Controversies in Environmental Sociology

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Each chapter deals with discrete issues in a manner. Environmental sociology is the study of interactions between societies and their natural.. Controversies in Environmental Sociology by Robert W. White, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. A current debate on environmental sociology involves how the institutional developments and social controversies in different and sometimes. The result was the emergence of environmental sociology as a field of inquiry Buttel proved to be a rather controversial feature of environ-.

Written in accessible language, with further reading lists for students at the end of each chapter, Controversies in Environmental Sociology provides a timely. Valerie Gunter and Steve Kroll-Smith. The fourth section widens the review of environmental sociology beyond Europe and the US, considering how some of the emerging national environmental sociologies define the subdiscipline.

The final section focuses on the agenda for a global environmental sociology that is equipped to understand environment—society interactions in global modernity: the un sustainability of global capitalism, sustainable production and consumption, the emerging global network of environmental NGOs, and the shifting role of environmental authorities at different scales. For reasons of space, we necessarily focus on general or mainstream attributes of place-based environmental sociologies rather than on the individual environmental sociologists who deviate from it.

From the s onwards a relatively small group of sociologists — first in the US and later in Europe and beyond — made significant efforts to bring environmental challenges into mainstream sociology, naming this subdiscipline environmental sociology. Since then, environmental sociology has been loosely defined as the sociological analysis and understanding of society—environment interactions.

Environmental Sociology

In the s and s environmental sociology fought an uphill battle with a rather hostile parent discipline that was unwilling to include environmental questions in its research programme see the special issue of Organization and Environment in , on the occasion of 25 years of US environmental sociology. However, over the last two decades environmental challenges have gained a prominent place in sociology.

Global environmental change and globalisation have played major roles in this development. The sociological analysis and understanding of society—environment interactions were strongly influenced by globalisation. Globalisation changed not only the content and understanding of sociological studies of environment and society but also the institutionalisation and centring of environment—society interdependencies in the wider sociological discipline in two ways. Sociological subfields that originally had no relation to environmental challenges became interested in environmental aspects, such as political sociology, urban sociology, organisational sociology, sociology of consumption, sociology of globalisation, sociology of social movements and feminist sociology.

Second, general sociology increasingly moved into areas of global environmental change and had to ponder how and to what extent contemporary environmental challenges have implications for general social theory and sociological thought. Leading social theorists such as Ulrich Beck , , Niklas Luhmann , Anthony Giddens , , George Ritzer , Zygmunt Bauman , , Manuel Castells , Bruno Latour and John Urry , have contributed to how environmental problems, risks and reforms should be included in general sociology and sociological theory, sometimes referring to developments in the environmental sociology subdiscipline e.

Beck, and sometimes not e. Giddens, ; Urry, This centring of environmental challenges in sociology was triggered by the emergence and rise of global environmental change on the global public and political agendas and by the influence of environmental change on most parts of society and, thus, most fields of sociology.

In this respect, globalisation affected environmental sociological themes and theories. However, this centring of the environment in the sociological discipline is also related to the fact that research councils have channelled significant funds to environmental areas, to which sociologists from different fields have responded by developing research on — or reframing existing research to include — environmental issues and discourses.

Irrespective of the reason, the study of the environment has become fully institutionalised and mainstreamed in 21st-century sociology, and globalisation has been part and parcel of this change. As in many other subfields of sociology, environmental sociology involves different approaches, with their traditions, assumptions, methodologies, theories and key references.

Perhaps more so than in other subfields, however, environmental sociology relates to, and crosses borders with a number of other disciplines and research areas that study environmental matters, such as political science, anthropology, psychology, development studies, environmental and human geography, human ecology, media studies, science and technology studies, interdisciplinary environmental studies and sometimes even economics and life sciences.

This intensive cross-disciplinary activity further contributes to the diversity of approaches in environmental sociology. However, the existence of different approaches within environmental sociology is nothing special; this is the case for most sociological subfields. Debates within and between different approaches, traditions, theories and methodologies often stimulate progress in the discipline, set new research agendas and lead to innovations.

We believe that there is one remarkable observation and one question to be asked with respect to these differences in approach, methodology, assumptions and theoretical prevalence and preference in the field of environmental sociology. We observe that these different approaches in environmental sociology seem to come with a rather sharp spatial division, particularly between US environmental sociology and its European counterpart. The question, then, is as follows: What is happening to the spatial specificity of environmental sociology under conditions of globalisation and now that the subdiscipline has developed substantially in other regions, such as Asia and Latin America?

Any new subdiscipline or discipline needs to show that its knowledge claims are credible, both internally for its members and externally for the wider scientific community as well as society at large cf. Jasanoff, This rarely happens smoothly; in most cases, the establishment of new knowledge areas is characterised by struggle.

The presentation of new knowledge claims as credible and trustworthy is commonly accomplished by locating them within the sphere of authoritative knowledge, whereas other knowledge claims are assigned to a sphere of less authoritative knowledge or disregarded as non-knowledge or mere opinion Gieryn, A new subdiscipline or research field needs a frame of reference that guides knowledge development within the field.

It also needs an interpretative community — a group of researchers who share the mission of the new subdiscipline — to provide a fertile ground for collectively elaborating the field. To survive and develop as a subdiscipline, it is also important to develop a storyline and create an institutional space for internal debate. Due to their differing ambitions and contexts, US and European environmental sociologies institutionalised their fields differently, developed along different paths when it comes to legitimising their knowledge claims, and developed their core contents, theories and methodologies distinctively.

In exploring and explaining these differences, we focus on how they use the sociological tradition, conceptualise the environment, organise and institutionalise the field, and are embedded in and relate to the non-academic context. Since its origins, US environmental sociology has explicitly developed in relation to classical sociological thinkers, not least Marx, Weber and Durkheim. This is perhaps best exemplified by one of the first textbooks in environmental sociology, which has extensive sections relating each of these thinkers to environmental issues Humphrey and Buttel, ; see also the fully revised Humphrey et al.

Dunlap and Catton ; Catton and Dunlap, developed their version of environmental sociology in contrast to the legacy of classical sociology in contemporary sociology, particularly the Durkheimian tradition of social facts as the object of sociological study and the Weberian legacy of social definition of the situation as developed by Mead, Cooley and Thomas.

However, except for the massive criticism of Durkheim, US environmental sociology has devoted much space to demonstrating how its conceptualisation of environmental sociology is in line with classical sociological thinking see e. Recently, however, Rosa and Richter have stressed that Durkheim had a more complex understanding of social facts than environmental sociologists often admit, and they celebrate the explanatory role Durkheim accorded to population growth and its pressure on natural resources. While there seems to be a shared belief in the importance of classical thinkers in sociology, far less widespread attention has been devoted to more recent work in US environmental sociology.

In contrast, European environmental sociologists have put less effort into discussing and integrating classical sociology into their work, while strongly positioning their subdiscipline within the context of contemporary sociological thought e. Of course, Europeans do refer to classical sociological thinkers, but few treat them as central for environmental sociology. For an exception, see Gross [] who explores the importance of Durkheim and Simmel. Instead, European environmental sociologists refer to and embed their studies more strongly in contemporary sociological theory, not least the contributions of Beck , Bauman , Giddens , Luhmann , Latour , Sassen , Urry and others who have explicitly written about current environmental challenges.

However, European environmental sociologists also refer to and apply the work of contemporary sociologists who have focused less on environmental issues, such as Castells and Foucault. Thus, the two regions have appropriated sociological traditions differently and legitimised environmental sociology in different ways. In Europe, environmental sociology was never involved in major fundamental debate with general sociological thought, and it never had any ambition to fundamentally redirect general sociology.

As a self-defined subdiscipline, environmental sociology really began to take off in the s see Mol, , and major thinkers in general sociology began to discuss environmental issues soon after e. Beck, ; Giddens, ; Luhmann, It was believed that environmental sociology could learn from contemporary mainstream sociology in its development, and that contemporary mainstream sociology was not hostile to environmental issues at the birth of European environmental sociology.

Hence, there were hardly any meta-theoretical or epistemological discussions in Europe. Even with a variety of approaches in US environmental sociology, the field is mainly framed as a distinct subdiscipline that is centred on key texts, core issues and leading founders. In environmental sociology the pioneers were Riley Dunlap and William Catton. In European environmental sociology it is difficult to find key persons or canonical texts with similar status, or core issues that gather environmental sociologists across Europe.

The same holds for the national environmental sociologies in European countries. Arguably, two of the more coherent storylines within European environmental sociology over the years, the theory of Ecological Modernisation and Risk Society theory, never had the ambition of shaping a subdiscipline or meta-programme for environmental sociology.

US and European environmental sociology share a basic definition of the field: the study of human—environment interactions in modern society. There is a coherent line of analysis, studies and thought in US environmental sociology that is centred on an understanding of the environment as partly constituted by biophysical realities.

The claim they have in common is that environmental sociology needs to become more environmental in the sense of including in its analysis an understanding of social life as dependent on ecosystem processes Carolan, ; Dunlap, Thus, knowledge about the physical state of the environment is deemed essential for environmental sociology. European environmental sociology does not doubt the existence of a biophysical reality, but what this reality is and what it means are always and only actualised through social practices and interpretative processes.

However, we are denying that there is an already formed and causally powerful set of environmental bads which in and of themselves can generate such havoc in the public realm. Irwin, ; Macnaghten and Urry, or, at best, as an intermediary domain between nature and society involving hybrid processes e.

Latour, or socio-material networks and flows e. Spaargaren et al. Beck and Giddens , as representatives of European sociology, claim that nature no longer exists outside society or society outside nature because nature has been fundamentally changed by human intervention, despite the fact that nature, to many, still appears to comprise a set of unbreakable rules that must be discovered, guarded and cultivated Beck, : If anything, this view is more common among US human geographers than US environmental sociologists.

The hybrid character of the environmental issue does not, however, lead European environmental sociologists to conclude that biophysical variables or an ecosystem approach should take centre stage in environmental sociology. Instead, and in stark contrast with US environmental sociology, a major stream within European environmental sociology — drawing heavily on the sociology of science and science and technology studies — stresses the need for sociological analysis of the claims made by natural sciences and scientists e.

Irwin, ; Jasanoff, ; Wynne, , ; Yearley, By being more self-reflexive, science can avoid taking part in risk production activities Beck, : Thus, natural sciences and their representations should not be taken as neutral inputs into environmental sociology; instead, they should be critically and sociologically investigated by placing them in their social context, and possibly opened up for discussion of what we really know about the state of the environment. The result is that natural science arguments are rarely used authoritatively in European environmental sociology.

Disaster research provides a striking illustration of the difference in how nature is conceptualised and how much centrality it is given on either side of the Atlantic. US environmental sociologists have conducted an impressive number of detailed studies of these and other catastrophes, studies which have also influenced the construction of environmental sociology see e. Brunsma et al. Beck has used the Chernobyl accident prominently in theorising about the coming risk society; Wynne draws on the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl to illustrate the contingency of expertise knowledge claims; and Dickens opens his book on society and nature by discussing a major storm.

None of these authors has devoted a detailed, book-length study to these disasters, using them instead as illustrations of a general phenomenon for the sake of developing theory. For example, to understand the environmental disasters that Katrina produced, it is necessary to put New Orleans into its geographical context: the Mississippi Delta and human efforts to adapt to these natural conditions e. Whereas US environmental sociology claims that European environmental sociology brackets nature off, Europeans sometimes claim that US environmental sociology ignores the fact that environmental knowledge is socially constructed.

There is a further difference in how the environment is conceptualised in the two regions. US environmental sociology frequently focuses on environmental degradation, framing environmental protection as a question of survival and showing that modern society is on the wrong track. Despite technological innovations and institutional change, the environmental situation is becoming worse and political struggles and conflicts are increasing.

Key concepts in US environmental sociology, such as the treadmill of production, the second contradiction of capitalism, environmental justice, environmentally unequal exchange and the Jevons paradox 9 address this issue e. Carolan, ; Foster, ; McLaughlin, Although European environmental sociology maintains a clear focus on environmental degradation and even apocalyptic catastrophe; see Urry, , it also concentrates on what it calls environmental reform.

This difference is also reflected in theories of ecological modernisation and of transition, which are less prevalent in the US. The late Fred Buttel noted a decade ago that the sociology of environmental reform is largely absent in the US, and this observation still holds today. US environmental sociology is highly institutionalised.

Buttel b : 44 and Mol note that the stature of environmental sociology is more an issue for US environmental sociologists than for sociologists in other developed countries.


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The division functioned as an institutional base for sociologists conducting environmental research. In , it was renamed the Environment and Technology Section. Since that time, this section has been pivotal for the development of US environmental sociology.

Theoretical stances and environmental debates: Reconciling the physical and the symbolic

Representing a new field of study that attracted many sociologists early in their careers, the section provided an important space and digital platform for developing and exchanging research and for building a shared identity, as well as being a home for environmental sociologists scattered throughout a large country with many universities, each often housing only one or a few environmental sociologists. The section has been successful in terms of membership, socialising new young scientists, creating a self-identity and maintaining and developing environmental sociology as a subdiscipline.

This frame of smallness — being a minority in a hostile outside world scientifically, politically and theoretically — has continued over the years. A common group identity with strong boundaries implies, for instance, that Europeans, with their more eclectic, less politically correct and more socially constructivist identities, did not always feel welcomed.

European environmental sociology is much less institutionalised, more pluralistic, and a much weaker provider of identity. This is partly because Europe is a continent constituted by a large number of nation-states. The European Sociological Association ESA is a rather new organisation founded in consisting of 33 national member organisations.

Several of these national associations have environmental sections, of which the German Sektion Umweltsoziologie is arguably the strongest and best organised. However, the more pluralistic character of European environmental sociology is also due to the less fractionalised character of sociology in Europe. The environmental sections of both national and European sociological associations do not have the mission of building a subdiscipline, forming a group identity or redirecting general sociology.

Controversies in Environmental Sociology by White, Robert-ExLibrary | eBay

Hence, European environmental sociologists have not developed a shared identity or epistemological core. European environmental sociologists engage in easy and frequent boundary crossing with other disciplines — joining networks, publishing in journals, collaborating on projects and applying concepts and approaches. In the national and European environmental sociology networks, we are witnessing a community and identity formed around environmental social sciences rather than environmental sociology.

Since its birth in the early s, American environmental sociology has combined a strong academic profile with political critique, clear political positions and strong political engagement. Part of the motivation for early environmental sociologists to enter this field rather than another sociological subdiscipline involved the degradation of the environment as can be read in the narrative histories of the founding fathers: Buttel, b ; Dunlap, ; Schnaiberg, This situation was similar in Europe.

However, political commitments and preferences have been expressed quite differently on the two continents, especially when it comes to their incorporation into academic work. The gap in the US between environmental sociologists and the environmental state especially at the federal level, but also at the state level seems to have especially widened under the Bush administration. Even if there has been some change under the Obama administration, there is still a gap tied to the highly polarised Republican—Democrat landscape that runs through an increasing number of fields in American society, including sociology.

Although some political commitment and motivation were certainly also evident in European environmental sociology in the s and s, this situation is less naturally prevalent in post Europe. Whereas European environmental sociology has certainly not turned its politically engaged face away from, for instance, environmental NGOs, local communities and the anti- or other-globalisation movements, studies on the environmental reforms of multinationals, regulatory reform in national and supranational environmental bureaucracies and appreciation for and engagement with new private arrangements between multinationals and NGOs although to differing extents in different European countries show the diversification of political engagement, positions and preferences in mainland Europe.

Political engagement in European environmental sociology is no longer automatically critical of the state and economic growth, or supportive of grassroots activism. European environmental sociology seems to have a significantly higher degree of science—user interactions than its US counterpart, with environmental sociologists more often working closely together with various also hegemonic user categories, sometimes in applied ways.

In the US context, one might find this type of user interaction in social science research to be less common within environmental sociology than in other disciplines, such as public and business administration studies and organisation studies. These differences in non-academic contexts are not the monopoly of environmental sociology but are also experienced in other fields of sociology. Sociology should take sides and cannot be an independent interpreter standing on the sideline while major social inequalities exist and environmental disasters unfold.

In Europe, such calls for a public sociology have not emerged as forcefully. Since its beginning, US environmental sociology has been devoted to developing a meta-theoretical foundation centred on the claim that biophysical factors should be given a place in sociological analysis. It has created a coherent storyline where key persons and key texts, historical events not least environmental disasters and social protests and key achievements are interwoven.

Moreover, it has developed in the frame of a hostile environment of the parent discipline, the political mainstream and state and economic power centres. The history of the origin and development of environmental sociology is a story that is repeatedly told and is part of the collective legacy of the field. The result is a shared identity and an epistemological core that provides both opportunities for knowledge development and a need to defend it against competing and conflicting views.

European environmental sociology has not formed a strong, let alone unifying storyline. There is no canonisation of key texts, celebration of founding scholars, or common identity formation. Furthermore, even if important environmental events have occurred in Europe the achievements of social movements, environmental disasters , they have not been researched by environmental sociologists to any greater extent than by other disciplines and have not been used to support the development of a European environmental sociology.

The result is a rather eclectic environmental sociology with stronger boundaries towards the natural sciences but with fewer boundaries towards other social sciences and much closer interaction with a diversity of user categories. These differences are summarised in Table 1. Our point is that different contexts provide different opportunities, limitations and paths for the development of sub disciplines. Hence, the different trajectories of US and European environmental sociology are explained by their different contexts.

These differences are not without consequences, however. Although there have been connections and collaborations between environmental sociologists from the two regions, as well as notable efforts to downplay the differences, build bridges and achieve cross-fertilisation between the two regions see e.

What is ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY? What does ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY mean?

Buttel, ; Cohen, ; Goldman and Schurman, ; Lidskog, ; Mol, ; Mol and Spaargaren, ; Redclift, , strong dynamics are also at work that separate these regional traditions and articulate distinctions. There also seem to be misunderstandings and some risk of mutual disapproval between environmental sociologists on either side of the Atlantic. Recently, for instance, a number of US scholars have claimed that environmental sociology today faces a double challenge: to combat the current environmental threats and to confront those versions of environmental sociology that have incorrectly conceptualised the field e.

Foster, ; McLaughlin, What happens when globalisation processes increasingly permeate spatial contexts and when environmental sociology matures in other spatial contexts? This question is discussed in the next two sections. Environmental sociology has never been limited to the US and Europe; it has also grown and developed in many other parts of the world.

Within the framework of this article, it is impossible to present a similar analysis for these regions as the one we have conducted for the US and Europe. In Japan , environmental sociology originates from and is still related to concern for the victims of environmental pollution — from the Minamata case in the s Funabashi, ; Iijima, , ; Iijima et al.

Japanese environmental sociology understands itself as the sociology of environmental problems with a focus on local communities and on the lives of people affected by environmental problems, in addition to environmental policy and the decision-making process.


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It has a strong tradition of empirical research, mainly taking the form of case studies on such things as the Fukushima disaster Hasegawa, , local environmental movements Broadbent, ; Hasegawa et al. Japanese environmental sociology — not unlike its parent discipline — is less theoretically engaged than European or US environmental sociology for an exception, see the work of Funabashi, It shares with US environmental sociology a focus on and identification with grassroots NGOs and protests, limited interactions between science and mainstream users and an agreed-upon founder Nobuko Iijima.

However, it has weaker disciplinary boundaries and a weaker group identity than US environmental sociology, with frequent disciplinary boundary crossings with the wider social sciences, not unlike Europe. In a similar way to Japan — though later — South Korean environmental sociology began in the s due to concerns about pollution, its victims and local environmental protests. A rich body of literature has emerged with case studies and wider surveys of local pollution and the destruction of nature and the engagement of local and national protest movements Ku, Environmental and pro-democracy movements collaborated closely in Korea in the s, which is reflected in studies in South Korean environmental sociology.

In the s, the subdiscipline broadened to address wider environmental issues. For a long time, the debate was dominated by the question whether, in such a rapidly developing country, it was possible to avoid trade-offs between development and the environment Moon and Lim, This debate fitted into the more general modernisation debates within Korean sociology, which were initially characterised by the perspective of conventional modernisation but became increasingly critical of its socio-political and environmental consequences. Over time, environmental sociology has to some extent become institutionalised in South Korea.

It has been taught at universities since the early s, and a Research Group on Environmental Sociology was established in followed by the founding of the Korean Association for Environmental Sociology in Lee and Park, However, Korean environmental sociologists, not unlike those in many European countries, are not clearly recognisable as a group with a common identity and a strong disciplinary orientation. Compared to Japan, the Korean Association does not function as a platform for bringing environmental sociology scholars together.

However, it does share its prevailing thematic orientations victims, protests, NGOs, local pollution and local politics. General sociology has a relatively short history in China , 11 and environmental sociology developed rather harmoniously within the parent discipline, albeit somewhat late. In the mids, when the environmental situation in the country further deteriorated due to the rapid economic development Maohong, , environmental sociology found its way into the academic curriculum and research, hitherto mainly in textbooks and publications written in Chinese Hong and Xiao, Compared to the other two Asian countries, environmental sociology in China is at an early stage of development, organisationally and substantially.

Empirical Studies in Environmental Sociology

Hence, Chinese environmental sociologists empirically study the social causes of environmental deterioration through local case studies e. Lin et al. Xiao and Hong, ; Xiao et al.

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In all three Asian countries, major international environmental sociology conferences Kyoto ; Seoul ; Beijing have been important for national subdisciplinary development and global visibility and integration. Nevertheless, the majority of publications in these countries are in the national languages, limiting the global appreciation and integration of these national environmental sociologies. Much more than in Asia, and in line with Brazilian general sociology, environmental sociology in Brazil has always relied on, engaged with and aimed to contribute to sociological theory mostly contemporary, but also classical.

A broad range of theoretical-methodological perspectives from contemporary sociologists such as Beck, Giddens, Habermas, Latour and Castells have been applied in environmental sociology, sometimes only after translation of their work into Portuguese. Brazilian environmental sociology, which became well established in the s, uses and contributes to environmental sociology frames such as constructivism, ecological modernisation, risk society, political ecology and neo-Marxism Da Costa Ferreira et al.

Thus, Brazilian environmental sociology goes beyond an exclusive focus on the destruction of the Amazon forest and includes urban environment issues, food risk and broader relationships between development and nature. Although the research emphasis is still strongly on domestic Brazilian developments, it has more of a global focus than Asian environmental sociology, in terms of both including globalisation among the themes that are studied and sourcing environmental sociology approaches, theories and scholars from around the globe.

Environmental sociology is well established in various university postgraduate and research programmes around the country and has strong international connections. Environmental sociology has moved beyond the regions where it emerged, the US and Europe.

The analyses of East Asia and Brazil and we could add many more countries and regions illustrate that environmental sociology has diffused around the world since its birth in the s, although it has not yet matured and been institutionalised equally in all countries.

Dunlap and Michelson, ; Gross and Heinrichs, ; Lockie et al. Bell, ; Gould and Lewis, ; Hannigan, ; King and McCarthy, ; White, ; Yearley, , and a global journal for environmental sociology Environmental Sociology , launched in At the same time, our investigation into the similarities and differences between the versions of environmental sociology in a number of countries and regions shows that their contents, perspectives and organisational forms are influenced heavily by their national and regional contexts and legacies but only marginally by the tendencies and processes of globalisation.

In this sense, one should speak of multiple place-based environmental sociologies, which are connected but only moderately integrated, rather than one global environmental sociology. This is quite remarkable in these times of globalisation. To be sure, there is nothing wrong or undesirable about having multiple themes, multiple theories, different approaches and various organisations in environmental sociology or any other subdiscipline, for that matter. However, in a globalised world one would neither expect nor desire that such multiplicities and differences would be place-based and drawn around political borders of nation-states or regions.

This would constitute a global environmental sociology, one well-suited to study global interconnections, interdependencies and unequal distributions of capital, trade and investments, information and media, [protest] movements, ideas and discourses, pollution and biodiversity as well as how these subjects function or are addressed differently in specific social and environmental places.

Of course, we can already see the beginnings of a global environmental sociology addressing global themes such as climate change, global environmental institutions and global environmental movements. However, global environmental sociology is more than just a sociological study of global environmental problems, global protests or global policy arrangements. Hence, a global environmental sociology must be sensitive to local context, yet at the same time reflect upon, question and criticise approaches, theories and frames that are specific to or prevalent in only one context.

In the end, of course, such a list of rules can only be formulated and completed by a multitude of environmental sociology voices from different clusters be they regional, theoretical or thematic. At this stage, the urgency of creating such rules is as important to us as the rules themselves.

In our view, the rules for a global environmental sociology include the following:. A global environmental sociology analyses local and place-based environmental issues such as local protests, local pollution victims, local governance while maintaining an understanding of their global embeddedness and co-construction.

In doing so, global environmental sociology contributes to a cosmopolitan perspective Beck, in general sociology. Although environmental sociology has specific objects of thought and reflection society—environment interactions , the work of investigating and explaining these is always related to general sociology. Hence, a global environmental sociology builds on, is anchored in and contributes to the wider discipline of sociology. A global environmental sociology acknowledges that studies under conditions of globalisation involve the blurring of disciplinary boundaries, and thus it makes use of, welcomes and profits from the mixing and in-migration of concepts and approaches from other social science disciplines.

Collaboration with natural scientists may contribute to innovative conceptualisation if social dynamics are treated as seriously as environmental dynamics. Disciplinary collaboration and the in-migration of disciplines should not result in the dissolution of the sociological discipline, although it might become increasingly more difficult to distinguish sociology from some of the other social sciences.

A global environmental sociology should and will have expanding global institutions: global research networks, global journals, global conferences, global platforms for debate and exchange, global signs of recognition, global funding schemes and global audiences. These expanding global research institutions should not replace their national counterparts but instead complement them, and have to be recognised by these national counterparts. Environmental sociology has always been motivated by concern for environmental problems and solidarity with victims of pollution and resource extraction, and it aims to mitigate and address these devastations.

Global environmental sociology is not just a critical sociology of environmental problems, nor just a solution-oriented sociology of environmental reform. It is not just ivory-tower environmental sociology, nor just applied environmental engagement. It is not just the politically correct strategic use of scientific authority, nor is it uncommitted scientific eclecticism. A global environmental sociology is a critical-constructive public sociology cf.

Burawoy, that engages academically with different disciplines and with non-academic constituencies without abandoning its reflexive and disciplinary character. Using the example of sociological research on climate change, we wish to illustrate where and how these new rules for global environmental sociology would change current research practices. Climate change has reached top priority on global political and research agendas, and many nation-states, environmental movements, international organisations and scientific communities are calling for immediate and concerted action.

In response, various kinds of natural and environmental scientists have dramatically changed their research agendas, however whether or not our discipline has fallen short on this account remains open to debate. Lever-Tracy a and other sociologists debating climate change in a symposium in Current Sociology 13 claim that, to some extent in line with discussions during the establishment of environmental sociology in the US in the mids, the sociological discipline has largely ignored climate change, despite the fact that the rate of change in natural processes will have revolutionary implications for society and social processes.

For at least two reasons we believe that this symposium does not reflect a global environmental sociology. First, the symposium discussed sociological interpretations of climate change in a very restricted way, perhaps because the contributions only came from the US and Australia.

A second and related reason is that while the claimed absence of sociologists in climate change research might largely be true for the US around , European mainstream sociology had by then fully incorporated climate change into its research agenda. A study of climate change according to the rules for a global environmental sociology would imply a sociological framing of the climate issue following the above rules.

Here is not the place for a full-fledged systematic interpretation of climate change; instead we will indicate some possible implications of a global environmental sociology for future research. Even if the world has always been global, it has never been as globalised as today; almost all places, practices and activities are connected to others.

This means that strict borders and boundaries, such as between states, cultures, markets and communities, are being eroded. Hence, climate change is a challenge that transcends existing boundaries and categories. In addition, we will stress three further implications of this for sociological analyses of climate change. Instead, a global environmental sociology stresses that even if the nation-state is a central actor in climate change negotiations and national rule-making, understanding climate change mitigation requires going outside this nation-state container. New transnational constellations of actors are arising from the challenges that climate change poses.

What we have is a patchwork of partly overlapping assemblies, responding to various kinds of demands at different levels and in different sectors. Obviously, this does not preclude the study of international organisations, nation-states or local communities, but only means that these have to be studied as being co-constructed and socially embedded in wider assemblages.

It is in the ties of global networks and the flows with local actors and places that climate change is to be analysed and understood. A second implication is that the border commonly drawn between society and nature needs to be transcended. Thus, we live in a hybrid system where the climate is co-produced by nature and society.

While it is rather common to separate nature and society, resulting in, for example, claims about limits and planetary boundaries and the need for humanity to operate within them see e. For example, much research on climate change today uses linear thinking based on projected environmental and social damage caused by biophysical changes arising from greenhouse gases. By putting society at the centre instead, it can be shown that it is not increased biophysical change per se that poses a risk to local communities, but the dynamics between a changing climate and place-specific characteristics of particular communities.

This is a problem possessing both social and environmental characteristics, rather than an abstract scientific problem that can be disarticulated from and placed outside of social processes. A third implication is that climate change challenges the borders within sociology between different sociological theories and interpretation schemes as well as between sociology and other disciplines. A global environmental sociology should not take a specific framing of the climate change issue for granted, such as that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Beck et al.

Nor should it give precedence to sociological interpretations over those of other disciplines. Other disciplinary understandings of climate change should be welcomed and allowed to enrich sociological framings, but not uncritically imported as neutral inputs to the sociological analysis.

Thus, by collaborating with different contexts and interpretations regional as well as disciplinary , a global environmental sociology should be better equipped to investigate and understand the different meanings, contestations and challenges that climate change issues imply for different actors — be they negotiators, industrial representatives, stakeholders or citizens — but also for the discipline itself.

In that sense, a global environmental sociology is reflexive but remains environmentally and socially engaged at the same time, so as not to turn into eclecticism or ivory-tower science. Responsibility for the arguments made in the article remains, however, with the authors alone. His main area of interest is environmental policy and politics at the international and national levels, especially the role of expertise and expert bodies in environmental governance. His main areas of interest lie within the fields of globalisation, social theory and the environment, informational governance, ecological modernisation, China, sustainable production and consumption and urban environmental governance.

After completing his PhD in , he continued with research and teaching in the field of globalisation and sustainability of food production and consumption. His interests centre in particular on global public and private governance of food for sustainability, including labelling and certification of food in transnational supply chains, and on the role of consumers in promoting sustainability. Recently he has published articles on sustainable palm oil and transition processes in food. Differences are sometimes expressed in debates, such as between US neo-Marxist environmental sociologists and European ecological modernisation scholars cf.

Foster, ; McLaughlin, ; Mol and Buttel, For some exceptions, see Brewster and Bell , who discuss Goffman; Bell , who includes many of the modern sociologists and their relevance to environmental questions; and Szasz , who draws strongly on contemporary sociological theory.

Catton and Dunlap argued for the need to replace the dominant western worldview the Human Exemptionalism Paradigm, HEP , according to which human beings and society are seen as independent of their ecological surroundings, with the New Ecological Paradigm NEP , which stresses that humans are dependent on ecosystems.

According to them, this means that sociology also needs to take biophysical and environmental issues into account in its analysis. Of course, some individual sociologists celebrate particular founders; see, for instance, Studholme , who claims Patrick Geddens to be the founder of UK environmental sociology. Both models focus on the dynamic couplings between human systems and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

This followed a strong influence of structuralist human ecology, demography and Parsonian functionalism in US environmental sociology, which later was reinforced by functionalist socio-ecological modelling. The Jevons paradox described by the British economist WS Jevons in means that increased efficiency in resource use will not lead to decreased environmental effects but the opposite.

The reason for this is that improved technological efficiency will result in lowering the costs of using a resource and thereby making possible increased consumption of it or other resources. Closely related to this paradox is the current discussion on the rebound effect, which states that increased efficiency implies a decrease in price of a resource which increases demand for the resource.


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