The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 11: Time and the environment

Barbara Adam


Barbara Adam INTRODUCTION Environmental problems continue to make the headlines. At the time of writing (Easter, 1996), the European beef industry is collapsing; all fishing is suspended off the coast of West Wales; baby milk and plastics have been identified as potential sources of infertility; 16 years of compulsory sheep dipping in the UK are leaving a growing number of farmers and their families with crippling neurological problems; a decade after the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, physical and living environments across Europe are still contaminated by radiation. These events and their inherent and unquantifiable risks form part of a wider picture where socioeconomic and technological successes metamorphose into excesses, where achievements return to haunt us as hazards: they are part of the boomerang effect associated with the industrial way of life. Although concentrated in a particular time and space, that is in Europe, these phenomena are symptoms of globalized economic and industrial processes. As such, they are inseparably linked to specific conceptions and approaches to time and space, an aspect that is largely neglected in social scientific contributions to the environmental debate.’ This chapter gives an overview of the ways in which our approach to time could be said to be implicated in the sociocultural production of environmental hazards. To this end it focuses on the conflicts that arise from (1) the complexity and interpenetration of rhythms: cosmic, natural and cultural; (2) the imposition of industrial time on the rhythmicity and pace of ecosystems; and (3) emphasis on visible materiality...

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