Sociology | Advanced Topics
S660 | 4160 | VanWey

Topic:  Population and Environment

Few scientists deny that the global environment is currently changing
more rapidly than in the past, that changes are often detrimental,
and that the causes of changes ultimately lie with humans.  However,
this sort of general global statement obscures multiple smaller scale
realities, and begs the question of what particular behaviors of
humans are causing environmental change.  The particular
characteristics of human populations that have traditionally played
the causal role in these sorts of arguments are population size and
population growth.  In line with much recent work on a more nuanced
treatment of population and environment interactions, this course
examines the relationship between multiple dimensions of population
and environmental change at multiple social and geographic scales.
We will start the semester with some basic information on how human
populations and the biophysical environment have been changing over
human history, with a focus on the last century.  We will then turn
our attention to theoretical understandings of ways in which
population change (growth, decline, changing characteristics and
distribution) might or might not be associated with environmental
change.  Finally, the bulk of the semester will be spent reading
population and environment research.  We will draw on research on
both developing and developed countries, on all permanently inhabited
continents of the world, and at scales ranging from household to
globe.  Specific topics we will examine include: the effects of
changing household demographics on household land use decision-making
in developing countries; the effects of population growth on air
quality in developed countries; gender and environmental change in
developing countries; management of communally owned forest or
agricultural land; and others.