Fall 2020 - SA 371 D100

The Environment and Society (SA) (4)

Class Number: 2637

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Instructor:

    Ataman Avdan
    Office Hours: Mo 12:30-1:30 pm via Zoom (appointments required)
  • 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 the socio-environmental relationships. 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.


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. At the end of this course you should be able to 1) identify the main themes of environmental sociology; 2) understand some of the major theoretical approaches and concepts that are used to investigate socio-environmental issues of our time; 3) critically evaluate the changing socio-environmental relations and public responses to the environmental problems; 4) analyze relationships between environmental change and societal issues; 5) synthesize course material verbally through in-class discussions and in writing.


  • Participation 20%
  • Annotations (5 x 2%) 10%
  • Group presentation 12%
  • Midterm exam 25%
  • Paper proposal 5%
  • Paper presentation 3%
  • Research paper 25%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & 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.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



All readings will be available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or otherwise online as noted.

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).