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Environment And Sustainability Notes

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This is an extract of our Environment And Sustainability Notes document, which we sell as part of our Geography Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Exeter students.

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Environment and Sustainability Baker (2006)
- Ambiguous concept
- Two separate ideas:

1.) The sustainability of the processes and systems of the natural environment e.g. climate system or eco-system

2.) The need to address environmental issues if social institutions and processes are to be maintained
- Concern traced to Malthus and Jevons (1800)
- 1970s = significant public opinion unease due to concerns about health from industry
- Led to change in concerns
- Calls for zero-growth strategies following publication of the Club of Rome 1972

Philosophical Approaches
? Two big ideas:

* Relationality: Humanity/Nature

* Limits: to growth and development
? Environmentalism: An introduction

* How we think about the environment and our relation with it ? guides our interpretation of knowledge concerning environmental issues and what should be done

* We can think of this in terms of 'worldviews' towards nature, and about human/nature relations and interactions

* Indications of differing beliefs about our environment are held in different societies/cultures/historical settings Environmental Worldview 1 = Relational Values (Dunlap and Van Liere's 1978) Biocentric Anthropocentric

Nature as equal to human race, nature has intrinsic value. Arrived at creating partnership based on reciprocity between human and nature.

Nature as inferior to human race. The wealth of nature is seen only in relation to what is can provide to mankind.

Environmental Worldview 2 = Operational Values (O'Riordan 1976) Ecocentric Mode Technocentric Mode

There are natural limits to human expansion.

No limits to growth: technology will resolve environmental dilemmas

Environmental Worldview 3 = Social Values (Stem et al 1992) Altruism Egoism Openness

Conservation

The New Environmental Worldview = Conceptualisation (Barr's 2003) Altruism Egoism Ecocentrism Technocentrism Biospherism Anthropocentrism Openness Conservatism
? Implications of Worldviews

* On design and implementation of policies

* Ecocentric focuses on community level, small scale technologies
- Objective: maintain social and communal well-being not just harmonious us of natural resources

* Anthropocentric
- Optimism over manipulation of nature's resources to benefit of humans
- E.g. Us Wise Use Movement

*

*

*

? Promotes economic growth and rejects the need to consider the environment in economic development Hard to make 'sharp' distinctions Main motivation behind any conception or theory of sustainable development is human interest and well-fare (Dobson 1998) e.g. Bruntland Commission
? Emphasis on human needs
? Protection is necessary for our well-being Positive usage: Sustainable development can become as "externally guided" development model.

? Environmentalism and Religion

* Provides history of modern environmentalism (Pepper, 1986)

* The dominant discourse: Judeo-Christian attitudes towards the environment

* "... insisted that God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends" (White 1967)
- The root of our ecological crisis?
- The notions of 'dominion' and 'stewardship'(Young)
- Anthropocentric mode?
Biblical Teachings (Young, 1990)

* Dominion over the Earth (Genesis 1)

*

*

"... and God said to them... have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." Stewardship of the Earth (Parable of the Vineyard) "The last is to have a day of rest."

? The Environment Crisis

* Post-World War 2 Western environmental deterioration and social context:
- London smog's
- DDT (Carson, 1962)
- Industrial pollution and acid rain
- Oil crisis of the 1970s
- Ozone hole
- Population explosion
- Increasing wealth with resource implications
? The Limits to Growth The 'Limits to Growth' argument was displaced by a new belief that environmental protection and economic development could become mutually compatible, not conflicting objectives of policy
? This modified its focus*

Argument Herman Daly who built his 'steady state economic' on the recognition of the absolute limits to economic growth Malthusian population dynamics

*

Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons

*

Meadows et al. and the Club of Rome1972The report concluded that if present trends in population growth, food production, resource use and pollution continued, the carrying capacity of the planet would be exceeded within the next 100 years =
ecosystem collapse, famine, war

? The Population Dilemma

*

Exponential population growthWorld population 1700: 0.75 bnWorld population 1800: 0.9 bnWorld population 1950: 2.6 bnWorld population 2000: >6 bn

-

World population 2011: > 7bn

*

Thomas Malthus's studies on the growth of population led to the development of the field of demography.

*

According to Malthus, population tends to increase faster than the supply of food available for its needs.

*

Whenever a relative gain occurs in food production over population growth, a higher rate of population increase is stimulated.

*

On the other hand if population grows too much relative to food production, the growth is checked by famine, disease, and war

? Malthus's Ideas

*

Malthus's theory contradicted the optimistic belief prevailing in the early 19th century, that a society's fertility would lead to economic progress.

*

He advocated sexual abstinence or restraint to control population increases and acknowledged the role of the plagues, wars, and epidemics in containing overpopulation. Malthus specifically suggested that people marry later and have smaller families.

*

Due to these ideas, economics earned its name as "The Dismal Science". But it won considerable support and was often used as an argument against efforts to better the condition of the poor

? Criticisms of Malthus

1.) Malthus's fundamentally ecocentric perspective: history does not corroborate his ideas

2.) Malthus the wealthy clergyman and academic. He believed in the contemporary distribution of wealth
? Nevertheless, his work was valuable in encouraging the view that unchecked population growth and environmental degradation were interlinked

? Malthus and the Tragedy of the Commons (my notes)

*

No technical solution to the problem of population growth

*

Malthus: population naturally tends to grow exponentially

*

Is our world finite?A finite world can only support a finite population

*

Bentham's goal is impossible (the greater good for the greatest number of people)

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Problem? = Acquisition of energy. Issue? = Population growth

*

No one has defined the optimum

*

There is no prosperous population in the world which has a zero growth rate

? The Tragedy of the Commons

*

Hardin's (1968) apocalyptic tale of a typical grazing pastureHerdsmenEach man locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit- in a world that is limitedFreedom in a commons brings ruins to all

*

Often interpreted as evidence of the innate selfishness of human beings

*

Linked to the concepts of 'social dilemmas' and 'free riders'

*

Highly influential idea across subsequent decades

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Responding to the Tragedy: the Club of Rome Report

? The Club of Rome 1972 (my notes)

*

If present trends continue in consumption remain unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached in next 100 years
= sudden and uncontrollable decline in population and industrial capacity

*

Possible to alter growth trends and establish ecological/economic stability that is sustainable

*

Greatest chance of success - sustainable development asap

*

Growth beyond limits = over shoot

*

Limited by how fast we can find substitutes for none-renewable resources

*

Due to delays in decision making it is likely that human ecological footprint will overshoot the sustainable limits (carrying capacity) of the planet

*

Overshoot = contradiction unavoidable

*

Forward looking global policy = avoid overshoot"sustainable world scenario"Stabilising world populationStabilising industrial outputTechnologyPreservation of resources

? The Club of Rome 1972

*

'The Predicament of Mankind'

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Modelling the Human Condition

*

The Limits to Growth: the assumptions

? Five key variables

1. Population size and growth

2. Food production

3. Industrialisation

4. Pollution

5. Consumption of renewable/non-renewable resources
? Diverse combinations of each used to produce scenarios or 'windows' into the future

? Their Summary Predictions

*

"Scarcity is the fate of Mankind"

*

Limits to economic growth would be reached within 100 years

*

*

There was a need for a 'State of Global Equilibrium' in human needs (Maslow) There was a need to act immediately to prevent future catastrophe
- Eco-system collapse, famine, war etc

? Reference Case Scenario (Scenario 6):
- Non-renewable resource depletion (i.e. finite resources such as coal and oil)
- Food production, food output and service output decrease by 2020
- Population slows by 2060, with crude death rate rising, alongside birth rate
? Criticisms of the Thesis

* The problem of new resources and reserves

*

Seen as pessimistic

The under-estimation of new technologyE.g. in leading to new ways of addressing pollution or using efficiently in production

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The nature of growth: environmentally harmful and benign growth

*

Nevertheless, basic ideas continued today by the Transition movement ('Peak Oil')

? The Two Big Ideas

1.) Relationality:

*

Is humanity separate from, or superior to nature?

*

Is nature a resource to be exploited for humanity's gain?

*

What value do ecosystems and species have intrinsically?

2.) Limits:

*

Is future human progress and development inevitable?

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Will new technologies enable continual increases in wealth and quality of life?

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