Reframing Environmental Sociology from Downstream Perspective

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Koichi HASEGAWA, Sociology, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
We are facing an identity crisis of environmental sociology which will be a coreless and rootless research field, although this discipline came to be institutionalized and a lot of variety of researches are conducted under the title of environmental sociological study. I would like to reframe the environmental sociology as sociology of the downstream side in contrast with mainstream sociology primarily focused on upstream issues, such as production processes (Hasegawa, 2004: Ch2) . The term ‘upstream’ refers to the processes preceding the consumption of valuable resources—‘environmental goods’—and ‘downstream’ indicates the processes that follow the use of those resources, including the release and disposal of waste and other environmental burdens—‘environmental bads’ (Hasegawa, 2004: 22) . Many types of environmental problems are caused by environmental burdens. Let's see air and water pollution released by industrial factories, noise pollution by bullet trains, aircraft and automobiles, climate change by GHG emissions, radio active wastes and radioactive contamination by nuclear power generation, waste materials, rubbish and so on. Environmental problems arise as a result of the upstream side, both production processes and everyday activities. What is the significance of the downstream perspective? First, this perspective allows to develop a unified scheme of grasping increasingly diverse and dispersed environmental hazards. Second, we can analyze environmental problems produced by upstream activities. Third, it is significant for making it possible to identify downstream problems at the focal point of all contemporary social issues. Forth, it allows to address issues of environmental justice, discrimination and social disparity. Fifth, in pre-modern, pre-urbanized society, the upstream and downstream were not polarized. Both sides were unified in the realm of everyday life, constituting a whole. We can conceptualize modernity in the terms of upstream-downstream perspective.