No wonder that poor and rich countries also argues about the possible ways of solving international environmental problems. For instance, at the Rio Conference of 1992, poor developing countries emphasized development and global equity concerns while the rich industrialized countries emphasized issues related to international governance of environment (Smith 2004). Naturally, the difference in the position of poor and rich countries can be logically explained. Obviously, developing countries, being economically poor, realize that they have a bunch of socio-economic problems which, at the present moment, are much more significant and important than environmental ones. Consequently, they would rather focus on the solution of socio-economic problems than on environmental ones. Moreover, even if they are willing to solve environmental problems, they, as it has been just mentioned above, do not have either financial or technological resources to solve them. As a result, they naturally appeal to the international community, notably to rich countries, hoping from international support in their efforts of solving environmental problems in terms of international treaties, for instance.
Charles Tilly provides a model for mobilization that bridges some of the ideological views of frame analysis with collective action and resource mobilization theory. Tilly’s (1978) definition of mobilization is “a process by which a group goes from a passive collection of individuals to an active participant in public life” (p. 69). A further extreme of this model is resource mobilization theory, which gives even less importance to ideological factors and, instead, emphasizes the need for available resources. The combination of ideologies, resources, and the power of frame presentation contribute to mobilization. Using this analytical framework, the emergence of environmental problems and mobilization around these problems can be better understood.
The subjective reality of environmental problems becomes visible in terms of how the issue is circulated in cultural discourse. Each stakeholder constructs different means of projecting information for public consumption. When presented in the media, the perception is that information is true and accurate. Most often the determination of risk takes place in the form of a public meeting. In this situation, public officials are in control of the meeting, drawing on public anticipation surrounding the specific issue and information to be released. At Love Canal, for example, officials kept the information to be discussed at the meeting private until the meeting in order to build anticipation and increase their power over the dissemination of information.
For example, in many cases where chemical contamination is the focal issue of community groups, the level of risk is perceived by affected individuals rather than established by science. It is the social processes in a community that lead to risk determination, not the natural science interpretations of an issue. Individuals have been socialized to trust science for valid information. When the determination of risk is uncertain, individuals are left to determine the level of risk for themselves by other means. In most cases, this determination is made through contact with state or federal government officials, through collaboration with other community members, or through other sources of information, such as the media. This framework helps to explain disagreements over the seriousness of most environmental issues, from global climate change to mountain-top coal removal.
On the other hand, rich countries, having sufficient financial, technological and professional human resources, are more concerned about the effective use of these resources. Unquestionably, they can fully control the use of funds they spend on the solution of international environmental problems on their own territory in terms of some international programs. Obviously, they can help either financially or technologically poor countries, but this is where the major problems begin. In fact, often it is quite difficult to trace the way the financial help, for instance, was used by the government of a developing country, or any organization in this country. Anyway, there is the risk that financial or even technological help would be misused or simply stolen out. At the same time, environmental protection is really expansive and needs a lot of funds. In fact, the more developed the country is the more expansive is the environmental protection. In this respect, it is possible again to refer to the refusal of the US to sign the Kyoto Protocol because it is obvious that the fulfillment of its norms will lead to enormous financial losses of American company as well as federal budget (Smith 2004). As a result, developed countries are more concerned on the effective governance of the fulfillment of existing international treaties, agreements, and programs since it is mainly developed countries that pay for the environmental protection worldwide.
At both the cultural and social level, power is maintained through these exercises. Often, the state controls the dissemination of information that individuals perceive to be true and accurate. However, different modes of collaboration among community members can create a different means of risk determination. The sharing of common experiences among community residents can lead to a broader sense of mobilization. Once commonalties are recognized, residents begin to determine their own level of risk. Risk perception is based on the potential danger of a problem. The sources that individuals base their information and understanding on are numerous. Each source has developed a frame of events and information on which they base their version of reality. Whether from the media, science, the state, or local knowledge, such frames serve as a means to display a problem in terms of a specific group. Social movement development, in relation to the environment, offers a powerful tool for individuals looking to construct the frame of a given environmental reality.
The power of individuals in roles and positions to define these claims is ultimately what allows problems to be defined as problems. Claims may be made by others not in a position of power, but they are often not seen as valid because of the lack of power associated with the role. Different claims of environmental problems then lead to different definitions of the problems.
Materialism is a cultural value that also contributes to how environmental problems emerge. Americans tend to measure success in terms of the consumption of material things. Globally, the most valued nation is one that can command and use the largest fraction of the world’s resources. Currently, the United States supports 5% of the world’s population and uses 25% of the world’s natural resources. This is evidence that the cultural emphasis on the consumption of material goods is in direct correlation with natural resource use.
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