Fall 2019 - SA 371 J100

The Environment and Society (SA) (4)

Class Number: 5876

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Ataman Avdan
    Office Hours: Th 16:00-17:00 or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of environmental issues in their social context. Environmental issues are on the leading edge of contemporary public concern and public policy debates. This course will examine such issues as the relationship between social organization and mode of subsistence, the politics of hunger, and the way in which human societies in their particular social, historical, and cultural contexts view and interact with the natural world.


This course examines environmental issues in their social context. We will explore the intersections between the environment and the social structures, relationships, and institutions. The threat of planetary environmental collapse makes it imperative that we engage ourselves in critical thinking and look at the relationship between humans and the environment in a new way. We will investigate the connections between various environmental and social problems, as well as numerous political ideologies, philosophies, and movements that have continually redefined how we think of nature and the environment. In the first part of this course, we will aim to develop a theoretical understanding of how individuals, communities, and societies relate to and interact with nature and the environment across time and space. We will discuss the various epistemological positions (such as realism and constructivism) to conceptualize human-nature relationships and we will explore the contributions of eco-Marxist, ecofeminist, and indigenous approaches to the environment-society nexus. Overall, we will focus on the importance of ecological thinking for social theory. In the second part, we will discuss the issues of urbanization, biodiversity, conservation, sustainable development, environmental injustices as well as environmental-social movements in order to reach a broad understanding of ecological issues. These issues are on the leading edge of contemporary public concern and public policy debates. We will examine how societies have been both producing and responding to those problems and how our relationships with nature and the environment are mediated through power geometries and already existing inequalities.

A primary goal of this course is for students to develop a better understanding of the relationships between the environment and society. At the end of this course you should be able to (1) understand some of the major theoretical approaches and concepts that are used to investigate socio-environmental issues of our time; (2) critically evaluate the changing socio-environmental relations and public responses to the environmental problems, and (3) have detailed knowledge on a number of case studies. The course intends to assist you in shaping your personal responses to the environmental problems affecting your lives and your communities and encourage you to think critically, analytically, and creatively about ecological processes and problems contemporary societies experience. Since personal responses to the environmental problems are necessary but never enough, this course also aims to provoke you to envision societal responses and solutions to environmental crises in Canada and around the globe.


  • Annotations (4 x 3%) 12%
  • Group presentation/Discussion leader 10%
  • Participation 10%
  • Midterm exam (in-class) 30%
  • Paper proposal 10%
  • Paper presentation 3%
  • Research paper 25%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



Required readings available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html