Environmental Sociology

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Environmental Sociology
A Resource Page
John Sydenstricker-Neto
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What is Environmental Sociology?
Working Groups in Professional Associations
Teaching Environmental Sociology
Some Relevant Themes
Future Perspectives
Sociology Journals
Links of Interest
Cited References
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What is Environmental Sociology?
Environmental sociology is the study of the reciprocal interactions between the physical environment, social organization, and social behavior. Within this approach, environment encompasses all physical and material bases of life in a scale ranging from the most micro level to the biosphere. An important development of this subdiscipline was the shift from a "sociology of environment" to an "environmental sociology." While the former refers to the study of environmental issues through the lens of traditional sociology, the latter encompasses the societal-environmental relations (Dunlap and Catton, 1979; Dunlap and Catton, 1994). A diversity of paradigms, themes, and levels of analysis have characterized environmental sociology. However, despite this diversity, a minimal identity of the subdiscipline has been established through significant empirical research and a theoretical contribution "self-consciously fashioned as a critique to 'mainstream' sociology" (Buttel, 1987:468). Two key contributions to this critique are the joint work of Riley Dunlap and William Catton Jr. and that of Allan Schnaiberg. While the former work of Dunlap and Catton, has been more influential within the subdiscipline, Schnaiberg's work has shaped the discipline as a whole (Buttel, 1987). Early work of Catton and Dunlap (1978; 1980) emphasized the narrow anthropocentrism of classical sociology. The HEP-NEP distinction--"human exemptionalism 'paradigm' and new ecological 'paradigm'"--contrast traditional sociological thought and emerging environmental sociology. Schnaiberg's contribution came with the development of the notions of "societal-environmental dialectic" and the "treadmill of production" (1975; 1980). Contrary to Dunlap and Catton, his work is rooted in Marxist political economy and neo-Marxist and neo-Weberian political sociology. ________________________________________

Working Groups in Professional Associations
Environmental sociology has existed for approximately twenty-five years as a subdiscipline in the United States. The initial efforts that led to the transition from a sociology of environment to an environmental sociology, however, go back to the mid 1960s. Three working groups within scientific associations synthesize this process (Dunlap and Catton, 1979; Freudenburg and Gramling, 1989). In 1964, within the Rural Sociological Society (RSS), sociologists formed the "Sociological Aspects of Forestry Research Committee." The next year, this committee was renamed "Research Committee of Natural Resource Development" and later evolved to become the current "Natural Resources Research Group," one of the largest and more active research groups of RSS having common interests with other research groups such as "Sociology of Agriculture." In 1972, the "Environmental Problems Division" was added to the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). It formally organized in 1973 based on a broad range of interests with particular attention to environmentalism and environment as a social problem. Later, this SSSP division was named "Environment and Technology." Following this trend, in 1973, a committee "to develop guidelines for sociological contributions to environmental impact statements" was created within the American Sociological Association (ASA). The next year, this committee became the "Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Sociology," and two years later a "Section on Environmental Sociology" was officially recognized. Today's "ASA Section on Environment and Technology"...
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