BASS Politics and Data Analytics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Environment and Society

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY10201
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course introduces students to critical sociological thinking about the natural environment as a social issue. It presents a range of sociological approaches to the environment and equips students with the intellectual tools to critically engage with key contemporary debates concerning the intersecting ecological and climate crises affecting global society. At the core of the module is an introduction to sociological thinking on the natural environment and the causes, implications and potential solutions of socio-environmental problems, with a particular emphasis on climate change, biodiversity, and sustainability. This is situated and understood in the broader context of interdisciplinary debates on environmental justice and politics, intersectional socio-environmental inequalities, and decolonial, de-growth and post-anthropocentric currents in green social thought. Such ideas are explored and assessed through critical discussion and debate of a wide range of examples of substantive socio-environmental issues and controversies, encompassing not just climate change but ecosystems and biodiversity, pollution, food systems and sustainability, animals and mass extinction, technologies and environmental health. The module is co-taught in a way that reflects the research strengths of the contributing staff in sociology at Manchester.


The course draws on cutting edge scholarship on environmental-societal relationships which foregrounds issues of inequalities, colonialism, anthropocentrism and economism as central drivers of our current ecological crisis. These issues are explored through substantive topics, which introduce students to areas which are addressed in-depth by level 2 and 3 undergraduate as well as postgraduate taught courses within the School of Social Sciences.

Indicative list of topics covered (these may vary):  

  1. Sociological approaches to the environment, climate change and sustainability  
  2. Environmental justice, climate justice: environmental (in)justices and global social inequalities  
  3. Mass extinction: sociological approaches to biodiversity loss 
  4. Sustainable consumption, everyday life and social practices 
  5. Modernity and the nature crisis: cultural and relational perspectives 
  6. Energy, empire and environment: postcolonial perspectives 
  7. Eating the planet: food, farming systems and sustainability 
  8. Toxic exposures: bodies, health and environmental justice 
  9. Can there be a green capitalism? green growth or degrowth?  
  10. Climate change: anthropogenic or sociogenic?  

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will:  

  • Be able to bring sociological thinking to bear on environmental issues.  
  • Be able to outline and evaluate key currents in contemporary environmental discourse.  
  • Be able to critically engage in current environmental debates and controversies.  
  • Be able to critically assess debates on the explanations for, and potential solutions to, environmental problems through the application of core sociological concepts.

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly two-hour lecture, followed by a separate one-hour tutorial

Assessment methods

Non-assessed assignments (formative):

Case study/report (1250 words). Students will be asked to apply critical sociological thinking to a social-environmental issue, debate or controversy of their choice.

Assessments (summative):

Two-hour exam (100%). Students will be required to write two 1000-1500 word essays in answer to questions chosen from the weekly topics.  

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback - which lets students know how they are getting on and what they could do to improve - and summative feedback - which provides a mark for assessed work.  

Recommended reading

  • Baker, S. (2015) Sustainable Development. 2nd edition. London: Routledge  
  • Benjaminsen, A. and Svarstad, H. (2021) ‘Political Ecology on Pandora’ in Benjaminsen, A. and Svarstad, H. Political Ecology: A Critical Engagement with Global Environmental Issues, Pages 1-28. Palgrave-McMillan  
  • Besek, J. F. and York, R. (2019) ‘Toward a Sociology of Biodiversity Loss’, Social Currents, 6 (3): 239-254.  
  • Dhillon, J. (2018) ‘Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonisation, and Movements for Environmental Justice’, Environment and Society, 9 (1): 1-5.  
  • Fuchs, et al. (2021) Consumption Corridors: Living a Good Life within Sustainable Limits. London and New York: Routledge  
  • Gunderson, R. (2011) ‘The Metabolic Rifts of Livestock Agribusiness’, Organization and Environment, 24 (4): 404-422.  
  • Harvey, M. (2021) Climate Emergency: How Societies Create the Crisis. Emerald Publishing Limited.  
  • Lockie, S. (2015) ‘What Is Environmental Sociology?’, Environmental Sociology 1 (3): 139-142  
  • Middlemiss, L. (2018) Sustainable Consumption: Key Issues. London and New York: Routledge  
  • Patel, R. and Moore, J. (2018) A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Berkeley: University of California Press  
  • Robbins, P., Moore, S.A., Hintz, J. (2014) Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction. 2nd Edition. Cheltenham: Wiley  
  • Schroeder, P., Anantharaman, M., Anggraeni, K. and Foxon, T. ‘Which pathways lead towards an inclusive circular economy?’ in Schroeder, P., Anantharaman, M., Anggraeni, K. and Foxon, T (eds.) The Circular Economy and the Global South: Sustainable Lifestyles and Green Industrial Development. London and New York: Routledge  
  • Walker, G. (2012) Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence and Politics. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge  

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richie Nimmo Unit coordinator

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