NIFK24003U Environmental Sociology, Climate, and Green Transition

Volume 2024/2025

This course introduces students to the key insights, concepts, and debates of environmental sociology, with a particular emphasis on climate change, biodiversity, and other major ecological risks at stake in the so-called green transition. In doing so, the course provides students with the conceptual tools needed to understand, analyze, and critically-constructively engage with key questions of society-wide change towards sustainability: how much of it is currently happening across societal sectors and levels; how has it or is it currently being brought about; what shapes, conditions, or hampers more of it? To frame these questions sociologically, the course starts by reviewing debates on two contrasting diagnoses: the risk society diagnosis of Ulrich Beck and the ecological modernization diagnosis of Arthur Mol, John Dryzek and others. At stake is the questions of the place of environmental concern, policy, and practice in late-modern social change. From here, the course delves into the main institutional vectors of environmental social change, covering in turn questions of:

a) socio-technical change (green technological innovation, changing infrastructures);

b) political-economic change (shifting modes of governance and politics, new circular market models);

c) activism-driven change (environmental social movements, urban green communities);

d) changing North-South relations (new globalized inequalities, climate justice activism);

e) everyday practice change (emerging consumptions habits, new social distinctions and divisions);

f) cultural value change (continuity and change in moral valuations of ‘nature’ in the Anthropocene).

Throughout, focus is on understanding present-day environmental social change in light of historical experience, empirical findings, and key sociological theories (as well as, to some extent, insights from neighboring disciplines). This will enable students to take stock of what near-future changes lie ahead. Alongside examining the various substantive dimensions of green transition, we will also discuss adequate methodological strategies affiliated with the different problem complexes and vectors of social change. Throughout, students work on aligning theoretical and empirical insights via their own case analyses.

Learning Outcome

On successful completion of the course, the student is able to:


  • account for the central concepts, theories, and empirical tendencies and analyses regarding sociological aspects of environmental issues and green transition dynamics, as covered in the course syllabus



  • identify and discuss strengths and weaknesses in how the approaches introduced in the curriculum facilitate analysis of different social aspects of past, present, and on-coming green transition processes
  • describe and analyse concrete empirical instances (cases) of social responses to environmental issues and green transition in contemporary societies
  • select appropriate concepts, theories, and empirical insights pertaining to uncertain and contested aspects of environmental issues and green transition
  • assess the strength and weaknesses of the different approached covered in the course syllabus in relation to concrete dimensions of the green transition



  • convincingly present sociological concepts, theories, and analyses related to environment, climate, and green transition in an appropriate format, via concrete case studies
  • critically discuss strengths and weaknesses of own work on topics related to environment, climate, and green transition, starting from the content of the course syllabus

A reading package consisting of introductory texts and core research papers will be provided for the course. We use Diane Stuart (2021), What is Environmental Sociology, as textbook in the first part of the course.

Some prior knowledge of and experience with sociology (and/or social science), including sociological (and/or social science) theory and methods (incl. case study methodology), is advantageous (but not required) for the successful completion of the course. Students without such prior knowledge/experience may consult Diane Stuart’s book prior to enrolling, to gauge expected entry-level comprehension skills. Similarly, students with no prior experience in social-science case study methods may consult Robert K. Yin’s Case Study Research (fourth edition) to gauge this method's degree of fit with own professional aspirations.
The course combines lectures, class discussions, student presentations and peer-feedback workshops. Guest lecturers engaged in various practices related to green transition will be invited, and the course may possibly involve one or more site visits (where relevant). Students work throughout the course on their own case projects (individually or in groups).
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 70
  • Project work
  • 80
  • Guidance
  • 8
  • Exam
  • 20
  • Total
  • 206
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, made during the block
Type of assessment details
Written take-home assignment made during the block (in the shape of self-chosen case study that draws on relevant insights from the syllabus; with possibilities for peer feedback during the block). The assigment can be made individually or in groups.
Only certain aids allowed

In general, the student is free to use aids deemed helpful for the learning process. The one exception pertains to the use of large language models (LLMs) and other types of generative AI. Here, as a general rule, such tools are allowed when used for text editing/-improvement pursposes, but not when used generatively (i.e., as machine-generated text). This distinction and its implications will be illustrated/discussed during the course. 

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Two internal examiners

If the student has not handed in the written assignment, the student must hand in a written assignment. Please contact the course coordinator when signing up for the reexam.

If the student has handed in the written assignment for the ordinary exam, the student can choose to revise the assignment and hand it in, or the student can choose to make a new assignment. In this latter case, please contact the course coordinator when signing up for the reexam.

Criteria for exam assesment

Assessment criteria correspond to the learning outcome. Please consult these.