The Human Cause of Global Warming
As atomspheric carbon rises, so does the earth's temperature
Tags: environment, globalization, science/technology, data visualization, global climate change, global warming, sustainability, 06 to 10 mins
Access: no online access
Summary: This clip from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth uses visual displays of scientific data to demonstrate that global temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are higher than ever before, showing that this urgent problem is caused by human activity (start film at 13:25; end at 23:07). He documents several impacts in the real world, including receding glaciers, noting that 40% of the people on Earth receive their drinking water from glaciers and that they will face a shortage in the future. A reasonable and skeptical viewer may note that ice ages are cyclical, which is correct. But using core drills of ice, scientists are able to measure carbon dioxide levels and surface temperatures going back 650,000 years. This allows the viewer to see cycles from the past 7 ice ages. The data shows that in those 650,000 years, carbon dioxide levels never went above 300 parts per million--until recently. By visualizing the data, we can see that the CO2 level today is far above the level that it has ever been in that time frame. Gore compares the CO2 levels and temperature levels (as shown in the graphic here) and argues this scientific fact: "when there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer because it traps more heat from the sun inside." He then shows the projected level that CO2 is expected to rise to in 50 years. In short, CO2 levels are higher than ever before; when CO2 rises, temperatures rise. Therefore, the Earth's temperature will continue to rise. Because CO2 levels are outside of any natural cycle, it is human activity that has caused it, and the consequences will continue to worsen. There are also a variety of sites online that have additional data and evidence, which may be useful in discussing global climate change in the classroom (e.g. ClimateCrisis.net; EPA).
Submitted By: Paul Dean
DJDave raps about consumption at Whole Foods
Tags: art/music, class, consumption/consumerism, environment, food/agriculture, health/medicine, marketing/brands, theory, conspicuous consumption, privilege, thorstein veblen, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this rap parody, DJDave (aka David Wittman) raps about his frustrations shopping at Whole Foods, which includes over-priced grocery items, loud shoppers on I-Phones, and over-crowded parking lots. To illustrate useful sociological concepts using this YouTube summer sensation, instructors can begin by simply asking students: Why is this video funny? Instructors can facilitate a conversation about middle- and upper-class consumption practices; specifically, the clip might be useful in a class discussion on Veblen's notion of conspicuous consumption, whereby upper-class consumers carry out very specific consumption practices in an effort to wield social power, whether real or perceived, thereby conveying a particular social status. The video's portrayal of a "typical" Whole Foods shopper involves a host of recognizable consumption patterns, including the foods they eat (organic chicken, kale salad, pinot noir, gourmet cheese, quinoa, kombucha tea), the cars they drive (e.g., a hybrid, Prius, Mini Cooper), the health practices they engage (yoga, cleansing diets), the gadgets they use (I-Phones), and even the social justice initiatives they are financially able to support (e.g., the environment, natural/organic/sustainable foods). A critical perspective might involve a conversation around whether health is a class privilege, pointing to the high costs associated with a healthy American lifestyle. Instructors can further unpack the humor of the clip to illustrate sociological insight by pointing to the choice of musical genre deployed. Given that rap music's origins are largely rooted in a form of social commentary on the struggles of poor and working-class urban communities of color, the "struggles" that Whole Foods shoppers endure while purchasing groceries is clearly cast tongue-in-cheek. Like other clips featured on The Sociological Cinema, this rap parody shows the ways in which art can provide a useful medium for social commentary, as well as sociological insight (e.g., see here).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Greenpeace Jams Dove
Tags: art/music, consumption/consumerism, environment, gender, knowledge, marketing/brands, media, social mvmts/social change/resistance, culture jam, détournement, guerrilla semiotics, sociology of culture, subvertising, 00 to 05 mins
Year: (1) 2007; (2) 2008
Length: (1) 1:20; (2) 1:27
Access: (1) YouTube: "Onslaught" (Dove)
(2) YouTube: "Onslaught(er)" (Greenpeace)
Summary: The pair of clips above by Dove and Greenpeace are excellent examples of commercials which appear to transcend the narrow concern of increasing market share and actually aim to promote social justice. However, more cynical viewers will likely protest that, at least in regards to the Dove spot, the appearance of corporate social responsibility is little more than a sophisticated marketing ploy. By attempting to raise public awareness about the role visual media play in rigidly defining what counts as attractive and truly feminine, Dove is actually attempting to position itself as a responsible brand. In response, Greenpeace created a spoof of the ad, but unlike the original version, viewers are not urged to talk to their daughters before the beauty industry does; rather, they are urged to talk to Dove about Dove's use of palm oil and its role in the destruction of Indonesian forests in order to harvest this oil. The Greenpeace clip can be understood as a practice of détournement, which is a concept originally developed by a Paris-based group of radical artists known as the Letterist International. Détournement refers to the practice of "finding" an artifact, then reconfiguring or re-situating it with the goal of making it newly relevant. The reconfigured artifact typically suggests ideas, which are in opposition to the those promoted by the creator of the original artifact. Thus a commercial about a caring company which bravely invests in exposing dangerous media messages about feminine beauty standards is reworked to expose the caring company's role in the destruction of Indonesian lowland forest. This post is just one in a growing number of posts on The Sociological Cinema, which feature examples of détournement or what is sometimes called culture jamming (see here, here, and here). In the sociological classroom, the clip might work well as a way to discuss what sociologists mean by culture and cultural resistance, which often involves the transformation of meanings and meaning-making practices.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
The Story of Stuff
Tags: consumption/consumerism, environment, externalities, production, sustainability, waste, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: Through an animated cartoon, narrator Annie Leonard discusses the story of our stuff through the stages of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. The video includes discussions on the role of corporations and government, limitations to the ecological cycle, externalized costs, globalization, planned obsolescence, advertising, happiness, health, equity, and points of intervention. It offers a variety of statistics to support the relationships it depicts. Additional resources, including other videos and information for sections of this video, can be found on the official website. When I used this in my social problems class, I also asked students to calculate their ecological footprint before coming to class, and facilitated discussion about their own work and consumption activities as it related to this process, and the sustainability of those activities.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
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