Interpreting the biophysical environment broadly to comprise ecological systems and processes, food and agricultural systems, and non-human animals, MSU has the largest group of US sociologists studying human-environment interactions. MSU sociologists engaged in scholarship on the environment focus on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, climate change, agriculture and food systems, animal studies, and water resources. We also examine the social psychology of environmental concern, public opinion, political economy, and the role of institutions in shaping human-environment interactions. A core group of MSU faculty studies how science and technology mediate the relationship between humans and the environment, especially regarding the perception, management, and change of environmental phenomena. In addition, many MSU faculty regularly engage in interdisciplinary research projects.
Humans affect and are affected by the environment in myriad ways. We change ecosystems and even the biosphere by our food and energy production, our waste disposal, our use of land, and our interactions with other species. We are in turn affected by climate change, pollution, and changes in ecosystem structure and function and in the ecosystem on which we depend. In recent decades, sociologists have come to systematically investigate human-environment intersections, examining how humans (individually, in organizations, or in larger social groups) affect the biophysical environment and how the biophysical environment influences social phenomena.
The MSU faculty who study the environment have considerable expertise and conduct research in the following areas: