Society and the Environment – Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World
IPresident of the National Association for Graduate Studies and Research in Environment and Society (Anppas) and Director of Center Environmental Studies /. Interactions between human society and the environment are constantly changing. The environment has become one of the most important issues of our time and and managing the relationship between our society and the environment. It was then that people realised global environmental problems had become a threat to human survival and development. At the same time.
A few facts and figures on selected issues will indicate the extent and seriousness of the environmental problem. Air Pollution Air pollution probably kills thousands of Americans every year and 2 million people across the planet. We have already mentioned that air pollution is estimated to kill at least 10, Americans, and possibly as many as 60, every year. The worldwide toll is much greater, and the World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people across the globe die every year from air pollution.
These deaths typically result from the health conditions that air pollution causes, including heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory disease such as asthma. Most air pollution stems from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. This problem occurs not only in the wealthy industrial nations but also in the nations of the developing world; countries such as China and India have some of the worst air pollution.
In European countries, air pollution is estimated to reduce average life expectancy by 8. All these problems have been producing, and will continue to produce, higher mortality rates across the planet. The World Health Organization estimates that climate change annually causes more thanexcess deaths worldwide.
Water Pollution and Inadequate Sanitation Water quality in wealthy and developing nations is also a serious problem. Drinking water is often unsafe because of poor sanitation procedures for human waste and because of industrial discharge into lakes, rivers, and streams. Inadequate sanitation and unsafe drinking water cause parasitic infections and diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, cholera, intestinal worms, typhoid, and hepatitis A.
The World Health Organization estimates that unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation annually cause the following number of deaths worldwide: Hazardous Waste Sites Love Canal, an area in Niagara Falls, New York, was the site of chemical dumping that led to many birth defects and other health problems.
Wikimedia Commons — public domain. Hazardous waste sites are parcels of land and water that have been contaminated by the dumping of dangerous chemicals into the ground by factories and other industrial buildings. The table below shows some authors who contributed to the analysis of the environmental question at the CLAES.
In the Works performed at the CLAES, there is a predominance of the influences of the materialist marxist approach as well as historic approaches. However, 9 works were cited on the theme of environment and society and, of these, three titles that relate more directly with the socio-environment interface were selected.
In the themes dealt with in the selected works below and in their analysis, it can be said that the constructionist approach, coevolution and social structuring exercise a strong influence on these works. The PNUMA is a Latin-American reference center, bringing together important lines of research, making a great contribution and bringing a pioneering spirit to the intellectual and political debate around the environmental question. It can be argued that, in the case of the PNUMA, the diversity of the theoretical-methodological influences in the selected works below calls attention, from the works that already incorporate ecological modernization to those in which the pertinence of interdisciplinarity is emphasized for the analysis of the relation between Environment and Society.
In the table, some authors were selected due to their contributions to the consolidation of the environmental question as an important object of study for the CEPAL. In the case of the CEPAL, we can also observe the diversity of the theoretical-methodological approaches, but here we emphasize the importance of hybrid and interdisciplinary approaches for the study of the socio-ecological problematics.
In the Brazilian case, the diversity of theoretical-methodological influences can be clearly observed, but what is interesting is that since the end of the s, a significant influence of constructionism can be seen and, in the decade ofsome works were already inspired on reflexive modernization in its two branches, both ecological modernization as well as those inspired by the risk society concept.
Here you can see the hybrid and interdisciplinary approaches for the study of the socio-ecological problematics. These concepts can help clarify some fundamental questions relative to the loss of our old ideals and, consequently, to better comprehend the elaboration of the mourning of those who leashed themselves to utopic projects and became their orphans.
In this perspective, one of the most intriguing phenomena of this new century is that we are living the apparent disappearance of the so-called "critical thought" from the sociological scenario.
It can be argued that, with extremely rare exceptions, the critical "Latin-American" social thought had enormous difficulty in introducing new themes in their analyses, due to various questions already introduced in the preceding items.
However, the environmental question among other themes relevant to contemporary sociology had, by its specific interdisciplinary, recent in the social thought; and complex the merit of placing before the social scientists in general conceptual and paradigmatic "problems" that were, to say the least, instigating.
As can be observed in the data previously presented, this also occurred on the level of the Latin-American continent, as in the case of the environmental sociology and even the contemporary social theory.
In addition to the variety of themes treated, as can be observed in the tables previously presented, there are various theoretical-methodological approaches in the diverse works cited that must be mentioned.
Since the beginning of the decade ofin all of the analyzed centers, we can observe studies firmly established in constructionist perspectives, by both the perspective of ecological modernization, in its two branches and ecological modernization and the risk society.
It should be emphasized that the works mentioned previously also present materialist marxist approaches and are, many times, still inspired by the approaches of political ecology. It should be stressed that, in various centers, one can observe works that discuss interdisciplinarity and utilize these approaches in their empiric perspectives.
Environment & Society - The Environmental Literacy Council
It is fitting at this moment, still quite preliminary of the data obtained by the recent work, to simply suggest some questions that should be discuss in the next steps of the research: Not only in terms of very diverse empirical contexts but, mainly, in its position as the "field for scientific disputes".
There are still various questions that the present work will have to face but just the data presented previously show that the investigation will be worthwhile. It is worth noting, however, that even at the beginning of the first decade of the new century, a significant change can be observed in the interests of this Latin-American nucleus, more strongly aggregated around the field of reflections on the interface between society and environment.
In the Brazilian case, a good indicator of this divergence of emphasis can be found in the aggregation of intellectual demands imposed on the National Association for Post-Graduation and Research in Environment and Society. The program of its first three meetings delineated the following themes for debates in the ambit of work groups and round tables: On the other hand, one can observe that the intellectual production in Brazil was also strongly influenced by the contemporary social theory particularly by Beck, Giddens and Habermas and more recently by environmental sociology in the constructionist perspective as well as the reflexive modernity in its different branchesas one can also observe in the articles published in the collectanea cited above.
In addition, the data obtained in the other Latin-American centers show us the theoretical-methodological diversity utilized by the authors, aside from an organic bond with the socio-environmental interface that characterizes this production. Towards a New Modernity. Rio de Janeiro, New directions in environmental sociology. The tensions between liberalism and environmental policymaking in the United States. New York State University. Economia, Sociedade e Cultura.
Editora da Universidade Estadual Paulista. Qualidade de vida urbana. Politics and Environment in Brazil. O desafio da sustentabilidade. The Theory of Communicative Action.
Environmental Sociology - a social constructionist perspective. London and New York, Qualidade de Vida e Riscos Ambientais.
Work presented at the SBS, The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. This is a huge misconception and mistake to pursue. We are not separate from our environment, it is our home; we are part of it and it is part of us.
We are also dependent upon it, and that too seems to be lost in technology. The world of modernity and Western methods is not sustainable, and the developmental and technological based solutions to our environmental and social problems are not working. We need to recognize and hold ourselves accountable for making poor decisions in our environmental history and re-evaluate and redeisgn our philosophy. Sustainable development needs to begin with the industrialized countries Daly, This is where a change in how natural resources, energy, food supply, etc are used.What is ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY? What does ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY mean?
Instead of focusing so much attention on development and getting the developing world up to Western standards, we need to address what Western standard are and why. Social-environmental problems can be traced back to the developed and industrialized world and the world-view that has been created over time.
It will not be easy as the ideas are deeply engrained in Western mentality, culture, and history. Nonetheless, the solutions are not in the form of technology but in the form of changing how we exist. The dualism of society creates a significant challenge to commonality. Technology and science are placed above all else, including society Shiva, Coming out of the disconnected, fragmented nature of post-modernism, we need to find connection, commonality.
There is perhaps little left in our world that might be considered the commons, but it is some of the most precious and pure aspects of the human experience. It is hard to have a clear view for the future of the commons regimes when the definition of the commons is ambiguous.
My perception of the commons is that which inherently belongs to or is accessible to all people. Things that everyone has fair rights to. The commons are things like the atmosphere and ocean, the beauty of the aurora borealis, the biodiversity of coral reefs, and the mystery and awe of space.
I think the commons could arguably include food and human survival — basic, intrinsic, and necessary for life. Also included should be values and morals, and perhaps even artistic expression.
These are elements of life that are not manufactured, sold, franchised, or controlled by society or technology. These are things that should not be technicized or broken down into fragments. They are not puzzles or problems to be solved; they are commonalities among all of us, everywhere. Further clouding the view of the commons regimes future is its intimate relationship with science and technology.
If there is a grim future ahead, it will be a result of imbalance between technical knowledge, its application, and maintaining basic values Flyvbjerg, The commons, like the natural world, do not need to be managed.
They should not be altered or reconstructed. Society does not understand nature intricately enough that we might improve it by our own means Byrne, et al, That said, we are approaching a dangerous place where the fundamental respect that should be given to the ecological commons is breaking down.
The science and technology focused and dependent West is working on ways to control the commons, even commodify aspects of it Byrne, Human arrogance rears its ugly head again, in the worst way yet. Science is dangerously placed as more important and superior to all things, including nature and society.
Even something as pure and biological as human reproduction is being evaluated scientifically for more efficient strategies Shiva, We are losing what should be unbreakable value and respect for basic human reproduction in the name of efficiency. We risk altering our self-definition by establishing false superiority of human creative design over all things. If we commodify the commons or attempt to redesign it in a way that is superior to nature Byrne, et al, We have already destroyed natural beauty on Earth through greed and an endless need to produce and consume.
We can already see evidence of tampering with nature and the commons — in this case the atmosphere - in the form of climate change Byrne, et al, I would not put it past humans to keep going down this path until we kill ourselves.
Even if not literal self destruction, devaluing the commons and redesigning our reality in our own terms could leave us in world without meaning, without soul, without wonder and astonishment. It is a mistake to attempt to turn all that is natural and deeply inspiring into a constructed reality of human design Shiva, If we lose basic appreciation for nature and biology, for each other, for beauty that simply is, what do we have left?
Where do we go to find center and get back to our roots? Where would we find tranquility? This cannot be manufactured. There is a reason why so much of the population lives within close proximity to a coastline, for instance. Many of us feel an inexplicable sense of calm and peace when standing near vast bodies of water. We are connected in ways that cannot and should not be broken down into puzzle pieces and re-arranged. There is a harmonious and vital connection between the human spirit and the natural world, between humans and animals, something inexplicable in the awe of majestic mountains, the tranquility of a calm coastline, and the sense of wonder about outer space.
Losing this would be a true tragedy of the commons. Technology itself is a dichotomy, a duality - on one hand, it has enabled great advances like medicine, communication, and space travel, to name a few. It has allowed information transfer, global communication and connections previously unimaginable.
It has also become a force of its own and is perceived as the answer to all problems, even those created by technology in the first place Byrne, Technology connects and separates us at the same time. We are more connected than ever, yet increasingly disconnected from nature and the commons.
Society today has the dangerous ability to disconnect, alienate, to be separate, from itself, from nature, from commonality.
The separation enables the vision of being able to create something better by undoing the commons and putting it back together again in our vision Byrne, et al, We have already undone the commons of food, agriculture, seeds and natural reproduction through the Green Revolution and forms of bioengineering.
Where does it end? We have begun mechanizing childbirth — is there anything more sacred and pure, and common to all human beings? Humans are edging close to engineering themselves Shiva, Human arrogance has really hit a new pinnacle if we think we can reproduce ourselves better or more efficiently than nature designed. All of that said, the future of the commons regimes is not definite or absolute. Humans are not determined for self destruction, but it is a real possibility if we do not slow down and re-evaluate what is important and why.
There is nothing wrong with technology and science, only in what we do with it. We need to balance technical knowledge with understanding of values; right and wrong Flyvbjerg, Humans do not need to manage all aspects of life and earth. There are aspects of existence that make life the amazing, awe-inspiring, wondrous thing that it is.
I believe that somewhere, deep down, every one of us can still tap into that natural connection to our commons. For some it might be harder to find than for others, but we all have it because its human nature. Perhaps better stated as human commons, in this context.
There is still hope for the future of the commons, we have not yet completely destroyed or reconstructed all of our commonalities.
It is a real danger, though, and we must look within and around ourselves before we go over the edge. It is also in a state of serious disrepair. Over the course of evolution and history, humans — along with all other life in the biosphere — grew and evolved with the natural world.
20.3 Society and the Environment
They were not separate entities but existed as one, as life on earth. Things are different now; the rise of scientific knowledge coupled with a capitalism, characterized by growing obsession with production, consumption, and money marked a point of identifiable change in societal priorities and thus relationship with the environment.
Human progress became synonymous with the mastery of nature Byrne,