2018 Environment and Society

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Academic unit or major
Undergraduate major in Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering
Michael George Norto  Nohara Kayoko 
Course component(s)
Day/Period(Room No.)
Wed1-2(S515)  Fri1-2(S515)  
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
Language used
Access Index

Course description and aims

This course provides a basic understanding of relationships between the environment and society. It includes a focus on natural and social systems, their interactions, problems that arise in environmental quality and resources, and the responses of societies to the challenges of sustainable development. It provides an introduction of the general framework for the new Environment and Society School.
This course will take a transdisciplinary approach; the natural sciences are critical to identifying and analyzing the effects of human activities on natural systems, while the social sciences are required to consider human behaviors, economic activities, societies and culture.

Student learning outcomes

Students acquire the following skills by taking this course: 1) to apply students' fields of expertise (science, engineering, international development, innovation) to a framework for the interactions between environment and society. 2) to explains from a sociological perspective the attitudes of society towards the environment, the historical experiences that triggered environmental damage, and various possible solutions. 3) to understand current environmental crises such as global warming/climate change, forest destruction, loss of biodiversity. 4) to understand reactions to the issues of sustainable development of sociopolitical systems and technological innovations.


Environment and Society, global warming, climate change, environmental economics, biodiversity, pollution control, environmental impact, sustainable development, sustainable development goals.

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

Materials will be supplied as handouts of the slides used. Some reference materials are accessible on-line. Classes will include some active learning and students will be expected to take an active part in group works and in class discussions.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 What is environment (natural systems), what is society (human systems). Define scope of the lecture course .Introduce both environmental sciences and social sciences. Understand scope of the lecture course, and basic meaning of ‘environment’; various types of ‘society’
Class 2 Social science treatment of the environment. From humans being parts of the ecosystem, to society seeing environment as just a source of resources, to intermediates which seek human development in harmony with the environment (sustainable development). Understand different philosophies on society/environment.
Class 3 How does society depend on the environment? Explain concept of ecosystem services, the various types of service and interactions with society. Understand types of ecosystem service, trends and interrelation with sustainable development.
Class 4 Economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB). Modern theories of biodiversity, interaction with ecosystem services and their value. Understand the work of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity programme
Class 5 Economic models and environmental externalities. Basic economics and its system failures at micro and macro level which underpin current unsustainable growth patterns. Understand what are environmental externalities.
Class 6 Consequences of externalities and how society responds –case studies; Local pollution case studies (London smog, Los Angeles smog, Minamata mercury poisoning). Appreciate lessons from local pollution case studies.
Class 7 Case studies –regional and global Acid rain, Persistent organics (DDT, PCBs etc.), ozone hole. Appreciate lessons from regional and global pollution case studies.
Class 8 Methods of environmental management. Regulations to market incentives. A general overview of the main responses to pollution problems- polluter pays principle, quality standards, emission trading etc. Know about main pollution control principles and simple market mechanisms.
Class 9 State of the global environment- an overview of global environment from UNEP’s GEO (Global Environment Outlook). Understand the state of global environment.
Class 10 Global warming and climate change – basic science. Basic science and history of greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases, warming mechanisms and effects on climate. Appreciate basic science of climate change.
Class 11 Global warming and climate change – current and future Updates science on climate change to IPCC 5th Assessment and recent research and trends. Understand current situation on climate change.
Class 12 Political solutions. How society responds to environmental threats- stakeholders, Game Theory as seen in Climate Change policy- including the power of special interests to obstruct solutions. Appreciate role of stakeholders in issues such as climate change.
Class 13 International response to climate change and sustainability. Activity under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, broaden from climate change to sustainable development and UN role. Understand international political processes in UNFCCC and sustainable development as promoted via UN.
Class 14 Current international initiatives towards sustainable development in the UN sustainable development goals. Appreciate the aims and objectives of sustainable development goals (SDG).
Class 15 Technological responses – renewable energy and political economics. Overview of technological changes currently underway in renewable energy and the ways in which these have been encouraged in different regulatory environments. Overview of main renewable energy technologies and roles of policy.


Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, UNEP GEO5

Reference books, course materials, etc.

Handouts of slides will be circulated at each lecture or made available via OCW

Assessment criteria and methods

Attendance, participation in class group activities.

Related courses

  • None

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Classes are conducted in English



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