Environmental sociology studies the relationship between society and the biophysical environment.The correlation between the well-being of society and the quality of environment has become of particular sociological interest in the past 4 decades.
Modern thought regarding the relationship between humans and the environment can be traced back to Charles Darwin. Natural selection was one of the first scientific theories proposing that certain social characteristics play a role in survivability of groups in a natural environment.(1)
Environmental sociology emerged as a coherent subfield of inquiry after the environmental movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.(1) Sociology as a general field has since evolved to include the role of environmental forces in social explanations.
The goal of environmental sociologists is to understand environmentalism as a social movement. It is important to understand how members of society perceive environmental problems and how human-induced environmental declination originated.(1) Sociologists also note that socially disadvantaged populations come to experience greater exposures to environmental hazards, meaning an unequal distribution of environmental hazards.(1)
Although the field of environmental sociology focuses on the relationship between society and environment in general, environmental sociologists typically put emphasis on the societal factors that contribute to environmental problems and the societal impacts those problems have.(1) Environmental sociologists also study the social processes by which certain environmental conditions become socially defined as problems.(1)
Here are some examples of trends in environmental sociology:(1)
- How do social, political and technological factors drive environmental degradation?
- How is public opinion about environmental issues shapes, and how do local, national and worldwide public opinion influence policy outcomes?
- How do societies respond to environmental risks and disasters, and how can we foster more effective and equitable strategies?
Specific concepts explored in environmental sociology include existential dualism, neo-malthusianism, the New Ecological Paradigm and Eco-Marxism.