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Sociological Understanding of the Environment

Sociological Understanding of the Environment

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson examine the the environmental consequences from a sociological perspective.

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Sociological Understandings of the Environment

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. I hope you're doing well. In this lesson, I will focus on the relationship between society and the environment-- particularly on the relationship between capitalism and capitalist society and the environment.

The environment is intimately connected to society and to capitalist society. And in the 21st century, critique of the capitalist system is often articulated in environmental terms. We've had a growing awareness that the system as it is has effects on the environment and can have negative effects on the environment. So the environment has been brought into economic circles, as a way to connect capitalism with the natural world. And you can critique, then, the system by pointing to environmental, negative effects of the system on the environment.

So for starters, the first wave of awareness of just how connected the economic system is with the environment came with a growing awareness of global warming. Global warming is the continued rise in global average surface temperatures. Many attribute it to human activity-- to putting pollutants into the environment-- into the atmosphere-- through industrial production.

So the Industrial Revolution, the argument goes, is intimately linked with rising global temperatures, because never before in the history of the world had we seen that much carbon put into the environment, because factories were giving it off. So there's all this push for clean energy, as well, to try to combat global warming. So you can critique, then, the existing system by pointing out global warming.

Another way that environmentalists then critique the existing system is environmental racism.

Environmental racism is an interesting topic, because it blends together many different trends in society. So environmental racism is an institutionalized form of racism that results in minority groups disproportionately and unfairly suffering from environmental problems and being in danger of environmental problems.

So where do we put the bad things of society? Where do we put the garbage dumps? Where do we put the coal plants? Where do we put the paper mills? Things like this.

Well, researchers found that these things get located in areas where minority groups live, or low-income people live. They lack the resources to fight putting these plants in their backyard. Richer people can say, well, "not in my backyard;" we don't want these things. So we see, then, a disproportionate share of environmental risks and dangers being borne by minority groups. And we call this environmental racism.

Thirdly, diminished biodiversity.

Biodiversity is just the diversity of biological life within the environment. We're causing diminished biodiversity to happen. We're cutting down the rainforests at an unprecedented rate, and this is causing biodiversity to diminish and is causing some problems. It could cause major problems down the road. So there's a movement, then, to protect biodiversity.

Well finally, then, you know, if we take all these as critiques of the system, well, what might happen as a reaction? We're developing an ecological, sustainable culture, as a reaction, in some areas of the world. An ecological, sustainable culture is a culture that allows for a healthy, long-term, and continued human interaction with the environment.

So in American society, the food movement is an example of an ecological, sustainable culture. The food movement-- people want to eat locally; people wanting to know where their produce comes from. They want to meet the farmer where they get their crops. They don't want their crops to have to be trucked from all over the world to get to their plate-- produce all that bad stuff, all that environmental harm, just getting their food there.

So people are discovering the joys of seasonal eating, of eating locally, of eating organic. It is a wealthy phenomenon, though, because it's expensive. But nonetheless, it's an ecological, sustainable culture in reaction to environmental problems associated with the existing system.

So this has been an introduction to some environmental problems and sociological responses and perspectives on the environment. Have a great rest of your day.

  • Global Warming

    The rise in average temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere since the late 19th century.

  • Environmental Racism

    An institutionalized form of racism that results in minority groups suffering disproportionately from environmental dangers.

  • Ecological Sustainable Culture

    A culture that allows for a healthy, long-term, and continued human interaction with the environment.

  • Biodiversity

    The diversity of biological life within an environment.