The second, however, parting from the same principal, involves human intervention through environment management, producing energetic balances that are artificially equilibrated, counterbalancing the stocks of energy and material that are utilized as raw material in the human productive sphere. At the same time, Spaargaren, Mol, and Buttel , discoursing on methodologies for environmental accounting, identify the existence of two lines of thought regarding the delimitation of natural resource exhaustion.
One follows the pattern of weak sustainability, in which it is believed that the absolute substitution of natural capital by material capital is possible, where technology has perfect conditions to promote the transformation process and the other, that follows the strong sustainability pattern, in which the two forms of capital are not substitutable and, therefore, economic growth would necessarily be conditioned to the constant maintenance of natural capital stock.
A tone of very pronounced technological optimism is perceived in the first case, since it considers that there is a technological quantum at the disposition of the risk society BECK, , sufficiently elevated to avoid the negative collateral effects of human intervention in the biosphere, which, in the worst case, disobliges the need for implementation of preventive policies.
In any case, the authors emphasize that these considerations show that the level of natural capital consumption is an important indicator of sustainability, although the environment is still incipiently valued by the market. In other words, the use, the exhaustion and the degradation of natural resources are not inserted into the production and consumption costs. On the one hand, the utilization rates must be equivalent to the replacement rates. On the other hand, the rates of effluent emissions must be equal to the assimilation capacity of the ecosystems into which these effluents are discharged.
Therefore, the incapacity of maintaining these rates must be treated as capital consumption, that is, non-sustainable. In second place, for the case of non-renewable resources, considering that the very character of 'non-renewable' impedes an indefinably sustained utilization, the rhythm of the utilization must be limited to the development or discovery of new substitutes.
Therefore, the author affirms that for renewable natural resources, the weak sustainability pattern can be considered while, for the non-renewable natural resources, strong sustainability is indicated. When focusing the panorama of resource scarcity, an important distinction must still be made between two other concepts: there is absolute scarcity, which refers to the actual exhaustion of resource stocks, and there is relative scarcity, which refers to the non-sustainable patterns of production and consumption that actuate as limiting factors of exhaustion.
At this moment, one must remember that Morrison and Cahn identified that both the consumption patterns of poverty and of wealth contribute together to the deterioration of the planet's support capacity. However, they emphasize that the dominant propelling force of the exhaustion of natural resources is situated in the consumption pattern of the highly industrialized countries.
Towards a global environmental sociology? Legacies, trends and future directions
Consequently, attention must be dislocated from the technological question as the understanding of absolute scarcity and return to the political and sociological question to face relative scarcity. From this consideration, we can see with greater clarity that the purely environmental dimension of sustainability can be transcended and can involve some political-institutional parameters regarding the social norms and criteria for appropriation of the natural capital. We can then perceive that the sustainability referred to in the official ecological discourse refers exclusively to environmental sustainability and does not incorporate its various dimensions.
The question of scale must also be taken into account.
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Can variables be considered for finer scales and other variables for more global and regional scales? Should variables that transit through various scales occur - which ones? How are they related?
In applied terms, how does the regional-global relation occur from the institutional view point and from scientific knowledge? In this way, for reflection on intellectual production in the area of environment and society in Latin America, it can be suggested that - on a continent having the largest indices of biodiversity in the world and, at the same time, extremely high rates of social inequality UNITED NATIONS, and, mainly, a recent democracy, still under construction - there should be specifics in this production and the discussion itself on sustainability realized above is an element of clarification of this process.
In this article, a partial synthesis of the intellectual production of some Latin-American centers in the area of environment and society will be presented. Taking into consideration the accumulation of information and the extensive database gathered by now, containing articles, research and books also electronic files , the titles considered most relevant within their respective research centers were selected for this work.
Naturally, this choice had to follow some criteria and, consequently, the authors and researchers presented are those who possess more tradition and experience in the environmental thematics and similar areas, representing their study nucleate and the principal intellectual lines of socio-environmental thought in Latin America. There are diverse lines of socio-environmental thought and to give a brief panorama of these lines, the classification in large groups, prepared by Herculano and Ferreira are presented below:. For example: Catton and Dunlap;. For example: Schnaiberg and O'Connor;.
For example: Inglehart;. For example: Hannigan, Yearley, Redclift and Woodgate.
In addition to these large groups, the paradigm of Reflexive Modernization can also be emphasized as an important line of thought in the interior of Environmental Sociology, paradigm that subdivides itself between ecological modernization Mol and Spaargaren and the concept of risk society Beck. Synthetically, the different focuses mentioned can be grouped and contemplated by Environmental Sociology and by the Contemporary Social Theory, although they are lines of thought that interact and dialog among themselves and, in determined points, work on the interface between Environmental Sociology and the Contemporary Social Theory, given the interdisciplinary character of the environmental theme and the hybrid models.
The Contemporary Social Theory brings in its theoretical body the sociologists who contributed to the diversification of Environmental Sociology and who worked with the question of the high-modernity societies, such as Habermas , Touraine , Giddens , Beck and Castells , among others. Following these main lines of thought, a first analysis with a classificatory bias of Latin-American intellectual production was elaborated.
In this part of the work, results of a first classification of the intellectual production in the Latin-American centers studied will be presented. In this way, the main intellectual lines of socio-environmental thought in Latin America are shown in the tables below. It is not our objective to make a closed classification of each center, fitting them into one or another line of thought.
The intension is to point out which line of thought exercises greater influence and, in this way, determine a certain concentration of the research around it. At this moment of research, there is also no pretension of a comparative analysis among countries, since the data surveyed at the moment have not been crossed. Over the last years, the CLAES has shown remarkable dynamism, mainly in its more practical regional activities.
The table below shows some authors who contributed to the analysis of the environmental question at the CLAES.
In the Works performed at the CLAES, there is a predominance of the influences of the materialist marxist approach as well as historic approaches. However, 9 works were cited on the theme of environment and society and, of these, three titles that relate more directly with the socio-environment interface were selected. In the themes dealt with in the selected works below and in their analysis, it can be said that the constructionist approach, coevolution and social structuring exercise a strong influence on these works.
The PNUMA is a Latin-American reference center, bringing together important lines of research, making a great contribution and bringing a pioneering spirit to the intellectual and political debate around the environmental question. It can be argued that, in the case of the PNUMA, the diversity of the theoretical-methodological influences in the selected works below calls attention, from the works that already incorporate ecological modernization to those in which the pertinence of interdisciplinarity is emphasized for the analysis of the relation between Environment and Society.
The DDSAH has presented extensive publications on the environmental question, resulting in diverse studies and in the development of the intellectual debate in the interior of the Commission and in all of Latin America. In the table, some authors were selected due to their contributions to the consolidation of the environmental question as an important object of study for the CEPAL. In the case of the CEPAL, we can also observe the diversity of the theoretical-methodological approaches, but here we emphasize the importance of hybrid and interdisciplinary approaches for the study of the socio-ecological problematics.
There are two moments in Brazilian intellectual production that delineate the directions of the aggregation of intellectual demands in the field of interactions between Environment and Society in Brazil. In the Brazilian case, the diversity of theoretical-methodological influences can be clearly observed, but what is interesting is that since the end of the s, a significant influence of constructionism can be seen and, in the decade of , some works were already inspired on reflexive modernization in its two branches, both ecological modernization as well as those inspired by the risk society concept.
Here you can see the hybrid and interdisciplinary approaches for the study of the socio-ecological problematics. The technical and economic changes - with their social, cultural and political effects in our time - passed as a hurricane over the institutions constructed at the beginning of the century. These concepts can help clarify some fundamental questions relative to the loss of our old ideals and, consequently, to better comprehend the elaboration of the mourning of those who leashed themselves to utopic projects and became their orphans.
In this perspective, one of the most intriguing phenomena of this new century is that we are living the apparent disappearance of the so-called "critical thought" from the sociological scenario. It can be argued that, with extremely rare exceptions, the critical "Latin-American" social thought had enormous difficulty in introducing new themes in their analyses, due to various questions already introduced in the preceding items.
However, the environmental question among other themes relevant to contemporary sociology had, by its specific interdisciplinary, recent in the social thought; and complex the merit of placing before the social scientists in general conceptual and paradigmatic "problems" that were, to say the least, instigating. As can be observed in the data previously presented, this also occurred on the level of the Latin-American continent, as in the case of the environmental sociology and even the contemporary social theory.
In addition to the variety of themes treated, as can be observed in the tables previously presented, there are various theoretical-methodological approaches in the diverse works cited that must be mentioned. Since the beginning of the decade of , in all of the analyzed centers, we can observe studies firmly established in constructionist perspectives, by both the perspective of ecological modernization, in its two branches and ecological modernization and the risk society. It should be emphasized that the works mentioned previously also present materialist marxist approaches and are, many times, still inspired by the approaches of political ecology.
Environment and Social Theory
It should be stressed that, in various centers, one can observe works that discuss interdisciplinarity and utilize these approaches in their empiric perspectives. It is fitting at this moment, still quite preliminary of the data obtained by the recent work, to simply suggest some questions that should be discuss in the next steps of the research:.
Not only in terms of very diverse empirical contexts but, mainly, in its position as the "field for scientific disputes". There are still various questions that the present work will have to face but just the data presented previously show that the investigation will be worthwhile. It is worth noting, however, that even at the beginning of the first decade of the new century, a significant change can be observed in the interests of this Latin-American nucleus, more strongly aggregated around the field of reflections on the interface between society and environment.
In the Brazilian case, a good indicator of this divergence of emphasis can be found in the aggregation of intellectual demands imposed on the National Association for Post-Graduation and Research in Environment and Society. The program of its first three meetings delineated the following themes for debates in the ambit of work groups and round tables: international environmental regimes, human dimensions of biodiversity; consumption and safety of food and energy, local dimensions of the environmental changes, sustainable cities, environmental education in societies on the knowledge and climatic changes, aside from the already traditional themes, such as interdisciplinarity, demographic dynamics, environmental risk, environment policies, theory and environment.
On the other hand, one can observe that the intellectual production in Brazil was also strongly influenced by the contemporary social theory particularly by Beck, Giddens and Habermas and more recently by environmental sociology in the constructionist perspective as well as the reflexive modernity in its different branches , as one can also observe in the articles published in the collectanea cited above. In addition, the data obtained in the other Latin-American centers show us the theoretical-methodological diversity utilized by the authors, aside from an organic bond with the socio-environmental interface that characterizes this production.