Out of all the electives I had taken for the Sustainability Dual Major, my Environment and Society (SOC 565) class had the biggest impact. In this class, we focused on the complex relationship between human communities and the natural world. We investigated the ways that social systems, the built environment, and related technologies create substantial environmental changes. SOC 565 incorporated the three pillars of sustainability through learning of environmental inequalities, global production, and examples of climate change difficulties. Along with that, the class showed how environmental ideologies and individuals discourses had influence over the way we treat our planet. We explored how production, consumption, and technology contributes to climate consequences, as well as the unequal distribution of negative ramifications on certain communities.
One major assignment we had was the National Air Toxicity Assessment (NATA). Each student was assigned a census tract number (community) of a different part of the country. We then looked at median income, minority rates, educational degrees, poverty rate, and cancer risk. Meanwhile, we were compiling the same information on our hometowns, and then compared the data to each other. This assignment showed me a clear case of environmental injustices. There was a strong link between minority rates and poverty levels that contributed to greater cancer risks in many of these areas. Environmental justice was one of my favorite topics we learned in 401, so it was very cool to have the same connection to that topic in SOC 565.
Looking at environmental changes in our world through sociological lenses gave me a greater appreciation for my Sustainability major. In a way, this class showed me why certain people do not care act on nor acknowledge climate change, as well as how the world is set up to ignore these problems. Overall this class contributed immensely to the sustainability major. In a way, it was a lot of sustainability through a different discipline, which is what sustainability is all about!
Here is my NATA assignment from SOC 565!