Global Environment and Social Change

Concentration Adviser: Sonja Pieck

Most environmental issues in the news today, while manifested in biophysical realities, are ultimately linked to historically-rooted, economic, political and cultural drivers that shape power relations and unequal control over and access to resources. This social science concentration is intended for students interested in how environmental issues intersect both with local and global inequalities and with the struggles to change those inequalities. The concentration is meant to highlight how the environment becomes a site at which historically-rooted lines of power (such as gender, race or class) produce diverse patterns of natural resource use and abuse.

Through this concentration, students begin by learning how the international political system works. Given the importance of economic discourses and models in environmental policy making today, students are also asked to acquire a basis in economic thought with focus on environmental economics.

Students then build on this by taking a series of advanced courses designed to explore human-environment relationships and human-to-human power differences at various times and in different regions of the world. Courses ask students to be cognizant of uneven development across the globe, political and cultural tensions between different groups of people at various scales, and how these multi-scalar inequalities affect how actors differentially contribute to, are affected by, and cope with social and environmental change.

In consultation with the concentration advisor, students must also choose a methods course with view towards their senior thesis. By completing a course on methodology, students acquire key tools needed to complete their senior thesis and the ES capstone course, gain greater appreciation for the richness and the rigor of social science methods, and become aware of the assumptions, strengths and limitations of various methods relative to particular kinds of research questions.

Finally, students take a 300-level, theoretically-driven seminar that pushes them to find connections between different bodies of literature or theory and to apply established theories to new contexts, a crucial skill for the senior thesis writer.

Courses that count for the fourth course (200- or 300-level) requirement within the core:

Concentration Requirements:

The GESC concentration consists of seven courses, but please be aware that courses carrying an asterisk (*) carry pre- or co-requisites within their home departments or programs that must be respected. We therefore strongly encourage you to plan early.

(1) Required courses

  • PLTC 171  International Politics  OR  PLTC 222  International Political Economy

(2) Two mid-level courses

  • AN/ES 242  Environment, Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples*
  • AN/SO 232  Ethnicity, Nation, and World Community
  • AS/EC 242  Work and Workers in China
  • INDS 211  Environmental Perspectives on U.S. History
  • INDS 215 Environmental History of Japan
  • PLTC 202 Garbage and the Politics of Disposition
  • PLTC 236 The Global Politics of Climate Change
  • PLTC 244  Political Imagination
  • PLTC 248  The Arctic: Politics, Economics, Peoples
  • PLTC 249  Politics of Latin America
  • PLTC 250  Politics of Third World Development (not open to students who have received credit for ANTH 330)
  • PLTC 258  Environmental Diplomacy
  • ENVR 272 Oikos: Rethinking Economy and Ecology
  • PLTC 290  Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • SOC 235  Global Health: Sociological Perspectives*
  • SOC 250  Privilege, Power, and Inequality

One course from study abroad may be applied to this category with adviser approval.

(3) One methods course (in consultation with the concentration adviser)

  • ANTH s10  Encountering Community: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Service-Learning
  • ECON 250   Statistics
  • BIO 244  Biostatistics*
  • PSYCH 218  Statistics and Experimental Design*
  • HIST s40  Introduction to Historical Methods
  • INDS 250  Interdisciplinary Studies: Methods and Modes of Inquiry*
  • PLTC s49  Political Inquiry*
  • SOC 205  Research Methods for Sociology*
  • RHET 257  Rhetorical Criticism*
  • RHET 276 Television Criticism*
  • EDUC s26 Qualitative Research Methods

The methods course must be taken before the student’s senior year.

(4) One 300-level seminar

  • ENVR 301 Politics of Nature
  • AN/ES 337  Social Movements, NGOs & the Environment* (not open to students who have received credit for PLTC 345)
  • ANTH 330  The Development of Underdevelopment (not open to students who have received credit for PLTC 250)
  • ECON 309  Economics of Less Developed Countries*
  • PLTC 315  International Cooperation
  • PLTC 345  NGOs and World Politics* (not open to students who have received credit for AN/ES 337)
  • PLTC 346  Power and Protest
  • PLTC 312 Ocean Governance:  Local, National and International Challenges
  • ENVR 350 Environmental Justice in the Americas
  • ES/HI 390R Nature and Empire