Environmental Sociology:

The Ecology of Late Modernity, second edition

Thomas J. Burns (University of Oklahoma)

Beth Schaefer Caniglia (Oklahoma State University)


Chapter 1: Introduction: Late Modernity and the Natural Environment

Chapter 2: The Sociological View and the Unique Vision of Environmental Sociology

Chapter 3: The Natural Environment and the Culture of Late Modernity

Chapter 4: Science and Technology

Chapter 5: Economics–The Capitalization of Everything or Natural Capital?

Chapter 6: Governance, Policies, and Institutions

Chapter 7: Health, Well-Being, and the Environment

Chapter 8: Collective Behavior and Social Movements

Chapter 9: Late Modernity and the Environment in Emerging Economies

Chapter 10: Catalysts for Change

Chapter 11: Bringing It Together and Moving Ahead





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With its global perspective, Environmental Sociology: The Ecology of Late Modernity is ideal for advanced undergraduate and graduate level classes in a number of disciplines, including sociology, environmental studies, political science, political economy, geography and international relations.

The book’s primary focus is on environmental problems associated with modernity. With increases in the size and concentration of populations, economies of scale, advanced technological capabilities, elaborate divisions of labor and widely skewed access to resources and wealth, there also have arisen large ecological imbalances which, in turn, have manifested in myriad ways. These include air and water pollution, deforestation, global climate change, and rises in environment-based diseases in plant, animal and human life.

This leads us to one of the wicked problems of modernity itself: we have the ability now, and perhaps even the propensity, to create problems beyond our ability to address them in sustainable ways.

In spite of this frustrating predicament, the book takes a decidedly optimistic approach, examining in detail solutions stemming from major institutions and local communities, as well as individual lifestyle changes that can bring us closer in line with the natural environment. As such, the book goes beyond merely describing environmental problems, to discuss catalysts for change across an array of perspectives and on multiple levels. Because we examine such a diverse set of institutions, the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems and solutions takes center stage. 

Burns and Caniglia have crafted a richly interdisciplinary book about the contemporary field of environmental sociology. I am confident it will be a leading text for a new generation of students. But more than that, it is also a balanced, readable and up-to-date book for anyone concerned with the complex environmental problems of which humans are a part. In a thoughtful interplay of breadth and depth, they combine problem-centered topics with an effective solutions-oriented emphasis. While the book is rooted in a sociological perspective, it relies on significant connections across the human studies – from the institutional dynamics of economics and policy — to the psychological dimensions of personal values and consciousness. Moreover, in keeping with the multilayered interactions of natural and human ecological systems, they compare and contrast issues from the local community level to national and international levels – with critical attention to the rapid rise of modernity around the world among developing nations. The societal balancing of technology, consumption and sustainability is essential to creating a livable future. If these issues are in your thoughts and concerns: this is the book to read.
Environmental Sociology: The Ecology of Late Modernity is the kind of textbook I’ve been looking for. Thomas Burns and Beth Caniglia provide a theoretically rich global perspective on the environmental and ecological consequences of modernity. What I find most appealing is the book’s optimistic focus on realistic solutions to the world’s human-caused environmental problems, something that most books overlook entirely or gloss over with very little substance. And while the book is global in orientation, the authors provide clear on-the-ground examples of society / nature interrelationships that students will understand and relate to. I look forward to using this book in both my environmental sociology and environmental & sustainability studies courses!”

Richard Borden
Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic

Andrew Jorgenson
Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Boston College

Burns and Caniglia cover the main issues that should be addressed in a clear way. The writing is engaging and accessible, but not simplistic. The chapters are nicely organized and internally coherent. Necessary information is given to help understand the issues ... I particularly like the Figures, which do a nice job of presenting information in an understandable way and give succinct overviews of key issues.

Richard York
Director and Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon

It’s so challenging to write a text such as this since all of [the] dimensions and topics are intertwined. How to start with environmental challenges without first discussing economic trends — but discussion of economic trends requires consideration of resources and constraints?! What a puzzle. The authors have done a good job with ordering the presentation.

Lori Hunter
Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Faculty Research Associate, Institute of Behavioral Science, Programs on Population, Environment & Society, University of Colorado at Boulder

Thomas J. Burns (PhD University of Maryland) is Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, and is active in the Religious Studies and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment programs. He serves as Book Review Editor of Human Ecology Review, as a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of World-Systems Research, and he has served on the Board of the Society for Human Ecology. Professor Burns was formerly at the University of Utah, where he was a member of the Sociology Faculty and also taught in, and served as Chair of, the interdisciplinary Master of Statistics (MStat) Program. He is a winner of the University of Utah’s College of Behavioral and Social Science Superior Teaching Award, has been nominated for numerous other teaching honors, and is recipient of the Society for Human Ecology’s Distinguished Leadership Award.

Dr. Burns’s research focuses on the outcomes, evolution and emergence of social institutions from a comparative and historical perspective, particularly as they pertain to issues of well-being and sustainability. He has published widely on topics that include cross-national studies of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution and health and well-being outcomes, environmental social movements, social theory, and religion and the environment.

Beth Schaefer Caniglia (PhD University of Notre Dame) is Associate Professor of Environmental Sociology, Environmental Science, International Studies and Women’s Studies at Oklahoma State University and conducts research focused at the intersection of social movements, organization and policymaking, especially related to the environmental movement. For over a decade, she has collected extensive data on the Multi-stakeholder dialogues at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, where she also served as a consultant to the NGO Steering Committee. Her more recent work has turned toward the interaction of science, social movements and public opinion in the creation of climate change and fresh water policy. For seven years, she has conducted on-going expert public interviews with stakeholders and policymakers concerning management of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in south central Oklahoma funded by the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute.

In 2009, Dr. Caniglia was chosen as a Global Climate Leader by the State of the World Forum in recognition of her commitment to link academic scholarship to global carbon cycle transformation. Her work has been honored with Outstanding Publication awards from the University of Notre Dame, the Environment & Technology and Collective Behavior & Social Movements Sections of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Dr. Caniglia has served two consecutive terms on the ASA’s Environment & Technology Section Council, and she currently serves as Chair. In that capacity, she heads the oral history project to document the evolution of en- vironmental sociology since the first Earth Day. She serves on the editorial boards of Mobilization and The Journal of World-Systems Research. 

Congratulations, Tom!

Tom Burns, University of Oklahoma, Professor of Sociology, has been named the winner of the 2016 Good Teaching Award at the University of Oklahoma.

The Good Teaching Award is a university wide award that recognizes excellence in teaching performance at the undergraduate level.