University of Gothenburg

Research in Environmental Social Science

Research in Environmental Social Science is problem-driven and relates to urgent global challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, urban growth, distribution of land and water resources as well as health and food security.


Environmental Social Science (ESS) research focuses on environmental issues and analyses crucial aspects of human-nature relations applying different lenses and approaches. We collaborate under the three theoretical lenses: power, knowledge, and change.

  • The power lens targets power relations underlying human-nature relations and fundamental issues related to environmental justice, intergenerational equality, social sustainability, and environmental governance. We explore questions like: "What is the relation between social and environmental justice" "Which power relations between different social categories are important to environmental problem-solving?", "How is power embedded in environmental governance and how can relations and governance be improved to increased equality and equity?
  • The knowledge lens allows us to capture the role played by knowledge and different knowledge producers in the framing and construction of environmental problems. It allows us to explore questions such as: “What is legitimate knowledge?”, “Who are legitimate producers of knowledge, and what kinds of knowledge are needed to deal with the uncertainties of environmental problems?”
  • The change lens focuses on the need for urgent societal transformation. It enables an exploration of political, economic, technical, and cultural processes of change and their intersections with sustainable resource use. Here, change is understood both in the sense of change as environmental degradation and change towards desired futures. The latter involves anything from activism and social mobilization to the “Green State” and global environmental governance.

Our expertise spans environmental governance, sustainable development, green growth, environmental justice, environmental education, climate change, human rights as well as theorizing nature-society interactions. We are particularly concerned with thinking through how to engage in inter- and trans-disciplinary scholarship within a globalizing world. ESS is strongly influenced by the tradition of human ecology, a subject that focuses on human-nature relations that is activist inspired and critically oriented.