Society and Environment

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Social and environmental problems are deeply intertwined. This major introduces students to the main approaches and theory for environmental social sciences including how social science tools can be applied to environmental problems and how social science theories contribute to understanding environmental problems. At the upper-division level, there are three major areas of concentration. Students are exposed to all three areas and choose to focus on one: US Environmental Policy and Management, Global Environmental Politics, or Justice and Sustainability.

Society and Environment graduates are well-prepared for careers in fields such as environmental consulting, education, health, or law; community, urban, or regional planning; and other related areas of environmentalism in public agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations, and private companies. Graduates are well-qualified for a variety of graduate programs, including law school.

Admission to the Major

Advice on admission for freshmen and transfer students can be found on the Rausser College of Natural Resources Admissions Guide page or the Prospective Student website. Freshman students may apply directly to the major, or they may select the Rausser College undeclared option and declare the major by the end of their fourth semester. Transfer students may apply directly to the major through the UC application.

Information for current Berkeley students who would like to declare the major after admission, including information on a change of major or change of college, please see chapter 6 of the Rausser College Undergraduate Student Handbook.

Honors Program

Students with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.6 or higher may enroll in the Rausser College of Natural Resources honors program (H196) once they have reached upper-division standing. To fulfill the program requirements, students design, conduct, and report on an individual research project working with a faculty sponsor. For further information on the honors program, please see the Rausser website,

Minor Program

There is no minor program in Society and Environment.

Other Majors and Minors Offered by the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Conservation and Resource Studies (Major and Minor)
Environmental Sciences (Major only)
Ecosystem Management & Forestry (Major and Minor)
Molecular Environmental Biology (Major only)
Food Systems (Minor only)

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for letter-graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.

  2. A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required.

  3. A minimum GPA of 2.0 in upper-division major requirements is required.

  4. At least 15 of the 36 required upper-division units must be taken in the Rausser departments (EEP, ERG, ES, ESPM, NAT RES, NST, PMB).

  5. A maximum of 16 units of independent study (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, 198, and 199) may count toward graduation, with a maximum of 4 units of independent study per semester.

  6. No more than 1/3 of the total units attempted at UC Berkeley may be taken Pass/No Pass. This includes units in the Education Abroad Program and UC Intercampus Visitor or Exchange Programs.

  7. A maximum of 4 units of physical education courses will count toward graduation.

For information regarding residency requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Requirements

ESPM Environmental Science Core (cannot overlap with breadth)
Select one of the following:4
The Biosphere [3]
Environmental Biology [3]
Environmental Issues [4]
Introduction to Environmental Sciences [3] (formerly ENV SCI 10)
Climate Change and the Future of California [4]
ESPM Social Science Core (cannot overlap with breadth)
Select one of the following:4
Fire: Past, Present and Future Interactions with the People and Ecosystems of California [4]
Americans and the Global Forest [4]
Introduction to Culture and Natural Resource Management [4]
Environmental Policy, Administration, and Law [4]
Math or Statistics4
Select one of the following:
Analytic Geometry and Calculus [3]
Calculus [4]
Methods of Mathematics: Calculus, Statistics, and Combinatorics [4]
Introduction to Statistics [4]
Foundations of Data Science [4]
Introduction to Probability and Statistics [4]
Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business [4]
Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Biology and Public Health [4]
Economics 1
Select one of the following:
Introduction to Environmental Economics and Policy [4]
Introduction to Economics [4]
Introduction to Economics--Lecture Format [4]

Five-Course Breadth of Knowledge Requirement

Select one course from each of the five breadth categories below. Click here for complete listings. The American Cultures requirement may overlap with any of the following courses. These courses cannot overlap with other requirements. These classes must be taken for a letter grade.

  • Social & Behavioral Sciences (3-4 units)
  • International Studies (3-4 units)
  • Physical Sciences (3-4 units)
  • Arts & Literature, Historical Studies, or Philosophy & Values (3-4 units)
  • Biological Science (3-4 units)

Upper Division Requirements

Environmental or Political Economics
Select one of the following:
Urbanization in Developing Countries [4]
Environmental Economics [4]
Ecological Economics in Historical Context [3]
Microeconomic Theory with Application to Natural Resources [4]
Environmental Economics [4]
Globalization and the Natural Environment [3]
Economics of Race, Agriculture, and the Environment [3]
Population, Environment, and Development [3]
Advanced Topics in Environmental and Resource Economics [4]
Economic Geography of the Industrial World [4]
Global Development: Theory, History, Geography [4]
Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes [4]
Classical Theories of Political Economy [4]
Contemporary Theories of Political Economy [4]
International Political Economy [4]
Development Politics [4]
Wealth and Poverty [4]
Capstone Presentation
ESPM 194BCapstone Course in Society and Environment (Research or poster presentation (final semester of the senior year))1

Area of Concentration Requirement

Students select a total of seven courses in the areas of concentration. In consultation with a faculty adviser, students choose their primary area of concentration and:

  1. Select one of the ESPM courses in their primary area as their core course.
  2. Select three additional courses from that area of concentration (ESPM or non-ESPM) to fulfill the primary area of concentration.
  3. Choose three additional courses (ESPM or non-ESPM), with at least one course from each of the other two concentrations.

At least three of the seven courses (12 units) in the areas of concentration must come from the approved ESPM courses.

1. US Environmental Policy and Management
Approved ESPM courses
ESPM 102CResource Management4
ESPM 102DClimate and Energy Policy4
ESPM 155ACSociology and Political Ecology of Agro-Food Systems4
ESPM 160ACAmerican Environmental and Cultural History4
ESPM 161Environmental Philosophy and Ethics4
ESPM 186Management and Conservation of Rangeland Ecosystems4
Approved non-ESPM courses
AMERSTD/UGBA C172History of American Business3
UGBA 107The Social, Political, and Ethical Environment of Business3
CY PLAN 110Introduction to City Planning4
CY PLAN 113AEconomic Analysis for Planning3
CY PLAN 113BCommunity and Economic Development4
CY PLAN 118ACThe Urban Community4
CY PLAN 119Planning for Sustainability4
ENE,RES C100/PUB POL C184Energy and Society4
ENE,RES 170Environmental Classics3
ENE,RES 175Water and Development4
ENE,RES/ENVECON/IAS C176Climate Change Economics4
ENE,RES 180Ecological Economics in Historical Context (formerly C180)3
ENVECON/ECON C102Natural Resource Economics4
ENVECON/IAS C118Introductory Applied Econometrics4
ENVECON 141Agricultural and Environmental Policy4
ENVECON 152Advanced Topics in Development and International Trade3
ENVECON 153Population, Environment, and Development3
ENVECON 162Economics of Water Resources3
ESPM C133/GEOG C135Water Resources and the Environment3
GEOG 110Economic Geography of the Industrial World (formerly C110)4
GEOG 130Food and the Environment4
HISTORY 120ACAmerican Environmental and Cultural History4
HISTORY 122ACAntebellum America: The Advent of Mass Society4
HISTORY 124AThe Recent United States: The United States from the Late 19th Century to the Eve of World War II4
LEGALST 100Foundations of Legal Studies4
LEGALST 141Wall Street / Main Street4
LEGALST 145Law and Economics I4
LEGALST 147Law and Economics II4
POL SCI 161Public Opinion, Voting and Participation4
PUB POL C103Wealth and Poverty4
PUB POL C184Energy and Society4
SOCIOL 110Organizations and Social Institutions4
SOCIOL 131ACRace and Ethnic Relations: U.S. American Cultures4
SOCIOL 144Ethnic Politics4
SOCIOL 145ACSocial Change: American Cultures (formerly 170AC)4
2. Global Environmental Politics
Approved ESPM courses
ESPM 102DClimate and Energy Policy4
ESPM C135AMigration in the Contemporary World: California and Beyond4
ESPM 151Society, Environment, and Culture4
ESPM 162Bioethics and Society4
ESPM 165International Rural Development Policy4
ESPM C167Environmental Health and Development4
ESPM 168Political Ecology4
ESPM 169International Environmental Politics4
Approved non-ESPM Courses:
AFRICAM 131Caribbean Societies and Cultures3
ANTHRO 137Energy, Culture and Social Organization4
ANTHRO 139Controlling Processes4
CY PLAN C139Urban and Sub-national Politics in Developing Countries4
EDUC 186ACThe Southern Border4
ENE,RES/ENVECON/IAS C176Climate Change Economics4
ESPM 152Global Change Biology3
ESPM 177ASustainable Water and Food Security4
ETH STD 159ACThe Southern Border4
GEOG 130Food and the Environment4
GEOG 137Top Ten Global Environmental Problems4
GEOG 138Global Environmental Politics4
GEOG 159ACThe Southern Border4
GLOBAL 102Critical Thinking In Global Studies4
GLOBAL 123LPerspectives For Sustainable Rural Development4
LEGALST 140Property and Liberty4
LEGALST 179Comparative Constitutional Law4
LEGALST 182Law, Politics and Society4
NUSCTX W104Food, Culture, and the Environment AC3
POL SCI 138EThe Varieties of Capitalism: Political Economic Systems of the World4
POL SCI C139Urban and Sub-national Politics in Developing Countries (formerly 139D)4
RHETOR 107Rhetoric of Scientific Discourse (formerly 174)4
SOCIOL 115GHealth in a Global Society4
SOCIOL 127Development and Globalization (formerly 172)4
UGBA 193IBusiness Abroad4-6
3. Justice and Sustainability
Approved ESPM courses
ESPM 117Urban Garden Ecosystems4
ESPM C135AMigration in the Contemporary World: California and Beyond4
ESPM 155ACSociology and Political Ecology of Agro-Food Systems4
ESPM 161Environmental Philosophy and Ethics4
ESPM 162AHealth, Medicine, Society and Environment4
ESPM 163ACEnvironmental Justice: Race, Class, Equity, and the Environment4
ESPM C167/PB HLTH C160Environmental Health and Development4
ESPM 168Political Ecology4
Approved non-ESPM Courses:
ANTHRO 148Anthropology of the Environment4
ECON 154Economics of Discrimination4
ENV DES 107Design and Difference4
ESPM 118Agricultural Ecology4
ESPM 158Biodiversity Conservation in Working Landscapes4
GWS 130ACGender, Race, Nation, and Health4
GEOG C112/GLOBAL C100DGlobal Development: Theory, History, Geography4
LD ARCH 130Sustainable Landscapes and Cities4
LEGALST 100Foundations of Legal Studies4
LEGALST 103Theories of Law and Society4
LEGALST 107Theories of Justice4
LEGALST 187Diversity, Law & Politics4
NATAMST 100Native American Law4
POL SCI 124CEthics and Justice in International Affairs4
POLECON 150Advanced Study in Political Economy of Industrial Societies (depends on topic)4
PB HLTH 118Nutrition in Developing Countries3
PB HLTH C160/ESPM C167Environmental Health and Development4
PB HLTH 196Special Topics in Public Health (if topic is Nutrition in Developing Countries)1-4
PUB POL 117ACRace, Ethnicity, and Public Policy4
SOCIOL 115GHealth in a Global Society4
SOCIOL 137ACEnvironmental Justice: Race, Class, Equity, and the Environment (formerly 128AC)4
SOCIOL 145ACSocial Change: American Cultures (formerly 170AC)4
SOCIOL 182Elementary Forms of Racial Domination: International Perspectives (formerly 131B)4

College Requirements

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing and critical thinking all majors in the College require two semesters of lower division work in composition. Students must complete a first-level reading and composition course by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

Foreign LanguageEEP Majors only

The Foreign Language requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. It may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Quantitative ReasoningEEP Majors only

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is only required by Environmental Economics and Policy (EEP) majors. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Undergraduate Breadth

Undergraduate breadth provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program and many students complete their breadth courses in their first two years. Breadth courses are built into the Rausser College major requirements and each major requires a different number of breath courses and categories. The EEP major is the only college major that requires the entire 7 course breadth. Refer to the major snapshots on each Rausser College major page for for additional information. 

High School Exam Credit

Rausser College students may apply high school exam credit (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-Level Exam) towards many College and Major Requirements. See AP Exam Equivalency Chart and Higher Level IB Exam Equivalency Chart in the Rausser College Student Handbook for more information.

Unit Requirements

Students must complete at least 120 semester units of courses subject to certain guidelines:

  • At least 36 units must be upper division courses, including a minimum of 15 units of upper division courses in the Rausser College. 
  • A maximum of 16 units of Special Studies coursework (courses numbered 97, 98, 99, 197, 198, or 199) is allowed towards the 120 units; a maximum of four is allowed in a given semester.
  • A maximum of 4 units of Physical Education from any school attended will count towards the 120 units.
  • Students may receive unit credit for courses graded P (including P/NP units taken through EAP) up to a limit of one-third of the total units taken and passed on the Berkeley campus at the time of graduation.

Semester Unit Minimum

All Rausser College students must enroll in at least 12 units each fall and spring semester.

Semester Unit Maximum

To request permission to take more than 20.5 units in a semester, please see the major adviser.

Semester Limit

Students admitted as freshmen must graduate within 8 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students admitted as transfer students must graduate within 4 fall/spring semesters at UC Berkeley. Students who go on EAP and UCDC can petition for additional semesters. Summer session, UC Extension and non-UC study abroad programs do not count towards this semester limit. Students approved for double majors or  simultaneous degrees in two colleges may be granted an additional semester. Rausser College does not limit the number of total units a student can accrue.

Senior Residence Requirement

Once you achieve and exceed 90 units (senior status), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence at the Rausser College of Natural Resources over at least 2 semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units taken while the student is a member of Rausser. At least one of the two terms must be a fall or spring semester. Senior residence terms do not need to be completed consecutively. All courses offered on campus for the fall, spring, and summer terms by Berkeley departments and programs and all Berkeley online ('W') courses count. Inter-campus Visitor, Education Abroad Program, UC Berkeley Washington Program, and UC Berkeley Extension units do not count toward this requirement.  Students may use Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence Requirement, provided that 6 units of coursework are completed.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in a fall, spring or summer UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program may meet a modified Senior Residence Requirement by completing 24 of their final 60 semester units in residence (excluding UCEAP). At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after senior status is reached. International travel study programs sponsored by Summer Sessions and education abroad programs offered outside of the UC system do not qualify for modified senior residence.

Most students automatically satisfy the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless students go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through University Extension during their senior year. In these cases, students should make an appointment to see an adviser to determine how they can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Grade Requirements

  • A 2.0 UC GPA is required for graduation.
  • A 2.0 average in all upper division courses required of the major program is required for graduation.
  • A grade of at least C- is required in all courses for the major

Plan of Study

S&E Freshman/Sophomore Sample Schedule

Reading and Composition course R1A4Reading and Composition course R1B4
MATH 16A or STAT 23-4Breadth3-4
ESPM Core #13-4ESPM Core #23-4
Elective, Seminar, and/or Berkeley Connect1-4Elective, Seminar, DeCal, and/or Berkeley Connect1-4
 11-16 11-16
ECON 1 or ENVECON C14American Cultures3-4
Elective, Seminar, DeCal, and/or Berkeley Connect3-4Elective, Seminar, DeCal, and/or Berkeley Connect3-4
 13-16 12-16
Total Units: 47-64

S&E Transfer Sample Schedule

(assumes the completion of IGETC or all lower division requirements)

First Year
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
Berkeley Connect/DeCal1-4Elective3-4
 10-16 12-16
Second Year
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
Elective3-4S&E Senior Capstone1
 12-16 10-13
Total Units: 44-61

S&E Transfer Sample Schedule - Major & Minor

(assumes the completion of IGETC or all lower division requirements)

First Year
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
Minor Course3-4Minor Course3-4
Berkeley Connect/DeCal1-4Minor Course3-4
 10-16 12-16
Second Year
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
S&E Course3-4S&E Course3-4
Minor Course3-4S&E Senior Capstone1
Minor Course3-4Minor Course3-4
 12-16 10-13
Total Units: 44-61

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

The Society and Environment major develops students’ capacities to theorize, analyze, interpret and influence social causes and consequences of environmental problems.

Society and Environment graduates gain an understanding of the complex interactions between social, technological, and natural systems—conceptually, analytically, operationally, and articulately—for their individually chosen environmental problems and solutions. Graduates do the following:

  • Learn about social processes that affect environmental equity, productivity, and stability for diverse peoples and generations
  • Form and link institutions of science, industry, technology, resource use, and societal governance
  • Work across the operational scales of environmental management and policy from the local to global
  • Shape operational responses, in policy and practice, to problems of environmental injustice, sustainability, and productivity

Graduates are expected to play effective and credible roles in the public, professional, and scientific arenas in which they choose to work. These arenas include, for example, the politics, policy, and management of urban, agricultural, forest, land, and water systems and the particular sets of socioeconomic, scientific, industrial, and governmental institutions these engage.

Major Map

Major Maps help undergraduate students discover academic, co-curricular, and discovery opportunities at UC Berkeley based on intended major or field of interest. Developed by the Division of Undergraduate Education in collaboration with academic departments, these experience maps will help you:

  • Explore your major and gain a better understanding of your field of study

  • Connect with people and programs that inspire and sustain your creativity, drive, curiosity and success

  • Discover opportunities for independent inquiry, enterprise, and creative expression

  • Engage locally and globally to broaden your perspectives and change the world

  • Reflect on your academic career and prepare for life after Berkeley

Use the major map below as a guide to planning your undergraduate journey and designing your own unique Berkeley experience.

View the Society and Environment Major Map PDF.


In the Rausser College of Natural Resources, we provide holistic, individual advising services to prospective and current students who are pursuing majors and minors in our college. We assist with a range of topics including course selection, academic decision-making, achieving personal and academic goals, and maximizing the Berkeley experience.

If you are looking to explore your options, or you are ready to declare a major, double major, or minor, contact the undergraduate adviser for your intended major. Visit our website to explore all of our advising services.


Society and Environment

Contact Information

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

130 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-643-7430

Fax: 510-643-5438

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Paolo D'Odorico

130 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-643-7430

Undergraduate Student Advising

Office of Instruction and Student Affairs, CNR

260 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-642-0542

Undergraduate Staff Advisor

Katie Owensby

260 Mulford Hall

Phone: 510-642-7895

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