Patrick Trent Greiner
Assistant Professor of Sociology
How does social inequality change the way that we interact with our environment?
My research program explores how various forms of inequality emerging from social, political, and economic structures pattern socio-environmental outcomes in ways that are often detrimental to environmental systems and harmful to marginalized social groups. Put differently, my research speaks to the ways in which inequality facilitates, and even necessitates, environmental degradations at the international and national level in the contemporary socio-economic system. In order to get at this broader question, my research examines how societies attempt to mitigate environmental concerns; how inequality constrains or facilitates social groups’ ability to address such concerns; and how various measures of inequality shape our understandings of the source and extent of environmental problems.
Guided by such questions, I have taken my current work in a number of interrelated directions. For example, much of my present work is concerned with how historically constituted international inequalities act to shape contemporary socio-environmental relationships. To this end I am interested in further developing our understandings of how processes of colonization and imperialism moderate the relationship between national level economic and demographic structures, and ecological impacts. Relatedly, I am currently engaged in exploring the ways in which national level inequalities- such as gender, income and racial disparities- serve to limit how effectively populations are able to protect environmental spaces, and convert natural resources to social goods. In the most general sense, the findings of such works suggest that the institution of democratic and egalitarian principles and processes lead social systems to function more sustainably.