A Brief Sociological Analysis of The 2018 Climate Change Agreement

Sociological perspectives applied to the 2018 climate change conference.

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The 2018 United Nations climate summit ended with a new pact among 196 countries to curb global warming which included the following:

  • A new ‘rulebook’ which provides a framework for how to implement the pledges from the last 2015 climate summit
  • A commitment to restrict average temperature rises in the 21st century to well below 2 degrees.
  • An agreement on how countries should measure greenhouse gas emissions and how they should account for meeting them.

The agreement was even approved by the United States, and despite the fact that irrational climate change denier and puppet of the oil companies Donald Trump called it ridiculous, he can’t withdraw from the deal until the day after the next presidential election.

Sociological analysis 

This seems to be a rare example of nation states agreeing on joint action to tackle a shared global problem…. which you could say offers broad support for the Functionalist point of view at a global level, because we have (near enough) value consensus.

HOWEVER, this may all be a bit of a sham, as Leslie Hood, writing in The Financial Times points out…

  • Nation states are still free to set their CO2 emissions at whatever level they like.
  • There is no agreement on the best way to actually reduce emissions.
  • There is no regime of sanctions in place to penalise nations who don’t meet their targets.

Ultimately, the success of climate accord largely depends on the top five polluters playing ball, and these are China, the US, Russia, India and the EU. Together these account for 50% of global CO2 emissions, but the first two of these, China and The USA don’t seem to be that committed…. China is still building coal burning power plants and Trump wants to pull out of the deal asap.

Fingers crossed Trump will be elected out and someone who cares about the future of the next generation will be elected into power in November 2020 and the US will be on board. However, even if this does happen, there’s enough evidence of this being a weak deal to say that, where climate change is concerned, nation states still have the power to not commit effectively to reducing it!

 

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A-level sociology of education summary grids

I’ve been designing some sociology of education summary grids to try and summarise the AQA’s A-level sociology of education specification as briefly as possible. I’ve managed to narrow it down to 7 grids in total covering…..

  • Perspectives on education (Functionalism etc)
  • In-school processes (labelling etc.)
  • social class and differential achievement
  • gender: achievement and subject choice
  • Ethnicity
  • Policies
  • Globalisation and education (I couldn’t fit it in anywhere else!)

Here’s a couple of them… I figure these should be useful for quick card sorts during revision lessons. And let’s face it, there is only ONE thing students love more than filling in grids, and that’s a card sort!

Perspectives on education summary grid:

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Education policies summary grid:

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Of course I couldn’t resist doing fuller versions of these grids too, but more of that laters!

Compensatory Education

Compensatory Education is additional educational provision for the culturally deprived to give them a helping hand to compete on equal terms. It began in the 1960’s with extra resources allocated to low income areas and supplements to the salaries of teachers working in these deprived areas.  Below are examples of compensatory education

Compensatory education to improve lower class education 

  • Education action Zones set up in These have since been steadily replaced by Excellence in Cities (EiC). These programmes directed resources to low-income, inner city areas in an attempt to raise educational attainment.
  • Sure Start – Free nursery places for 12 hours a week targeted mainly at lower income areas
  • Educational Maintenance Allowance –

Compensatory education and gender

  • Boys into reading scheme – involved famous people such as Garry Linekar telling boys how cool reading was
  • Girls into Science (GIST) – For example – employing more female science teachers to encourage girls to take up science subjects
  • More active learning through play – helps boys who have shorter attention spans than girls

Compensatory education and ethnicity

  • Aiming High – in 2003 the government provided more resources to 30 schools in which African Caribbean pupils were achieving below average
  • Multi-cultural education – involves having assemblies and lessons focussing on educating the whole school about different cultures in the United Kingdom
  • Employing more black teachers – some schools employ more black teachers to provide positive role models for young black boys.

Criticisms of Compensatory education

  • Critics have argued that by placing the blame on the child and his/her background, it diverts attention from the deficiencies of the educational system.
  • Likely to only have limited success in raising achievement because they involve quite a modest redistribution of resources to poor areas. They are unlikely to do much for the inequalities in the wider society which lead to poor achievement

Do 25% of children really have their own mobiles? Invalid Research Example #01

This is a ‘new thread’ idea… posting up examples of naff research. I figure there are two advantages to this…

  1. It’s useful for students to have good examples of naff research, to show them the meaning of ‘invalid data’ or ‘unrepresentative samples’, or in this case, just plain unreferenced material which may as well be ‘Fake News’.
  2. At least I get some kind of pay back (in the form of the odd daily post) for having wasted my time wading through this drivel.

My first example is from The Independent, the ex-newspaper turned click-bait website.

I’ve been doing a bit of research on smart phone usage statistics this week and I came across this 2018 article in the Independent: Quarter of Children under 6 have a smartphone, study finds.

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The article provides the following statistics

  • 25% of children under 6 now have their own mobile
  • 12% of children under 6 spend more than 24 hours a week on their mobile
  • 80% parents admit to not limiting the amount of time their children spend on games

Eventually it references a company called MusicMagpie (which is an online store) but fails to provide a link to the research,  and provides no information at all about the sampling methods used or other details of the survey (i.e. the actual questions, or how it’s administered.). I dug around for a few minutes, but couldn’t find the original survey either.

The above figures just didn’t sound believable to me, and they don’t tie in with OFCOM’s 2017 findings which say that only 5% of 5-7 year olds and 1% of 3-4 year olds have their own mobiles.

As it stands, because of the simple fact that I can’t find details of the survey, these research findings from musicMagpie are totally invalid.

I’m actually quite suspicious that the two companies have colluded to generate some misleading click-bait statistics to drive people to their websites to increase advertising and sales revenue.

If you cannot validate your sources, then do not use the data!

The Mafia’s increasing involvement in the food business…

Mafia syndicates in Italy have an estimated annual turnover of £150 billion, making it much larger than Italy’s largest holding company (which includes Ferrari).

Increasingly, it is not drugs or people trafficking which bring in the money for the Mafia, but there involvement in agriculture, or basic food production.

Today, the Mafia are invested in Italy’s food industry from ‘Field to Fork’…. their agricultural interests extend to extortion, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and the burial of toxic waste on farmland.

In 2018 the estimated value of the ‘agromafia business’ stands at £22bn, equivalent to 15% of Mafia revenue. This may seem mundane, but think about it: everyone has to eat, and most people like to eat everyday, so it should be no surprise that this is a growth area… it’s simply where the demand is!

There are all sorts of ways the Mafia can make money out of the food business – the most obvious is counterfeiting, and it is estimated that up to 50% of all olive oil sold in Italy is cut with poorer quality oil. To do this, the Mafia makes use of its global criminal ties… cutting it with lower quality oil from Africa.

The Mafia also rebrand low quality wine as higher quality: they simply change the label.

One of the more unfortunate costs of this whole business is the thousands of workers who are currently being exploited working for Mafia controlled agribusiness. The figures are quite significant:

It’s also estimated that up to 5000 restaurants are controlled by the Mafia, which is useful for money laundering.

Up until quite recently the Mafia also used to lease huge swathes of public land and make a fortune by claiming back EU subsidies on this land, making a 2000% profit in the process: they basically used their white collar connections in local governments to make sure no one else got involved with the bidding process.

However, this final practice has been clamped down on.

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is a useful update to the globalisation and crime, and especially to Glenny’s work on the McMafia: it shows how the Mafia are ‘evolving’ in their global criminal activities.

Sources:

Agromafia: how the mafia got to our food

Agromafia exploits hundreds of thousands of workers.

 

Have one in five Britons really considered going vegan?

According to a recent poll (1) of 1000 people, one in five Britons have considered going vegan, which is 20% of the population.

But how many of these people have a genuine intention of going vegan? Possibly not that many…..

Firstly, if someone’s asking you questions about veganism, there is going to be a degree of social pressure to state that ‘you have thought about going vegan’…. so social desirability is going to come into play here!

Secondly, vague questioning doesn’t help… the ‘I’ve considered going vegan’ response covers everything from ‘I’m definitely going Vegan in January’ to ‘I thought about it once, but really I’ve got no serious intention of giving up meat’.

Finally, there’s the problem that 1/3rd of the general population seem confused as to what veganism entails…. 27% think vegans can’t eat fruit (God knows what they think a vegan diet consists of!), while 6% think it’s OK to eat fish if you’re a vegan.

Fish: those vegetables what swim in the sea? 

 

However, apparently 3.5 million people in the UK are now Vegan, which suggests enough of a ‘base-line’ figure to make 20% of the population ‘thinking’ about going vegan not seem completly unrealistic.

Then there’s the fact that 100K people signed up for Veganuary 2018, and probably more this year, meaning that veganism is in the news a lot more than it used to be, even a couple of years ago.

Having said that, veganism may be on the increase, but apparently 15% of them think it’s OK to eat Dairy and eggs.

Sources 

(1) Poll of 1000 people

Oxford and Cambridge still seem to be biased towards the middle classes

Eight leading private schools send more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than three-quarters of all state secondary schools.

These eight schools include some of the most expensive fee-paying independent schools in the country, including Westminster and Eton.

  • The eight schools sent 1, 310 pupils to Oxbridge fro 2015 to 2017,
  • Compared to 2,894 state schools which sent just 1, 220 pupils.

Now you might think this is simply due to the better standard of candidates in private schools leading to more applications to Oxford and Cambridge, however the statics below suggest Oxford and Cambridge and Russel Group universities bias their acceptances in favour of Independent schools and selective (grammar) schools and against comprehensives and the post-compulsory sector…..

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private schools oxford cambridge.pngThe statistics above show that…

  • Only 34% of  applications to Oxbridge are made from private schools, but 42% of offers are made to privately schooled pupils
  • 32% of applications to Oxbridge are made from comprehensive schools, but only 25% of offers are made to comprehensively schooled children.

This means you are significantly more likely to get an offer if you apply from a private school compared to a comprehensive school. A similar ‘offer bias’ is found for Russel Group universities.

Why might this be the case?

It could be that the standards of applications are better from Independent Schools (and selective schools), in fact this is quite likely given that such institutions are university factories, unlike comprehensive.

However, it might also just be pure class-bias, especially with the case of Oxbridge, where interviews and old-school tie connections might be significant enough to make the difference, given the relatively small numbers of applicants.

Possibly the best overall theory which explains this is ‘cultural capital‘ theory?

Sources/ Find out More

The Sutton Trust: Access to Advantage (full report)

Web link/ summary: https://www.suttontrust.com/newsarchive/oxbridge-over-recruits-from-eight-schools/

 

What is New Media?

New media refers to “those digital media that are interactive, incorporate two-way communication and involve some form of computing,” (R. Logan Understanding New Media.)

According to Professor Lev Manovich, examples of new media include:

  • websites
  • virtual worlds and virtual reality,
  • multimedia
  • computer games.

New Media is something most of use and largely take for granted today. The best known specific examples of new media are probably Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and social media applications such as Facebook.

New media is (obviously?) a relative term, and has been used since the 1990s to distinguish interactive media technologies based on computing from ‘old media’ forms – namely print media such as newspapers, radio and television, which were traditionally consisted of one way broadcasts to mass populations.

New Media really started to emerge in the 1990s with mass adoption of computer technologies, and really took off in the mid 2000s with the mass adoption of mobile technologies, especially smart phones.

The distinction between old and new media is somewhat artificial, as ‘old media’ technologies have today reinvented themselves so they are now also forms of ‘new media: newspapers are online and allow comments, and radio and T.V. are similar online and allow for greater levels of interactivity with the audience.

 

Main characteristics of New Media

New Media are digital, interactive, hypertextual, networked, virtual and simulated. These are the six key characteristics which distinguish New Media from old media.

New Media are Digital, interactive, hypertextual, globally networked, virtual and sometimes based on simulation. 

This post provides further information and elaboration on these six key features of New Media.  Main Characteristics of New Media_1.png

Digital

With the growth of digital technology in the 1990s, the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s.). Qualitative information has today become ‘digitalised’.

Digitalisation what allows so much information to be stored in compact hard disks or micro memory cards and it is also what allows for the near instantaneous transmission of information via cable and satellite.

Digitalisation has also resulted in ‘technological convergence’, or the convergence of different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single ‘system’ – most web sites today offer a fusion of text and audio-visual information, and our mobile devices allow us to perform a variety of functions – not only reading text and watching/ listening to videos, but also searching for information, sending messages, shopping and using GPS functions.

Analogue is the opposite of digital.  It is stored in physical form and examples include print newspapers, records, and old films and T.V. programmes stored on tape.

Interactivity

‘Old media’ tended to be very much a ‘one way’ affair, with audiences on the receiving end of broadcasts, for the most part able to do little else that just passively watch media content.

New Media however is much more of a two way affair and it allows consumers and users to get more involved. It is much more of a two way form of communication than old media. 

Increased interactivity can be seen in simple acts such as liking a Facebook post or commenting on news piece or blog. However some users get much more involved and create their own blogs and videos and actively upload their own content as ‘prosumers’.

New Media seem to have fostered a more participatory culture, with more people involved and the roles between consumer and producer of media content becoming ever more blurred!

Hypertextual

Hypertext, or ‘links’ are a common feature of new media, which allows users more freedom of choice over how they navigate the different sources of information available to them.

In more technical terms, links in web sites offer non-sequential connections between all kinds of data facilitated by the computer.

Optimists tend to see this feature as allowing for more individualised lifestyle choices, giving users the chance to act more independently, and to make the most of the opportunities new media markets make available to them.

Global Networks

Digital Media has also facilitated cultural globalisation – we now interact much more globally and via virtual networks of people rather than locally.

These networks allow for ‘collective intelligence’ to increase – they allow us to pool our resources much more easily and to draw on a wider range of talents and sources of information (depending on our needs) than ever before.

NB one question to ask about networks is what the main hubs are, through which information flows. This has implications for power.

Virtual Worlds

New Media presents to us a very different reality from face to face to ‘lived reality’ – for most of us this means a very fast paced flow of information with numerous products and people screaming for our attention.

However, this situation has only existed since the mid 2000s, and it must be remembered that New Media reality is virtual reality.

This is especially true when it comes to social media sites  which give users the opportunity to present themselves in any way they see fit, and while most users don’t go full Cat Fish, most people choose to present only one aspect of themselves.

Simulation

Simulation goes a step beyond the ‘virtual’ nature of New Media as usual. Simulation is most obviously experienced computer games which provide an immersive experience for users into a “virtual life” that is simulated through digital technology.

These virtual worlds are synthetic creations that ultimately rely on algorithms which set the parameters through which events in the gaming environment unfold.

Examples today include not only online RPG games, but also driving and flight simulations.

Sources 

Adapted from  Martin Lister et al – New Media: A critical Introduction (Second Edition).

Bank of mum and dad: increasingly important for getting on the property ladder!

Young adults have become increasingly dependent on financial support from their parents to finance their first house purchases.

Those without access to parental support (i.e. those with poorer parents) are less likely to be able to get on the property ladder. 

This is according to the latest research from the Resolution Foundation with examines the impact on parental wealth on home ownership, exploring the relationship between parental support and the ability of young adults today to purchase their first property. 

Some of the key findings of the report were as follows:

The children of wealthier parents are much more likely to become homeowners themselves: from the mid 2000s, children with parents with property wealth were three times as likely to become homeowners as those without property wealth. 

The children of wealthier parents become homeowners at an earlier age than those of less wealthy parents. 

The report also found that:

    • This relationship continues to hold even once someone’s salary, their education, where they live and whether they are in a couple or not are all taken into account.
    • The relationship between parental wealth and their children’s homeownership has risen over time.

The significance of these statistics:

This is bleak reading for anyone interested in economic equality, because this trend suggests that what’s occurring here is the reproduction of class inequality.

The findings of this report will probably come as no surprise to anyone, it just seems to be confirming what is really damn obvious!

This report is probably a good example of a document that’s been produced because of a value-agenda (so the choice of topic is not value free!) and yet the research is probably ‘objective’ in the sense that it’s difficult to bias these figures…. finances tend to be ‘hard statistics’ and it’s difficult for researchers to skew them, even if they want a certain outcome!