Week 1: Reading Sociology Part 15

Estimated Reading Time 00:03:55

Reading Sociology

Part 15: Environment

Chapter 59: “How Can You Decide about Us without Us?” A Canadian Catastrophe in Copenhagen
by Sherrie M. Steiner

This is a really technical, really esoteric piece of reading and I must say I don’t have enough international politics background to really understand what the author’s getting at. So I’ll just copy the part summary.


  • The process of assessing accountability and consequent responsibility for restitution is made all the more difficult by the power contest between nation-states and multinational industries, and between more and less developed countries regarding the allocation of restrictions.
  • “Governance without government” (governance – government = ance-ment).

Notable quotes:

A key question for global governance is “What do adapted democratic principles imply about desirable patterns of accountability in world politics”?

– Sherrie M. Steiner

Chapter 60: The Production of Modernity in Classic American Whale Hunting
by Katja Neves

Latour’s analysis of modernity:

  • Two fundamental dichotomies define modernity:
    1. Society is distinct from nature.
    2. Discrete entities (for sale in the market) is irrecognizable from its complex, hybrid origins.

Neves’s analysis:

  • Links between Latour and Marx.
  • Production of commodities within capitalism helps dichotomy 2.
  • Sociologists are morally obliged to help the public understand the complex interactions behind goods they see for sale on the market.

Notable quotes:

To be sure, in the context of capitalism, commodities appear in markets as if by magic, expunged of the complex human-non-human matrices out of which they come to be. Karl Marx called this process the fetishization of commodities.

– Katja Neves

In agreement with Latour’s call for such a political ecology, I contend that it is our role as sociologists to unveil and explain these processes and, in so doing, help nurture higher degrees of reflexivity concerning the politics and implications of distinct epochs of human-non-human collectives.

– Katja Neves

Chapter 61: “Keep It Wild, Keep It Local”: Comparing News Media and the Internet as Sites for Environmental Movement Activism for Jumbo Pass, British Columbia
by Mark C.J. Stoddart and Laura MacDonald

A case study investigating the transformative power of the Internet in environmental activism.

Stoddart and MacDonald:

  • It used to be that the relationship between social movements and mass media is asymmetric. Activists had to make their story newsworthy. But this may change with the Internet.
  • Case study comparing and contrasting mass media and websites. It has a lot of words.
  • More mass media access may result in less attention paid to core arguments.
  • The Internet is a game-changer!

Notable quotes:

However, it is probably that newspapers reach both a larger audience and a more general audience than that reached by environmentalist websites. By contrast, activist-produced websites may be limited to speaking to smaller, more attentive audiences. If this is the case, social movement communication strategies should focus on how these different media may be used to complement each other.

– Mark C.J. Stoddart and Laura MacDonald

Chapter 62: Regulating Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada: Paradoxes and Conflicts of a Closed System
by Wilhelm Peekhaus

Article about government regulations on biotechnology.


  • The regulatory system champions biotechnology, which is something an impartial government shouldn’t do.
  • The government’s favour of biotechnology disallows consideration of broader social justice, politico-economic, and ethical concerns that attach to biotechnology.
  • This is wrong!
  • We, as social subjects, want the government to be more careful in decision-making.

Notable quotes:

In Canada, we regulate the product and not the process; that is, regulatory oversight is triggered by the end product rather than the processes by which it is created. As a result, our regulatory system fails completely to adequately consider the secondary effects that accrue from manipulation of an organism at its genetic level, despite the fact that genetic engineering affects an organism’s metabolic pathways in ways that are often quite difficult to detect and determine.

– Wilhelm Peekaus

Chapter 63: The Science and Politics of Polar Ice
by Mark Vardy

Do you know that Polar Ice is a brand of vodka? It tastes horrible.


  • Sea ice (forms and melts every year) and ice sheets (remains of the Ice Age), because of their different time scales, elicit different political responses.
  • In response to sea ice, nations are claiming the ocean floor underneath.
  • In response to melting ice sheets, scientists argue over whether their melting would pose significant danger.
  • Too much modernist thinking in politics is bad. We need to engage with the limits of modern tropes about sovereignty. We also need to engage with findings of earth sciences.

Notable quotes:

Are our current politics capable of responding to non-linear earth system without imposing the modernist authority of territorially based nation-states? The response seen thus far to reductions in sea ice does not bode well.

– Mark Vardy

Creative Commons License
SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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