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Geography 230

Environment and Society: The Geography of Environmental Challenges

Credits: 3

Length of Course: 14 weeks

Classroom Hours per Week: 4

Prerequisites: Geography 100 and 12 credits

Corequisite: English 100

Texts: Environment and Society. 2nd ed. P. Robbins, Hintz, J. and Moore, S.A. Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex: 2014.

Course Description:

This course will explore the spatial dimensions of contemporary global environmental change, and the complex relations between the environment and society in the 21st century. Throughout the semester, students will investigate and learn about a broad range of contemporary environmental challenges, such as water crisis, food security, biodiversity loss, land use change (eg. deforestation), climate change, indigenous land rights, and resource extraction. Students will learn to approach these challenges through a variety of theories and distinctive lenses, including political economy, hazards geography, political ecology, and environmental justice. In doing so, students will learn to identify and evaluate theories about the causes of environmental problems and also work to propose potential solutions for resolving such problems at a variety of scales.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Critically analyze the relationship between humans, their societies, and the environment
  • Understand the interactions among pressing (global) environmental issues/challenges across time and space in diverse socio-economic and political contexts.
  • Examine foundational theories or approaches in geography that explain the causes of contemporary environmental issues.
  • Locate and assess information about global environmental issues from a diversity of sources, for course assignments and class discussion.
  • Illustrate the connections between environmental and social justice issues through analysis of contemporary case studies.
  • Identify and discuss potential solutions for environmental problems, at a variety of scales, through a written term paper and in class discussion.
  • Examine the social construction of nature, and personal perspectives about the environment, through a short reflection paper.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of a geographic perspective to environmental issues, through course assignments and examinations. 

Course Outline/Topics:

Week Title
Week 1 Course Introduction: What is the relationship between the environment and society?
Week 2 Social Construction of Nature
Week 3 Population, Growth and Human Impact
Week 4 The Market and Managing ‘Resources’ 
Week 5 Institutions and Cooperation in the ‘Commons’
Week 6 Political Economy: Power and Ecological Crisis 
Week 7 Environmental Philosophy and Justice
Week 8 Environmental Risks and Hazards
Week 9 Case Study: Water Politics, Rights and Access
Week 10 Case Study: Wilderness and Biodiversity Conservation
Week 11 Case Study: Energy and Extractive Economies
Week 12 Case Study: Food Security and Environmental Health
Week 13 Course Conclusion
Week 14 Final Examination


Participation 10%
Assignment 40%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 30%


Victoria Hodson, B.A. (Simon Fraser), M.A. (Simon Fraser)

Transferability: see