Purpose and Scope
For over two generations a range of social science and related humanities scholars have focused attention on understanding the historical processes and patterns through which humans interact with, and shape, the environment. A range of epistemological and methodological approaches have been applied that taken together, have developed sophisticated understandings, and knowledge, critical for managing, and ameliorating environmental problems. While diverse, this body of scholarship begins, and ends, with the recognition that all our present ecological challenges arise from deep-seated and historically derived, social structures.
The purpose of Nature and Society specialization is to give today's professional environmental managers a range of theoretical, conceptual, and methodological skills necessary for understanding how to critique, improve and implement models of environmental management that address historically engrained challenges. For these reasons, this specialization expands beyond ahistorical and technical training by focusing students on historical processes, power dynamics and changing societal values. Empirical attention is wide ranging, from legal and institutional perspectives about how we govern society and the environment, to norms, ethics and cultural ideas that shape how we value, and interact with, the natural world. Particular focus is placed on the role that race, ethnicity, class, and gender play in environmental relations and problems. Doing so gives students the skills to pose sophisticated critical questions about our perception of the importance and priority of problems, how we define problems, and what are implications of different solutions. In other words, this specialization asks 'prior questions' that are necessary for understanding the roots of environmental issues.
: Ben Cashore
, Amity Doolittle