environmental sociology.doc

Dunlap and catton s 1979a effort to define and codify

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blindness to environmental matters. Dunlap and Catton s (1979a) effort to define and codify the field of environmental sociology was accompanied by an explication and critique of the human exemptionalism paradigm (HEP) on which contemporary sociology was premised. While not denying that human beings are obviously an exceptional species, these analysts argued that humans special skills and capabilities nonetheless fail to exempt the human species from the constraints of the biophysical environment. As seen earlier, Catton and Dunlap (1978, 1980) suggested that the HEP should be replaced by a more ecologically sound perspective, a new ecological paradigm (NEP), that acknowledges the ecosystem dependence of human societies. The call for mainstream sociology s dominant paradigm to be replaced with a more ecologically sound one proved to be a rather controversial feature of environmental sociology. While the exemptionalist underpinning of mainstream sociology has been increasingly recognized (Dunlap 2002b), the call for adoption of an ecological paradigm has been criticized for allegedly deflecting efforts to apply classical and mainstream theoretical perspectives in environmental sociology (Buttel 1987, 1997). Nonetheless, environmental sociologists are producing rapidly expanding bodies of both empirical literature on the relationships between societal and environmental variables that clearly violates Durkheim s Page | 14
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antireductionism taboo and theoretical literature representing efforts to develop more ecologically sound theories that are not premised on the assumption of human exemptionalism. Both of these trends reflect the declining credibility of exemptionalist thinking within sociology (Dunlap 2002b). 6. ANALYSIS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS E nvironmental problems have a range of social impacts: they may impairr human health, cause economic and other welfare losses or damage the ecosystems on which both the urban and rural areas depend. It is well known thatt environmental problems vary from region to region and are influencedd by such variables as a city's size and rate of growth, income, local geography, climate and institutional policies and capabilities. Environmental problems can be divided into two sets of issues or 'agendas'. The first set of issues, thee so-called 'green agenda' deals with problems such as resource depletion, climate change,, ozone depletion, increase of urban production, consumption, waste generation and their interference with ecosystems. These environmental problems have impactss that are more global and delayed, and often threaten long-term ecological sustainability (McGranahan et al., 2001b). 'Green agenda' problems are the primee environmental worries in the developed countries. The 'brown agenda' focuses on environmental hazards at the household, neighbourhoodd and workplace level, which are the effect of pollution. It deals directly with the health risks and threats that emerge from the local environment. Common problems are poor housing, low availability and quality of drinking water, insufficient waste water disposal, bad drainage, waste accumulation and uncontrolledd waste disposal, and urban air pollution. Especially in
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