Toward Environmental sociology
sociology's interest in environment only developed recently – 3
decades ago. Reason for the earlier neglect has several reasons:
(1) earlier 20
century sociologists had a different meaning of
environment. Emile Durkheim did not give much importance to
the biological and physical factors influencing human affairs,
while Durkheim increased the importance of social facts
[norms, groups, institutions]
(2) sociologists' own view of technology, natural resources, and
are the ideas of evolving
social progress, increasing prosperity/success & material
comfort, and class mobility for all segments of society.
Early 1970s – increased societal attention was given to urban
decay, pollution, overpopulation, resource shortages.
Dunlap and Catton distinguished between a “sociology of
environmental issues” and “environmental sociology”.
Sociology of environmental issues
– concerned with
environmentally related phenomena [resource management]
– the physical environment as a
factor that may influence / be influenced by social behaviour
These 2 points suggest that environment can function as a
dependent or independent variable – a background, cause, or
Today, environmental sociology is studied – this has (+) and (-)
effects: (+) - has propelled sociological inquiry into new areas
such as public opposition against toxic wastes. (-) - has made it
difficult to develop one work with strong foundations. The
study has multiple cores, each having a different position.
Environmental value conflict
value governed by the North American life [activism,
achievement, progress, materialism] – environment is
something to be actively used and exploited.
Environmentalists value – less manipulative approach to nature
Stephen Cotgrave – indicated differences between the
population and environmentalists: he made 2 conflicting
paradigms [our view of world] –
alternative environmental paradigm
– This view is accepted by all major
institutions – it has 2 core values: (1) the moral of material-
wealth creation – foreign investment,expanding economy, job
(2) moral conviction that humans have the right to dominate
nature – progress is made by increasing civilization of jungles,
desserts - “tamed” nature is brought to “virgin” lands.
Alternative environmental paradigm
– environmentalists give
priority to non-material values, such as social relationships and
human skills. They have little confidence in
science. They claim that resources are limited and must be
conserved. “Small is beautiful”, in this view, society should
adopt small-scale, decentralized economic and political
structured that are in harmony with nature.
[Table 16.1 pg 419]
– attempt to bridge the differences