Lecture 2 (C. Morais)

Estimated Reading Time 00:09:27

Notes by Camilla Morais

SOC 103 – Lecture 2: Cities, Populations and Environments

  • Demography: flow of people in societies, places etc. – Births, Deaths, Migration

3 important generalizations about Social Units

  • Big social units work differently than small units
  • All social units that are changing very rapidly tend to function and have different problems than slow changing social units i.e. a classroom in which there is no change in the students who are there in the entire year vs. a classroom with new students who come in and leave throughout
    • You will find a much different social unit—affect all kinds of things in social life that make our life more productive because you cant do those things when there is rapid change i.e. form relationships
  • Heterogeneous social units are different than homogeneous
    • I.e. One classroom where everyone has the same background vs. one with people of several backgrounds histories and ethnicities etc.
    • You will see the difficulty in creating activities etc.
  • The same is true for all social units

Life Today on Planet Earth

  • The science of demography theorizes how the composition of the population affects how society works
    • Populating Size
    • Population Change (via births deaths migrations)
    • Population Composition
    • How population change affects size and composition
  • 6% of all people who have ever lived are still alive today

Population Growth is an Issue in many societies

  • Overpopulation
    • What size is too big for the world?
    • Nobody has really answered
    • To demographers this is a stupid question
  • Demographers don’t think population size works in that way
  • Among environmentalists, there is a belief on the population that can live in the natural environment (carrying capacity)
  • Very hard to put a number on this question
  • There is a general sense that there could possibly come a time that there could be too many people for the natural capacity
  • People who don’t like the notion of overpopulation often say that population has grown but as you increase the number of people you increase the number of geniuses
    • I.e. new technologies and new ways of producing food and health

Rapid population growth is also an issue in many societies

  • Population growth vs. population size
  • The real problem is the rate at which we become bit
  • If you become big very rapidly (as a society/institution) you have a hard time adjusting your society/institution to suit your population.
  • Populations with the highest growth rate also tend to be populations that are the poorest and most advantaged
  • In underdeveloped societies there are shortages of certain resources and there is real population pressure
  • Population pressure also affects human life in various ways, including crowding

Other important population issues in various societies today

  • Big concern in much of the western world (esp. in Canada) – Aging population
    • Non-retirement of older workers
    • The excess of unemployed young men
  • The selection and assimilation of immigrants
  • The shortage of marriage partners
  • Young women turn out better than women in these sorts of issues (i.e. shortage of jobs) – young men can turn violent
  • If you rely on immigrants to keep society alive – which immigrants, how do you assimilate etc.?
  • This poses a huge problem, in Canada we haven’t figured it out, how to select the correct people in order to flourish

Thomas Malthus 1766-1834: The first population theorist

  • His father was a utopian socialist
  • He was very interested in social change, redistribution, in order to solve poverty
    • To him the solution was to re-distribute the wealth
  • Malthus’ agenda was not primarily to talked bout population issues, but it was what he was remembered for
  • He wanted to show his father that you cannot solve the problem of poverty through re-distribution—hate letter to his father
  • Malthus was ingenious in collecting together the small amount of material in his time to draw conclusions from pretty weak data and to make such rigorous assumption
  • To him, human beings having sex in a natural way, multiplies the world’s population exponentially
  • Food can only grow linearly
  • Any geometric series will string and arithmetic series no matter the rate of growth

Positive and Preventive Checks

  • According to Malthus, positive checks on population included disease, famine and war
  • Preventive checks included delayed marriage and abstinence
    • He was a religious minister therefore did not believe in abortion and contraceptives
    • So from his standpoint, the only way to control population is to control marriage
    • You couldn’t control marriage without controlling access to income

Malthus didn’t know that population growth slows with industrialization

  • The age in which you get married is not a very good predictor of how many children you will have
  • In industrial societies, people devise ways of having babies despite food issues in society
  • Therefore Malthus is proved wrong
  • Industrialization and more prosperity
  • Voluntary Birth Control
  • Biggest element is motivation

Birth rates and Death rates Decline

  • According to the demographic transition theory, a decline in the birth rate follows a decline in the death rate
  • This happened in Europe then through out the world
    • Death rate started to fall in Europe – improvement in medication large scale efforts to control infections and epidemic
    • About a generation or so later, very rapid decline in birth rate
    • Various explanations for this
  • Once death rates fall you know you don’t need to have 6 children so that 2 survive, you don’t have to create 6 children anymore – then go about ensuring that they create only 2
  • In modern societies people are less motivated to have lots of children because they are a net loss
  • Changing patterns of lifestyle in modern societies

World Population Since 1750

  • Back in 1750, there were only 800 million people, today 7 billion—explosion of people, especially in developing countries, and is predicted to keep growing

A major shift in world population

  • Population has en enormous effect on power relations – take for instance China and Brazil: market that is willing to work for so little and buy anything that’s in front of them
  • Interesting questions: What is the link between population size and power?

Population change affects population composition

  • Birth, deaths and migration affect proportions of people in different locations – flows of people through the institutions
  • We can already see effects of multicultural society, of aging population, the way University’s work, how businesses work
  • In order to understand the social problems society is facing we must understand these things

Population pyramids tell the tale

  • Nigeria: Rapid Growth
  • U.S. Slow Growth
  • Germany: Negative Growth
  • Most of the word’s population growth will occur in the developing nations

What determines the shape of a population structure?

  • Risks of death, rates of birth

Canada’s population structure: not a pyramid or a rectangle

  • Sometimes referred to s a diamond
  • Due to the baby boom in the middle of the distribution
  • Temporary

Ulrich Beck The Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity (1986)

  • Beck labeled society a ‘risk society’
  • In tis period of advanced modernity, society is dominated by man –made risks

The Natural Environment

  • Everything that lives will struggle to survive at the cost of another
  • We’re competing to survive

Where do “natural disasters” occur?

  • Most harmful disasters tend to occur on the southern hemisphere
  • Thus, the poorest people in the least developed countries are doubly disadvantaged

What Causes the Rise in Carbon Emissions?

  • As human beings have grown in numbers, inevitably there has been a growth in carbon emissions – direct relationship

Classic Study: The Limits to Growth (1972)

  • Donella H. Meadows and Dennis L. Meadows, et al
  • Created the World3 Model a computer simulation to track complex human systems change over time
  • Five Major Trends
    • Rapid Population Growth
    • Deteriorating Environment
    • Depletion of non-renewable resources
    • Accelerating industrialization
    • Spreading malnutrition
  • Following Malthus, this model assumed that most of these variable including population increased exponentially
  • Only the ability of technology to increase available resources grew linearly or arithmetically
  • 1972 conclusion of this simulations
    • We’re screwed
    • Humanity will reach the “limit to growth” on this planet some time in the next 100 years if it continues to grow at the current rate of growth (i.e. when the study was conducted 1972)
    • The argument is that we are at the limit of growth

2004 Conclusions of this simulation

  • Concluded that they were right the first time and now it’s too late fro sustainable development
  • Called for harm reduction initiatives

These demographic and ecological pressures vary geographically

  • I.e. people who live in mountains are less informed than those living in seashores
  • The build environment: a universalizing invention
  • City life is very similar from one city to another but very different from cities to not cities
  • Cities are inventions, they don’t happen naturally – the idea of bringing people together in close contact is a bizarre idea
  • In cities you can have resources, artifacts, opportunities
  • Certain kinds of institutions you will only find in cities
    • Opera Houses
    • Big Universities
    • Specialized Hospitals
  • Because of specialized scaled, you can have certain opportunities that you cannot have elsewhere
  • Cities are build environments
  • You can’t have cities until you have in the countryside the ability to grow a surplus of food

The historic growth of cities

  • They are an alternative to feudal agricultural relationships
  • People in the feudal times, majority of the people lived on the people, did not own the land and worked for a feudal lord – not quite enslaved but very restrictive relationship to the person who owned the land
  • If you could escape from the feudal lord and live in the city for a year, you were free
  • Cities meant that nobody could tell you what to do
  • As commerce started to develop, more and more people fled to cities because cities meant freedom
  • This posed a very interesting contrast with rural life
  • Rural life: unchanging, very oppressive, landlord tells you what to do
  • Cities: Populations growing rapidly, nobody controls anybody, people bring different histories, economies of scale allowed for facilities you could not have anywhere else

City and City Life

  • As human population became very large after 1750, it also became increasingly urban
  • With the growth of industrialization you tend to have the growth of industrial cities
  • Division of labour, specialization, more wealth production, more social inequality
  • Huge problems: housing problem, sanitation, violence

Mechanical versus organic solidarity

  • There are no more different social structures than a large city and small village
  • Rural life is built on a different set of principles than cities
  • Durkheim’s concept of “mechanical solidarity” applies only to small homogeneous communities
  • Rural communities are small, cities are large, rural communities unchanging, cities have a large population turnover and growth, everything is changing there
  • In small communities people are simply glued together by similarity
  • In cities people must be glued together by different set of forces which builds on their differences not similarities: ORGANIC SOLIDARITY

Rural life versus urban life

  • Cities are particularly at war with the natural environment
  • The city’s build environment conflicts with the natural environment in many harmful ways

Cities as rich neighbours

  • Cities tend to be rich and non-cities tend to not be rich
  • Country people tend to look at city people as immoral
  • Urbanization is growing worldwide

Concentric Ring theory

  • Cities tend to grow outwards (Burgess)
  • Stretches out to Chicago (The Chicago School)
  • Model doesn’t hold as well for Canadian or European Cities
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