College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Sociology

Environment, Technology, & Community


All societies are simultaneously organized social systems and complex ecosystems. Each system is unavoidably dependent upon the other; society cannot function without ecosystem capital and services just as ecosystems cannot remain viable if societies are unmindful of their broader impacts. These are the foundational ideas of environmental sociology, a field that has an illustrious history at WSU, and they lie at the core of teaching and research in the Environment, Technology, and Community cluster. Graduate students can explore environment-society interactions throughseminars offered by faculty with a diverse and intersecting range oftopical areas and research interests.


Washington State University was a leading institution in the founding of environmental sociology in the 1970s and 1980s. The vision and framework for this new field of study are traceable to germinal articles published by WSU sociologists William Catton and Riley Dunlap. They pushed this line of inquiry from an incipient recognition that people care about the environment to a thoroughgoing critique of the social sciences for overlooking the intersection of the social and natural environments. They also challenged the social sciences to adapt theories and methods to better understand the coupling of human and ecological systems. Other WSU faculty-Lewis Carter, Don Dillman, Lee Freese, William Freudenburg, Andrew Jorgenson, Loren Lutzenhiser, Marvin Olsen, Eugene Rosa, James Short, David Sonnenfeld - moved the challenge forward and further solidified WSU's identity as a world leader in this field. The current faculty is building on and extending this tradition.


The WSU sociology department continues to be a national and international leader in environmental sociology, making significant contributions to the cumulative knowledge of society-environment interactions while training the top-flight environmental researchers of the next generation.The graduate seminar in Environmental Sociology provides a broad survey of the social forces producing environmental change, especially the causes and consequences of threats to environmental sustainability.  The Human Ecology seminar typically provides an even broader scope for understanding society-biophysical couplings and threats to sustainability with its examination of these couplings in an evolutionary context. Special topics seminars, for example on environmental social theory, globalization, technology, and environmental risk and inequality, deepen opportunities for graduate training and course-based research.


Faculty Research

Don Dillman has maintained a research program that examines the evolution of technology use in rural communities. He has published work on the role of information technologies in restructuring rural communities, on how the structure of small rural communities are being modified by the evolution of information technologies and, more how use of the Internet has influenced people’s participation and leadership roles in community associations. Part of Dillman’s research program is aimed at improving survey methods.

  • Dillman, Don A. 2007. Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design, Second Edition—2007 Update. New York: John Wiley.
  • Stern, Michael J. and Don A. Dillman. 2006. “Community Participation, Social Ties and Use of the Internet”. City and Community 5 (4):409-424.
  • Allen, John C. and Don A. Dillman. 1994. Against All Odds: Rural Community in the Information Age. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.


Jessica Goldberger (Rural Sociology) studies agricultural knowledge, science, and technology in the United States and developing world. Goldberger is particularly interested in the sources of agricultural knowledge – from non-governmental organizations that share organic farming information with smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa to seed dealers who promote the latest agricultural biotechnology to farmers who actively engage in on-farm experimentation.

  • Jessica Goldberger. (Forthcoming). "Non-Governmental Organizations, Strategic Bridge Building, and the ‘Scientization’ of Organic Agriculture in Kenya". Agriculture and Human Values.
  • Jessica Goldberger. (Forthcoming). "Diffusion and Adoption of Non-Certified Organic Agriculture: A Case Study from Semi-Arid Makueni District, Kenya". Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.
  • Jessica Goldberger, Jeanne Merrill, and Terrance Hurley. (2005). "Bt Corn Farmer Compliance with Insect Resistance Management Requirements in Minnesota and Wisconsin". AgBioForum. 8(2/3): 151-160.


Erik Johnson’s work examines the development and outcomes of environmental movements in the U.S. and abroad.

  • Johnson, Erik W., Jon Agnone, and John D. McCarthy. Forthcoming. “Movement Organizations, Synergistic Tactics and Environmental Public Policy.” Social Forces.
  • Johnson, Erik W., Yoshitaka Saito, and Makoto Nishikido. 2009. “The Organizational Demography of Japanese Environmentalism.” Sociological Inquiry. 79(4): 481-504.
  • Johnson, Erik W. 2008. “Social Movement Size, Organizational Diversity and the Making of Federal Law.” Social Forces 86(3): 967-93.
  • Johnson, Erik W. 2006. “Changing Issue Representation Among Major United States Environmental Movement Organizations.” Rural Sociology 71(1): 132-54.








All societies are simultaneously organized social systems and complex ecosystems. Each system is dependent upon the other...


Sociology department faculty who contribute to the Environment, Technology, and Community cluster employ a variety of methodological approaches, analytical tools, and theoretical traditions to examine environment-society interactions across micro-, meso-, and macro-levels of organization.


Sociology Department, PO Box 644020, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-4020, Ph: 509-335-4595, Fax: 509-335-6419, Contact Us