Socio-ecological systems: Moving beyond the Human Exemptionalist Paradigm


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A talk given by Dr. Andrew Jones on Sep 24, 2010, in the Biology Colloquium at California State University, Fresno. He presents a historical overview of how Sociology came to discover its place within a broader ecological context and began addressing the metabolic rift resulting from human activities on this planet. He also presents the conecptual framework for analysis being developed under the new Urban Long-Term Research Area - Fresno And Clovis Ecosocial Study (ULTRA-FACES) project.

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Socio-ecological systems: Moving beyond the Human Exemptionalist Paradigm

  1. 1. Socio-Ecological Systems Moving Beyond the Human Exemptionalist Paradigm Andrew R. Jones, PhD Department of Sociology CSU Fresno
  2. 2. Anthropocentric analysis <ul><li>Human Exemptionalist Paradigm: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans are exempt from laws of nature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans have “special attributes” that make them different from other species ( such as?? ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Human technology can overcome limits </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Prometheanism” – pro-technological, anti-ecological views </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cornucopianism” – belief that continued progress and provision of material items for humankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology </li></ul>
  3. 3. Anthropocentric analysis <ul><li>Human Exemptionalist Paradigm: dominant within the social sciences until the 1960s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Figure 1.1: mainstream economic models </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Figure 1.2: mainstream sociological models </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Paradigm shift <ul><li>New Ecological Paradigm </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Figure 1.3: Environmental sociological model </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Modern society is unsustainable </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. From HEP to NEP <ul><li>New Ecological Paradigm </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There are ultimate limits to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Population </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Economic growth </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Science-driven analysis; not ideological </li></ul>
  6. 6. Treadmill of Production <ul><li>Allan Schnaiberg </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to translated works by Nicholai Bukharin and other Russian scholars who addressed dialectical materialism in Marxism </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Analysis of “societal-environmental dialectic” and “treadmill of production” rooted in Marxist political economy </li></ul>
  7. 7. Treadmill of Production <ul><li>Theoretical framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Captures dynamics of market forces, political institutions interacting to produce ecological disorganization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Accumulation of wealth and investments in capital-intensive technologies produces increasing social inequalities and greater ecological “withdrawals” (resource extraction) and “additions” (pollution) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Metabolic Rift <ul><li>John Bellamy Foster </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysis of Marx’s Capital </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Marx studied the work of soil scientist Justus von Liebig </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Crisis in soil fertility generated by urbanization </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Incorporation of Second Law of Thermodynamics </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Metabolic Rift <ul><li>Metabolic rift in the most general sense refers to a disruption in the exchange between social systems and natural systems, which is hypothesized to lead to ecological crisis. </li></ul><ul><li>Rift analyses have recently grown in prominence among social scientists, particularly in sociology, being extended to analyses of the carbon cycle, fisheries, and caloric intake </li></ul>
  10. 10. Dialectical Materialism <ul><li>Dialectics “is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought.” ~ Friedrich Engels </li></ul><ul><li>Put simply, it is the logic of motion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This logic applies to all forms of scientific analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provides a common theoretical framework for examining social, biological, and ecological systems – a socio-ecological systems approach </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. A model of social, biological, and environmental interaction <ul><li>Source for model : Integrative Science for Society and Environment: A Strategic Research Initiative </li></ul>Long-term press Short-term pulse Ecosystem Services Biotic Structures Ecosystem Functioning External Drivers Human Cognition, Behavior, and Institutions Human Outcomes
  12. 12. ULTRA-FACES <ul><li>Examining the interaction of human and biotic structures through an analysis of water usage and its impacts on biodiversity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fresno: water metering taking place now </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facts: 51% of water – residential use, 70% used for landscaping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What impacts will metering have on human water use behaviors? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What impacts will metering have on biodiversity? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. An SES model of water use and impacts on biodiversity <ul><li>Source for model : Integrative Science for Society and Environment: A Strategic Research Initiative </li></ul>Long-term press (water use) Short-term pulse (water metering) Ecosystem Services (nutrient cycling, climate regulation, food, water, habitat, cultural benefits) Ecosystem Functioning (species interaction, metabolic cycles, gene flow) External Drivers (Water availability, Water policies) Animal Diversity LULC Plant Diversity Individual <ul><li>Identity </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural </li></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul><ul><li>Psycho- </li></ul><ul><li>logical </li></ul>Socio economic Status Education/ Environ. Awareness Civic Minded- ness Legal Rights/ Limits Institutional Metering Monitoring/ Enforcement H 2 O pricing Economic conditions Infrastructure decisions Land use decisions H 2 O use policies
  14. 14. Social component <ul><li>Use of Fresno Bird Count observation sites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Collect plant and social data </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Site selection had to account for municipal and county water jurisdiction in addition to socio-economic status </li></ul>
  16. 16. References <ul><li>Angus, Ian. (2009) Marx, Engels and Darwin: How Darwin’s theory of evolution confirmed and extended the most fundamental concepts of Marxism . South Branch Publications </li></ul><ul><li>Catton, William and Riley Dunlap. (1978) “Environmental Sociology: A New Paradigm.” American Sociologist , 13: 41-49 </li></ul><ul><li>Engels, Friedrich. (1940) The Dialectics of Nature . International </li></ul><ul><li>____. (1947) Anti-Dühring. Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science. Progress Publishers </li></ul><ul><li>Foster, John Bellamy. (1999) “Marx’s Theory of Metabolic Rift: Classical Foundation for Environmental Sociology.” American Journal of Sociology 105(2): 366-405 </li></ul><ul><li>Foster, John Bellamy. (2000) Marx’s Ecology. Monthly Review Press </li></ul><ul><li>Gould, K., David Pellow and A. Schnaiberg. (2008). The Treadmill of Production: Injustice and Unsustainability in the Global Economy . Paradigm Publishers </li></ul><ul><li>Levins, Richard and Richard Lewontin. (1985) The Dialectical Biologist . Harvard </li></ul><ul><li>Lewontin, Richard and Richard Levins. (2007) Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health . Monthly Review Press </li></ul><ul><li>Marx, Karl. (1976) Capital: Vol. I . Vintage Books </li></ul><ul><li>Schnaiberg, Allan. (1980) The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. Oxford University Press </li></ul>