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Cursus: MAN-BCU2032
Environment and Society
Cursus informatieRooster
Studiepunten (ECTS)6
Aangeboden doorRadboud Universiteit; Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen; Bachelor Geografie, Planologie en Milieu;
dr. A.J. Calo
Overige cursussen docent
dr. A.J. Calo
Overige cursussen docent
dr. A.J. Calo
Overige cursussen docent
Contactpersoon van de cursus
dr. A.J. Calo
Overige cursussen docent
prof. dr. I.J. Visseren-Hamakers
Overige cursussen docent
4  (08-04-2024 t/m 30-06-2024)
Inschrijven via OSIRISJa
Inschrijven voor bijvakkersJa
After having completed this course, students
  • Understand and are able to critically reflect on different perspectives on environment-society interactions, and the implications thereof for the understanding of particular environmental issues;
  • Have knowledge about several socio-scientific concepts, theories and perspectives on the societal causes of environmental issues and on the societal and political responses thereto;
  • Are able to apply these concepts and theories to a particular environmental issue, as a step in a full social scientific analysis thereof;
  • Are able to recognise and assess the applicability of certain concepts to certain environmental issues;
  • Are able to follow recent and present societal and political debates on environmental issues and take a theory-informed position in these debates.
‘Environmental issues’ is an umbrella concept that emerged from the latest quarter of the 20th century onwards. Although commonly used, it comprehends a series of issues that greatly differ in character, scale, causes, and impact, such as pollution, depletion of natural resources, biodiversity loss and climate change. In a somewhat outdated modernist and dichotomous phrasing: environmental issues point at tensions, if not at a crisis in the interaction between the bio-physical and the social, or: between environment and society, recently more often referred to as the interaction between the human and the nonhuman. Since environmental issues deal with the environment-society interaction, they are inherently social and political issues. Therefore, neither their analysis nor their handling can be a matter of solely the natural sciences. Environmental issues ask for social scientific theorising and analysis.

Over recent years, social scientists have developed and elaborated various perspectives on the social causes of environmental issues and possible solution strategies. Their analyses self-evidently are coloured by their ontological and epistemological starting points, e.g. whether they adhere to agency-or structure-oriented approaches, and whether they are materialists or idealists. Similarly, some scholars might look for changes in values and behaviour while others believe technology can do the job, and yet others look for fundamental societal changes in what they label as socio-ecological systems. In addition, environmental issues have been increasingly reframed as part of larger ‘sustainability issues’ and are said to urge for (global) environmental governance. Finally, over the last 15 years the ‘anthropocene’ seems the predominant concept to diagnose contemporary environmental issues - from which, however, the political dimension seems largely eclipsed. New concepts like the 'capitalocene' and the 'plantationocene' suggests that the problem isn't human kinds, but rather certain logics of production and consumption that originate from specific contexts and come to dominant the earth.

This course aims at approaching environmental issues from a social scientific perspective, covering a variety of concepts and approaches on (1) the environment-society interaction, (2) the societal causes of environmental issues, and (3) the societal responses to them.

As a consequence, leading questions are:
  • How have social scientists conceived the environment-society interaction? What are the origins and impacts of this modernist dichotomy? How to understand and reflect upon it? How do social scientists try to overcome it and conceptualize it differently? Is the ‘anthropocene’ a useful concept?
  • How are environmental issues seen from a social sciences perspective? How do social scientists understand and explain environmental issues? How do they analyse and interpret their societal causes? What are recurrent themes in social scientific analyses, e.g. what role do they attribute to the economy, technology, society and politics, both in terms of causes and of possible solutions?
  • Why and how are environmental issues also political issues? What is at stake here? And: how does the environmental crisis represent a challenge for our present political system? How can we get to grips with environmental issues, and how can we try to eventually govern them.


Written exam and final paper. Partial grades are valid for 2 years (so till 1 year after the year in which it was obtained). 
Lectures cover a series of social sciences' approaches to environmental issues, that students have to elaborate and apply to a specific environmental problem. Working groups allow students to go in depth into readings and to make progress towards their final team paper.
Ba 2 PM


Series of gatherings, partly lectures, partly tutorials, during which students present their work. The latter results from a series of assignments that help students to understand, e.g. to apply and assess the theoretical concepts and approaches dealt with in lectures and literature.

Sustainability certificate


ToetsvormDigitale toets met CIRRUS
GelegenhedenBlok 4, Blok 5

Team paper
GelegenhedenBlok 4, Blok 5

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