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Sociology of Human-Environment Relationships

Malcolm Fairbrother teaches the course Sociology of Human-Environment Relationships, 7.5 Credits. Here he tells us a little more about it.

Can you give a brief description of the course?

This is a course in environmental sociology, approaching problems such as climate change, air pollution, and biodiversity loss from a social (including

political and economic) perspective. We consider why the world is confronting such problems, and what can be done about them. We grapple with the fundamental question of how much (and how) society needs to change, if we are to achieve real sustainability, and how policymakers, interest groups, and individual citizens and consumers influence environmental outcomes. We also touch on the role of the world's Indigenous peoples in environmental protection.

What is the current research area on which the course is based?

Environmental sociology is very concerned with issues of fairness and justice, and why some groups in society have the power to impose costs on others. There is also, therefore, a lot of interest in conditions under which it is possible to resist that imposition. It matters a lot who is able to act collectively--whether the fossil fuel industry, youth activists, or the governments of small island developing states. There are also examples of environmental success stories which are important to recognize, and learn from.

In what way is the department's research the basis for the course?

Several members of the department are researching public attitudes towards climate and environmental policies. In particular, we are interested in why, judging by surveys, most people around the world believe that environmental problems are real and serious, but do not necessarily support potential policy responses. I am also leading a research programme on the "decoupling" of greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth, and we talk about that in the course.

How is the course relevant to the labor market?

Given the urgency of many environmental problems, there are a lot of jobs out there for people with insights into how to tackle those problems. It's useful to have specialized knowledge of some different environmental problems, including some that we have made progress in dealing with, plus a good understanding of the processes and institutions that shape environmental policymaking.

How is the course relevant for a future working life?

Environmental challenges confront us all, and any organization will need to reckon with them. So anyone involved in setting organizations' policies will benefit from having some perspective on the nature of these challenges, on how different societies are grappling with them, and what are the pros and cons of different possible solutions.

Senast uppdaterad: 2023-03-13