SOC 370. Environmental Inequality & Globalization

Examines environmental justice and environmental inequality on a global level and their implications for communities and nation states.

This course examines the connection between environmental inequality and economic globalization.  The focus of our attention will be on the broad dimensions of the intersection between environmental quality and social hierarchies.  Specifically, we will address more structural questions that center on social inequality (the unequal distribution of power and resources in society) and environmental burdens in a global context.  How are environmental inequalities in general and environmental racism in particular produced?  How do they emerge and what role does capitalist globalization play in this process? We will systematically explore these questions as well as the dynamics of racism, sexism, and class inequality as they relate to environmental injustice and economic globalization.

What we will do in this course is try and gain a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the sociohistorical process of environmental inequality, and to understand the breadth of social and environmental problems generated by globalization. The first few classes will be spent gaining a common framework and vocabulary with which to discuss globalization and environmental inequality. We will attempt to understand how environmental inequalities originate and emerge as well as explore various theories that can aid us in understanding the mechanisms that produce environmental inequalities and their socioenvironmental consequences. We will focus on the relationship between the economic system and the environment, examining the social and economic history of the environment.  You will be introduced to the sociology of the globalization, emphasizing the economic dimension of globalization, including theories and research in the global political economy, world systems theory, and the rise of transnational capitalism, among other themes. We will close by examining the emergence of transnational movement networks that have sought to redefine the process of capitalist globalization to emphasize the universalization of rights (human rights, women’s rights and worker rights), ecological justice and environmental sustainability.


Globalization: The Transformation of Social Worlds, D. Stanley Eitzen & Maxine Baca Zinn (Thomson Wadsworth: 2011, 3rd Ed.).

Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit, Vandana Shiva (South End: 2002).

The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment, John Bellamy Foster (Monthly Review: 1999).
Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, Raj Patel (Melville House Publishing: 2012).
The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War, Robert D. Kaplan (Random House-Vintage: 2001).