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Environmental Sociology

Global warming. Depletion of the ozone layer. The export of First World waste to Third World nations. The razing of tropical forests for cattle grazing. The loss of biodiversity. The premature extinction of the human species. Each day in newspapers, magazines, radio and television news reports, and in various Internet sources, environmental issues are discussed, debated, and hotly contested.

Sociologists play a critical role in understanding and resolving environmental problems. Why sociology? Because the sociological perspective is unique and useful for examining environmental problems. It focuses on how social institutions and cultural practices influence behavior rather than attributing behavior to the characteristics of the individual. Although many people view environmental issues as technical problems that require the expertise of only biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers to understand, sociologists recognize the essentially social nature of environmental issues.

Sociologists analyze the social causes and consequences of technological choices, policy decisions, and economic production processes affecting resource scarcity and environmental degradation. They probe such questions as: What are environmental problems and who defines them? What happens when citizens hold conflicting values about the environment? What types of people are most likely to be concerned about protecting the environment? What role do population issues play in environmental problems? How do urban environmental problems differ from rural environmental problems? What social groups suffer the most from environmental problems? What is the role of government policies in resolving environmental problems? What role has the environmental movement played in the raising of environmental consciousness? What is the relationship between economic production and environmental problems? Is a sustainable future a possibility?

Objectives of the Environmental Issues & Globalization Concentration

The courses offered in Sociology's concentration in Environmental Issues & Globalization aim at the following objectives for students:

  • to provide a deeper understanding of the inherent relationship between humans and the environment;
  • to lay a basic foundation of sociological knowledge in the area of environmental issues and globalization;
  • to grapple with some fundamental sociological issues, such as inequalities, social conflict, cultural values, economic processes, and transnationalism, through the medium of environmental issues;
  • to apply basic skills in sociological theory and research to the field of environmental sociology;
  • to apply theories and concepts from environmental sociology to everyday life;
  • to sharpen skills of critical analysis through reading, writing, and class discussion;

The Sociology Faculty in Environmental Issues and Globalization

  • Sherry Cable, Professor
    environmental conflict, environmental justice, environmental policy.
  • R. Scott Frey, Professor
    environmental sociology, development, comparative/historical sociology.
  • Paul Gellert, Associate Professor
    environmental sociology, development, comparative/historical sociology, political economy, Asian studies, global studies.
  • Robert Jones, Associate Professor
    environmental concern, environmental values, ecosystem management, environmental policy.
  • Thomas Hood, Professor Emeritus
    environmental movements, environmental concern, energy, transportation.

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