Environment and Sustainability

The growing Environment and Sustainability list is at the heart of our remit to publish quality scholarship that addresses global social challenges.

This list covers a broad spectrum of issues and focuses on the social justice dimensions of environmental sustainability, including in: climate change; environmental politics; developing sustainable economies; transport and sustainability; and environmentalist thought and ideology.

The new Open Access Global Social Challenges Journal will incorporate these themes to facilitate critical thinking across disciplines and fields.

Environment and Sustainability

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Author: Myra J. Hird

Chapter 2 focuses on how waste becomes (or does not become) a public issue. Through a number of direct examples, this chapter shows that waste does not (necessarily or even most often) present itself as a self-evident problem. Indeed, it takes work to transform waste from a material object into a public issue and sustain public interest.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

This chapter focuses on plastics waste to illustrate how oil and gas companies as well as governments frame plastics as both a vital part of contemporary society and plastics waste as manageable through a combination of technological innovation and individual behavioural change. Drawing on research on plastics production and waste, this chapter demonstrates that industry both disguises the origin of plastics (that is, oil) and plans to increase oil extraction and production through the increased production of plastics. The chapter also demonstrates that claims that plastics waste may be effectively managed through recycling are entirely false.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

This chapter focuses on prepping as a particular response to the uncertainty of our species’ survival. Far from the experiences of millions of people who are forced into relentless adaptation due to unremitting poverty, inequality and global changes in climate, preppers largely plan for an imagined future by accumulating survivalist skills and things. That is, what most characterizes preppers is their mass consumption: preppers spend many thousands of dollars stockpiling resources like food, water and weaponry. Not only, then, do they eschew initiatives that seek to prevent an imagined future apocalypse but as we will show, preppers influence the very conditions that they then say they are forced to respond to as they intensify the hegemony of over-consumption. As such, this chapter demonstrates that the increasingly popular phenomenon of prepping is a contemporary reiteration of western consumer/trashing culture, which feeds the global capitalist system responsible for the very apocalyptic conditions to which preppers believe they are responding.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

Chapter 3 focuses on waste’s diversion (recycling) as an industrial profit-making enterprise. While reduction (reduced consumption) is consistently touted as diversion’s primary goal, it is recycling (and to some extent re-use) that most represents our global (downstream) response to waste production. Chapter 3 provides a comprehensive examination of diversion practices and their limitations, and provocatively argues that industry and local governments work in tandem to deflect attention away from the upstream issue of limitless growth and consumption as foundational to neoliberal growth capitalism.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

Chapter 1 introduces readers to how different stakeholders (concerned and unconcerned citizens, politicians, scientists and engineers, industry representatives, community groups and so on) define and understand waste. Waste’s ontology and epistemology – what waste is and how we know what it is – profoundly influences how we respond to its material proclivities.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

This chapter pulls together the various analyses made throughout the book in order to distil how public sociology is currently engaging waste issues, and how it may powerfully intervene in future waste issues.

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Author: Myra J. Hird

Is it possible to tackle waste by recycling, reusing and reducing consumption on an individual level alone?

This provocative book critically analyses the widespread narrative around waste as a ‘household’ issue.

Expert scholar Myra J. Hird uncovers neoliberal capitalism’s fallacy of infinite growth as the real culprit and shows how industry and local governments work in tandem to deflect attention away from the real causes of our global waste crisis.

Hird offers crucial insights on the relations between waste and wider societal issues such as poverty, racism, sexism, Indigeneity, decolonisation and social justice, showcasing how sociology can contribute to a ‘public imagination’ of waste.

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Author: Mark Harvey

The failure of COP26 to secure binding commitments delivering a pathway to global warming limited to 1.5°C is attributable to a UN political process that prevents addressing the inequalities between and within nations in generating greenhouse gases. Historical divergences of national wealth and the present extreme inequalities of purchasing power (Piketty, Milanovic, Savage) manifest themselves in how the richest people in the richest nations are now the leading forcers of climate change. A second dimension of inequality, receiving less attention, concerns the inequalities between nations of environmental resources in fossil energy, agricultural land, minerals and renewable alternatives. The concept of sociogenesis of climate change analyses the combination of these two dimensions of inequality to account for the present political impasse, national and international. A dominant feature of a nation’s wealth has historically been based on the unrestricted exploitation of its own environmental resources, or those that it commands through colonisation or trade. This has resulted in the US now producing more than double the CO₂eq per capita than China, or Germany consuming four times more coal per capita than India. The COP26 impasse on coal and fossil fuels arose in part from China’s and India’s unwillingness to strand its environmental assets without alternative pathways to equivalent national wealth, while wealthier nations continue to excessively exploit theirs. A sociogenic analysis of wealth and environmental resource inequalities signals the need for a radical change in the political processes required to mitigate the climate emergency.

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This article considers the degree to which achieving equity in Global North–South research partnerships is possible under current UK funding models. While there has been significant discussion with respect to the decolonisation of research, it will be argued that there is some distance between the language of equity articulated currently by UK funding bodies, and the realities of working as a project partner in the Global South. The article draws on the prior and ongoing experiences of a multidisciplinary team of researchers brought together by a UK-funded research project. In the interests of moving towards more equitable systems of knowledge production and dissemination, it explores the power asymmetries that can be inherent in Global North–South research partnerships, and the extent to which issues of coloniality continue to shape aspects of research agenda setting, project framing, impact, academic publishing and the division of labour within partnerships.

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