The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

This thoroughly revised Handbook provides an assessment of the scope and content of environmental sociology, and sets out the intellectual and practical challenges posed by the urgent need for policy and action to address accelerating environmental change.
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Chapter 5: Ecological Modernization Theory: Theoretical and Empirical Challenges

Richard York, Eugene A. Rosa and Thomas Dietz


Richard York, Eugene A. Rosa and Thomas Dietz Introduction There is little doubt that, over the past two centuries, ‘modernization’ – generally taken to mean the combined effects of industrialization (and more recently ‘postindustrialization’), economic growth, the expansion of markets, urbanization, globalization, and the acceleration of scientific and technological development – has generated environmental problems that are unique in human history in their scale, type and diversity. Despite the consensus that modernization has historically led to detrimental environmental consequences, there is considerable disagreement about the contemporary and likely future environmental consequences of the modernization project. Although there is a striking diversity of views on this matter, this diversity of opinion can be usefully divided into two opposing perspectives. On one side, there are those who see the modernization project as anti-ecological to its core and, thus, incapable of being transformed along sustainable lines. Scholars of this theoretical opinion argue that the achievement of environmental sustainability requires fundamental changes to the social order and an abandonment of the modernization project as typically conceived or at least major aspects of it, such as the system of capitalism or the pursuit of economic growth. On the other side are those who see the modernization project as adaptable and capable of becoming ecologically sustainable. In fact, some go so far as to claim that not only is the modernization project not anti-ecological at its core; it is especially well equipped to deal with ecological crises and, therefore, its continuation is the best, and perhaps only, way...

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