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Economy, Environment & Sustainability

The study of Economy, Environment, and Sustainability 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; impacts of climate change on policy, environments and economies; and environmental conflict, politics, and governance.

Faculty research includes:

  • Capitalism, nature, and the mechanics of power (Cohen)
  • Factors that shape social and ecological sustainability in the western United States and Southern Africa (Walker)
  • 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)
  • How environmental vulnerability and environmental knowledge are transformed by financial markets, especially in East Africa (Johnson)

    M. Jackson

    M. Jackson

L. McLees

L. McLees

What kinds of jobs might a focus in Economy, Environment & Sustainability prepare you for?

These courses focus on developing skills in understanding the many interactions between humans and the environment. A spatial perspective will allow you to understand how these processes play out in different places, and specifically how policies, economies, social systems and local environments influence how these processes evolve. Further, a spatial perspective focuses on understanding how global processes, actors, and networks can influence particular environments, and vice-versa.

More specifically, people with a focus in economy, environment and sustainability might look for jobs that look at how people use the environment, including:

  • research laws and policies that guide environmental use;
  • coordinate different stakeholders (indigenous people, businesses, government, etc.) in use of a resource (such as water);
  • help design or map areas to balance resource use with other interests;
  • work with marginalized communities to map their resources;
  • help plan transportation systems that least impact the natural environment;
  • advocate on behalf of the environment in political realm;
  • develop plans for tsunami inundation zones, floodplains, or places at risk of sea level rise;
  • develop outdoor educational activities for school kids;
  • and much, much more.

Some jobs titles include:

Environmental Planner
Natural Resource or Environmental Technician
Outdoor Recreation Leader
Hazard Mapper
Environmental Development Consultant
Land Economist
Transportation Planner
Land Use Planner
Environmental Analyst
Water Coordinator
Land Surveyor
Utility Vegetation Program Manager
Urban farm manager
Watershed Council Coordinator
Sustainability Coordinator
Fair Trade Coordinator

Check out the Jobs for Geographers page for a few examples of current jobs and resources to search for many more!

If you have more questions about what you can do with a focus in Economy, Environment & Sustainability, contact Dr Leslie McLees, the Undergraduate Coordinator & Advisor at


Note: Occasionally GEOG 410 is also offered as a course that would count towards the Environment, Economy & Sustainability Concentration. Check the Course Offerings (the “pink sheet”) or email the Undergraduate Advisor at to clarify. 

GEOG 321. Climatology. 4 Credits.
Energy and moisture in the atmosphere, atmospheric circulation, controls of regional and microclimates, applied climatology, climatic variations, past and future climates. Bartlein.
Prereq: GEOG 141.

GEOG 322. Geomorphology. 4 Credits.
Landforming processes with emphasis on mass movements, rivers, eolian, glacial, and coastal processes. Special fee. McDowell.
Prereq: GEOG 141 or GEOL 102 or 202.GEOG 323. Biogeography. 4 Credits.
Relation of plants and animals to the environment, distribution of individual species, historical changes in plant distribution. Gavin.
Prereq: one from GEOG 141, GEOL 103, 203, BI 370.

GEOG 341. Population and Environment. 4 Credits.
Patterns of population growth over history and place, current policies and programs, and impacts and trends in United States and international contexts. Includes method and theory. Cohen.

GEOG 342. Geography of Globalization. 4 Credits.
Historical and geographical dimensions of globalization; emphasizes economic and social factors. Topics include multinationals, trade agreements, sustainability, global inequalities, and racial and gender divisions of labor. Buck.

GEOG 343. Society, Culture, and Place. 4 Credits.
Examines ways in which geographical context reflects and shapes cultural and social processes. Importance of place and territory in human affairs. Su.

GEOG 360. Watershed Science and Policy. 4 Credits.
Physical and biological processes of watersheds; problems of land use, water quality, riparian zones, aquatic ecology; scientific basis of watershed management and policy. Special fee. McDowell.
Prereq: GEOG 141, or GEOL 102 or 202, or BI 130 or 213.GEOG 361. Global Environmental Change. 4 Credits.
Natural and human-induced environmental changes and their impact on different environmental systems. Not available to those who have taken GEOG 143. Bartlein.
Prereq: GEOG 141.421/521 Advanced Climatology: [Topic] [R]. 4 Credits. Topics in climatology, including physical climatology, dynamic and synoptic climatology, and paleoclimatology. Prereq: GEOG 321. R when topic changes. Bartlein.

423/523 Advanced Biogeography: [Topic] [R]. 4 Credits. Selected topics in biogeography including relation of plants and animals to their environment, historical changes in plant distribution, and palynological analysis. Special fee. Prereq: GEOG 323. when topic changes. Gavin.

425/525 Hydrology and Water Resources [R]. 4 Credits. Emphasis on surface water including precipitation, evapotranspiration, surface runoff, and stream flow. Understanding and analysis of processes. Management for water supply and quality. Special fee. Prereq: GEOG 321 or 322 and MATH 112. Fonstad.

427/527 Fluvial Geomorphology. 4 Credits. Hydraulics and hydrology of stream channels; channel morphology and processes; drainage network development; fluvial deposits and landforms; field and analytical methods. Required field trips. Special fee. Prereq: MATH 112; one from GEOG 322, 425, GEOL 334. McDowell.

430/530 Long-Term Environmental Change. 4 Credits. Evolution of the physical landscape during the Quaternary period. Elements of paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and geomorphology. Required field trips. Special fee. Prereq: GEOG 321 or 322 or 323. Bartlein, Gavin.

432/532 Climatological Aspects of Global Change. 4 Credits. Role of the climate system in global change, the Earth’s climatic history, and potential future climatic changes. Prereq: GEOG 321 or 322 or 323. Bartlein.

433/533 Fire and Natural Disturbances. 4 Credits. Wildfire and other landscape disturbance processes, historical and current patterns of fire, use and management of fire. Prereq: BI 307 or GEOG 323 or BI 370. Offered alternate years. Gavin.

461/561 Environmental Alteration. 4 Credits. Human alterations of the earth’s major ecosystems. Consequences of human activity at different times and places with respect to soils, atmosphere, vegetation, landforms, and water. Junior standing required. Kohler.

463/563 Geography, Law, and the Environment. 4 Credits. Values underlying American legal approaches to environmental issues; the role of laws in reflecting and shaping human understanding and use of the environment. Special fee. Junior standing required. Murphy.

465/565 Environment and Development. 4 Credits. Critical analysis of development concepts. Economic activity and environmental impacts. Sustainable development. Development projects and landscapes in the industrializing world. Junior standing required. Hindery.

466/566 Gender and Environment. 4 Credits. How gender shapes understandings of and interactions with nature. Gender, science, and nature in Western thought; global environmental justice; population debates; feminist political ecology. Junior standing required.

467/567 International Water Policy. 4 Credits. Examines problems in water policy and governance in a global context. Draws on interdisciplinary perspectives, compares case studies, and analyzes institutions. Prereq: GEOG 360. Meehan.

GEOG 468. Contemporary Food Systems. 4 Credits.
Explores contemporary food systems at local, national, and global scales. Emphasis on the political economy and sociocultural dynamics linking agriculture, food industries, and consumption.

471/571 North American Historical Landscapes. 4 Credits. Examines the origin and evolution of cultural landscapes in North America through historical and contemporary sources, and draws upon the local region for student projects. Junior standing required. Holtgrieve.

ENVS 450. Political Ecology (4) Examines how social relations and economic, social, and cultural control of natural resources shape human interactions with the environment. Theory and case studies. Prereq: ENVS 201. Course only counts for Geography concentration elective if it is taught by Peter Walker.

ENVS 455. Sustainability. 4 Credits.
Examines the evolution of the concept of sustainability and its complex and sometimes problematic uses among scholars, policymakers, environmentalists, and businesses. Pre- or coreq: ENVS 201; junior or senior standing. Course only counts for Geography concentration elective if it is taught by Peter Walker.