Global Ecology and Environmental Concerns: An Environmental Sociology Perspective
This paper explores the various environmental issues concerning global ecology using Sociology as a framework of analysis. As such, this paper looked into both transnational and local environment issues and how these created a stir in global governance particularly on issues concerning the South-North Divide.
Looking at the issue of environment with a sociological lens is befitting since there are corroborating evidences supporting the claim that human societies and their activities have dangerous impacts upon the global ecology (Dunlap and Catton, 1979). Such activities resulted to various forms of environmental destruction such as the loss of biodiversity, forest denudation, air and water pollution, and many others.
Vitousek’s article (1992) entitled Global Environmental Change: An Introduction perfectly described the pressing environmental issues on a global scale. This study for example pointed out that with the global warming phenomenon, world’s climate is changing. He also asserted that human activities had adversely affected the extinction of species. With all these environmental problems, our consolation is that quite a number of organizations are now emerging to help save the environment. In fact, with the mobilization of people, a new discipline emerged.
Environmental Sociology was established after recognizing the role of human beings in the destruction and restoration of the environment. The emergence of thousands of environmental organizations from local to national necessitates sociology to offer explanations and theories vis-à-vis the mobilization of groups, organizations, and communities in their efforts to save the environment (Dunlap and Catton, 1979).
The popularity of environmentalism came into the fore in the late 1960s when Rachel Carson shocked the world with her published book entitled Silent Spring. Her worked paved the way to the emergence of environmental groups and organizations trying to stop the use of hazardous chemicals specifically the DDT, a chemical which brought perils to the environment in many areas of the United States (Sachs, 1993).
While it used to be a domestic issue in the past, environmental problems whether local or transnational are nowadays attracting international attention such as in the case of the oil spill incident in Guimaras Island, Philippines in which several nations assisted in the effort of saving the seas from the ill effects of the spill (The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2007). There are environmental problems that really affect not just a single nation but a couple others such as the issue of acid rain between China and Korea. In addition, after the ban of DDT, the U.S. imported the chemicals to poorer nations so much so that their environments were also affected (Carlson, 1962).
In the process, environmental problems especially those that appear to be domestic will really affect the global ecosystem so that environmental problems are really a global concern such as emission of carbon dioxide which has a disastrous effect on global warming. As a consequence, the Kyoto Protocol came into being in an effort to abate carbon dioxide emission.
Environmental governance particularly on a global scale has been challenged due to its political color. Many nations, particularly those that are developed, are using its power to advance their self-interests rather than the interest of the majority, if not all countries. Under the guise of development, wealthier nations are offering assistance to poorer countries for environmental management purposes with a latent purpose of extracting resources in the future from these countries.
The hegemonic power of the wealthy nations in effect put the less developing nations at risk particularly on matters relating to environment. For instance, the article published by the Ecologist (1997) noted how the green revolution has negatively affected the agriculture of India. In fact, with this technology, the use of chemicals and the mono cropping of agricultural produce have been strongly encouraged. With the green revolution, chemicals caused land degradation and pollution, hence, affecting the health of stakeholders. In addition, the article also noted that the “green revolution has led to the erosion of biodiversity.”
The dependency theory asserts that the less developed countries are dependent on the imports and assistance from the developed ones. In this light, globalization has brought many ill effects on environment amongst the former. For instance, the forests of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia were denuded due to timber exportation to Japan and other wealthy nations. The scarcity of energy in the industrialized nations made the poorer nations as waste baskets exemplified by the proliferation of coal and nuclear power industries in the Third World.
While Kyoto Protocol aims to abate emission of Carbon Dioxide, this international covenant is good in paper but not in practice due to its politics. For instance, the United States had not signed due to its personal interests. China, on the other hand, is exempted from the protocol. Such political underpinnings challenge the credibility of the instrument.
Quite a number of international efforts had already been initiated through international conventions and treaties such as the Agenda 21, the Rio Summit, Eco 92 conference, and many others (Hecht and Cokburn) besides the Kyoto Protocol. However, much of these focused on the environmental concerns of the First World rather than the Third World. The Rio Declaration for instance was designed to promote equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among nations and key sectors to promote environmental sustainable development (Rio Declaration 1992).
The political issues challenging the global ecosystem pose a question whether or not global governance on environment is indeed effective in addressing global environmental issues. Cramer and Whittaker (1999) raised a question , “whether action at the global level and international environmental organizations can ultimately be effective in overriding the more parochial regulatory patterns that tend to prevail within the nation state and whether structural inequalities in the world economy and global politics will dictate the environmental action will be conflictual, prone to stalemate, and successful only to the degree that the environmental concerns of the developed industrial countries are emphasized.”
Similar to their contention, Yearly (1996) also contended that the globalization of environmentalism and protection is a political deceased. Designing a framework for protection through international cooperation would only serve the interest of the wealthy nations rather than the poorer ones. According to Dunlap and Catton (1979), the competition of energy and other resources will result to tension at the international level which may lead to international conflict.
With regard to the governance of environment, there are already international agencies such as the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Bank that are giving out technical support, capacity building, and financial resources to nations with the aim of preserving the environment. Being part of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, the environment and its preservation has been given full attention among international and local bureaucrats.
Besides these international bodies, international non-government organizations have also proliferated. Leading the banner are two famous groups namely the World Wide Fund and the Green Peace which are providing programs to many parts of the world. The existence of these organizations helps bring environmental concerns into the global agenda.
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