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Introduction to Sociology

Introduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment

Introduction to SociologyIntroduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment
  1. Preface to Introduction to Sociology
  2. 1 An Introduction to Sociology
    1. Introduction to Sociology
    2. 1.1 What Is Sociology?
    3. 1.2 The History of Sociology
    4. 1.3 Theoretical Perspectives
    5. 1.4 Why Study Sociology?
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  3. 2 Sociological Research
    1. Introduction to Sociological Research
    2. 2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research
    3. 2.2 Research Methods
    4. 2.3 Ethical Concerns
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  4. 3 Culture
    1. Introduction to Culture
    2. 3.1 What Is Culture?
    3. 3.2 Elements of Culture
    4. 3.3 Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change
    5. 3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  5. 4 Society and Social Interaction
    1. Introduction to Society and Social Interaction
    2. 4.1 Types of Societies
    3. 4.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Society
    4. 4.3 Social Constructions of Reality
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  6. 5 Socialization
    1. Introduction to Socialization
    2. 5.1 Theories of Self Development
    3. 5.2 Why Socialization Matters
    4. 5.3 Agents of Socialization
    5. 5.4 Socialization Across the Life Course
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  7. 6 Groups and Organization
    1. Introduction to Groups and Organizations
    2. 6.1 Types of Groups
    3. 6.2 Group Size and Structure
    4. 6.3 Formal Organizations
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  8. 7 Deviance, Crime, and Social Control
    1. Introduction to Deviance, Crime, and Social Control
    2. 7.1 Deviance and Control
    3. 7.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance
    4. 7.3 Crime and the Law
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  9. 8 Media and Technology
    1. Introduction to Media and Technology
    2. 8.1 Technology Today
    3. 8.2 Media and Technology in Society
    4. 8.3 Global Implications
    5. 8.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  10. 9 Social Stratification in the United States
    1. Introduction to Social Stratification in the United States
    2. 9.1 What Is Social Stratification?
    3. 9.2 Social Stratification and Mobility in the United States
    4. 9.3 Global Stratification and Inequality
    5. 9.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Social Stratification
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  11. 10 Global Inequality
    1. Introduction to Global Inequality
    2. 10.1 Global Stratification and Classification
    3. 10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty
    4. 10.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Global Stratification
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  12. 11 Race and Ethnicity
    1. Introduction to Race and Ethnicity
    2. 11.1 Racial, Ethnic, and Minority Groups
    3. 11.2 Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
    4. 11.3 Theories of Race and Ethnicity
    5. 11.4 Intergroup Relationships
    6. 11.5 Race and Ethnicity in the United States
    7. Key Terms
    8. Section Summary
    9. Section Quiz
    10. Short Answer
    11. Further Research
    12. References
  13. 12 Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
    1. Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
    2. 12.1 The Difference Between Sex and Gender
    3. 12.2 Gender
    4. 12.3 Sex and Sexuality
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  14. 13 Aging and the Elderly
    1. Introduction to Aging and the Elderly
    2. 13.1 Who Are the Elderly? Aging in Society
    3. 13.2 The Process of Aging
    4. 13.3 Challenges Facing the Elderly
    5. 13.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Aging
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  15. 14 Marriage and Family
    1. Introduction to Marriage and Family
    2. 14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
    3. 14.2 Variations in Family Life
    4. 14.3 Challenges Families Face
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  16. 15 Religion
    1. Introduction to Religion
    2. 15.1 The Sociological Approach to Religion
    3. 15.2 World Religions
    4. 15.3 Religion in the United States
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  17. 16 Education
    1. Introduction to Education
    2. 16.1 Education around the World
    3. 16.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Education
    4. 16.3 Issues in Education
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  18. 17 Government and Politics
    1. Introduction to Government and Politics
    2. 17.1 Power and Authority
    3. 17.2 Forms of Government
    4. 17.3 Politics in the United States
    5. 17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power
    6. Key Terms
    7. Section Summary
    8. Section Quiz
    9. Short Answer
    10. Further Research
    11. References
  19. 18 Work and the Economy
    1. Introduction to Work and the Economy
    2. 18.1 Economic Systems
    3. 18.2 Globalization and the Economy
    4. 18.3 Work in the United States
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  20. 19 Health and Medicine
    1. Introduction to Health and Medicine
    2. 19.1 The Social Construction of Health
    3. 19.2 Global Health
    4. 19.3 Health in the United States
    5. 19.4 Comparative Health and Medicine
    6. 19.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Health and Medicine
    7. Key Terms
    8. Section Summary
    9. Section Quiz
    10. Short Answer
    11. Further Research
    12. References
  21. 20 Population, Urbanization, and the Environment
    1. Introduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment
    2. 20.1 Demography and Population
    3. 20.2 Urbanization
    4. 20.3 The Environment and Society
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. Further Research
    10. References
  22. 21 Social Movements and Social Change
    1. Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change
    2. 21.1 Collective Behavior
    3. 21.2 Social Movements
    4. 21.3 Social Change
    5. Key Terms
    6. Section Summary
    7. Section Quiz
    8. Short Answer
    9. References
  23. Index

Learning Objectives

20.1 Demography and Population
  • Understand demographic measurements like fertility and mortality rates
  • Describe a variety of demographic theories, such as Malthusian, cornucopian, zero population growth, and demographic transition theories
  • Be familiar with current population trends and patterns
20.2 Urbanization
  • Describe the process of urbanization in the United States
  • Understand the function of suburbs, exurbs, and concentric zones
  • Discuss urbanization from various sociological perspectives
20.3 The Environment and Society
  • Apply the concept of carrying capacity to environmental concerns
  • Understand the challenges presented by pollution, garbage, e-waste, and toxic hazards
  • Describe climate change and its importance
  • Discuss real-world instances of environmental racism
Smoke rising from an underground fire is shown here.
Figure 20.1 This underground mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, could burn for over a century. (Photo courtesy of jesiehart/flickr)

There used to be a place called Centralia, Pennsylvania. Some current maps might still show the town, which was on Route 61 in the heart of Pennsylvania’s coal region. But many others have removed the defunct town from atlases, despite the fact that there are still a few die-hard residents there. The town incorporated in the 1860s and once had several thousand residents, largely coal workers. But the story of its demise begins a century later, in 1962. That year, a trash-burning fire was lit in the pit of the old abandoned coalmine outside of town. The fire moved down the mineshaft and ignited a vein of coal. That fire is still burning.

Of course, some initial efforts were made to put out the fire, both above ground and below. But it continued to burn a few days later. It was put out again, and again it flared up. This is when it traveled down the vein and ignited the coal deposit beneath the ground. For more than 20 years, people tried to extinguish the underground fire, but no matter what they did, it returned. There was little government action, and people had to abandon their homes as toxic gases engulfed the area and sinkholes developed. The situation drew national attention when the ground collapsed under 12-year-old Todd Domboski in 1981. He was in his yard when a sinkhole four feet wide and 150 feet deep opened up beneath him. He clung to exposed tree roots and saved his life; if he had fallen a few feet farther, the heat or carbon monoxide would have killed him instantly.

In 1983, engineers studying the fire concluded that it could burn for another century or more, and could spread over nearly 4,000 acres. At this point, the government offered to “buy out” existing residents, relocating them to nearby towns. A few determined Centralians refused, and they are the only ones who remain. In one field, signs warn people to enter at their own risk, as the ground is hot and unstable.

As we examine population, urbanization, and the environment, we will see how these subjects relate to Centralia. Environmental disaster. Abandoned ghost town. A population forced from their homes. Today, the few stalwart residents refuse to leave, but the government owns their homes. And the fire burns on (DeKok 1986).

A warning sign in a field is shown here.
Figure 20.2 This warning sign advises people of the environmental dangers of Centralia. (Photo courtesy Max Edmands/flickr)

Many of you have seen the 2000 movie, Erin Brokovich, about a legal assistant who spearheads a $300 million lawsuit against a California power company. The story is true, and the town of Hinkley, California, is an example of a cancer cluster, a geographic area with proportionately higher cancer rates (in the Erin Brokovich case caused by a toxin leaked into the groundwater) . It can be very challenging to go up against major governmental or corporate interests, and the Hinkley case is an inspiring example of success; however, the damage wrought on that area’s population cannot be undone.

As the stories of Centralia and Hinkley illustrate, there are important societal issues connected to the environment and how and where people live. Sociologists begin to examine these issues through demography, or the study of population, and how it relates to urbanization, the study of the social, political, and economic relationships in cities. Environmental sociologists look at the study of how humans interact with their environments. Today, as has been the case many times in history, we are at a point of conflict in a number of these areas. The world’s population has recently reached seven billion. When will it reach eight billion? Can our planet sustain such a population? We generate more trash than ever, from Starbucks cups to obsolete cell phones with toxic chemicals to food waste that could be composted. Where it is all going? Chances are that you are likely unaware of where your trash ends up. And while this problem exists worldwide, trash issues are often more acute in urban areas. Cities and city living create new challenges for both society and the environment. These kinds of interactions between people and places are of critical importance.

How do sociologists study these issues? A functionalist sociologist might focus on the way that all aspects of population, urbanization, and the environment serve as vital and cohesive elements, ensuring the continuing stability of society. A functionalist might study how the growth of the global population encourages emigration and immigration, and how emigration and immigration serve to strengthen ties between nations. Or she might research how migration impacts environmental issues; for example, how have forced migrations, and the resulting changes in a region’s ability to support a new people group, affected both the displaced people and the area of relocation? Another topic a functionalist might research is the way that various urban neighborhoods specialize to serve cultural and financial needs.

A conflict theorist, interested in the creation and reproduction of inequality, might ask how peripheral nations’ lack of family planning impacts the overall population in comparison to core nations that tend to have lower fertility rates? Or, how do inner cities become ghettos, nearly devoid of jobs, education, and other opportunities? A conflict theorist might also study environmental racism and other forms of environmental inequality. For example, looking at Hurricane Katrina, which parts of New Orleans’ society were the most responsive to the evacuation order? Which area was most affected by the flooding? And where (and in what conditions) were people living in those areas housed, both during and before the evacuation?

A symbolic interactionist interested in the day-to-day interaction of groups and individuals might research topics like how family-planning information is presented to and understood by different population groups, how people experience and understand urban life, and what language people use to convince others of the presence (or absence) of global climate change. For example, some politicians wish to present the study of global warming as junk science, and other politicians insist it is a proven fact.

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