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house in flooded area

Environmental Sociology course prepares students for the economic and social impacts of climate change

Dr. Feng Hao, an associate professor and incoming graduate director in the USF College of Arts and Sciences Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, has spent his academic career studying public opinion and behavior about the environment and examining anthropogenic drivers of climate change and renewable energy deployment. It is from this focus that he developed the Environmental Sociology course, which aims to provide a relatively comprehensive introduction to environmental sociology, an area of inquiry that focuses on the relationship between human society and the physical environment.

Dr. Feng Hao, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hao)

Dr. Feng Hao, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hao)

Many of the examples of topics covered in the course are focused on real-world applications, including the human causes of climate change, public opinion on environmental issues, and driving forces of renewable energy deployment.

Hao says it is from these discussions that students enrolled in the course can better understand primary environmental sociology perspectives and theories, and critically engage in conversations in environmental sociology.

“Once students become familiar with the fundamental theories, debates, paradigms, and the history of the discipline, they are more prepared to engage in a novel perspective to perceive and assess the relationship between human society and the natural environment,” he explained. “Understanding the interaction can help raise their awareness of climate change issues and continue to study this critical subject.”

One of the primary areas of overlap for many of these issues is the topic of climate refugees, a subject that Hao has previously commented on for various media outlets.

“A climate refugee refers to the mass relocation/displacement of a population due to the impact of climate change, such as sea level rise. It is significant because as more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, irreversible changes might be made to the weather patterns,” he said. “As a result, we can expect more frequent and severe extreme weather events that will drive a substantial growth of climate refugees. Understanding the topic is imperative to better prepare us for a difficult scenario and propose policies to slow the process down.”

The process of gaining that understanding that Hao refers to involves opportunities during the course to engage in scholarly conversations around these topics and learn to generate testable hypotheses or raise research questions from the course literature to continue these conversations–conversations that are critical to advancing knowledge in the field and making actionable, real-world change.

Learn more about the programs and courses offered by the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.

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CAS Chronicles is the monthly newsletter for the University of South Florida's College of Arts and Sciences, your source for the latest news, research, and events at CAS.