Introduction to Sociology
Essay Qs. For understandable reasons, the founders of sociology paid little attention to ‘’ environmental issues’’. However modern-day sociologists do. Discuss the sociology of the environment in terms of globalisation, consumption and sustainability. Introduction
Over the course of this essay I will address the area of environmental sociology in two parts. Firstly, I hope to explain why the field of environmental sociology was not an area of relevance to the founders of sociological thought. Then in the second part of the essay I will go on to discuss the birth of the field of environmental sociology. Within this new subfield sociologists have written at great length about the many environmental issues facing the world today. Many of these issues are overlapping and interconnected. I will address three of these challenges I believe to be most acute; (1) Globalisation, (2) Human consumption, and (3) Sustainability. Sociology in context
The founders of Sociology (Marx, Durkheim and Weber) paid little attention to environmental issues because they were not seen as relevant or particularly problematic to society at the time, and therefore were not considered as topics of significance to classical social scientists. Instead they focused on matters such as poverty, stratification, social inequality, class systems, industrial development, religion and government. The detrimental impact of human beings on our natural surroundings were not yet acknowledged and the “natural landscape was taken for granted, simply as the backdrop to the much more pressing and urgent social problems generated by industrial capitalism” (Glidden’s, 2007). The Emergence of Environmental Sociology
It wasn’t until the late 1960s that environmental issues were first recognised as relevant challenges in the field of sociology. In the United States the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act highlighted the strain that the environment was under as a result of human consumption, and the increased demands of agriculture and industry. This was one of the first written laws designed to lay down a broad national framework for protecting the environment (NEPA, 1969). The emergence of this subfield was a direct consequence of the growing interest in environmentalism in the 1970’s. I will now address the environmental challenges posed by (1) globalisation, (2) human consumption, and (3) sustainability from a sociological perspective. Globalisation
One of the contributing factors that has magnified environmental awareness in the latter half of the twentieth century are the impacts of globalisation. Globalisation is a process where the amount of economic, social and cultural activity carried out across national borders is increased. The process of globalisation has significant economic, social and environmental implications, both positive and negative. It ‘’enables free flow of goods, capital and technology and thus it becomes a motivational force for nations to develop themselves and (can) create a more gainful environment in the world scenario’’( Alamar. K, 2010). While this growing flow of capital, technology and trade has arguably helped the developed nations of the world to expand further, this has often come at the expense and exploitation of natural resources in developing countries. For example ‘’the demand for hardwood and woodchips in developed countries, such as Japan and the Netherlands, accelerates deforestation, soil impoverishment and a loss of local biodiversity in less-developed parts of the world, such as Brazil and Indonesia’’ (Dreher. A, Gaston .N. 2008). The world has been recast as one big universal market place and whilst the benefits of this are many, it is also having a negative effect on our environment. Some of the other negative effects of globalisation on the environment manifest themselves in the increase in air traffic, cars, sea transport, waste...
* Giddens, Anthony, Sociology 4th edition, Polity Press, 2001, Ch
* Hardisty, Paul E, Environmental and Economic Sustainability, CRC Press, 2010, Ch. 2.
* Alamar. K and Murali. N, Environmental Management, Sustainable Development and Human Health, Taylor and Francis Group, London, 2008.
* Dreher. A, Gaston. N, Martens. P, Measuring Globalisation; Gauging its’ Consequences, Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, 2008.
* National Environmental Policy Act, 1969
http://www.epa.gov/region1/nepa/ (accessed 7/10/12)
* Environmental Protection Agency, Irelands Environmental Challenges and Priorities Report, 2012 http://www.epa.ie/ (accessed 4/10/12)
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