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Environment and Society

The study of environment and society is a cornerstone of Geography at the University of Oregon. We examine diverse processes related to interactions between human society and the biophysical environment, ranging from the mostly physical to the mostly social. Our interests touch upon human impacts on riverine systems; sustainable cities in the global North and South; nature conservation and protected areas; food economies and development; and environmental conflict, politics, and governance. Using a critical approach and working across the globe, UO geographers emphasize the inseparability of environmental and socioeconomic change as our surroundings evolve through space and time. We ask how nature-society relations shape, and are shaped by, the multiplicity of human experiences and natural environments, and with what implications for sustainable futures.

Specific lines of research in this area include:

  • Capitalism, nature, and the mechanics of hegemony (Cohen)
  • Factors that shape social and ecological sustainability in the western United States and Southern Africa (Walker)
  • Indigenous movements and political ecology in South America (Hindery)
  • Human responses to historic floods and the ability of rivers to regenerate fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest (McDowell and Marcus)
  • The political ecology of water governance and urban slums in Mexico (Meehan)
  • How changes in foodways are entwined in processes of urbanization and the transition to capitalism in China and Asia (Buck)
  • The influence of laws and political institutions on environmental arrangements and understandings (Murphy, Meehan)
  • Marxist, posthumanist, and political ecology approaches to nature-society relations (Buck, Cohen, Hindery, Meehan, Walker)