Environment and Society

Many geographers are interested in the interaction between society and the natural environment: how humans shape the earth by using its natural resources and how the changing characteristics of the physical environment affect human life. In fact, because it is so interdisciplinary, geography is the ideal discipline to explore these issues.

Students and faculty members working in this area of geography study how humans use, value, perceive, manage, and alter the environment, paying particular attention to the role of cultural, demographic, economic, political, and social factors in shaping these relationships. They consider diverse solutions for managing resources sustainably and equitably, and analyze the impacts of various environmental policies at local, state, national, and international scales.

Faculty at SDSU conduct research and teach courses on a variety of environmental issues, including water supply and quality, coastal and marine resource use and management, deforestation and land use change, payments for ecosystem services, human-wildlife interaction, conservation policy, climate change, access to recreational natural resources, and the impacts of the global industrial food system. Some of us focus on how local and global political and economic forces influence people’s ability to control and access natural resources. Others study how certain groups are more vulnerable than others to environmental stress, resource depletion, and climate change. Many of us explore different ways that local communities and societies have responded to environmental changes and/or concerns, managed resources, and promoted sustainability. Collectively, we’ve conducted research in locations such as China, India, Ghana, South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil, Hawaii, Samoa, as well as locally in California and San Diego County.


Ocean bay town

Environmental Planning and Policy

We examine and explore the many ways that people seek to manage and govern natural resources and the environment.

Food stand

Geography of Food and Food Systems

We investigate food production and consumption from a systemic perspective. On the one hand, we focus on how environmental factors influence our ability to grow food. On the other hand, we also explore how our food production methods and consumption habits impact the natural environment. For example, our research explores the role of water scarcity and management on food production; the economic and social benefits of urban agriculture; and the effects of coastal community responses on fisheries.

map of all american canal and surrounding imperial and mexicali valleys

Land Cover and Land Use Change Analysis

Land cover pertains to what covers the land surface while land use is what human activities are predominant for particular parcels of land. Changes in land cover and land use have major influences on climate, water, biological diversity, socio-economic, and health conditions. Most information on spatial distributions of land cover and land use and their change is derive with remote sensing and image processing.

Vegetable Garden

Political Ecology

We study the relationship between people and their environment through the critical lens of political ecology. This approach focuses on the multi-scalar political and economic factors influencing how humans relate to nature and transform it.

Coastal fishing boat

Social-Ecological Systems

This area of study aims to understand and elucidate the interactions and interdependencies between social and natural systems using complex system frameworks.

Youth, Society, and Environment

We focus on the relationships between young people and their environments, emphasizing how they perceive and navigate their everyday environments, including their experiences of urban natures. We also study children and young people’s active role in shaping their communities and promoting environmental sustainability.