MSc International Relations of the Americas
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AMERG012: Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Course convenor: Dr Graham Woodgate


The environmental dimensions of almost every aspect of life continue to grow in importance as we proceed into the twenty-first century. Initially portrayed in terms of rather simplistic, scientific, cause and effect relationships, more recent social science analyses of ‘environmental problems’ are beginning to uncover the extremely complex character of the society-environment nexus as well as the partial and contingent nature of environmental knowledge. ‘Sustainable development’ has become a highly contested notion and, increasing emphasis is being placed on the underlying sociological, political and economic dimensions of environmental change and the contested character of discourses of the environment as they emerge and change over time.

The course begins by considering the meanings of the terms: ‘environment’ and ‘society’, and how they conceptualised and understood in different social science traditions. From there we turn our attention to the emergence and institutionalisation of the concept of ‘sustainable development’. Through the investigation of a variety of environmental social movements, politics and policies in LAC and their links with global movements and policies, the course seeks to illuminate some of the key discourses of sustainability that have emerged in response to perceived environmental change.

We will consider issues of: subsistence and commercial agriculture; forests, forestry and forest people; global climate change; natural hazards, vulnerability and adaptation; extractive industries; ecotourism; and sustainable cities. There will also be room for the exploration and discussion of other issues that may be of particular interest to course participants.

This course is assessed by means of a 4,000 word essay.

Introductory Reading

  • Clayton, Susan and Susan Opotow (eds) (2003) Identity and the Natural Environment: The Psychological Significance of Nature. Cambridge MA: MIT Press
  • Darier, Eric (Ed) (1998) Discourses of the Environment. Blackwell: Oxford
  • Hannigan, John (2006) Environmental Sociology 2nd Edition. Routledge: London.
  • Irwin, Alan (2002) Sociology and the Environment: A Critical Introduction to Society, Nature and Knowledge. Polity Press: Cambridge
  • Peet, Richard and Michael Watts (eds) (1996) Liberation Ecologies: environment, development, social movements. Routledge: London.
  • Redclift, Michael and Graham Woodgate (eds) (1995) The Sociology of the Environment Vols I-III. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • Redclift, Michael and Graham Woodgate (eds) (1997) The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • Redclift, Michael and Graham Woodgate (eds) (2005) New Developments in Environmental Sociology. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • Redclift, Michael and Graham Woodgate (eds) (2010) The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology 2nd Edition. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.
  • Roberts, J Timmons and Nikki Thanos (2003) Trouble in Paradise: Globalisation and Environmental Crises in Latin America. Routledge: London.
  • World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our Common Future. Oxford University Press: New York.