This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface



Download 4.42 Mb.
Page113/137
Date31.05.2016
Size4.42 Mb.
1   ...   109   110   111   112   113   114   115   116   ...   137

Symbolic Interactionism


Symbolic interactionism offers four kinds of understandings of population and environmental problems. First, it seeks to understand why people engage or do not engage in activities related to population growth and other problems (e.g., the use of contraception) and to environmental problems (e.g., recycling). In order to address population growth and environmental problems, it is important to understand why people become involved, or fail to become involved, in various activities related to these problems.

Second, it emphasizes people’s perceptions of population and environmental problems. To the extent that public attitudes play a key role in the persistence of these problems, it is important to know the reasons for public views on these problems so that efforts to address the problems may be better focused.

Next, symbolic interactionism assumes that population and environmental problems are to some extent social constructions (see ), as these problems do not come to be considered social problems unless sufficient numbers of people and/or influential organizations in the public and private sectors recognize them as problems. For example, lead was a serious health problem long before the US government banned it in paint in 1977 and in gasoline in 1990. As early as the first few years of the twentieth century, scientists were calling attention to the toxic properties of lead paint and more generally of lead itself. Still, lead was added to gasoline in 1922 to raise octane levels. Despite growing evidence over the next few decades of lead’s toxic qualities, various industries continued to say that lead was safe for the general public (Michaels, 2008). [1] The banning of lead was ultimately due to the efforts of environmental groups and to the fact that the growing amount of scientific evidence of lead’s dangers became overwhelming

Finally, symbolic interactionism emphasizes that people from different social backgrounds and from different cultures may have different understandings of population issues and of environmental issues. For example, someone who grows up in a rural area may consider even a small city to be incredibly crowded, while someone who grows up in a large city may consider a small city to be too tiny and lacking in museums, restaurants, and other amenities that large cities offer.




KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Functionalism recognizes the problems arising from population growth that is too rapid, but disagrees on the extent to which overpopulation is a serious problem.

  • Conflict theory attributes world hunger to inequalities in the distribution of food rather than to overpopulation.

  • Symbolic interactionism considers people’s perceptions and activities regarding population (e.g., contraception) and the environment.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. Which of the three major perspectives—functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism—seems to have the best approach in how it understands population and environmental issues? Explain your answer.

[1] Michaels, D. (2008). Doubt is their product: How industry’s assault on science threatens your health. New York, NY Oxford University Press.


15.2 Population

LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Describe the central concepts of the study of demography.

  2. Understand demographic transition theory and how it compares with the views of Thomas Malthus.

  3. Explain why some experts feel that world hunger does not result from overpopulation.

  4. Provide examples of how US history is marked by anti-immigrant prejudice.

Population change often has weighty consequences throughout a society. As we think about population change, we usually think about and worry about population growth, but population decline is also a concern. Consider the experience of Michigan (Dzwonkowski, 2010). [1] Like several other northern states, Michigan has lost population during the past few decades. Its birth rate has declined by 21 percent from 1990, and elementary school populations dropped as a result. Several schools lost so many students that they had to close, and others are in danger of closing. In addition, many more people have been moving out of Michigan than moving in. Because many of those moving out are young, college-educated adults, they take with them hundreds of millions of dollars in paychecks away from Michigan’s economy and tax revenue base. They also leave behind empty houses and apartments that help depress the state’s real estate market. Because of the loss of younger residents from the declining birth rate and out-migration, Michigan’s population has become older on the average. This shift means that there is now a greater percentage of residents in their older years who need state services.

Among other consequences, then, Michigan’s population decline has affected its economy, educational system, and services for its older residents. While Michigan and other states are shrinking, states in the southern and western regions of the nation are growing, with their large cities becoming even larger. This population growth also has consequences. For example, schools become more crowded, pressuring communities to hire more teachers and either enlarge existing schools or build new ones. The population growth also strains hospitals, social services, and many other sectors of society.

This brief discussion of US cities underscores the various problems arising from population growth and decline. These are not just American problems, as they play out across the world. The remainder of this section introduces the study of population and then examines population problems in greater depth.

The Study of Population


We have commented that population change is an important source of other changes in society. The study of population is so significant that it occupies a special subfield within sociology called demography. To be more precise, demography is the study of changes in the size and composition of population. It encompasses several concepts: fertility and birth rates, mortality and death rates, and migration. Let’s look at each of these briefly.


Directory: site -> textbooks
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License
textbooks -> Preface for Teachers
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface
textbooks -> Chapter 1 Introduction to Law and Legal Systems
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a
textbooks -> This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Organization


Share with your friends:
1   ...   109   110   111   112   113   114   115   116   ...   137




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page