SOC 320 - Population - Natural Resources and Environment

  • 3 credits
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People are continuously and simultaneously shaping and being shaped by their environment. The essence of this relationship is dependent on characteristics of the population and the natural resources it relies upon for subsistence. At a basic level, we use the environment for our daily needs (i.e., food, water, shelter). However, it takes various forms worldwide depending upon demographic, social, cultural, political, and economic factors. For instance, we can observe a variety of ways climate change, drought, waste, and food safety are depicted in the media, in politics, at church, and in conversations with friends and family. As we will learn, environmental problems are intricately tied to social problems.

This course uses a sociological lens to help us explore the interconnections between population, society, and the environment. It is intrinsically interdisciplinary. Without requiring any previous background in other disciplines, it will draw knowledge from demographics, economy, geography, political science and natural and physical science. It will stimulate conversation and new perspectives on these interconnections, tensions therein, and ways of responding to challenges. At a fundamental level, the aim of this class is to encourage critical thinking and challenge assumptions about the relationship between population, natural resources, and the environment. A long-standing theorem of environmental studies (and environmentalists) is that population growth equals environmental degradation. Sociology pushes us to unpack some of the assumptions within this theory. The first part of the class will introduce sociological and demographic thinking on population, natural resources, and the social construction of nature. We will then spend the second part of the course applying various approaches to topical areas and frame the emergence of sustainability so we can adopt a problem-solving attitude. This course is the result of added contributions by previous instructors and myself and keeps evolving along contemporary issues.

In a three-hundred-level class, you have already experienced the sociological lens and are familiar with detaching yourself from individual-minded perspectives and the bias issues inherent in everyday “common sense.” In this class, we will push the reflection further and that is why I will require you to leave your prejudices aside and be ready to discuss with an open mind. Because they are so contemporary to us, some of the material and theories that we will cover will spark sensitive reactions. That is okay if you know how to recognize those and not let them impede your judgment. Be ready to challenge yourself and I guarantee you that you will broaden your capacities to reflect upon complex societal issues. Join this exciting opportunity to study things that matter today!


  • Identify and explain a number of discourses that examine society-nature
  • Apply, interpret, and explore environmental issues using these discourses
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of each discourse in their application
  • Collectively debate key environmental debates
  • Develop problem solving capacity


SOC 100 (General Sociology) or SOC 105 (Social Problems).

Textbooks and Materials

Textbooks and materials can be purchased at the CSU Bookstore unless otherwise indicated.


  • Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction, 2nd Ed. (2014)
    Robbins, Paul et al.

Additional readings will be posted on Canvas.


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