May 18, 2017

Environmental Sociology

Environmental Sociology, University of Aukland (since 2012)

  • Program: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and BA in Global Studies
  • Lecturer: Manuel Vallee
  • Class size: 50 to 65 students
  • Duration: 12 weeks, 3 contact hours per week; elective course
  • Objective: to think critically, which includes: developing a reflexive perspective, towards questioning fixed belief systems; challenging assumptions; being aware of our time, place and culture; and imagining alternative ways of thinking.
  • Focus: Provides students with an overview of environmental problems and sociological approaches to studying them, as well as the proximate causes of environmental problems (including population, resource consumption, food system, the transportation system, and the education system). The structural causes of environmental problems are also included (political economy and culture), with the last two weeks spent envisioning alternative futures.
  • Innovative approaches: the use of fictional texts to reinforce concepts that students learn in academic readings; the assignment of videos, to engage students; an inter-disciplinary assignment is offered, in partnership with a psychology course, where students in both courses watch the True Cost documentary (on “fast fashion”), and then meet in the PSYCH labs, where the sociology students provide a sociology analysis of fast fashion to the psych students”, and where the psych students provide a psychology analysis to the sociology students. Students also take a walking tour of campus, to relate their lived experience to the academic texts in a form of embodied learning.
  • Student evaluation: includes quizzes on reading materials and reflections on purchasing of fast fashion (required) as well as writing reflections on water and/or carbon footprints (optional); an essay that compares the campus greening activities of their university to those of other universities; a final exam using key concepts to envision a sustainable future and the steps to get there.
  • Course evaluation: receives very high ratings, typically around 95%; students appreciate the comparison of campus greening activities and the weekly quizzes, which encourage them to read.