Political Ecology

San Diego skyline Rural mountain farming

Political ecology is a field of human geography that explores the connections between environment and society from a critical perspective, emphasizing the power relations and political-economic factors underlying them.

SDSU Faculty working within this field are interested in a wide range of issues including the privatization of public resources like water, access to green space and urban natures, children’s relationship to nature, governance of natural resources, and the political ecology of urban agriculture and local food systems.


Group of Tanzanian fishermen

Community Involvement in Natural Resource Co-Management

Arielle Levine explores social, political, and institutional processes that facilitate or inhibit community involvement in natural resource management, with a focus on marine co-management systems in the U.S. Pacific and in Tanzania.

Agricultural Change in Rural Latin America

Kate Swanson has worked with rural farmers in Andean Ecuador to explore how agriculture is no longer a viable economic option due to neoliberal change. As a result, many rural Andeans have turned to rural-urban and/or international migration to seek better income earning opportunities.

Environmental Policy in China

Working with rural industrialists in Zhejiang province, Kate Swanson has explored environmental policy implementation in China. Her work demonstrates that there are a number of social, political, and economic barriers that prevent agencies from effectively enforcing environmental policies and regulatory mechanisms.

The Political Ecology of Urban Agriculture

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, Fernando Bosco, Hilary McMillan and Doug Stow investigate the intersection of socioeconomic and biophysical processes influencing food production in San Diego.

Children’s Nature

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, Fernando Bosco and Stuart Aitken examine the role of nature in the everyday life of children through participatory research.

Affective Ecologies

Stuart Aitken works with collaborators at SDSU and in China on a project in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve that focuses on the ways children and families come to know nature in a rapidly developing region.



Geographic analysis of environmental and social issues in the global south. How colonialism, development, and globalization have shaped equity and sustainability issues and access to resources, environmental health, migration, and poverty around the world. Field trips may be arranged.

Political and economic forces shaping the structure and organization of cities; physical and human consequences of urbanization; environmental, economic and social sustainability of cities. Housing, transportation, land use, urban services, employment, segregation, and social inequality.

Critical analysis of problems within a specific field of the discipline. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.

Worldwide trends in urbanization. Case studies of selected cities from various culture areas with focus on international variations in city structure and urban problems.

Natural and environmental resource conservation. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.