Social Vulnerability and Adaptation to Environmental Change

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Increasingly frequent and severe wildfire, flooding and storm events are raising concerns about how society can adapt to environmental change. Key to identifying opportunities for adaptation is the concept of social vulnerability. Social vulnerability refers to the geographic and socio-economic influences on the chance of harm to humans and the capacity of people to prepare and respond. This three-credit course will introduce students to the concepts of social vulnerability and adaptation as well as frameworks for assessing vulnerability in human communities. The course will not address these concepts from an environmental policy or politics perspective. Rather, the course will explore theories and methods for investigating social vulnerability and adaptation from a behavioral perspective.

Students will learn methods and skills for analyzing community exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity, and evaluating adaptation and mitigation plans. The focus will be on climate change and related natural hazards relevant to in coastal and inland areas of the US, including wildfire, drought, flooding, sea level rise and storm events. Special emphasis will be placed on social organization (e.g., networks) as a lens for examining social conditions that enable and constrain adaptation. Small group discussions, projects and conversations with practitioners will engage students in co-learning.

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