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Environmental Studies - Essay Example

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Student's Name & Course Number: Environmental Studies (Modern Industrial Society) 03 December 2011 Modern industrial society has adverse environmental effect on the poor because they lack the mechanisms to successfully cope with the situation. How do different ways of seeing and thinking about nature affect our relationships with it, and what are the consequences of those ways of seeing and thinking for the environment?…
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& Number: Environmental Studies (Modern Industrial Society) 03 December Modern industrial society has adverse environmental effect on the poor because they lack the mechanisms to successfully cope with the situation. How do different ways of seeing and thinking about nature affect our relationships with it, and what are the consequences of those ways of seeing and thinking for the environment? People who are poor would see the environment as something to be exploited for human consumption; they see it as a way to live enhanced living standards but this can have dire environmental consequences as it will soon deplete natural resources beyond what is called as its “carrying capacity” which is defined as the sustainability of certain biophysical entities and processes. However, their poverty prevent them from successfully exploiting these resources, and if ever they do, they will soon fall into a debilitating cycle of poverty, environmental decay and deteriorating public health. Rapid migration to the cities in urbanization trends has disadvantaged these people because everything in the city costs money. Unless local governments provide them with the necessities in life, they can hardly be expected to cope with urban life. In Third World nations, Prof. Rees stated “that a quarter of urban residents live in absolute poverty” (124) that strains resources to their limits. Furthermore, “economics is scientific study of the efficient allocation of scarce resources (energy and material) and bears the same semantic roots and substantive focus as ecology” but has unfortunately diverged resulting in a theoretical dichotomy (122). A sad result is that neoclassical economic theory “sees resource depletion as not a fundamental problem” because rising prices for scarce resources leads to conservation and the search for substitutes (Rees 123). This is where the problem of urban poverty lies as the poor simply do not have the financial wherewithal to pay for these resources to assure them a decent standard of living. It presupposes that most people can pay for the scarce resources in all instances. In what ways can commodification be said to be the cause of environmental change and degradation? This is the process by which goods are transformed into marketable items to satisfy wants or needs. An example would be the extraction of minerals in the mining industry which has usually has adverse environmental consequences as the place is soon degraded. The exploitation of mineral resources pollutes the surrounding land, bodies of water and air near it and prevents the natural environment from replenishing itself in a sustainable manner. It has been altered irreversibly in the same way that exploitation of forest products destroys forest cover in the rush to gain from getting wood and pulp for human consumption. This is a same situation when oceans are over-fished with some fish species hunted to near extinction. The idea of commodication arose from the Industrial Revolution. This had brought a new danger to biodiversity because people now see the wilderness as something to be used or from which something useful and commercial can be extracted from. For so many centuries prior, the wilderness was seen as something sinister, dark and frightening, “a place to which one came only against one's will, and always in fear and trembling” (Cronon 70). Previously, people were afraid to venture into the wilderness but the rise of civilization gave way to ideas of exploiting the vast riches contained therein to support growing populations. This loss of fear of the wilderness resulted from viewing the wilderness as a product of civilization. It is now seen as “far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity” and not treated “as the last pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of untouched, endangered but still transcendent nature can for at least a while longer be encountered . . .” but as a solution to the problems of humanity as a source for materials. The rise of industrial society gave Man a reason to venture into the wilderness to exploit it and no longer as a place of awe and admiration. A massive shift in thinking (a paradigm shift) sees a wilderness as the last frontier to be conquered and made fit for human habitation. We have traced the pathways/lives of various "things" in this course, such as food, material goods, waste, etc. How have these pathways changed over the twentieth century? What does this tell us about local and global forms of production and consumption and their environmental effects? The invention of agriculture allowed mankind to shift from a hunting, nomadic subsistence lifestyle into a settled existence. However, agriculture has also brought a number of unexpected consequences, primarily the overexploitation of the land. The raising of plants and animals (cattle) has greatly contributed to a big rise in human populations as the land can now support more people. To help sustain agricultural activities, man has increasing use of fertilizers that harm the soil in many ways, such as changing its acidity. The increasing ability of agricultural methods to support ever larger populations has allowed mankind to attain technological progress. But this progress comes at a high cost as its unintended effects are now only being felt in terms of changed climatic conditions due to the phenomenon of global warming. World temperatures are rising with the loss of the polar ice caps and brought with it the twin problems of rising sea levels that will soon inundate coastal communities but at the same time resulted in severe droughts in some of previously wet areas. Toxic gas emissions (carbon dioxide from human activities and methane from farm animals) traps the heat of the Sun instead of being reflected back to outer space. This combination of global warming and poor urban conditions had resulted in the unprecedented heat wave to hit Chicago back in July 1995. The first day of the heat wave saw temperatures rising in the city to as high as 106 degrees and “Chicago felt tropical, like Fiji or Guam but with an added layer of polluted city air trapping the heat” (Klinenberg 1). Most of the urban poor people had no access to air conditioning with the result many old people who had lived alone died from heat stroke as they were the demographic group most vulnerable. Works Cited Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronon. New York, NY, USA: Norton & Co., 1995. Print. Klinenberg, Eric. “Dying Alone in the Heat Wave.” 2002. Web. 03 Dec. 2011 Rees, William E. “Ecological Footprints and Appropriated Carrying Capacity: What Urban Economics Leaves Out.” Environment and Urbanization 4.2 (1992): 121-130. Print. Read More
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