Praveen Kumar (Boston College)


Course description
Realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals necessitates understanding the interface of developmental aspirations and environmental degradation, and their impacts on the most fragile and vulnerable communities of the world. Thus, exploring interactions of environment, climate, and communities, and engaging and addressing these inequities for vulnerable poor households is needed more than ever. This course is designed as a seminar to give students an in-depth understanding of environment and climate change – its interface with communities and its impact on vulnerable populations in the Global South (particularly South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa). Topics discussed in this course will explore current literature and evidence on the interactions between ecological and social systems. Students will learn about the debates and issues foregrounding the need to view ecology and human society as a whole in order to understand and prepare for these changes.

The course emphasizes evidence-based approaches for arriving at program strategies and policy recommendations to improve environment and climate response of the most vulnerable. This course will cover three broad aspects: 1) Environmental and climate variability and development. Concepts on vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience. Social-Ecological-Systems Framework for understanding environment and climate impacts on communities; 2) Interventions, policies and programs in this realm in North America, Europe, as well as South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa; 3) New ways of involving communities to understand and design strategies to environment and climate risk. Lectures will frame the larger social and economic dimensions of environment and climate change in the low and middle-income countries (LMIC). A significant thrust of the course will be to enable students to think of policy and programmatic approaches to communities vulnerable to environmental and climate variability.

There are no required textbooks for this course. Electronic copies of all required readings across each session will be provided to the course participants at no cost.

Learning Outcomes
The course has been designed to facilitate students’ acquisition of a range of learning dimensions, including knowledge, practice skills, professional values, and heightened cognitive and affective processes.

• Critical forces influencing society-environment-policy interactions and strategies
• Key policy and programmatic approaches toward environmental and climate-vulnerable populations
• Social-Ecological-Systems Framework for understanding environmental and climate impacts on communities
• Application of the environmental justice lens to address social disparities

• Articulate the connection between environmental and human systems
• Describe and analyze patterns of environmental justice in the current economic paradigm and ways to counter the same
• Identify ideas and policies that promote environmental and social equity and reduce differential vulnerabilities
• Frame questions at the intersection of environmental and social disparities to address critical vulnerability and resilience questions pertinent to communities

• A thorough understanding of the ethical conflicts surrounding unequal distribution of resources, as well as environmental risk factors
• A deeper appreciation of the specific needs of vulnerable populations in times of global climate turmoil

Cognitive and Affective Processes
• Apply critical thinking skills to understand, evaluate, and critique historic and current socio-economic and environmental paradigms
• Understand affective reactions on how behavioral change traverses environmental, socio-cultural, and economic dimensions
• Develop the capacity of reviewing multiple sources of information to inform their understanding and communicating professional judgment


Teaching Methodology
The course will comprise of lectures, classroom discussions, online and offline learning, and experiential learning exercises. Lecture topics will not be the sole source of information; rather, they are designed to help students grasp and process the essence of the course materials and understand the content with students’ own experiences and readings. Students are expected to participate in a collaborative learning process.

Course evaluations are weighted in the following manner:
• Final paper (25%)
• Group presentation (20%)
• Quiz (30%)
• Take-home assignment (10%)
• Class participation (15%)


Course Outline


SESSION 1: Course Introduction, Perspectives on Environment, Climate, & Development Definitions

This session will introduce students to the course and the linkages between environment, climate, and development.

• Review course syllabus, explanation of assignments, and readings
• Decide on groups for class project and possible topics
• Review seminar, content, expectations, and researching materials for assignments and final projects
• Articulate the link between environment and development narratives and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Required Readings:
_UN Environment. Responding to climate change. Washington, DC: United Nations Development Programme. (3 pages)
_UNDP Sustainable Development Goals. Washington, DC: United Nations Development Programme. (17 pages) Read also: (2 pages)

SESSION 2: Environmental Justice: Key Concepts, Theories, and Frameworks – Part 1

• Explore intersections of environment, climate, development, and nested risks
• Understand the interconnections between human and natural environment
• Develop an understanding of the concepts, theories, and frameworks guiding environment justice

Required Readings:
_Kaijser, A. & Kronsell, A. (2014). Climate change through the lens of intersectionality. Environmental Politics, 23(3), 417-433.
_Kondrat, M. (15, June 2021). Person-in-Environment. Encyclopedia of Social Work. (12 pages)

SESSION 3: Environmental Justice: Key Concepts, Theories, and Frameworks – Part 2

• Develop an understanding of the concepts, theories, and frameworks guiding environment justice
• Quiz 1

Required Readings:
_David Schlosberg (2004) Reconceiving Environmental Justice: Global Movements And Political Theories, Environmental Politics, 13:3, 517-540, DOI: 10.1080/0964401042000229025
_David Schlosberg (2013) Theorising environmental justice: the expanding sphere of a discourse, Environmental Politics, 22:1, 37-55, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2013.755387

SESSION 4: Evaluation of differential impacts of toxicity on communities

• Introduction to toxicology
• Toxicology and environmental health

Required Readings:
_Dumont, M. P. (2000). Lead, mental health, and social action: A view from the bridge. Public Health Reports, 115(6), 505.
_Woo, B., Kravitz-Wirtz, N., Sass, V., Crowder, K., Teixeira, S., & Takeuchi, D. T. (2019). Residential segregation and racial/ethnic disparities in ambient air pollution. Race and Social Problems, 11, 60–67.
_Landrigan, P. J., Claudio, L., Markowitz, S. B., Berkowitz, G. S., Brenner, B. L., Romero, H., Wetmur, J. G., Matte, T. D., Gore, A.C., Godbold, J. H., & Wolff, M. S. (1999). Pesticides and inner-city children: Exposures, risks, and prevention. Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(suppl 3), 431-437.

SESSION 5: Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Resilience

• Understand how community adaptation is linked to vulnerability
• Examine the interrelationships between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation and identify how this can lead to better prepared and more productive communities
• Understand the concepts of adaptation and resilience and pathways between the two
• Student group presentations [one group presentation]

Required Readings:
_Adger, W. N., Lorenzoni, I., & O'Brien, K. L. (2009). Adapting to climate change: Thresholds, values, governance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Chapter 14: Community-based adaptation and culture in theory and practice (pp. 227-239)
Chapter 17: Exploring cultural dimensions of adaptation to climate change (pp. 269-282)
_Levy, B. S., & Patz, J. A. (2015). Climate change, human rights, and social justice. Annals of Global Health, (81)3, 310-322.


SESSION 6: Climate Change and Displacement

• Climate induced displacement
• Climate change and migration
• Climate refugees

Required Readings:
_Askland, H. H., Shannon, B., Chiong, R., Lockart, N., Maguire, A., Rich, J., & Groizard. J. (2022). Beyond migration: A critical review of climate change induced displacement. Environmental Sociology, 8(3), 267-278.
_Claire, A., & Élie, J. (2019). The difficult legal consideration of climate migrants. Alternatives-Humanitaires, 11, pp. 76-87.
_Tacoli, C. (2009). Crisis or adaptation? Migration and climate change in a context of high mobility. Environment and urbanization, 21(2), 513-525.

SESSION 7: Agrarian Challenges due to Climate Change in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

• Identify linkages between agricultural production and extreme weather events
• Investigate risks to food security and approaches to address these risks
• Understand the key role food security play in socio-economic and political processes
• Quiz 2

Required Readings:
_Azhoni, A., & Goyal, M. K. (2018). Diagnosing climate change impacts and identifying adaptation strategies by involving key stakeholder organisations and farmers in Sikkim, India: Challenges and opportunities. Science of the Total Environment, 626, 468-477.
_Wheeler, T., & Braun, J. V. (2013). Climate change impacts on global food security. Science, 341(6145), 508-513.

SESSION 8: Just Transition and Climate Change

• What is Just Transition
• Association of Just Transition, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice

Required Readings:
_McCauley, D., & Heffron, R. (2018). Just transition: Integrating climate, energy and environmental justice. Energy Policy, 119, 1-7.
_Stevis, D., & Felli, R. (2015). Global labour unions and just transition to a green economy. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 15(1), 29-43.
_Sajan, D., Md, S. Q. H., Rumana, A., Sumaiya, H., Sumana, K., Md, Z. H. G., & Mohammad, S. (2017). Socioeconomic conditions and health hazards of brick field workers: A case study of Mymensingh brick industrial area of Bangladesh. Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology, 9(7), 198-205.


Session 9: Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Megacities – Impact on Poor Communities

• Impact of sea-level rise on low-income neighborhoods
• Vulnerability and Adaptation of urban squatter communities

Required Readings:
_Kantamaneni, K., Panneer, S., Sudha Rani, N. N. V., Palaniswamy, U., Bhat, L. D., Jimenez-Bescos, C., & Rice, L. (2022). Impact of Coastal Disasters on Women in Urban Slums: A New Index. Sustainability, 14(6), 3472.
_Varrani, A., & Nones, M. (2018). Vulnerability, impacts and assessment of climate change on Jakarta and Venice. International Journal of River Basin Management, 16(4), 439-447.

Session 10: Emerging Issues at the intersections of Climate Change and Health – Taking Stock of Evidence

• Latest narratives on linkages between public health, disasters, and climate change
• Disproportionate impact of climate disasters on vulnerable communities
• Particular emphasis and discussion on mental health
• Student group presentations [one group presentation]

Required Readings:
_Patz, J. A., & Olson, S. H. (2006). Climate change and health: global to local influences on disease risk. Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology, 100(5-6), 535-549.
_Raker, E. J., Lowe, S. R., Arcaya, M. C., Johnson, S. T., Rhodes, J., & Waters, M. C. (2019). Twelve years later: The long-term mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina. Social Science & Medicine, 242, 112610.
_Palinkas, L. A., & Wong, M. (2020). Global climate change and mental health. Current opinion in psychology, 32, 12-16.

SESSION 11: Energy Poverty and Social Injustice

• Understand the concept of energy poverty especially in resource-constrained communities
• Place the concept of energy poverty within the broader context of environmental degradation
• Take-home assignment due today

Required Readings:
_Kumar, P., Dover, R. E., Díaz-Valdés Iriarte, A., Rao, S., Garakani, R., Hadingham, S., Dhand, A., Tabak, R. G., Brownson, R. C., & Yadama, G. N. (2020). Affordability, accessibility, and awareness in the adoption of liquefied petroleum gas: A case-control study in rural India. Sustainability, 12, 4790. (14 pages)
_Kumar, P., McCafferty, L., Dhand, A., Rao, S., Díaz-Valdés, A., Tabak, R. G., Brownson, R. C., & Yadama, G. N. (2021). Association of personal network attributes with clean cooking adoption in rural south India. Environmental Research Letters, 16(064087), 1-12.
_Sovacool, B. K. (2012). The political economy of energy poverty: A review of key challenges. Energy for Sustainable Development, 16(3), 272-282.

SESSION 12: Role of Energy Poverty in Climate Change Narratives

• Assess why government interventions in addressing energy poverty often fail
• Identify the specific impact of energy poverty on women and children

Required Readings:
_Devakumar, D., Qureshi, Z., Mannell, J., Baruwal, M., Sharma, N., Rehfuess, E., Rehfuess, E., Saville, N. M., Manandhar, D. S., & Osrin, D. (2018). Women's ideas about the health effects of household air pollution, developed through focus group discussions and artwork in Southern Nepal. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(2), 248.
_Goldemberg, J., Martinez-Gomez, J., Sagar, A., & Smith., K. R. (2018). Household air pollution, health, and climate change: Cleaning the air. Environmental Research Letters, 13(3), 1-12.

SESSION 13: Environmental Degradation, Indigenous Communities, and Race

• Racial disparities in exposure to pollution
• Environmental (in)justice and race
• Student group presentations [one group presentation]

Required Readings:
_Priya Priyadarshini, Purushothaman Chirakkuzhyil Abhilash, Promoting tribal communities and indigenous knowledge as potential solutions for the sustainable development of India, Environmental Development, Volume 32, 2019, 100459, ISSN 2211-4645, (
_Whyte, K. (2016, September 16). Why the Native American pipeline resistance in North Dakota is about climate justice. The Conversation. (3 pages)


SESSION 14: Strengthening Capacities of the Poor: Amplifying Marginal Voices for Sustainable Development

• Identify intervention points for collective and household mechanisms and capacity building of climate vulnerable populations
• Understand why there has been a gradual progress in research and practice toward issues of climate change and environmental justice
• Describe different ways of thinking about capacity building of marginalized communities
• Student group presentations [one group presentation]

Required Readings:
_Filho, W. L., Stringer, L. C., Totin, E., Djalante, R., Pinho, P., Mach, K. J., Fernández Carril, L. F., Birkmann, J., Pandey, R., & Wolf, F. (2021). "Whose voices, whose choices? Pursuing climate resilient trajectories for the poor." Environmental Science & Policy, 121, 18-23.
_Dominelli, L. (2011). Climate change: Social workers' roles and contributions to policy debates and interventions. International Journal of Social Welfare, 20(4), 430-438.

SESSION 15: Contemporary Issues and Debates in Climate Change Politics

• Understand the ongoing debates around the Global Climate Politics
• Key debates in COP26 and COP27
• Final Paper due today

Required Readings:
_Friedman, L. (2019, Feb. 21). What is the Green New Deal? A climate proposal explained. New York Times. (3 pages)
_Mountford, Helen, David Waskow, Lorena Gonzalez, Chirag Gajjar, Nathan Cogswell, Mima Holt, Taryn Fransen, Molly Bergen, and Rhys Gerholdt. "COP26: Key Outcomes from the UN Climate Talks in Glasgow." (2021).
_5 big findings from the IPCC’s 2021 Climate Change Report]


Last update: May 11, 2023


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