Reshaping the Study of Sociology


Radiation, genetically-modified crops, toxic waste, biodiversity loss, climate change. Facing the challenges of the 21st century requires more than sound scientific understanding and technological solutions. Too often missing from the debate is knowledge of the complex social, economic, and political relationships that drive society in destructive directions. Environmental Sociology brings together the tools of social sciences and applies them to these key issues of our day. Examining environmental issues in turn is reshaping the field of sociology.

What We Study

The Section on Environmental Sociology provides a home for sociologists interested in these issues. We investigate questions like these:

  • How have the burdens of pollution, waste disposal, and resource extraction come to be unequally distributed among racial and ethnic groups, classes, genders, regions, and nations? How can these inequalities can be reduced?
  • How do societies respond to environmental and technological risks and disasters, and how can we foster more effective and equitable strategies?
  • How do social, political, and technological factors drive environmental degradation?
  • How can communities, nations and the international community build a sustainable relationship between us and the environment?
  • How do technologies affect the natural environment, social relationships, and human well-being?
  • How is public opinion about environmental issues shaped and mobilized, and do how local, national, and international public opinion influence policy outcomes?
  • What groups are most effective at influencing public policy, how do these groups organize, and what is the impact of their influence?
  • How and why do citizens choose to join and support environmental organizations, and what determines the successes and failures of these groups?

Need Expertise?

If you are a citizen, public official, journalist, businessperson or activist looking for insights about society and the environment or for solutions to specific environmental problems, we invite you to explore our website and to contact one of the section officers. We can direct you to sociologists with expertise to help.

Want to Join this Section?

If you are a sociologist who does not belong to our section — whether you are in academia or sociological practice — these pages can help you to find both useful resources and colleagues with interests similar to yours. We also invite you to join our section and become part of our network of sociologists from North America and beyond who share your interest in environment and technology. Members automatically receive our outstanding quarterly on-line newsletter. It includes reviews of current literature and research, information about government policies concerning technology and the environment, announcements of meetings of interest, and discussions of relevant issues.

Members can also participate in on-line discussion and information-sharing via an electronic mailing list and present papers in sessions and roundtables sponsored by the Section at the ASA meetings. Finally, members work together to make environmental issues a topic of central concern in sociology and to influence environmental policy making.