Mark's Week #4 thoughts

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There is a more formal title to this than “thoughts” I just forget what it is right now…

Introduction to Environmental Psych / Introduction to Environmental Soc Science
Mark D’Alessandro
Response for Week #4 Readings + Questions

The four readings for this week consider a few topics: place (in sociology), ethnography (as a method of inquiry; specifically with a ‘bookseller’ in Greenwich Village), the (significantly-named) The Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), and a brief review of the political economy of the environment (and how different disciplines look at it).

Gieryn: I remember a topic during my master’s degree about (the audacity of) authenticity. We remarked about a sign above a Las Vegas restaurant that read: “Italian Food So Good You’ll Think You Were In New York.” And then there’s this about what the Pope at (oh no, Italian food in NYC) about the same topic:

Moving on: the author is making a case for using place in sociology. Place and space are differentiated, and the more I read my notes, the more I found myself saying I should really read this again. There is good stuff in it! Like….3 Types characteristics of place: geographic location, material form (it has matter), and investment with meaning and value (which means place is interpreted). The argument is convincing, but since I don’t know how sociologists refer to place, I cannot comment on how convincing it is. I buy it.

Duneier: What I liked most about this piece are his comments and theory regarding ethnography.  Since it is my initial goal to do ethnographical research, reading his thoughts about ethnography as a method of inquiry were important. His subject – in this piece – is a (homeless) bookseller who operates in Greenwich Village. Duneier points out that ethnography “is no different from everyday life” in which you “gain access to the humanity of others despite the normal barriers that are there.” More than this, what I find quite interesting is: Duneier still insists on feeling the connection…”between those interactional moments of respect and the larger social institutions that influence the relations historically between people like me and people like them.”

Opotow: This literature review (essentially) of the SPSSI discussed some research that the society has conducted. As we have discussed in the class previously, a few major journals were surveyed for the subject areas of interest (environment as a “social issue”). The one study mentioned that jumped off the page at me was the U.N. study that concluded with 4 findings about the environment: 1) it’s changing more (in the last 50 years) than ever before 2) it’s our fault 3) this will only worsen poverty, environmental degradation, etc. 4) we can reverse it.

Rudel, et al.: There are a few parts of this piece that I think could apply really well to my interests. First, the author is reviewing how different disciplines (sociology, political science, geography, economics) ‘use’ political economy. In the review or application of Schnaiberg’s “treadmill of production”, I thought of cattle! Meat!..being endlessly produced for the sake of capitalists increasing their profits. Running just to keep up with the endless stream of cattle. Hardin (is referenced) in the theory that…herders seek to constantly make their flocks more productive. More efficient. This means a more efficient use of (natural) resources which then, though used efficiently, become less plentiful. Hence environmental degradation. Cattle! Polanyi sees a social history that contains a double movement: the environment is exploited (to produce cattle, animal protein, livestock) and humans are exploited to make meat.