed as concern over possibility of exceeding Earth’s carrying capacity (i.e., optimum population size Earth can support under present environmental conditions) In 1980s Threat framed as “biosphere crisis” generated by global climatic changes resulting from increased emissions of “greenhouse gases”*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-18 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: IDEOLOGICAL DIVISIONS Is philosophical split among environmentalists: i.Value-oriented environmentalists: Focus on changing people’s value orientations Stress viewing survival of all living and nonliving things as components of healthy ecosystems ii.Success-oriented environmentalists: Focus on taking actions that prevent environmental harm Primarily concerned with direct effects of industrial pollution and other activities that damage physical environment*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-19 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: ALTERNATIVE ECOPHILOSOPHIES Deep ecology: Environmental ethic emphasizing “biocentric approach” that views all species in nature as having equal value Advocates biocentric egalitarianism: Since all things on earth have equal right to exist, humans have no special rights or privileges that allow them to subdue and destroy their natural surrounding Opposes anthropocentrism that characterizes much of environmental movement, and the present domination of nature by rational science*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-20 ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT: ALTERNATIVE ECOPHILOSOPHIES Ecofeminism: Environmental ethic that views androcentrism (male- centredness) as root of ecological destruction Ecofeminists identify distinct feminine approach to environmental concerns; i.e., one that is nurturing, cooperative, communal, and sensitive to nature*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-21 DEEP ECOLOGY AND ECOFEMINISM: COMPARISON Both express need for developing new human consciousness and vision Differ on view of cause of current environmental crisis: Deep ecologists point to gender-neutral anthropocentrism, while ecofeminists claim androcentrism is the main culprit Other difference: Deep ecologists reject ecofeminists’ claim for women’s unique capacity to construct more enlightened approach to environment*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-22 POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE ENVIRONMENT Political economists argue environmental problems derive less from decisions of individual consumers and more from relentless economic development pursued by industrial capitalists and the state Environmental problems and policies are shaped by the treadmill of production: Characterized by inherent need of our economic system to yield profits by creating consumer demand, regardless of the environmental consequences*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-23 POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE ENVIRONMENT Corporate producers create demand (and thereby material culture) through medium of advertising The state buttresses treadmill of production by providing businesses with economic incentives and access to natural resources Despoiling of environment not limited to capitalist states but extends to any states where unbridled industrialism is accompanied by lack of environmental responsibility Examples: Soviet-style societies and China*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-24 TREADMILL OF PRODUCTION IN ADVANCED INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES Is pervasive conflict between treadmill of production and rising public demands for protecting environment One approach to resolving contradiction between economic growth and environmental protection is environmental management: Moderate government intervention that affords limited protection to environment without seriously curtailing economic development*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-25 ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES Are three sources of environmental degradation: i.Treadmill of production Exerts major influence on developing nations that also wish access to consumer culture ii.“Unsustainable impoverishment” Forces the poor to engage in ecologically-damaging practices simply for survival iii.Environmental violations of high-income countries Exacerbate global warming and increase potential for ecological catastrophes in poor nations*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-26 RISK AND RISK ASSESSMENT Risk: Refers to probability that a particular hazard will actually occur Increasingly, risks are environmentally-related and calculated by medical and scientific experts rather than individuals in course of everyday life Sociologists are particularly interested in: i.Organizational basis of risk ii.Community perception of risk iii.Social distribution of risk*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-27 i. ORGANIZATIONAL BASIS OF RISK Increasingly, source of risk has shifted to large- scale organizations that are largely beyond individual control Are structural arrangements in organizations that make accidents inevitable Technological accidents in nuclear power facilities, petrochemical plants, etc. are “normal” and inevitable consequences of profit-driven, high-risk systems Organizations also are the groups that respond to accidents, thereby amplifying the risk*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-28 ii. COMMUNITY PERCEPTION OF RISK Best predictor of whether people are likely to perceive risk: Degree to which they trust ability of expert institutions, including local industries themselves, to manager danger Environmental risk perception also linked to people’s participation in family life, neighbourhood social networks, and community affairs*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-29 iii. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF RISK Marginal groups in society bear disproportionate burden of environmental risk Example: Racial and ethnic minorities, women, low- income urban dwellers, and residents of isolated rural regions Disadvantaged communities are overrepresented as risk sites because of inability of the economically poor and political powerless to resist corporate polluters The disadvantaged also are primary victims of pollution because they live closest to sources of pollution*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-30 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Suggests environmental problems rarely arise spontaneously but are discovered, presented, promoted, and kept alive by policy entrepreneurs in science, environmental movement organizations, and the media These “environmental claims-makers” invest considerable time and resources in elevating various environmental problems onto national and international agendas for action*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-31 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Are three central tasks in constructing environmental claims: Assembling, presenting, and contesting To secure public attention and support, policy entrepreneurs must surmount series of hurdles related to these three tasks, including: Acquiring a measure of scientific credibility Identifying positive incentives for taking action Recruiting support of institutional sponsors*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-32 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Social constructionists depict environmental problems as passing through series of stages, from initial discovery to waning of public interest Depiction based on earlier political science concept of issue-attention cycle: Five-stage sequence through which “career” of most social problems is deemed to pass*
Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Education Ltd 16-33 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Recent research suggests environmental issues rise and fall in response to several factors: Clarity and viability of scientific evidence Ability of claims-makers to sustain a sense of dramatic crisis Rise of competing new environmental problems Social construction of environmental problems does not occur in isolation, but rather reflects synergy between social definition and power inequality**
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