The modern environmentalist movement grew hugely in the last third of the twentieth century. It reflected popular and academic concerns about the local and global degradation of the physical environment which was increasingly being documented by scientists (and which is the subject of the companion series to this, Environmental Science). However it soon became clear that reversing such degradation was not merely a technical and managerial matter: merely knowing about environmental problems did not of itself guarantee that governments, businesses or individuals would do anything about them. It is now acknowledged that a critical understanding of socio-economic, political and cultural processes and structures is central in understanding environmental problems and establishing environmentally sustainable development. Hence the maturing of environmentalism has been marked by prolific scholarship in the social sciences and humanities, exploring the complexity of society-environment relationships.
Such scholarship has been reflected in a proliferation of associated courses at undergraduate level. Many are taught within the 'modular' or equivalent organizational frameworks which have been widely adopted in higher education. These frameworks offer the advantages of flexible undergraduate programmes, but they also mean that knowledge may become segmented, and student learning pathways may arrange knowledge segments in a variety of sequences - often reflecting the individual requirements and backgrounds of each student rather than more traditional discipline-bound ways of arranging learning.
The volumes in this Environment and Society series of textbooks mirror this higher educational context, increasingly encountered in the early twenty-first century. They provide short, topic-centred texts on social science and humanities subjects relevant to contemporary society-environment relations. Their content and approach reflect the fact