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Topic 8 – Environment and Society. A – Environmental Perception and Concern B – Environmental Impacts of Human Activities. A. Environmental Perception and Concern. 1. Historical Changes 2. Environmental Movements (1960s and 1970s) 3. Environmental Retreat (1980s)

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topic 8 environment and society

Topic 8 – Environment and Society

A – Environmental Perception and Concern

B – Environmental Impacts of Human Activities

a environmental perception and concern
A. Environmental Perception and Concern
  • 1. Historical Changes
  • 2. Environmental Movements (1960s and 1970s)
  • 3. Environmental Retreat (1980s)
  • 4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • 5. Current Perspective: Reality Check
1 historical changes
1. Historical Changes
  • Western perspective
    • Nature as adversary, something that had to be overcome.
    • Pronounced man/nature dichotomy.
    • Attitudes towards unrestrained exploitation of natural resources.
    • No sense of limits in terms of capacity.
    • Often supported by religious beliefs, particularly Christianity.
  • Non-Western societies
    • Lower technology levels and different attitudes prevailed.
    • Man / nature symbiolism.
    • Modernization changed the relationship.



1 historical changes1
1. Historical Changes
  • Preservation vs. conservation dichotomy
    • Preservation:
      • Focused on the maintenance of wilderness.
      • Any use of the resources contained therein would negate the continued existence of the wilderness itself.
      • Low impact tourism often permitted.
    • Conservation:
      • Favors resource management.
      • Preventing rampant exploitation but allowing some development to occur.
      • Difficult to assess the right level of resource exploitation (non-renewable resources).



1 historical changes2
1. Historical Changes
  • Early conservation movements
    • In Europe, early conservation movements were the preserve of the elite.
    • Mainly hunting grounds in large private estates.
    • Helped to preserve many species in Europe that would otherwise have disappeared.
  • National parks
    • First was Yosemite (1864).
    • Protection of one or several ecosystems from human exploitation or alteration.
    • Protected by the highest authority in the country.
    • Visitors must respect a set of rules and regulations.
2 environmental movements 1960s and 1970s1
2. Environmental Movements (1960s and 1970s)
  • Legislations
    • Regulatory laws were passed in the USA and elsewhere.
    • Enforcement agencies were created:
      • EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the USA was created in the early 1970s.
      • Most states created their own environmental protection agencies.
    • Legislation was passed to help correct environmental hazards already created.
    • Prevent additional problems from arising.
    • Air quality improved in many areas; cleaner water reappeared.
2 environmental movements 1960s and 1970s2
2. Environmental Movements (1960s and 1970s)
  • Environmentalism and the global crisis
    • Carried the roots of environmentalism beyond local and national scales to the global scale.
    • Transnational dimensions of many environmental problems:
      • Many environmental problems do not recognize boundaries.
      • Acid rain in Western Europe (Sweden) and North America.
    • First UN Conference on the Human Environment:
      • Stockholm, 1972.
      • Creation of the UN Environmental Programme.
    • Rise of the neo-Malthusian perspective:
      • Rising concern over population growth.
      • Formation of the Club of Rome (1968).
      • Publication of the Limits to Growth (1972); First Oil Shock (1973).
      • Emergence of ZPG approach.
      • All those concerns turned out to be unfounded.
3 environmental retreat 1980s
3. Environmental Retreat (1980s)
  • Retreat
    • Retreat for the environmental movement in the USA.
    • The Oil Shocks (1973, 1979) helped weaken public support for environmental programs.
    • Conservative agenda of de-regulation.
    • Shift to a conservation approach:
      • National Forests.
      • Clearcutting regulations were weakened.
      • Easier exploitation by timber companies, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
      • Expand drilling into several protected areas.
3 environmental retreat 1980s1
3. Environmental Retreat (1980s)
  • Creation of a sustainable development ideology
    • Carbon Dioxide was found to cause global warming (1983).
    • A hole in the ozone layer was found over the Antarctic (1985).
    • Brundtland Report “Our Common Future”:
      • Sustainable is used for the first time.
      • Maintenance of life support systems.
      • Working to reduce the threats to those systems represented by erosion, pollution, deforestation, etc.
      • Preservation of genetic diversity.
      • Providing us with insurance for the future by guarding against the ravages of crop diseases.
      • Investment for future crop-breeding or pharmaceutical development.
      • Sustainable development of species and ecosystems
3 environmental retreat 1980s2
3. Environmental Retreat (1980s)
  • Environmental ethics
    • “We have not inherited the earth from our parents; we have borrowed it from our children.”
    • Development is often viewed in materialistic terms.
    • Focusing on resource utility through conservation.
    • Environmentalism as an elitist attitude intended to prevent development in the South.
4 environmental globalism 1990s
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • UN World Conference on Environment and Development
    • Rio de Janeiro (1992):
      • Largest such gathering ever (100 heads of state).
      • Placed the environmental agenda at the center of the world stage.
      • Development made possible by the end of the Cold War.
      • Establish “Agenda 21”, a blueprint for action.
    • Europe and Japan:
      • World leaders in environmental affairs.
    • USA:
      • Role of obstructionist.
      • Objected to any negative references concerning consumption patterns in the developed countries.
      • Had the most to lose.
Average Temperature at the Earth's Surface and World Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuel Burning, 1880-2002
4 environmental globalism 1990s1
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • Factors of global change
    • Changes in the earth’s orbit:
      • Ice ages linked with orbital changes and the earth’s tilt.
    • Changes in the sun’s intensity:
      • Slight fluctuations.
    • Volcanic eruptions:
      • Carbon Dioxide and aerosols into the atmosphere.
    • Changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.
    • Changes in ocean currents.
4 environmental globalism 1990s2
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • The Rio Declaration (1992)
    • “development must occur on a sustainable basis to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
    • Lack of detail and no operational aspects are considered.
    • Have relatively little meaning.
  • Global Warming Treaty
    • “Stabilization of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level which would prevent dangerous interference with climate systems.”
    • Lacks a specific timetable for decreasing emissions.
    • No mandatory maximum levels for emissions.
    • Most countries endorsed guidelines to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.
4 environmental globalism 1990s3
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • Biodiversity Convention (1992)
    • Guarantees the protection and conservation of plant and animal species threatened with extinction.
    • Declares who has the right to develop and market products based on such species.
    • The USA opposed this treaty (biotechnology sector).
4 environmental globalism 1990s4
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • Agenda 21(Blueprint for Action)
    • Commitment to sustainable development through a set of four program areas.
    • 1) Promoting sustainable development through trade.
    • 2) Making trade and environment mutually supportive.
    • 3) Providing adequate financial resources to developing countries:
      • Committed to 0.7% of GNP.
      • Currently stands at around 0.5% of GNP for most European countries, Canada, and Japan.
      • Just 0.25% for the USA.
    • 4) Encouraging economic policies conducive to sustainable development
4 environmental globalism 1990s5
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • Kyoto Protocol (1997)
    • The Global Warming Treaty was not working.
    • 2000 goals would not achieved.
    • High profile meeting in Kyoto in 1997.
    • 160 nations formally adopted the protocol:
      • Legally committing industrial countries do reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions.
      • Reduce climate-altering gases by 5.2% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
    • Developing countries, mainly China and India, objected:
      • Meeting the target would cripple their economies leaning on coal.
      • Developing countries were thus exempted.
      • Seriously undermines the potential effectiveness of the protocol.
4 environmental globalism 1990s6
4. Environmental Globalism (1990s)
  • Major environmental treaties
    • 1959 Washington: Antarctic Treaty
    • 1963 Moscow: Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
    • 1971 Ramsar: Wetlands of International Importance
    • 1972 London: Ocean Dumping & Biological Weapons
    • 1973 Washington: Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
    • 1978 London: Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
    • 1979 Bonn: Migratory Species
    • 1982 Montego Bay: Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
    • 1985 Vienna: Ozone Layer
    • 1987 Montreal: Ozone Layer
    • 1989 Basel: Transboundary Hazardous Waste
    • 1992 Rio: Climate Change & Biodiversity
    • 1997 Kyoto: Climate Change
5 current perspective reality check
5. Current Perspective: Reality Check
  • Perspective
    • Low or over valuation of the environment:
      • Consumers and environmental radicals.
    • Maximization of wealth and risk taking.
    • No limits to growth and problems can be overcome by technology.
    • Short term perspective.
    • Ostrich's approach?
  • Environmental divide
    • Between developing and developed countries.
    • Between Europe and the United States.
    • Economic growth becomes the dominant paradigm.
    • Clashes: Seattle (1999).
5 current perspective reality check1
5. Current Perspective: Reality Check
  • Dependency
    • Societies are caught in the requirements they have created:
      • Economic growth.
      • Standard of living.
      • Mobility.
  • Shift of emphasis
    • Adaptation, more than prevention.
    • Cope with the consequences of GW instead of dealing with the sources.
environmental perception who cares
Environmental Perception: Who Cares?

Very Important


Global Warming

Some Importance


Little Importance

No Importance

Air pollution


Hazardous materials





Next Generation

5 current perspective reality check2
5. Current Perspective: Reality Check
  • Environmentalism = Fascism?
    • Irrationalism and fear mongering:
      • Self-righteousness and hatred of different ideas.
      • Moral decay: use of violence, deception and bio-terrorism to achieve goals.
    • Science is less part of the agenda:
      • Replaced by ideology and dogmatism.
    • Environmentalism vs rights and freedom:
      • Takes away private property rights and freedom.
      • The goal is socialism / communism and control of the population.
      • They know best and you should be coerced to adopt their strategies.
5 current perspective reality check3
5. Current Perspective: Reality Check
  • Biocentrism:
    • Assume an intrinsic value to nature.
    • Human beings are less important (no or less intrinsic value) than nature.
    • Humans as evil and vermin (cancer) that implicitly should be exterminated (for the sake of significant reduction in numbers).
    • Undermines human rights, freedom and dignity.
  • Issues:
    • Should we follow the policies of those whom at start have an implicit hatred of human beings and technology?
    • The environmental movement as the philosophic enemy of the human race?
b environmental impacts of human activities
B. Environmental Impacts of Human Activities
  • 1. Driving Forces
  • 2. The Vicious Circle
  • 3. The Ecological Footprint
1 driving forces
1. Driving Forces
  • Context
    • Demographic growth.
    • Growing size (scale) of societies and communities.
    • Urbanization.
    • Technological development.
    • Development failures.
    • Larger levels of personal consumption.
    • Higher generation of wastes:
      • Several are difficult to be absorbed.
  • Growing impacts on the environment
1 driving forces1
1. Driving Forces
  • Population change
    • A world of 6.3 billion “consumers”.
    • Each addition of consumers generate more pressures on:
      • Food.
      • Water.
      • Energy.
      • Raw materials.
      • Space.
    • Comparable negative impact on the environment.
    • What will be the impacts of about 9 billion consumers by 2050?
1 driving forces2
1. Driving Forces
  • Promotion of economic growth
    • Market economies are based on economic expansion:
      • Growth of production (supply).
      • Growth of consumption (demand).
    • Issue reinforced by globalization.
    • Governments try to reinforce economic growth:
      • Elected for such a purpose.
      • Reversed if they “mismanage” the economy.
    • Consequences:
      • Depletion of nonrenewable resources.
      • Overuse of renewable resources.
      • Between 1995 and 1998 the world’s economic output exceeded the output from the beginning of history to 1900.
1 driving forces3
1. Driving Forces
  • Culture and belief systems
    • Consumerism incarnates materialistic values in human behavior.
    • Fulfillment derived from the accumulation of goods.
    • Becoming the dominant global social paradigm.
    • Positive outcomes:
      • Expands the demand side of the market economy.
      • Forces constant innovations by entrepreneurs to satisfy the market.
      • Improve standards of living (luxuries becoming staples).
    • Negative outcomes:
      • Cultural vacuum.
      • Wants become needs (“keeping up with the Joneses”).
      • Misallocation of capital.
fulfillment curve
Fulfillment Curve

Other means







1 driving forces4
1. Driving Forces
  • Technology
    • Population growth, economic growth and consumerism existed, to various degrees, before the industrial revolution.
    • Multiplying effects:
      • Technological growth often the result of resource depletion.
      • More efficient technologies also a factor of accelerated resource depletion.
      • So far, technology as been more a factor of resource depletion and environmental destruction than of conservation.
2 the vicious circle
2. The Vicious Circle
  • Era of superdisasters
    • Climate change.
    • Deforestation.
    • Poverty.
    • Crowding.
  • Collision to create larger hazards
    • 1 billion people are living in shantytowns.
    • Several of the largest cities are at risk by earthquakes.
    • 50% of the global population lives along the coastline.
    • 10 million are at high risk of being flooded.
    • 96% of all causalities from natural disasters are in the Third World.
2 the vicious circle1
2. The Vicious Circle





3 the ecological footprint
3. The Ecological Footprint
  • System processing inputs to produce outputs
    • Inputs:
      • Energy and raw materials.
    • Processes:
      • Energy and raw materials with labor and infrastructure.
    • Outputs:
      • Products, services and wastes.
    • Offers conditions (opportunities) to support its working conditions and insure its growth.
    • Fast growth can be seen as a disease (cancer).
    • Sustainability achieved through the reduction of inputs and outputs.


Raw materials







material flow cycle
Material Flow Cycle

Resource supply

Production and manufacturing


Waste or losses

Post-consumer discards


Recycled flow

Landfills, impoundments,

Deep wells and ocean


Releases to air, land and



Renewable and

Nonrenewable resources

3 the ecological footprint1
3. The Ecological Footprint
  • Environmental sink
    • The environment is a sink.
    • Rate at which it can accumulate (and often transform) wastes.
    • Each component of the environmental system has a different capacity and rate of accumulation.
    • Consideration of physical measures of environmental damage.






3 the ecological footprint2
3. The Ecological Footprint
  • Impacts
    • Possible to measure the general impacts of human activities on the environment.
    • Requires two basic measures:
      • Biocapacity (supply).
      • Ecological footprint (demand).
    • Becomes a matter of balance between biocapacity and ecological footprint.
    • The ecological footprint must be lower than the biocapacity of the world.







Ecological Footprint

3 the ecological footprint3
3. The Ecological Footprint
  • Calculating biocapacity and ecological footprint
    • Biocapacity:
      • Inventory of the biologically productive land and its yield.
      • More intensive management can boost yields, but if additional resources are used this also increases the footprint.
    • Footprint:
      • Keep track of most of the resources consumed and the wastes generated.
      • Consumption from cropland, grassland and pasture, fishing and forest.
      • Area required to absorb the CO2 released.
      • Converted to a biologically productive area necessary to provide these functions.
    • The footprint is not a continuous:
      • Due to international trade, the land and water areas used by most global citizens are scattered all over the planet.
      • Deficit areas can import from surplus areas.