USC Environmental Problems and its Relations to Social Factors Questions

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Answer two out of these three questions based on the readings on the course syllabus.The answers should be provided in an essay format and relate to both the conceptual or theoretical arguments the authors provide as well as to the empirical evidence (statistical, ethnographic, or historical) they employ. Each answer should be 5 to 6 pages long, i.e. 10 to 12 pages for the entire exam (double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font).

A. Environmental problems have frequently been described as collective action problems. How does the model of the tragedy of the commons help to analyze environmental problems? What are the factors that determine whether or not collective action that addresses these problems will take place? What kind of solutions does the market (e.g. green consumption) offer and what are the advantages and disadvantages compared to political solutions (e.g. legislation)?

B.Climate change is currently one of the most discussed environmental problems. To what extent can climate change be described as a collective action problem and how does it differ from other environmental collective action problems? What kind of factors explain who perceives climate change as a pressing problem and who does not? What are the obstacles that stand in the way of both political (e.g. international legislation) and individual (e.g. lifestyle changes) solutions to climate change?

C.Environmental problems affect different groups of people differently. What kind of social factors (e.g. class and race) account for these differences and how do these differences play out on a global scale (as compared to a national one)? What are the reasons that enable some groups to shield themselves from environmental hazards, while others fail to do so? How does the ability of some groups to protect themselves in consequence shape their willingness to engage in political action that also benefits other groups in society?

Note: Simply indicate the last name of the author, the publication date, and the page number if you quote a reading in you essay (e.g. Cronon 1996: 8). Please only use information, research, and quotes from the specific page numbers and authors below. No outside sources or research is allowed. If you chose to use the notes, do not copy them word for word, please put them in your own words or you can use them as a guide. Please use at least three authors or more for each question.


1. Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons: The population problem has no
technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality.” Science 162: 1243-

2. Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for
Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1-7, 15-21, 58-69, 88-102.

3. Vogel, David. 1995. Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global
Economy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. vii-xiii, 218-270.

4. MacBride, Samantha. 2013. Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future
Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 1-
15, 23-47.

5. Szasz, Andrew. 2007. Shopping our Way to Safety: How we Changed from Protecting
the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1-
8, 99-103, 194-222.

6. Guthman, Julie. 2004. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California.
Berkeley: University of California Press. 1-22, 42-60.

7. Esty, Daniel C. and Anthony L. I. Moffa. 2012. “Why Climate Change Collective Action
has Failed and what Needs to be Done Within and Without the Trade Regime.” Journal of
International Economic Law 15(3): 777–791.

8. Roberts, J. Timmons, and Bradley C. Parks. 2007. A Climate of Injustice. Global
Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 133-

9. Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. 2010. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of
Scientists obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New
York: Bloomsbury Press. 1-9, 169-215.

10. Oreskes, Naomi. 2004. “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.” Science 306:

11. Norgaard, Kari Marie. 2006. “’People Just Want to Protect Themselves a Little Bit’:
Emotions, Denial, and Social Movement Nonparticipation.” Sociological Inquiry 76(3):

12. Feinberg and Willer. 2011. “Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global
Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs.” Psychological Science 22(1): 34–38

13. Feinberg and Willer. 2013. “The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes.”
Psychological Science 24(1): 1–7.

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