Environment, Technology & Sustainability

Environment and Society Lab

Sociologists at WSU study interactions between society and the environment with an eye to identifying and evaluating solutions to ecological problems. Our areas of expertise are in environmental movements, local food movements, sustainable consumption, sustainable energy provision, rural livelihoods, and environmental concern.

Our department has an active and productive lab for scholars interested in environmental sociology and related fields. It is at once a professional development resource—we practice conference talks, review each other’s research, and conduct workshops on a wide range of subjects—and an opportunity to stay current on cutting edge research. The lab also supports talks from scholars both within and outside the University. The Environment and Society Lab is a terrific resource to help graduate students stay engaged, grow as scholars, and collaborate with colleagues.

Examples of Faculty Research

The Effects of Environmental and Climate Movements

Dr. Bugden’s research focuses on the tactics, strategies, and frames of environmental and climate movements and their consequent impacts. This work covers issues related to the environmental justice movement, extreme climate protest tactics, and how partisanship shapes public perception of environmental and climate movements.

Environmental Crime

Before 1970, routine industrial activity regularly dumped toxic wastes directly into air, water, and/or unlined pits, and no one was held accountable. Today, the Environmental Crimes Section at the U.S. Department of Justice employs dozens of full-time prosecutors, yet scholars know surprisingly little about environmental crimes.

WSU sociologists Erik Johnson and Jennifer Schwartz examine the population of criminally prosecuted environmental offenses from 1983-2010. Their research seeks to define serious environmental criminal acts and delves into the characteristics of offenders and how they have changed over time. Johnson and Schwartz also study  how relevant cases compare to more commonly studied administrative and civil environmental violations and other types of white collar crimes.

Partisanship and Environmental Politics

Dr. Bugden’s research often examines the social dynamics of partisan polarization and its effects on environmental and climate politics and policy. For instance, he has examined the sociological roots of climate partisanship and how partisanship conditions public attitudes toward climate activism. In a new study being conducted with two WSU Sociology graduate students, they are examining how right-wing media constructs climate activism and examine its effects on partisan polarization.

Environmental, Energy, and Climate policy

Dr. Bugden’s background in public policy is central to his ongoing research, with a focus on how social psychological processes explain public support for policy. He has examined public support for a variety of policies, including climate, degrowth, and environmental justice policy.