GEOG 1972 Environment-Society Geography

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Lauren Gifford

About the Course:

The course examines interactions between humans and the environment across the globe from a geographical perspective. It introduces different analytical perspectives through which to understand nature-society relationships, with a focus on social, cultural and political-economic dimensions, and uses examples from different natural resource sectors (e.g., water, agriculture) and countries.


Throughout this course you will learn to:

  • Identify objects and natural and social components of the puzzles they present
  • Analyze nature-society puzzles through seven different analytical approaches
  • Appraise and contrast the value of each of these analytical lenses through application
  • Course Overview

This course aims to increase understandings of key contemporary environmental issues, and introduce students to the ways in which the discipline of geography approaches relationships between society and nature. The study of global and regional environmental issues evokes one of the most profound questions of our time: What is, and what ought to be, the relationship between humans and the environment? To answer this, we must also ask: What is “nature,” and how do people of different cultures conceptualize it differently? What drives human modification of the earth and its non-human inhabitants, and how are specific groups of people differentially affected by these modifications? What kinds of assumptions have led to the creation of certain environmental problems? Topics covered in this course include anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, population and consumption, environmental hazards, ethics, environmental justice, conservation, and water use.

The first part of the course is devoted to learning analytical perspectives through which the nature-society relationship is often interpreted. These perspectives define issues and problems in distinct ways, and thus also propose distinct types of questions about and solutions to them.

The second part of the class applies each perspective to several different, non-human objects for exploration. Examining objects such as carbon dioxide, bottled water, trees, and French fries from multiple analytical perspectives offers opportunities to develop and advance critical thinking skills, and provides students with an expanded toolbox with which to interpret environmental news.  Through this class, you should find that geography offers an integrated way of understanding environment, society, and culture that is useful for addressing some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, and their potential solutions, in all their complexity.

Required Texts:

Robbins, Paul, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore (2014) Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction. 2nd Ed., Wiley. Chapter and sections as noted on syllabus.

Additional assigned readings and videos will be placed on Canvas and links to the material will be provided.


Reading quizzes (10 at 5 points each = 50 points) Each Module will include a short reading quiz (about five questions). These quizzes are designed to be taken after you’ve completed the readings, and to ensure that you’ve grasped the main concepts from each reading. They are open for 10 minutes and you will not be able to complete them beyond that. There are 12 Modules and 12 quizzes, but the two lowest scores will be dropped—and the 10 best scores will contribute to your grade.

Assignments (5 at 10 points each = 50 points) Throughout the course you will be tasked with completing five assignments.

  • Human-influenced land transformation
  • News article analysis
  • Two perspective analysis
  • Debate position
  • Letter to the Editor

Exams: (2 at 30 points = 60 points) There will be two exams: A midterm and final exam. They will both include choice, short answer and essay sections.

Discussions and Participation (40 points) You will be asked to post on the discussion boards, by both responding to my prompts and replying to a classmate’s comment. I will be looking for at least 10 engagements throughout the semester. This serves two purposes: 1) To keep you engaged in the course material outside of reading and writing, and 2) To inspire you to learn from your classmates via their experiences and unique perspectives.

You are eligible for a total of 200 points throughout the semester. Your final grade will be your total points divided by 200. For example, if you get a total of 32 points total on the reading quizzes + 47 points total on the assignments + 25 on the midterm + 28 on the final + 40 on participation = 172/200 = 86% = Final Grade of B.


Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado