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Session Overview
RN12_01a_P: Social Theory and the Environment
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Audrone Telesiene, Kaunas University of Technology
Location: PC.2.14
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 2.

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Essentialism, Marx and Metabolic Rift: A Precarious Foundation for Environmental Sociology

Paul Joseph McLaughlin

SUNY Geneseo, United States of America

Meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals will require scholars, policy makers, activists and citizens to address multiple social, political, economic and environmental challenges. To succeed, these efforts must to be informed by post-exemptionalist theories capable of conceptualizing the interactions between social structures, human agency and biophysical environments. Ironically, it is the idea of development itself--specifically its essentialist underpinnings--that is the primary impediment to constructing such theories. Current attempts to ground environmental sociology in Marx’s analysis of capitalist metabolic rifts demonstrate that sociologists have failed to learn this lesson. I explore this claim and propose a more nuanced assessment of Marx’s potential contribution to post-exemptionalist theorizing by employing recent revisions to the standard account of the Darwinian revolution as a metatheoretical lens to illuminate the strengths and limitations of Marx’s incipient environmental sociology. These comparisons support Catton and Dunlap’s contention that Marxian theory is unecological. However, they also establish the metatheoretical basis for and precise limitations of recent claims to the contrary. Marx succeeded in partially integrating the environment into social theory by relying, not on property essentialism, emphasized in the standard account, but on functional-developmental essentialism. Marx used the latter in his definitions of human nature and modes of production to emphasize the centrality of environmental relationships and the universal necessity of adaptation. However, functional-developmental essentialism’s commitment to frame-invariant--i.e., context-independent--dynamic laws is incompatible with contemporary ecological thinking. These deficiencies preclude Marxian theory from serving as a foundation for a comprehensive environmental sociology.

Investigating metabolic flows of cities: a sociological perspective

Alessandro Sciullo, Dario Padovan

University of Torino, Italy

The relevance of cities in defining the processes that could drive contemporary society towards a sustainable future has been gaining attention for the last decades in the scientific as well as in the political field. While representing a remarkable part of the problem cities may in fact play a crucial role in designing possible solutions, thus configuring themselves as sustainable multipliers.

Urban metabolism is the most effective conceptual framework adopted in ecological studies to define, investigate and measure the environmental impact of the urban systems. The framework has been so far operationalized by the adaptation of diverse methodologies borrowed from different scientific traditions: biological and ecological studies (Emergy, Material Flow Analysis), economics (Input-Ouput Analysis), engineering (System Dynamics). The strength of the metabolic metaphor stands in the opportunity provided for the definition of the boundaries of urban systems and for the qualification and quantification of the flows of material and energy that they produce. The weakness is the dramatic underestimation of the social component connected to the origin and shaping of these flows, which is precisely the component that distinguishes cities (as social systems) from other systems.

By recalling some of the stimuli offered by the sociology of flows as proposed by John Urry and revised by Mol and Spaargaren, the paper provides a theoretical integration of the current metabolic approach, in order to take into account the social origin and (de)regulation of urban flows. The goal is to offer a contribution to the disclosure of the black-box of the social and economic processes that stand behind the metabolic performance of contemporary (and future) urban systems.

Tensions in hives: bees between diversity and standardization

Lucie Dupré1, Fortier Agnès1, Alphandéry Pierre1, Labatut Julie1, Dussy Dorothée2, Faugère Elsa1, Césard Nicolas3

1INRA, France; 2CNRS, France; 3MNHN, France

Beekeeping has rarely been studied by social scientists despite the strategic issues this activity represents on the environment. French beekeeping refers to any diversified situation in terms of bee breeds, beekeeping practices and knowledge or on the status of beekeepers. Three quarters of the honey is produced by a minority of beekeepers identified as “professionals”, while the majority of beekeepers are called “amateurs”. We will aim to describe the tensions between the inherent diversity characterizing beekeeping and the rationalization of this sector through a “National Sustainable Development Plan” implemented in 2013. We’ll address this issue focusing on hives renewal practices. Since the 1990s, rising bee mortality has led beekeepers to renew their hives far more frequently and to diversify their renewal practices: collecting swarms, buying queens, using insemination, etc. This raises questions about bee breeds, genetic diversity and the cognitive and discursive resources. Our research is based on interviews conducted in specific places of France. We question if the diversity of hives renewal practices can refer to the distinction usually made between “professional” and “amateurs”. Our hypothesis is that the reality goes beyond this binary opposition and refers to different relationships with nature and conceptions of beekeeping. Finally, we enquire if such a diversity of practices can take place with the ongoing restructuring of the sector which tends to encourage standardization.

GARCH model to estimate the impact of sociodemographic characteristics and CAP on agricultural greenhouses emissions

Vanessa Zorrilla-Muñoz1, Maria Silveria Agullo-Tomas1, Marc Petz2, Esteban Agullo-Tomas3

1Institute of Gender Studies (IEG) and Department of Social Analysis; Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M). Getafe, Spain; 2Department of Economy; Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M). Getafe, Spain; 3Psychology Faculty; Oviedo University. Oviedo, Spain

Purpose: This research proposes to analyse the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) focused on agricultural emissions in Spain regarding sociodemographic characteristics (age & sex). Spanish CAP covers emissions regulation based on the application of environmental friendly ethics according to the EU-ETS and multifunctional aspects in agriculture (land use such as soil and energy management).

Methodology: The analysis of the Spanish legal rules and policy identified empirical environmental attitudes which are provided by the EUROSTAT and MINETUR database between 1990 and 2013. The developed empiric-analytical GARCH model measures the impact between the environmental attitudes (e.g. soil and energy management indicators per capita based on CAP) as independent variables and emissions and population (e.g. total population, age interval, sex) as dependent variables.

Results: The research findings demonstrate high significance between emissions per age interval, sex and, total population (dependent variables) and pesticides, fertilizers, non-renewable energy consumption, and the use of new machinery per capita (independent variables). The variable “use of new machinery per capita” does not influence directly the reduction of emissions.

Conclusions: The model tests environmental behaviour by consideration of agricultural populations and sex. The model provides a good estimation for discussion about future policy trends (i.e. 2020 and 2030 strategies for EU), EU’s long-term objectives for Rural Development Policy related to CAP principles (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides land use and energy consumption in crops), and, active ageing (retired agricultural elder population extending their work life). Finally, we find a gender gap to review in relationship of environmental attitudes in future proposals.

Keywords: GHG, agriculture, sociodemographic factors, active ageing, emissions

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