Contemporary Social Problems - 1st semester


At the end of this curricular unit, the student will to demonstrate: a) Knowledge and understanding of contemporary social problems that are a consequence of the societies interaction of the with the environment; these problems stem from the way societies and the environment evolve, interact and seek to harmonize. b) Ability to situate these issues within the context of modernity and of the risk society and of the Antropocene. c) Capacity for critical and autonomous reflection on these problems as well as sensitivity to the readings; diversity. d) skills to apply this knowledge in the writing, presentation and discussion of an essay.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Iva Miranda Pires


Weekly - 3 letivas + 1 tutorial

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Beck, U (1992). From Industrial Society to the Risk Society: Questions of Survival, social structure and Ecological Enlightenment. Theory and Culture&Society, 97-123 Brondizio, E, Ostrom, E & Young, O (2009). Connectivity and the Governance of Multilevel Social-Ecological Systems: The Role of Social Capital. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 34: 253-78 Dybal, R; Newell, B (2015). Living well in the Anthropocene (p163-174), in Understanding Human Ecology: A systems approach to sustainability, Routledge Michaelowa K; Michaelowa, A (2012). Negotiating climate change. Climate Pol., 12(5): 527-533 Ostrom, E (2010). A Multi-Scale Approach to Coping with Climate Change and Other Collective Action Problems. Solutions, 1(2):27-36 Robinson S; Toulmin C; Whiteley R (2010). The future of the global food system. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 365: 2769-2777 Takács-Sánta, A (2004.) The Major Transitions in the History of Human Transformation of the Biosphere. Human Ecology Rev., 11 (1)

Teaching method

Classes are centered on the discussion of the topics, based on papers that will be available in the Nonio platform and on short videos and other news material which will allows students to access a wide range of analytical perspectives, both academic and non-academic. Based on these materials, the student must develop his/her own critical opinion on the issue and discuss it in a context of a group dynamic. This critical reflection will be further developed in the preparation of his/her essay to be presented to the group in one of the final classes.

Evaluation method

Assessment: the individual essay represents 75% of the grade; its oral presentation, together with the participation in class discussions along the semester, represents 25%. The essay shall be up to a maximum of 5,500 words (excluding references). Students must undertake a literature review (at least 5 articles) designed to get them critically engaged with arguments in existing academic literature in one of the topics discussed in class.

Subject matter

The syllabus is organized by autonomous but interdependent thematic sessions. Introduction 1.The Impact of Human Actions on the Ecosystems. The discourses on the Limits, the Anthropocene and the Planet Boundaries. 2. Problems Associated with the Use of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services: Ecological Unequal Change and the “Resource Curse”. Contextualization 3. Environmental Problems as Social Problems. “Wicked problems” in the framework of the Risk Society 4. Socio-ecological Systems (SES): a framework to analyze Human-Environment interactions and its consequences. Case Studies 5. Climate change as a wicked social problem: processes and impacts on the society, the economy and the environment. Climate urgency and the difficulty of acting on a global scale. 6. The future of food: food safety, food sovereignty and food waste. The consequences of globalization of the food system.


Programs where the course is taught: