• Class Number 9119
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Rebecca Pearse
    • Dr Rebecca Pearse
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

Environmental sociology examines the complex relationships between people, nature, and the natural environment. It focuses on questions such as: how environmental issues are known, defined and acted upon; why certain environmental issues are largely ignored or denied; the role of institutions and economic systems in shaping relationships with the non-human environment; how different social groups are affected by environmental change and problems; human-animal relations; human conceptions and cultural representations of the natural world; and the role of social movements in promoting environmental reform. While the course covers many topical issues, there is a major focus on what sociological thinking can contribute to understandings of environmental events, issues and politics and what analyses of these, in turn, contribute to sociological thought.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. apply sociological theories and concepts to explain environmental issues;
  2. analyse the implications of environmental change for people, communities, flora and wildlife;
  3. evaluate policy, community and other responses to environmental change; and
  4. reflect on and discuss their learning in relation to the content of the course.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Sociology, ecology and human-animal relations (28 July) No tutorial week 1 Aims: 1. Outline a brief intellectual history of environmental sociology 2. Introduce key strands of eco-social thought covered in the course, with an initial focus on nature/society and human/nonhuman relations 3. Introduce key lines of evidence for our contemporary crisis 4. Discuss the changes to come (with or without effective eco-social transformation) and throw up the question of sociology’s role in coming to terms with the Anthropocene Required reading: Pellow, David N & Nyseth Brehm, Hollie (2013) 'An environmental sociology for the twenty-first century', Annual Review of Sociology, 39: 229-250.
2 Production and labour-in-nature (4-5 August) Aims: 1. Examine production relations as key drivers of unsustainable growth 2. Discuss key examples of over-production: fossil fuels; forestry; water; meat 3. Debate class and labour processes as eco-social, multi-species phenomena 4. Debate ecological modernisation and ecological Marxist theories of unsustainable production Required readings: Buttel, Frederick H. (2000) 'Ecological modernization as social theory', Geoforum, 31(1): 57-65. Foster, John Bellamy (1999) 'Marx's theory of metabolic rift: Classical foundations for environmental sociology', American Journal of Sociology, 105(2): 366-405.
3 Un/sustainable consumption and households (11-12 August) Aims: 1. Examine the role of consumption in environmental change and growth 2. Discuss key examples of un/sustainable consumption practices 3. Debate consumption practices in the household as key means to achieve equitable sustainability 4. Debate ecofeminist and consumer theories of household sustainability Required readings: Spaargaren, Gert & Van Vliet, Bas (2000) 'Lifestyles, consumption and the environment: The ecological modernization of domestic consumption', Environmental Politics, 9(1): 50-76. Kennedy, Emily Huddart & Kmec, Julie (2018) 'Reinterpreting the gender gap in household pro-environmental behaviour', Environmental Sociology, 4(3): 299-310.
4 Ecological imperialism, race and indigeneity (18-19 August) Aims: 1. Examine colonialism as an ongoing ecological project, constituting structural environmental inequalities in development and conservation practices 2. Discuss key examples of the consequences of neo/colonialism for indigenous and other racialised peoples and non-human natures 3. Debate the possibility of decolonising conservation 4. Debate indigenous and mainstream conservation theories of sustainability and conservation Required readings: Langton, Marcia (2003) 'The ‘wild’, the market and the native: Indigenous people face new forms of global colonization'. in W. Adams & M. Mulligan (eds), Decolonizing Nature: Strategies for Conservation in a Post-Colonial Era, London: Earthscan. Grif?ths, T. (1997) 'Ecology and empire: Towards an Australian history of the world'. in T. Grif?ths & L. Robin (eds), Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
5 Gender, nature and power (25-26 August) Aim: 1. Examine gender and patriarchal power as eco-social phenomena 2. Discuss key examples of gendered environmental inequalities and power relations in environmental issues 3. Debate whether gender justice is needed for environmental justice 4. Debate ‘old’ and ‘new’ feminist materialist perspectives on environmental change, the body and labour Required readings: Agarwal, B. (2000) 'Conceptualising environmental collective action: Why gender matters', Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24(3): 283-310. Gaard, Greta (2011) 'Ecofeminism revisited: Rejecting essentialism and re-placing species in a material feminist environmentalism', Feminist Formations, 23(2): 26-53.
6 Environment-making states, bureaucracy and democracy (1-2 September) Aims: 1. Examine the state as an ensemble of environment-making institutions and the value of classical sociological ideas in reading environmental policy 2. Discuss key examples of state in/action on environmental crises 3. Debate whether the state can act on climate crisis and other systemic issues 4. Debate liberal and critical state theories of environmental in/action Required readings: Gunderson, Ryan (2014) 'Habermas in environmental thought: Anthropocentric Kantian or forefather of ecological democracy?', Sociological Inquiry, 84(4): 626-653. Foster, John Bellamy & Holleman, Hannah (2012) 'Weber and the environment: Classical foundations for a postexemptionalist sociology', American Journal of Sociology, 117(6): 1625-1673.
7 Economic knowledge and environmental ideologies (22-23 September) Aims: 1. Examine economic perspectives on the environment, where they come from and how they circulate 2. Discuss key examples where economic thought re/creates ideologies of nature 3. Debate whether mainstream economics helps or hinders sustainability 4. Debate the possibilities for environmental sociology to contribute to equitable and effective environmental-economic policy and institutions Tutorials - Wednesday 23rd September 2020 Required readings: Söderbaum, Peter (1994) 'Actors, ideology, markets: Neoclassical and institutional perspectives on environmental policy', Ecological Economics, 10(1): 47-60. Spash, Clive L (2011) 'Social ecological economics: Understanding the past to see the future', American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 70(2): 340-375.
8 Energy and industry in transition (29-30 September) Aims: 1. Develop a substantive understanding of energy transitions underway in Australia and globally 2. Discuss key examples of historical and contemporary energy transitions 3. Debate whether full decarbonisation of our economies-societies is possible 4. Apply environmental sociological analysis to an existing proposal for energy transition Required readings: Sovacool, Benjamin K (2016) 'How long will it take? Conceptualizing the temporal dynamics of energy transitions ', Energy Research & Social Science, 13: 202-215. Jenkins, Kirsten, Sovacool, Benjamin K & McCauley, Darren (2018) 'Humanizing sociotechnical transitions through energy justice: An ethical framework for global transformative change', Energy Policy, 117: 66-74.
9 Global food, provisioning, and animal labour (6-7 October) Aims: 1. Develop substantive knowledge of the Australian and global food system and the role of animal labour 2. Discuss key examples of unsustainable exploitation of human and non-human life in food production 3. Debate the possibility for environmentally just food system 4. Apply environmental sociological analysis to an existing proposal for food justice Required readings: Wadiwel, Dinesh (2018) 'Chicken harvesting machine: Animal labor, resistance, and the time of production', South Atlantic Quarterly, 117(3): 527-549. Akram-Lodhi, A Haroon (2015) 'Accelerating towards food sovereignty', Third World Quarterly, 36(3): 563-583.
10 Water, markets, and rights (13-14 October) Aims: 1. Develop substantive knowledge of Australia’s water crisis and the global debate over rights to water 2. Discuss key examples of water pollution and scarcity 3. Debate the possibility for reforming the Murray-Darling Basin 4. Apply environmental sociological analysis of an existing proposal for water justice Required readings: Swyngedouw, Erik (2005) 'Dispossessing H2O: The contested terrain of water privatization', Capitalism Nature Socialism, 16(1): 81-98. Zwarteveen, Margreet Z. & Boelens, Rutgerd (2014) 'Defining, researching and struggling for water justice: Some conceptual building blocks for research and action', Water International, 39(2): 143-158.
11 Extinctions and the imperative for multi-species justice (20-21 October) Aims: 1. Develop substantive understanding of extinctions and 21st century conservation practices 2. Discuss key examples of biodiversity and environmental protection regimes 3. Debate the possibility for avoiding the Earth’s sixth great extinction 4. Apply environmental sociological analysis to existing biodiversity strategies Required readings: Plumwood, Val (2002) 'Decolonisation relationships with nature', PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature, (2): 7-30. Collard, Rosemary-Claire, Dempsey, Jessica & Sundberg, Juanita (2015) 'A manifesto for abundant futures', Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(2): 322-330.
12 Climate adaptation and pandemic recovery in a turbulent world (27-28 October) Aims: 1. Develop substantive knowledge of climate adaptation challenges and their relationship with social/economic/ecological fallout of the COVID19 pandemic 2. Discuss key examples of climate adaptation policy and emerging agendas for sustainable pandemic recovery 3. Debate what the priorities for adaptation and pandemic recovery should be for Australia and the world 4. Apply environmental sociological analysis to existing adaptation and green recovery strategies or proposals for change Required readings: Schlosberg, David, Collins, Lisette B & Niemeyer, Simon (2017) 'Adaptation policy and community discourse: Risk, vulnerability, and just transformation', Environmental Politics, 26(3): 413-437. Warlenius, Rikard (2018) 'Decolonizing the atmosphere: The climate justice movement on climate debt', The Journal of Environment & Development, 27(2): 131-155.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment
Reading diary and participation (10%, 500 words, excluding references) 10 % 02/11/2020 16/11/2020
Essay (40%, 1500 words, excluding references) 40 % 27/08/2020 10/09/2020
Research report (50%, 2500 words, excluding references) 50 % 16/11/2020 30/11/2020

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 02/11/2020
Return of Assessment: 16/11/2020
Learning Outcomes: 

Reading diary and participation (10%, 500 words, excluding references)

Due Monday 2 November

10% of your overall grade for SOCY2022

This assessment is designed to facilitate the development of your reading and participation skills, and to accommodate the limitations of online discussion as a means to demonstrate your engagement with the course and peers are you learn.

Your reading diary should include reflection on at least 4 separate weeks of content from the course.

The structure is up to you, and long as it's not dot points. You are free to lay out the diary in any format you like (e.g. with subheadings), as long as it is made up of full sentences and paragraphs, with a logical flow of ideas. Your reading diary must do more than summarise readings.

The diary should reflect on key issues, problems or questions that came up for you in your reading and class discussions. Failure to illustrate the impact of class discussion will reduce your marks significantly. To pass this assessment you need to include some commentary on how your reading practice was informed (e.g. confirmed, challenged, or changed) by class discussion.

Assessment criteria

1) Appropriate and critical use of academic literature;

2) Demonstrated ability to unpack and interrogate theory and evidence;

3) Demonstrated reflective thinking in response to class discussion;

4) Clear and succinct written expression.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 27/08/2020
Return of Assessment: 10/09/2020
Learning Outcomes: 

Essay (40%, 1500 words, excluding references)

Due - Thursday 27 August

40% of your overall grade for SOCY2022

The paper should be 1500 words in length (excluding references), and include concise and carefully argued answers to one of the questions released in week 1 of semester.

You will be invited to give an informal 5-min presentation of the essay in class during the relevant week. Your presentation will be an opportunity to get feedback on your essay before submitting your written work. The presentation will not be marked.

Assessment criteria

1) Thoroughness of analysis in addressing the set question;

2) Appropriate and critical use of academic literature;

3) Ability to develop a well-focused argument;

4) Clear and succinct written expression;

5) Attention to detail in citation and referencing using Harvard style.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 16/11/2020
Return of Assessment: 30/11/2020
Learning Outcomes: 

Research report (50%, 2500 words, excluding references)

Due Monday 16 November

50% of your overall grade for SOCY2022.

The research report will apply environmental sociological analysis to an existing policy or proposal for change. The assessment aims to facilitate your ability to join environmental social theory to a real-work example of policy debate and eco-social change.

Essay topics will be available in week 4. A high standard of work is expected for your essay, including careful proofreading and meticulous attention to citation/referencing. You are expected to read widely, and make a clear, well-substantiated, and succinct argument.

Assessment criteria

1) Breadth of reading evident;

2) Quality of argument and focus in response to the essay question;

3) Appropriate and critical use of academic literature and evidence;

4) Demonstrated ability to build a well substantiated argument;

5) Development of critical synthesis and insights relevant to the research question;

6) Clarity of written expression;

7) A logical and coherent approach to the essay structure;

8) Attention to detail in citation and references using Harvard style.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

No submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date will be permitted. If an assessment task is not submitted by the due date, a mark of 0 will be awarded. OR Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Dr Rebecca Pearse

Research Interests

Environmental change; inequalities; climate change; mining; energy; policy failure

Dr Rebecca Pearse

Dr Rebecca Pearse

Research Interests

Dr Rebecca Pearse

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions