Chapter 2 (L. Xu)

Estimated Reading Time 00:04:43

Notes by Lance Xu

Chapter 2: Material Settings


-Demography: study of human populations – their growth and decline through births, deaths and immigration

-Thomas Malthus – Earth’s population may exceed carrying capacity one day, food increases linearly, population increases exponentially

-‘Checks’ could keep population growth in line with food supply, positive checks increase death rate (war, famine, pestilence and disease), preventive checks limit number of live births (abortion, infanticide, contraceptives, etc)

-need to use preventive checks to avoid positive checks


Critical theory

-People take actions that benefit themselves the most and support theories that justify their actions

-problems in poor countries not as a result of overpopulation but rather from an unfair and harmful distribution of the world’s resources

-historically famine not a significant positive check

-poverty often causes problems similar to those posed by overpopulation and also contribute to overpopulation

-zero population growth -> deaths = births, global strategy of survival

Urban Life


-social problems in city result of growth and specialization (more wealth = more robbery)

-characteristics of the city (size, variety, etc) that promote social disorganization, weak social controls and consequent deviance and distress

-rural life – members shared same experiences and developed similar values, norms and identity

-urban life – people interdependent on others for prosperity and survival

Critical Theory

-whose interests are served by the dominant groups in society and their ideology

-urban problems such as homelessness and poverty is caused by capitalism, power groups disinterested in helping lower class

Symbolic Interactionism

-how meanings and thought patterns affect environmental problems, and how they influence people’s perception of these problems

-environmental geography: study of the interactions between humans and their surrounding natural world, focusing on the human impact on the environment and vice versa

-what kind of claims make the greatest impact, and how they become a problem in the public’s eye

-also study how environmental polluters manipulate symbols to protect themselves from criticism (greenwashing – repackaging products as environmentally friendly)

Feminist Theory

questions prevailing capitalist celebration of increasing growth, unlimited resources and unregulated commerce

-ecofeminists link exploitation of marginalized groups (women) with exploitation of environment

Limits to growth

-World3 model; simulation of the next 100 years, showed that earth’s resources would be depleted or too expensive to buy

-possible to change this by reaching an equilibrium, using cutbacks in spending, buying and consuming, impossible to achieve at North American standards of living

Why demography?

-large population puts more pressure on natural environment, more likely to innovate or break into smaller populations, and large populations need the systematic production of food

-industrial, post agricultural societies don’t need large populations

-large populations dense and crowded, usually live in cities

-population growth resulted in urbanization

-large populations divide labour, resulting in different social roles for people with different skills and aptitudes

-composition of a population makes a difference, young predominantly male population = more disorder/deviance, evenly split population typical of a settled family community = less deviance

-age also a factor, old = high spending on medical care, young = high spending on education

Human capital: skill set, usually including educational attainment or job related experiences that enhances a worker’s value on the job; the result of forgone income and a long term investment in personal improvement

-healthy, long lived society likely to contain higher level of human capital and therefore higher productivity and increased prosperity

-population turnover both negative (undermines traditional culture and existing social networks) and positive (reinvigorates culture and introduces new social elements)

-Sudden rejuvenation of the population (baby boom) or dramatic aging (less childbearing) have huge effects on culture, politics and social institutions


Population Trends Reveal a Society’s History

Population composition: makeup or mix of different social types in a population (gender, age, etc)

Population pyramid: graphic depiction of the age-sex composition of a population

Cohort: set of people with common origin or starting point (birth cohort = same year of birth)

-can learn about societies and their histories by analyzing population composition, war = drop in men, baby boom = increase in children

-unequal male/female ratio result of gendercide

World Population

-1750-present world population increased dramatically

-growth starting to decline, lower fertility in developed countries

-proportion of people living in less developed countries > 80%

Risk society (Ulrich Beck)

-advancing technology posing serious risks to environment (ex BP oil spill, Chernobyl nuclear meltdown)

-people must assume both individual and social responsibilities for their actions

The Natural Environment

-people much more aware of natural environment than a generation ago, due to environmental movements

-humans rely on natural environment for their basic needs as well as luxuries

-water becoming valuable resource, demand for water growing, not evenly distributed


Human geography: systematic study of the location of human enterprises and characteristics (health, education, commerce and trade)

-historically people have lived close to sources of water, these people tend to have more interaction with different types of people, resulting in a more diverse culture

-different landscapes, environments and climates lead to different challenges, lifestyles and resources

Buildings and Cityscapes

-rise of cities coincide with rise of markets and states, could not come into being without systematic farming and agriculture

-constantly come into conflict with surrounding smaller rural communities


-more people live in cities than ever before, greatest urbanization in developing countries

-megacity: a geographic locale with a large concentrated population, sometimes defined as exceeding 5 million people

Bedroom suburb: residential area near a large city that provides housing and services for people who commute each day into the downtown urban area

Built Environments

-built environment puts huge pressure on the natural environment, North America use disproportionate share of the world’s energy and mineral resources due to high standard of living


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.

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

Week 1 Lecture Notes – Starting Points Ch. 2

Estimated Reading Time 00:10:46

Cities, Populations, and Environments

Teppy: people start talking about these at the very end of the course BUT NOT ME! There’s a good reason.

All human beings die. D:
Society has to cope with death
so social institutions need to cope with death
and they need to deal with people being born
the study of flow of people and births and deaths and migration is demography.

I’m gonna teach you demography today.

Teppy: In truth I have studied demography and demography geeks are the worst. They only think about three things. Births, deaths, and migrations.
But it’s much more quantifiable. So much more scientific. People are either dead or alive, either here or there, and that’s all demographers talk about!

Important generalizations:

-SIZE MATTERS: BIG social units work differently
e.g. con hall
-RAPIDLY CHANGING social units work differently
e.g. a class with 5 new students entering and 5 old students leaving every day.
-HETEROGENEOUS social units work differently
e.g. class with all asians vs. class with people from all over the place.
(not only ethnicity, but can also be social background, economic status, etc.)

Cooperation becomes more difficult for the above adjectives.

Demographers talk about:
-change affects size and composition

6% of all the people who were ever born, over the entire course of human history, are alive today.
“A large share of them are in Convocation hall.” — Teppy

-negative: large population puts more pressure on the natural
how do you quantify the carrying capacity of the world?
but there is a sense that there could come a time where there really would be TOO MUCH people.

-positive: large population is more likely to invent new technologies
Statistically, there’d be more genius.

“You understand what I’m saying? Is it complicated? Not complicated? Not complicated. I took a vote! I took an instantaneous vote!” — Teppy

RAPID population growth is an issue. It’s more difficult to adjust to meet the demands of rapidly increasing population.

Populations with the highest growth rate tend also to be poor and uneducated. If you couple that with economic underdevelopment, lack of infrastructure, etc., that’d just be BAD!
There are shortages of resources.
“There’s real population pressure.” – Teppy

-Aging of the population
– non retirement of old workers
– young men LIKE ME will be unemployed
“There are people like me who will keep on working until someone puts a bullet in me. JUST KIDDING.” – Teppy
“There will be young people just waiting for me to die!” – Teppy
“Especially young men. They will tend to cause a lot more trouble than young women would.” – Teppy

-Selection and assimilation of immigrants
– Low fertility rate in Canada. So we need immigrants.
– And we need immigrants to produce 1) labour 2) children.
– Which immigrants? What skills? How many? How do you assimilate?
“In Canada we haven’t figured it out.” – Teppy

-Shortage of marriage partners
“Which is sort of an amusing thing if you think about it. But it probably won’t be so funny if you find yourself in a shortage of marriage partners. 😦 ” – Teppy

THOMAS MALTHUS (1766 – 1834)
The first population theorist
His father was a utopian socialist. Very interested in social change + reform + redistribution. To solve poverty. Concern in England. Effects of industrial revolution.
Malthus, according to Teppy, wants to prove his father wrong.

-The relationship between population increase (geometric) and food increase (linear)
-Population is too large; will exceed food supply and deaths will result.
-A natural limit to how much the population can expand
-Need to be careful with utopian dreams

1.Human beings love to eat.
2.Human beings love to have sex.
3.When people get married they have sex like all day every day.

If uncontrolled, population tends to increase geometrically.
Food available is a function of available land. Eventually we’d run out! (He didn’t know about genetic engineering and new seeds and etc.)

Any geometric series will outgrow any arithmetic series. Inevitably.
“Which means that people will starve. Invariably.” – Teppy

Redistribution of wealth? Poor people can now procreate! And so you’d simply have taken all the money, redistributed them, and consumed it up in the production of children!
Positive and preventive checks
Positive checks: disease, famine, or war
Preventive checks: delayed marriage, abstinence (PREFERRED BY MALTHUS)

Malthus did not believe in contraception. According to Malthus, as soon as people get married they have sex and make babies. So the only way is to reduce marriage. And you reduce marriage by reducing people’s income.


In industrial societies, the growth rate slows down dramatically until population starts to shrink.
The GNP per capita increases due to
-voluntary birth control

Birth rates and death rates decline

“Demographic transition”: decline in death rate and then decline in birth rate
Public health measures, nutrition, etc. (didn’t have to do with doctors, etc., it’s about the bigger things)

Once death rate falls you’re more sure that your children will survive so you don’t have to create so many children anymore.

People are less incentivized to produce children because they become costs. Doesn’t help with household. Need costs for education, etc. “Children are a pain in the ass! Why would you have a bunch of them?” – Teppy

Until 1750 population relatively unchanging.
only 800 mill in 1750 but 7 billion today.

A major shift in world population
Will continue to rise but less quickly than before.
More people will live in the South than the North.
Just by virtue of the amount of people, world power balance may shift.

Where the growth will occur
In developed countries natural growth will decline below 0.
Most of world’s population growth during this century will happen in developing nations.

Population and power
A question that demographers don’t think about very much. So I invite anyone here who doesn’t know what to do with their lives yet to think about trying to answer this question.

Population change affects population composition
Births deaths and migrations change composition.

There will be continued need for immigrants to maintain the workforce. There will be more elderly people – health care.
So it’s an important question.

Population pyramids tell the tale
The most distinctive visual aids in demography.
Some say you can read the history of humanity through population pyramids.

Different societies have different structures [shapes of pyramids]. e.g. Fort McMurray in Alberta – where they dig out oil. So lots of young men.
“Frontiertown. Men go there.” – Teppy, with a gorilla pose.

U.S. – a more “rectangular” distribution. Roughly the same proportion for every one of every age. How?

Germany – inverse pyramid.
“People live to a thousand years old but no one makes babies.” – Teppy

How would you produce a rectangular distribution?
-have exactly the same number of births and deaths. And no one dies until age 80. And at age 80 everyone dies.

Canada’s population structure
It’s more like a diamond. With a bulge for baby boomers.
“Eventually they’ll finally all die off and we’ll have a rectangular distribution.” – Teppy
“quite an incredible human invention” – Teppy
Every time we solve problems we create new ones.

Ulrich Beck: Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity
-Beck labelled contemporary society a “risk society”
-in advanced modernity, society dominated by man-made risks
-modern people have begun to question the benefits from technology

“My wife has been reading about that there’s been a 50% decline in male fertility.” – Teppy

The natural environment
-Everything is competing to survive
-That’s how nature works.
-humans compete too (with nature, with each other, etc.)

Where do natural disasters occur?
-The most common and harmful disasters seem to occur in less-developed countries.
-So poorest people in least developed countries are doubly disadvantaged.

What causes the rise in carbon emissions?
-The growth in world population and total carbon emissions since 1825 is nearly identical
-Causal relationship

Water shortage
-world is starting to feel the pinch
-people are dying from lack of water
-Canada is okay. But US wants our water and US usually gets what it wants.
-so water might be violently sought. Because if you don’t have water, you die.
-new technology: desalination, etc. But should they fail, we die.

Classic Study: The Limits to Growth
“This is probably the more depressing part of this lecture. If you are optimistic you’ll probably end up depressed. If you are depressed you’ll probably end up suicidal.” – Teppy

Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, et al (MIT)
Commissioned by the Club of Rome
Using computer simulation. With lots of data. Lots of theories. Smart people at MIT. To track future of human race.

Interested in the interactions between
1.rapid population growth
2.deteriorating environment
3.depletion of non-renewable resources
4.accelerating industrialization
5.spreading malnutrition

The canvas is the entire world. Huge advance from Malthus.

-most of the variables including population increases exponentially
-ability of technology to increase available resources grew linearly

CONCLUSION: we’re screwed.
If everything continues at the current (1970s) rate…
Humanity will reach “limit to growth” on this planet sometime in the next 100 years.

2004 conclusions of this simulation.
An updated 2004 edition of this book claimed IT IS NOW TOO LATE for sustainable development.
In 1972 we still had a chance. But you didn’t listen to us did you?! So now suck on it you snobs. You deserved it. You should’ve listened to us. You’ve had your chance.

“Saving the world is actually incredibly hard. Easier is the task of pretending to save the world. So I urge you to spend your life pretending to save the world.” -Teppy

Where people settle will influence the location of population and environmental problems and costs of imports,etc.

Cities: a universalizing invention
-Humans are constantly finding new ways to build a protective artificial environment
-City life is similar from one to another and different from non-city lives.
e.g. you don’t find gay bars at countrysides.

Cities as built environments
Cities are human-made environments that interact with and intervene in the relation between humans and the natural environment
-developed gradually, without planning
-rise of cities coincided with rise of markets and states
– growth possible due to excess food

As long as you have commerce and political administration, you have cities. They need a food surplus because there’s nothing in city that produces food.

The historic growth of cities
-alternative to feudal, agricultural relationships.
-historically, cities have been self-governing places
-provides economies of scale – facilities

“In cities, nobody owned you!” – Teppy
People fled to cities because they wanted to be free!

Cities and city-life
After 1750 human life became increasingly urban.
Growth of industrialization implies growth of industrial cities.
-division of labour
-production of wealth
-social inequality

“Living in cities is really hard if you don’t know how to do it.” -Teppy

Mechanical vs. Organic Solidarity
-large city and small village cannot be any more different
-“mechanical solidarity” applies only to small homogeneous communities

Rural: strong social ties, weak interdependence
Urban: weak social ties, strong interdependence

DURKHEIM argued that interdependence is a necessary consequence to the functionality of cities, due to its weak social ties
“People need to be glued together by their differences instead of their similarities.” – Teppy
Organic solidarity.

As cities become larger and larger, with great diversity and rapid turnover, the city’s built environment conflicts with the natural environment in many harmful ways
Urbanization process more profound consequences (to the environment, etc.) than any other form of demographic change

Cities as rich neighbours
-often been richer, more powerful, more “immoral” than their rural neighbours

Teppy argues: hostility between Alberta and Ontario, the Harper government (based in Alberta) and the rest of Canada, is a form of this tension.

Urban living and public health
-in early times cities often have massive health problems

Cities have advantages

-urbanization increasing throughout the world
-increasing number of megacities (e.g. Mexico city)
-it’s not about megacities, but then most people live in cities of 500 000 people or fewer

Traffic issues and commuting
-growing number live in Greater Metropolitan Area
-Many residents of a GMA live in surrounding rural areas

The concentric ring theory
-when people look at a lot of data they attempt to simply it
-people tend to commute into from outside suburbs
-the concentric ring theory attributable to Burgess applies to many cities, especially to chicago and cities like Chicago
-Doesn’t apply as well to non-American cities, where more people live downtown

This model holds for most American cities. Not true for Canadian or European cities.

Loop 1: downtown
Loop 2: Factory
Loop 3: Zone of transition
Loop 4: Working class zone
Loop 5: residential zone
Loop 6: commuter zone
(with one being the most inward)

“What process would create a city like this? I’ll ask you to think about that.” -Teppy


Week 1 – Starting Points Ch. 2

Estimated Reading Time 00:16:46

Starting Points

Chapter 2
Question: How does environment affect us?

Importance of technology in our lives. (E4TW) The babyboomers’ aging issue. Climate change. So it’s important to answer this question above.

Urban life is different from rural life, specifically:

  1. Cities have more people
  2. Technologies in cities are unlikely to be found rurally
  3. Built environment of cities conflicts with the environment more than that of a rural area


Sociologists try to address questions of urbanization. Two main approaches are macroanalytical: functional and critical.


Thomas Malthus (1766-1864) said population issues (environment, food supply, etc) may pose a serious problem for humanity. Earth might be overpopulated. First functional analysis predating DURKHEIM.

Malthus’s argument: food supply increases linearly while population increases exponentially. So unsustainable for large t. Food per capita will approach 0. Everyone’s gonna die.

“Checks” will regulate population. Think about it. If you wanna decrease population, what can you do?

  • Positive Checks: increase death rate. (like war, famine, epidemic)
  • Preventive Checks: limit births. (like abortion, condoms, celibacy, infanticide)

(Like the logistic growth model in differential equations)

This is functional analysis, because it involves social equilibrium, ways to maintain equilibrium, and dangers of losing equilibrium. Unless humankind takes initiative through preventive checks, nature will reassert equilibrium through positive checks. Ignoring this problem isn’t gonna make it better. (So if you don’t want war, kill infants. Okay no not really. I was joking! Bad joke.)

Was Malthus right? Difficult to quantify carrying capacity of the world. As technology improves carrying capacity increases. But is it enough? Lester Brown says no. Food supply will not last and so we are all gonna die.

Critical Theory’s Approach to Malthus

Critical theorists deny that there’s ever an attainable equilibrium. All factions of society are constantly at war and peace and reconciliation are impossible. So then, overpopulation is an unfortunate consequence resulting from exploitation. Those filthy rich. Those 1% that control everything. It’s not natural! (with the implicant accusation that Malthus is championing the dominant ideology discussed in Week 0)

So then famines at overpopulated regions are due to improper land use, wars, and other sociopolitical factors. Poverty cycle. Things like that.

Some studies (historical records) show that famine has not been a significant “positive check”. The assumption that plagues and epidemics are positive checks may not be valid either. So suck on that Malthus.

Poverty and inequality may contribute to overpopulation. Only gradually after modernization does growth slow down. Society enters “demographic transition” towards lower death and birth rates.

Zero population growth (ZPG, like RPG, but not really) may be a temporary solution. When births are exactly balanced by deaths. (Sounds pretty sinister.)



  • View 1: social problems in the city arise naturally out of growth and specialization. More wealth implies more theft, etc.
  • View 2: tendencies of the city (size, variety, fluidity) promote social problems. Crime, etc. are foreseeable consequences, and are the price to pay for city life. You can solve the problem by finding new equilibrium.

Pre-industrial communities: small settlements where members share same experience. Referred to as common conscience by DURKHEIM. People were tight – mechanical solidarity. Urban society is based on interdependent but not really intimate relationships – organic solidarity.

Functionalists look for universal laws of social development and how to move to a newer and better equilibrium.

Critical Theory

Urban problems due to negligence of ruling class. To solve this problem you need more than housing. It’s fundamentally an inequality problem.
e.g. well-off residents live in “inner cities”; ghetto neighbourhoods – this segregation signifies a satisfaction with prevailing economic inequality.

Symbolic Interactionism

Interested in how people experience the city daily. George Simmel says that cities are so stimulating that people get numb to adapt.

Not everyone in a city has the same experience though. Herbert Gans (1982) says manning of city life varies among subcultures. Subcultures are great because people form connections.
Subculture: group of people who share cultural traits of larger society but also have own distinctive values, etc. Like how {2, 3, 5, 7} are not only integers but also prime.



Everyone is to blame for pollution. Some more than others. We go too far (morally) for pleasure, consumerist as we are. In fact we even developed ideologies to justify our pleasure-seeking.

  • Cornucopia view of nature: nature is meant to be consumed by humans so don’t worry.
  • Growth ethic & Materialism: technology alone will solve everything everything will work out so don’t worry.
  • Individualism: tragedy of the commons. Prisoner’s dilemma. Too much Ayn Rand is bad!

Critical Theory

Environmental problems hurt the poor more than they do the rich. Poorer countries unable to respond to catastrophic events.
90% of disaster related deaths occur in poor countries.
75% of disaster related economic damage affects rich countries.

Capitalistic exploitation is bad! The “marginalization of the poor” is bad!
And so problem is mainly social, not technical or natural.

Symbolic Interactionism

How do meanings and thought affect people’s perception of problems?

Social constructionist framework: how do problems enter public consciousness? What kinds of claims are more eye-catching for the public? Why greenhouse effect one year and AIDS another?

Insights into how polluters use the rhetoric of environmental advocates to protect themselves. “Greenwashing” – corporate PR strategy to boost image; often involves redesigning and repackaging.

Feminist Theory

Questions growth, unlimited resource, unregulated commerce. Ecofeminism: links exploitation of marginal groups with degradation of nature in Western values.

Women have the potential to bring an “ecological revolution”. A “feminine” way of dealing with the environment will be good.
Domination over women is similar to domination over nature (what?). i.e. “Rape of the wild”.

Classic Studies: the Limits to Growth
Published by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers (fancy name), and William W. Behrens III (fancy name) in 1972. International experts at MIT Sloan School of Management, commissioned by Club of Rome. Analyzed five trends:

  • accelerating industrialization
  • rapid population growth
  • widespread malnutrition
  • depletion of non-renewable resources
  • deteriorating environment

Assumed each of these variables increases exponentially, but capacity of technology only increases linearly. The results of the simulation shocked the world — they analyzed 12 scenarios and showed that within 100 years the world’s natural resources would be either exhausted or too precious.

(This whole simulation seems kind of silly to me. If you assume that consumption rates increase exponentially and production rates increase linearly, then of course you would get this result! Exponentials eventually overtakes linear functions — that’s a simple mathematical property. I don’t need a simulation to tell me that! The textbook though did not provide justification for their assumption. In logic if the premise is wrong, the whole argument is invalid. And these “Club of Rome” “scholars” “from MIT” doesn’t seem to focus on justifying their premises at all. Why should anyone care about a model — albeit elegant — built on false premises?)

Conclusion: Humanity will reach limit of growth within the next 100 years. But it’s okay! It’s still possible to change the growth patterns. It’s just that, we can’t afford to live like North Americans anymore.

Nothing in the past 40 years invalidated the book. In 2004 the authors published an update: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. They said that humanity is seriously close to “global overshoot” and within 70 years, the system collapse will no longer be evitable (funny, there exists a similar prediction about the global monetary system collapse).

Still, the book remains largely unread and the message ignored.

Why Demography?

Why study population at all? Well all people live in populations. (No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe.)

Demographers’ questions:
Does it matter if populations are:

  1. big vs. small?
  2. dense vs. sparse?
  3. (mainly) young vs. old?
  4. (mainly) healthy vs. unhealthy?
  5. migrating a lot or very little? Live long or shortly?

Yes it matters. So study demography. Thanks for your tuition and see you next year!

… Kay fine I’ll explain a bit more. Population is the basis for society, like how cement is the basis for concrete. So obviously changes in one will affect the other. We just wanna know how, why, and to what extent.

Size and density
Size matters! Because:
1. Larger population induces more stress on environment.

2. Larger population more likely to innovate, else break up
neolithic -> agriculture
Larger population needs systematic food production (agriculture)
agriculture -> industrialization
Industrial societies though want quality over quantity. Growth rate shrinks.
Large populations are dense and mainly urban. More crowding.

3. Larger populations tend to invent new social and economic roles.
Division of labour and specialization.
Social roles distinguished not only by age and gender but skill, aptitude, etc.

Composition matters. When you have 19 men for every woman, you get trouble. When you have 1 man for every woman, then it’s settled.

Age also matters. Young population needs education. Old population needs health care.

A healthy population is likely to contain a higher human capital. Which implies higher productivity and increased prosperity. If you live longer you also have a lower “population turnover” (make sense, though it refers to people as if they were objects for sale). People have stronger loyalties and bonding. More stable.

Older society needs immigration, etc., to inject “new blood”. So turnover can be positive as well. Sudden changes can cause huge effects. (Like how a unity step function can change a coupled resonating system dramatically with lots of transient effects)

Population Trends Reveal a Society’s History

Patterns in population composition reflect epidemic, war, baby boom, etc. Population pyramids are useful. e.g. baby boom increases number of people born in a cohort (fancy word for year). Also reflects epidemic and war and gendercide if you think about it. Also gendercide is bad. Men grow up to be without women. War is a kind of gendercide if you think about it. Sigh why can’t we just be friends.

So yeah pyramids are cool. Examples are in the textbook.

World Population

It increased. Like by a lot over the last 300 years.

American demographer Ansley Coale (1974):
Stone age to 1750 CE (and the textbook has to use CE to confuse you; it basically means AD): almost no growth.
1750+ : exponential growth

Exponential growth means growing really quickly. But worldwide fertility decline spotted. May top at 9 billion according to UN. Childbearing decreased.

More than 80% of people live in less developed countries. (Ahh, it’s the 80-20 rule!) May have implications in world power. China has lowest fertility but highest rate of population growth because there’s so many people. Population growth may affect the environment. Carrying capacity and all those things.

Classic Studies: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity

Ulrich Beck labelled contemporary society a “risk society” in his book in 1986. Beck claims that Western society has transformed from a safe and organizad industrial society into a uniquely chaotic and dangerous society.

In this era of advanced modernity, societies are dominated by manmade risks. Core concept: “reflexive modernization“. (Basically a “meta” way of modernizing.)

Modern era: unlimited confidence in benefits of technology and assumed technology would forever improve. But of course technology is a double-edged sword.
Postmodern society: look to science and rational expertise to manage risk. e.g. Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. But today reflexive modernization also called into doubt of science. That it could bring about only happiness and progress is doubted.

Beck says risks are inevitable. Risks are not catastrophe, in that it hasn’t happened yet, but there’s a probability that it will happen. Thus, risk is dubious, insidious, would-be, fictitious, allusive, existent and non-existent, present and absent, doubtful and real. (Like the quantum mechanical wave function.)

Criticism: natural risks and social risks are always interconnected.

The Natural Environment

We are more aware, thanks to Suzuki! (I love that old man. He’s so cute and happy and cuddly.) Oh and Rachel Carson and Ulrich Beck are also mentioned. Greenpeace have raised awareness too. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Also consider International Earth Day. and WWF’s Earth Hour.

Humans have competed for survival and are now getting pretty good at it. We even controlled biochemical interactions through fertilizers and pesticides. So right now we got nature under control. Until SARS or swine flu then we QQ.

We need natural resources. Water is one valuable example. And a lot of resources are non-renewable. So we need to recycle; find alternative energy sources; find another planet; or stop living so well.

Location 3x

Where people live matters. So you need to study human geography. Water is important. Coastal regions encourage trade, fishing; mountains encourage isolationism, mining; etc. Other than type, climate matters too.

People near water: tolerant, cosmopolitan, and changing culture.
People near mountains: few contact with outside, traditional, insular, warlike, suspicious.
Note: Alps residents cannot be described as “insular”. So can’t be geological determinists.

Buildings and Cityscapes

Cities as planned human ecosystems. Centre of commerce, admin, trade, government. Needs basic technologies (plowing, irrigation, etc.) to exist.

Depends on rural areas. But troubled cultural relations with rural areas. Different activities, morals, wealth. Rich and more powerful: superiority complex. This friction always exists.


More and more people live in cities. In 2008 global population half rural and half urban.

Developed countries cities more evenly distributed. Developing countries have megacities. Most urban growth occur in smaller sized cities though (< 500 000).

Entire reach of city: Greater Metropolitan Area (urban, semi-urban, suburban). Majority live in bedroom suburbs and commute to work every day.

Built Environments

Technological innovation in the past few centuries are largely driven by the needs of living and working in a vertical urban environment. Energy demand puts strain on the environment though.

Manuel Castells
Castells advocates “disposable theory”, because he hates abstract theorizing that periodically enters social sciences.
In 1970s Castells focused on urban social movements and changing post-industrial urban life. In 1980s he focused on relationship between information and communications technology and economics and the role of information networks.
In Information Age, he says that social movements and other means by which people create meaning for themselves are distinct from the dominant economic and social organizations or networks.

Castells’ Marxist urban sociology shows how social movements can effect radical transformation in a post-industrial city, where political entities control public transportation and housing — areas of “collective consumption”.

Arantes (2009) notes that political circumstances led Brazilian sociologists in the 70s to examine the notion of the city. According to them, city life combined collective consumption and collective production, making it central to the working class experience of capitalism.
So: to change the city is to change capitalist class relations and to limit capitalist power.

For movements to be considered effective by sociologists, local activism must produce profound, class-related change. Serbulo (2009) describes how urban protesters in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, changed “existing social relations”. By changing city life they changed lives of billions (and thereby changed class relations).

Castells wondered what “urban” really meant. (e.g. How large a settlement is “urban”?) So we need to synthesize research on settlements of various size. Combine research into cities, greater urban areas, villages, towns, etc. And maybe even communities in cyberspace. Castells thinks that collective action should be understood as discrete and inter-related entities. (Like quantum mechanics!)

Johnson (2009) used Castells’s “typology of identities” (huh?) and showed how “identity practices” of different factions in labour unions may bring about racially inclusive strategies.
(Basically, if a union has black people and Asians in it, then it will have strategies that would benefit black people and Asians, etc.)
Johnson also considers how social networks affect people’s experiences.

(RANT: I’m getting tired of the textbook using words like “consider”, “examine”, etc. Well of course that’s what sociologists do! What were their opinions? What was the consequence? How did they contribute to the field of sociology? These words tell us nothing. Terrible words to put on a resume.)

Castells is concerned with “people in places” but he looks at their movement between places too. Knox et al. (2009) used Castells’s notion of “space of flows” (described below) to study movement of people, baggage, and airplanes in an airport.

On turnover and flow of people: Baumann (2000) calls it “liquid” modernity. Airports are prime exemplars. They promote flow. They combine global economy and “glocal” (global + local) culture. Knox et al. showed how flow processes are controlled by “modes of ordering” to simplify global exchange and interaction.
(Like how people are sorted according to their destinations and assembled before loading onto a plane.)

Castells says that horizontal networks — networks across distance — began to emerge before Internet. The development of these networks challenged hierarchies. (Internet’s all about open-source, man!) e.g. Wikileaks.

Global transformation of information: new questions about education. Pregowski notes a need for “netiquettes” and studied it. (Reddit would be a prime example with very developed codes of conduct.)

As we are connect to more people virtually, we begin to feel rootless. Caldarovic and Sarinic (2009) used “flow of spaces” (a different concept , presumably, than “space of flows”?!) to try to solve this problem. Obviously we can’t go live in tribes and hunt tigers and eat BBQ all day ever again, but maybe we can still root ourselves in human relationships even in a global world.

Globalization = mobility, openness, and fluidity. Devadas (2008) (his name sounds like Las Vegas, Nevada) says that present day flows are NOT “borders, differentiated zones, immobility”.
(Such a confusing way of saying things! He’ll make a great con man. Gamblers usually are. Ahh Vegas.)

Castells notes a “fourth world”, comprised of hunter-gatherers, nomads, etc. Who are socially excluded from globalization.

New Insights

Life and death are viewed in a new light.

The Hungry Iraq
Gazdar (2002) says that international trade with Iraq stopped in 1990, resulting in famine that killed people. But Iraq is not to blame entirely. There are non-food crises–shocks to health and welfare systems. So shocks in global macroeconomy can affect a country in Iraq. Like butterfly theory. (Good movie! :3)

Turks Are Having Fun!
Erol (2008) says that people in Turkey live longer than they did, so population gets old. Turks are consuming more and spending more on leisure. So Turkey – a newly modernized country, takes on foreign notions of leisure quickly.
(Yeah it’s always easier to become lazy. Always difficult to become industrious and hardworking like the German people always are. Ahh the German people. :3)

Let’s Make Babies
Miranda and de Oliveira Moreira (2006) notes concern of “correcting” infertility. Is wanting to have children a traditional notion or post-modernist fulfillment of personal desire?

We’re One Big Family
Marin (2002) says that exile stories tell us about the struggle between cultural identity and adjustment. Maybe probably in a hundred years people will have diverse ancestors and live anywhere! e.g. President Obama

Joseph Brodsky, famous Soviet exile, says that exile is a central postmodern condition.

Human, All Too Human
Postmodern approach: Rosewarne (2004) says that radical leftist critique of globalization has transformed migrants into disembodied subjects and removed their human agency. (i.e. the view is too reductionistic, you don’t see migrants as humans anymore). We need to see migrants as subjects and active members of the world.

Anthropology RULEZ
Antweiler (2004) calls for anthropological approach to study cities. (Why isn’t it used already?!) In a city there’s:
-diverse people
-fixed public spaces
-nexus for movement of goods & info
City people have much interaction but their relationships are often superficial. Interactions based socially rather than personally. Ethnography may fail. Network analysis may win.

Role of public policy in creating excellent “global” cities. Change from traditional urban planning. e.g. Singapore in 70s and 80s. Made affordable housing available and preserved harmony. Policy revised in 90s to “globalize”.

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