Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
SOC 228
Course Title:
Introduction to Environmental Sociology
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Examines the relationship between society and the environment, with a focus on how industrialization and our increasing demand for natural resources has significantly impacted the planet's ability to meet the needs of humanity and other species. Explores the structural and cultural causes and consequences of such topics as production, consumption, population, development, pollution, and environmental justice and how to respond to these issues through policies and actions. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Approved Texts/Materials:Instructor discretion

Current texts:

Bell, Michael M. 2004. Introduction to Environmental Sociology,   Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

Kline, B.  2000.  First Along the River: A Brief History of the U.S.       Environmental Movement, San Francisco, CA: Acada Books.

Quinn, D.  1992.  Ishmael, New York, NY: Bantam/Turner.

Ryan J.C. and A.T. Durning.  1997.  Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things,  Seattle, WA, Northwest Environment Watch.

National Issues Forum.  2000.  Environmental Protection: A Challenge Bigger than All Outdoors, Dubuque, IA, Kendall/Hunt Publishing.

  Supplemental Texts and Materials:Instructor Discretion

Faculty Information: Faculty utilizing new modalities should be aware that the Sociology Subject Area Committee (SAC) is responsible for determining the efficacy of different methods and evaluating their impact on both instruction and student outreach. Faculty should talk with their Department and Division Chairs before including nonstandardized instruction or changing the approved texts and possibly meet with the Sociology SAC before initiating these modalities in their courses.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion students should be able to:

1. Apply sociological perspectives and use their sociological imagination to analyze the complex relationships between humans and the environment.
2. Assess the effects of human behavior on the natural and social worlds and locate themselves within social structures and cultures to reflect on their impacts on society and the environment.
3. Identify possible strategies to solve environmental problems and participate as active citizens in their societies and communities, demonstrating respect for diversity, critical thinking, and collaboration in problem-solving.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

The SAC assumes that instructors will assess student learning through the term by using various formative assessment tools, like worksheets,
papers, quizzes, and exams. In addition, the SACC encourages instructors to integrate the following kinds of tasks into the course to assess student achievement of course outcomes in a more comprehensive and holistic manner:
• Short analytical or application papers on specific concepts, themes, issues, and critical thinking questions.
• Term or research papers, using a variety of research strategies on a topic from class.
• Participation in class discussions, small groups, and class exercises on specific course topics.
• Response paper or journals reflecting on life experiences, events, and social phenomena.
• Service learning projects, involving volunteer work and application of the sociological perspective in written papers.
• Participation in a class eco-team and take individual actions at home to reduce resource use and write about experience.
• Student-Instructor conferences
• Oral presentations

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

• Sociological Imagination: personal and public issues related to the environment
• Environmental Sociology: sub-discipline of sociology, origins of field
• Environmental Infrastructure: dependence of humans on clean air, water, land, etc.
• Production and Consumption Treadmill: withdrawals, additions, carrying capacity, sustainability, Hardin€™s tragedy of the commons
• Interactions between material problems, ideologies, and practical actions, including individual actions and social movements (the Ecological Dialogue)
• Environmental Problems: causes and consequences of air and water pollution, energy dependence, global warming, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification, toxins, etc.
• Consumption and Materialism: Maslow€™s Hierarchy of Needs, absolute vs relative poverty, "affluenza," conspicuous consumption, leisure, and waste.
• Environmental Economics: resources, costs, consequences, incentives, externalities, and Olson€™s rational choice theory.
• Technological Dependency: Industrialization(Lenskis), Invention, discovery, diffusion, cultural lag (Ogburn), Manifest and Latent functions and Dysfunctions (Merton)
• Population Growth: fertility and mortality rates, population pyramids, Malthus and anti- Malthusians, demographic transition, gender issues, North vs South debate, and population policies
• Development: global stratification, development theories (modernization, dependency, and world systems), power of financial institutions (IMF, World Bank).
• Sustainable development: dimensions of sustainability, policies, and actions
• Ideologies: animism, Eastern vs Western thought, dominion vs. stewardship, anthropocentrism, Protestant Work Ethic, utilitarianism, manifest destiny, and changing paradigms (Human Exemptionalism Paradigm vs New Environmental Paradigm).
• Environmental Movement: History, key figures, catalysts, conservation vs preservation, trends in participation
• Ecofeminism: women€™s movement, spirituality, and action
• Environmental Justice: racism, classism, NIMBY, international stratification, and social action
• The Social Construction of the Rights and Beauty of Nature: how we define and value nature.
• How we organize society: collective action, structural change, laws and enforcement, individual actions and lifestyles.
• Countermovement: politics, the "Wise Use" movement, and environ-mental backlash
Competencies and Skills 
• Apply sociological approach and perspectives to a variety of social patterns and processes related to environmental issues.
• Develop and practice college-level reading, writing, research, analysis,and study skills.
• Be able to define, compare, understand, and interpret theories, concepts, and data patterns.
• Apply theories, concepts, data, and research to concrete examples in text, class, and daily life.
• Determine and analyze the structural and cultural causes, con-sequences, and changes of environment-related issues.
• Be able to use the treadmill of production and consumption to analyze the inputs and outputs of resource use.
• Develop critical thinking skills and be able to distinguish between underlying assumptions, stereotypes, and research findings related to social and environmental issues.
• Develop group process skills, including listening, communicating, cooperating, and empathizing with diverse perspectives.
• Be able to analyze and integrate coursework with current events and trends in the social world.
• Learn how to help solve problems by being active citizens, participating in the community and society, and being able to identify services available in the community.