Sociology on the environment focuses on dual aspects of people in the society relating the natural world and environment as a social problem, social meaning of kangaroo is the best example. The book published in 1962 explains the effects of toxic pesticides on the bird and the other animals. The main two approaches, namely the realist approach and the constructionist approach can explain what sociology does to the environment.
SOLVING ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS SOCIOLOGICALLY
Permaculture is the term which refers to sustainable agriculture and settlement like backyard food gardening which is held by the ethics of care the earth, care of the people and sharing the surplus. People find less or no interest in engaging themselves in the unpaid work. This is termed as ‘blind bit of difference’ in stopping the environment crisis by Bill Mallinson and David Holmgren.
The realist approach deals with the real problems prevailing in the environment which elaborates the social cause of the environmental issues. According to this approach, sociology has to deal with the social roots of the environmental problems along with social changes. On the other hand, the constructionist approach the sociology without the presence or reality of environmental problems. It is rather socially constructed and do not exists independently of the meaning people create about them. The approach maintains that there is no singular “nature” rather it is diverse and contains the socio-cultural processes.
Global warming is real as propagated by the realist approach. This can be traced in websites like CSIRO (2001) or the Bureau of Meteorology (2005). The climate change is the result of the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which has been over last 650,000 years not going over 300 parts per million and is still rising (Smith 2005). There is an increase in temperature of about 0.6 degrees in the last 100 years and again an increase of 2-5 degree is expected in the next 10 decades. This type of change is regarded as problematic in regard to human well-being and the other species. It is unethical that the next generation of the species is not reproduced and killed at the present stage itself. Global warming may result into melting of ice and increasing the sea water level by 1-2 meters, extinction of the flora and fauna, deserting the agricultural land, extreme weather conditions and reduction in the water supply. The increase in the carbon dioxide disables the marine species to form an exoskeleton. The marine food chain will also be in threat. It will also be problematic for humans in economic interest. The problem can be solved by reducing the usage of fossils fuels, which also reduces greenhouse gases, deforestation, 3R’s- Recycle, Reduce and Reuse are the most effective ways.
The realist approach also has two divisions, reformist and radicals. Reformist looks at the problem as old-fashioned or obsolete technologies. Hence it aims to make small reforms to the economic and political structures of current society to deal with environmental issues. The tax reforms carbon tax on the usage of fossils fuels, incentives and subsidies for new technologies such as solar hot water services or wind power, also international agreements like the Krypto Protocols are the focus of reformist approach. The radical restructuring perspective or the neo- Marxian or political economy is of opinion that in a capitalist economy people have to work for a wage and do not have much control over what they do. The competition among the firms to maximize the profit increases the productivity with a lower cost of production which is a repetitive cycle. In this cycle the scarce things go mostly to the rich people and also the investment to the higher return avenues. Trainer points out that 3 percent growth annually would result into 8 times of today’s production will cause inevitable environmental issues. A voter and employees are one and the same who is influenced by the campaign and incentives. Hence government control should not be equal rather equity. Finding a solution to global warming by reforming the capitalist economy will result in economic paucity, as coal-fired plants are much affordable than solar or wind power. Radical restructuring can also be the alternative to the sustainable society.
The constructionist approach is in the position that the environmental problems are the socially constructed. These problems are related to the emotional energy and anger. There was a detachment of people from their traditional nature in the Industrial Revolution. But no one did nothing as the society considered that its good but in fact, it was not. Franklin points out that people relate the unspoiled wilderness to hybrid nature partly created through human intervention, e.g. backyard garden.
The environmental sociologist is the one who has specialized in environmental issues. Manuel Castells and Ulrich Beck are they have tried to relate the whole body of their work to their analysis of environmental issues. According to Castell’s environment is one of the types of social identity which is dominant to the tendencies of current society referred to as a network society. It is similar to the radical restructuring of the economy which requires a transformation of modes of production and consumption and social organization along with personal lives. It is multifaced both locally and globally. Castells differentiates between space of flows from space of places. In network society space of flows links the actions at a distance through instant communication locally. In space of place, this is avoided and enables the movement of environmental problems globally. Clock time that pertains to Industrialization binds lives in minutes which is disrupted by timeless time globally. At the same time the time in relation to nature and the humans, the evolution is traced by glacier time.
( There were two key sociological theorists:- Manuel castells treats environmentalism as a kind of social identity and he relates to the change in environment with the current trends in the society and calls it as network society. He was a realist and divided time into 3 phases-clocks times, timeless time and glacial time)
Ulrich Beck propagates transformation of industrial society into risk society through modernization. The argument of Beck on a mechanism to increase wealth acts as the social production of risks. The release of industrial chemicals, long-term risk of the nuclear industry, the risk of genetic heritage in gene technology and destruction of soil through industrial agriculture are some of the examples.
The article Apocalypse Probably received responses from the people about the 8 different types of the apocalypse. 83 percent of respondents agreed on solving the environmental problems in urgency, 84 percent on air pollution and 90 percent about native forests. Finally, with different emerging fields in sociology, the solution to environmental problems can be more dynamic.
As the environment is concerned we should take precautions as our natural health is in our hands. Various authors have different opinions about our society and the environment.The task of sociologists is to understand why society is related to the environment and how it functions and what are factors which are causing misbalance. While major theorist has tended to avoid in the environmental issues, Castell and beck relate environmental issues and the environmental movement to the global society of now. Both treated that environmental problems were real. A lot has to be worked upon in this field by the sociologists as it is of prime concern as it relates to the society and the environment in which we are residing.
Leahy, T.(2007). Sociology and The Environment. Public Sociology: An Introduction to Australian Society. Eds. Germov, John and Marilyn, Poole. NSW Allen & Unwin, Ch 21 (pp. 431-442)