Toward a Sociological Theory of Biodiversity Loss

Besek, Jordan Fox and Richard York. “Towards a Sociology of Biodiversity Loss.” Social Currents. (forthcoming).  

Social processes are setting in motion a crisis of global biodiversity loss, yet those who study social processes are largely absent from discussions about this crisis. Recognizing that developing a single general sociological theory of the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss is infeasible, the purpose of this article is to simply engage a wide array of sociological traditions that, whether or not they have thus far incorporated environmental problems, focus on theoretical issues that we believe must be confronted if a sociological conversation about the global crisis of biodiversity is to take place. These traditions include those in environmental sociology, relational sociology, the sociology and geography of scale, and historical sociology. We, where necessary, re-direct aspects of these traditions to incorporate non-human actors, more general biophysical processes, and the longue durée of evolutionary time. We then illustrate our perspective by detailing the spread of Kudzu, an invasive species that is having a significant impact on biodiversity in the American southeast. Our overall goal is to initiate a broad sociological exploration, one unhampered by sub-disciplinary boundaries, into why and how human social processes are setting in motion an increasing rate of global biodiversity loss.