Environmental Issues

Environmental Issues (H)

Elective, Prerequisites: none (can be taken for Social Science or Science credit)

This course examines environmental issues by building an understanding of the ecological, economic, and cultural forces that emerge at the intersection of human and natural systems. The course begins by exploring the evolution of the modern environmental movement in the United States and extends to current international, national, and local environmental issues.

Environmental Issues is taught in a seminar-style, integrating information from source readings, films, and lectures through analytical discussions and projects. Students are assessed based on their ability to contribute to discussions, formal writings, and presentations. The course emphasizes the importance of determining our own biases and values, forming coherent arguments, listening to other points of view, and learning to articulately and respectfully express our opinions. 

Class includes content from the following units:

  • The environmental movement through time: context, roots, and ongoing relevance 
  • Environmental justice, racism, and ecofeminism
  • The science of climate change: trends and figures
  • Climate policy and energy
  • Topics in land-use changes and biodiversity loss, e.g. damming of rivers, agricultural practices, forestry, aquaculture, and pollution
  • Solutions and building resilience 

Texts used include selected readings from: 

  • A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold (1949)
  • Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin (1968)
  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)
  • Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1962)
  • All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions For the Climate Crisis, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (2020)

Additional readings include selections from Majora Carter, Van Jones, Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Kolbert, and others. We gather information from the current news cycle, various film and digital media, peer-reviewed journals, and occasional guest speakers or field trips.

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