Society and Natural Resources
Basic sociological concepts, such as values, culture, and institutions, have impacts on the environment and the usage of our natural resources. Natural resource sociology emerged more directly out of the rural sociology literature, with the study of agricultural and other natural resource-based community studies. It focuses more on the management and applied dimensions of natural resource use. Environmental sociology emerged as a branch of sociology during the era of modern environmental awareness and focused on social trends, attitudes, and so on, going beyond specific natural resource issues to more broad environmental disciplines. Harper (2015) states the similarities between sociological concepts and the ecological sciences. The paper will discuss how these sociological factors affect the environmental sustainability programs and vice versa based on the questions about addictive economies, paradigms, globalization, the “tragedy of commons” and resource management intermingle to change our sociological structures.
To begin with, energy conservation, sustainability campaigns, and energy use have both positive and adverse effects on the way we handle our resources in the plight to achieve sustainability. For example, an increase of $5 in the cost of gasoline per gallon will force me to cut my driving behavior meaningfully. Why is there such behavior in the human sociological context? As the population grows, the amounts of energy use reach the unimaginable levels. To conserve energy, we need to begin with ourselves first. Recycling, reusing, cutting on our consumptions are just but a few of the measures we, as human beings, need to take on to attain sustainability and save our natural resources (Nation Geographic, 2015). As sociologists, we try to identify the impacts of energy use, energy development, energy consumption, energy consumption, and waste to tackle the issue of inequality in the community.
Secondly, abnormal increases in commodity prices on the market create a gap in the societal classes of the rich and the poor. Annie Leonard argues in the movie, The Story of Change, that not only bad shoppers put our humble future at risk but also the bad business practices and policies that we formulate. She adds on by advising humanity to move beyond money-motivated voting and join hands in the quest for the rules that work. These bad policies and business practices are the changes that limit our frequency levels of utilizing our resources. Secondly, toxic materials tend to be abandoned for use by consumers. As a worker in industry, one will stop working if he or she is exposed to toxic substances that affect his or her health on the verge of benefitting the owner of a firm. Additionally, these bad policies have met the rejection from the community, for example, in the video Our Water, Our Future, the residents in Cascade Locks refuse the government projects on their waters the will affect sustainability (Meyer, 2014). The social impact assessment principles stipulated in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 has guidelines on the policies made by officers regarding the environment (The Interorganizational Committee, 1994).
Another change in the community life that can trigger a change in behavior is the forced labor or ill-treatment of workers in an organization. Most companies tend to overwork the employees for maximizing profit. Such situations undermine the social structure, causing inequality in the social fabric (Jones, 2010). As individuals intended to promote social equality in the daily activities that we undertake, we should be able to fight off these bad practices in society and try to amend the policies that create inequality in society.
Globalization means the interaction among companies, people, and governments of different countries in the world through trade and investment accelerated by information technology. Globalization has impacts on poverty and the environment. These three factors interplay and have significant effect on each other. As for poverty, there are controversial thoughts about how globalization affects poverty levels. Proponents argue that globalization raises the standards of living and develops the economy of developing countries. On the other hand, opponents suggest that the globalization to the unconstrained international free market has benefited large multinational corporations in Europe and America at the expense of the local businesses.
The degradation of the environment is a principal factor in causing poverty in developing nations across the world (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). The report also stipulates that the changes that take place in the environment influence the core needs of humans, especially in the areas of health, security, social relations, and the freedom of action because we depend on the environment where we live. Furthermore, the environment being part of the ecosystem has been investigated to contributing to global employment and economic activity. Activities such as food production largely contribute to the recruitment of labor globally (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Hence, the environment has its way of promoting globalization. Plastic production has also had some bad effects on the health of individuals (Jones, 2010).
Recent improvements have been noticed in the areas like Indonesia. Thus, the ADB bank has come up with a renewable energy project due to the effects of globalization (Asian Development Bank, 2014). Indeed, globalization has brought upon suitable methods of management. Not only does it has adverse outcomes but also has positive results. Energy conservation is essential for our survival since it creates a better place for human beings (Nation Geographic, 2015). Moreover, in the Oregon state, some of the effects of negative influence of resource management on the ocean have been observed. It has led to pollution and changes in climate patterns (Fleenor, 2013).
The tragedy of commons is a theory in economics that describes a situation, in which the users of natural resources act rationally and independently of their self-interest contrary to the common good of all individual users of the natural resources by depleting the resources. Hardin in his article comments on the welfare state for allowing the tragedy of commons, in which the state allows for the overbreeding as an essential right. He adds on, arguing against the reliance on conscience as a means of policing that it will only favor the selfish individuals over the most altruists in society. The overall argument asserts that human beings can nurture and preserve natural resources through the management of the latter.
Ostrom focused on human interaction with the ecosystem to maintain long-term sustainable growth. She asserts that societies’ policies on the resources’ management can pave the way for sustainability. Ostrom’s principles caution against the governments, at a global level, to solve the problems of coordinating work against the degradation of the environment. She also goes against the remedy for individual environmental challenges.
Modernization has affected the management of natural resources in our society. Critics question if the technology can solve the modern day environmental degradation. Many technological improvements are feasible but are not utilized (York, Rosa, & Dietz, 2003). Modernization also does not redress the social injustices such as the elimination of employment that the capitalist systems have created. In this case, new technology has failed to cater for the utilization human resources. Modernization being categorized as a form of sustainable growth is not real since growth entails the use of human and natural resources.
However, modernization has immense advantages in the ease of work in the human labor; it has created some difficulties in achieving sustainability (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). As years passed by, people have delegated the management of the natural resources to bodies in the government like Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and non-governmental institutions like Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. The government has put trust on these agencies in the plight to achieve sustainability through modernization. However, the companies find it difficult in executing the goals, creating a controversy in the cases of modernizing the systems.
The key parallels used between addiction and natural dependent communities are the rising costs of operations in the extractive industries and the downward trends of the commodity in the current world. Ambiguities that mask the tendencies to pressure addiction are those of prices’ rise signals, resource exhaustion, and the development and employment opportunities in the rural areas. As time goes by, the efforts put to establish the economies of the remote locations based on extractive industries are less likely to result in an economic development instead of the economic addiction.
The article assigned “Addictive Economies” by William Freudenburg argues to the notion of creating dependence on natural resource industries. He likens the struggles facing current resource dependent communities to other forms of addiction, in which addicts go through stages of experimentation, euphoria (e.g., the boom years) and then withdrawal (e.g., the bust years). He also talks about how in many ways society and even the government have contributed to the addiction through our consumption demands and economic incentive programs. Moreover, if one agrees that society has added to the dependency, should it be society’s responsibilities to assist these communities? The greater effect faced by the residents is the inability to develop in a wide-ranging of skills that can lead to high unemployment if the dominant industry leaves, experiences a failure, or undergoes technological upgrades and innovations (Freudenburg, 1992). Policies stipulated by the authorities need to be reviewed keenly as their implications for society are severe. The residents of the extractive regions need to be aware of the risks involved. Despite the general readiness of the claimed benefits of the extractive industries, there is an overwhelming absence of these allegations. Addictive economies primarily affect the desire if a community wants to shift from natural resources to tourism. First, as addictive economies root the individual to the dependency on the extractive industries, he/she will find it hard to shift to the job in tourism as a change in the occupational identity (Collinson, 2004). Therefore, addictive economies restrict a community in the transition to a different line of activity.
Addictive economies have gross effects on the lifestyle patterns of individuals and they can lead to social injustices and environmental decay (Freudenburg, 1992). To begin with, the communities that depend on natural resource adjusting will have to incur personal priorities changed. Furthermore, more capital to adjust and additional resources to use in turning into a new line of activities is one cause of addictive economies. A good example of this effect can be seen in the video about the projects of the ADB in Indonesia (Asian Development Bank, 2014). The inhabitants in the areas relied on farming, an ambiguity on reliance on raw materials. The residents find it hard to adjust from the farming methods to being hired into different fields of employment to utilize the human resources in society.
If all people perform the same activities performed individually, the results will be immense in such a way that the resources that human beings will use will deplete, leading to the environmental degradation. To achieve sustainability, all the resources that we come across should be utilized in such a way that they can be conserved by other people in the environment. For example, if all the people in the community were miners, the extraction sites would be numerous, which would lead to deforestation. Deforestation means the cutting down of trees that are an important part of the ecosystem. The depletion of trees in the environment will result in the desertification that can affect the lifestyle of many generations (Oregon State, 2016). A good example of tree destruction is the burning in the Amazon forest for money (National Public Radio, 2015).
Additionally, the practicing of the same activities by people will lead to social injustices. Contrary to a capitalist view, there will be no social classes in society as a whole because the population will earn the same income. There would be no categories of the rich and the poor in society. In such a society, there would be chaos and disrespect among the middle-aged and the old. Additionally, managing resources in such a society will be hectic since everyone wants to use one type of resource whether it is raw materials or human resources
For an HEP person, individuals are not exempted from the environment. As defined in the course, an HEP is an individual who believes that humans are uniquely superior to the environment they live in. It was a popular paradigm during the industrial revolution until the 20th century (Catton Jr & Dunlap, 1978). In this paradigm, culture can innovate and accumulate, making HEP persons incapable of solving their problems personally. HEP persons consider themselves independent of their destiny, and any hazard posed in the environment cannot limit the individuals living.
For an NEP person, the recognition of the parameters in the environment is critical. As suggested by Catton Jr. and Dunlap (1978), the New Exceptionalism Paradigm recognizes the ability of humans’ integration with the environmental factors. It stipulates the importance of social and cultural forces, but it does not look into the effects of social determinism (Catton Jr & Dunlap, 1978). As an HEP person, I believe that human activities can be altered by the changes in the environment. From the two parade, I choose to be an NEP person because I am for sustainability achievement in our natural world.
I realize the importance of social interactions in the environment to save the environment. As human beings, we can influence the environment and vice-versa; therefore, I take on supporting the idea that the environment is a factor that alters our activities on it. According to the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) scale, my result is a 68% or 51/75. The interpretation of these numbers reveals that I hold to the values of the NEP. I completely agree with such a conclusion, as I have never been a supporter of the Human Exceptionalism Paradigm (HEP) views. In my opinion, they are faulty and misleading. One of such assumptions is that technological progress can go on indefinitely, thus, eventually providing solutions to all social issues. It is an absurd statement as the human beings are finite creatures, and their abilities do have limits. Progress no longer makes societal problems soluble. On the contrary, it creates more of them. New issues put a demand on more progress thus, creating a vicious circle. However, the NEP principles state that the biophysical factors also influence human affairs. All the species, including people, are interdependent, and humans must recognize the capacity limits of ecology remembering that their actions can have unintended consequences.
Natural resources are indeed an important part of the well-being of society (Primack, 1993). The connection between the social context and the environmental are vital in our road to fight for the sustainability of our natural resources if the community can reverse these factors and create better plans (Engelman, 2013). After a thorough assessment of the side-effects of the policies we make, we can achieve sustainability and live in an environment free of toxins and strenuous variables that impact our economy.