Environment & society (ES 261)3 credits
Fall 2016: Tentative Syllabus
1:50 – 3:20 pmMondays and Wednesdays in Sage 4212
Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Barron; Sage 4451; 424-7115;
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:30 - 3 pm, Wednesdays 9:30 – 11 am or by appointment
Text and materials: (1) All other readings will be posted on D2L. (2) You will need a blank journal or notebook, preferably with lines, and big enough to paste in pictures, essays, and other content
Course description: As part of the environmental studies major core, this class is meant to familiarize students with how social scientists study the interactions between environment and society. One of the first things to note, then, is that social scientists enter into the discussion through the social side – thus this class might be called Society & Environment. Most scholars now recognize that you cannot understand one without the other; this is the premise on which this class is based.
How this course fits into your education
This general education course is one component of your Liberal Arts education at UW Oshkosh. A Liberal Arts education gives you the ability to pull together information and experiences from a wide range of topics to solve problems or answer questions. This is something you do naturally as you go through life, which is enhanced through higher education. Think of a Liberal Arts education as expanding your circle of understanding with greater knowledge and deeper experience so that you are better equipped to take on future challenges. Regardless of what major you choose, you will be a critical thinker and better problem solver because of your Liberal Arts education.
Environmental Studies 261 is classified as an EXPLORE – Society course and provides you with knowledge about a wide variety of topics, peoples, and places, as well as opportunities to acquire/practice intellectual and practical skills. As an Explore course, Human Geography enables you to make progress on the Essential Learning Outcomes of a university education.You have the option of adding the socio-natural journal to your e-portfolio as a learning artifact from this class. If you are interested in this option, talk to Dr. Barron.
University Essential Learning Outcomes
The Environmental Studies goals in this course align with the University-wide Essential Learning Outcomes of: (1) Knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, critical and creative thinking; (2) identification and objective evaluation of theories and assumptions; and (3) knowledge of sustainability and its applications
The course is divided into four sections. In the first section, Foundations, we will tackle some foundational ideas and concepts to help us build a shared language to begin to talk about complex interactions. These theories provide a framework for how to think about the interactions of society and the environment, through space, over time, in different places and at different scales. In the next section of the course, Economy and the Environment, we will examine how society – especially economics - has been shaped, around the world and throughout history, through quests for and conflicts over natural resources. Without a basic understanding of economy and economic expansion, and the ideologies that have developed based on these historical events, you cannot understand the world we live in today, the environmental problems we face, and why the solutions to those problems are fundamentally social.
After the “heavy thinking” in the first half of the semester, the second half of the course is designed to take everything we have learned and use it to engage with contemporary problems,understanding that the social and the natural are inextricably linked. In section III you will get up to speed on Environmental Policy to prepare you for upper division ES courses. In section IV, Contemporary Issues in Environment and Society, we will tackle what it means to live in and cope with the Anthropocene.
Course Goals: Through this course, and in conjunction with ES 260 (science) and ES 282 (humanities), you are developing truly interdisciplinary expertise in environmental studies. The primary goal of this course is to provide you with the basic social science training you need to move forward in the Environmental Studies Program. Specifically, you will broaden your understanding of the interdependence of society and the environment by:
Developing a critical understanding of the interdependence of nature and society
Understanding a variety of key concepts in the environmental social sciences (social construction, scale, space, place, colonialism, imperialism, landscape, capitalism, political economy, and more)
Practicing and further refining your oral communication skills through class discussions
Further developing your critical thinking skills through participation and written assignments
Course Learning Outcomes: In accordance with the learning outcomes of the Environmental Studies Program, by the end of this course you will:
Be able to analyze and critique social scientific frameworks for understanding environmental problems and their solutions
Develop a strong foundation for understanding the policy and values component of environmental problems and their possible solutions
Be able to elucidate the key points of a complex article or research work in environmental studies, and to critique the theoretical framework, methodology, and findings of that study
Develop an understanding of the ways that environmental problems have local, regional, national, and international causes and consequences
Course Requirements and Assessment: Below is a general guideline for how I think about grades. This is especially true when considering written work that requires critical thinking and clarity:
A: Demonstrated excellence in comprehension and ability to articulate an informed perspective through the use of critical thinking and analysis. Often references additional material, abstract concepts, or shows cumulative learning.
B: Clear understanding of material and time spent engaging with subject matter and task. Or, some confusion, but demonstrated attempt at understanding, abstraction, and engaging with challenging topics.
C: Sufficient completion of assigned work, but with little or no attention to detail, effort to excel, or investment in outcome.
D: Insufficient completion of assigned work due to lack of attention to detail, lack of following instructions, lack of effort, lack of comprehension.
F: Obvious lack of effort or ability to follow directions. Incomplete or absent assignment.
You have the opportunity to earn up to 300 points during the semester, distributed as follows:Evaluation tool / Explanation / Points available
Quizzes (2) / 25 points each / 50
Exams (2) / 50 points each / 100
Socio-natural journal / 15/ check + 55 complete / 100
Participation/in-class exercises / Distribution TBD / 26
Attendance / 1 point per class (not exams) / 24
TOTAL / 300
Quizzes and exams: There will be two quizzes and two exams over the course of the semester. Quizzes will cover only the material from the section they are in (part I and III). Exams are cumulative. This means that the final exam is cumulative for the whole course.
Socio-natural journal: This is a semester long assignment that gets you out of the classroom and into “the real world,” where the connections between society and nature are most evident. The goal of the assignment, which you will work on every week, is touse your developing social science lens to observe, take note, and write about a location of your own choosing. More details are posted on D2L.
Late Work – Late assignments will be penalized 2 points for every day it is late.
Participation: This class ranges from lectures to group work to in-class discussions and writing. What you get out of this class is up to you, but you will definitely get the most out of it by taking an active role in your own learning. Participation points are earned in three ways:
- Active engagement in the classroom by asking questions, contributing to discussions, taking the material seriously, respecting yourself, your classmates, your professor, and the learning process
- “Pop-up” in class assignments that are worth higher numbers of participation points
- Any points left undistributed at the end of the semester are at the discretion of the professor.
Attendance: Attendance is required in this class. Excused absences are only allowed for personal or family emergencies, or university approved events. In these cases, a formal university letter or note from the Dean of Student’s office is required. If there is a death in the family, please notify me as soon as possible with the name of the deceased, name of close family members (your parents, for example), and an address to which I may send a condolences card. All other absences are your choice and your responsibility.
What I expect from you:
Familiarize yourself with the syllabus content, instructions and guidelines.
Do the assigned readings in advance, and show up prepared to discuss them.
Come to class on time, participate actively in class discussions, respect your classmates.
Use what you have learned in previous classes to inform your engagement.
Plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours outside of class for every hour in the classroom. If you are spending significantly more than 6 hours prepping for class each week, see me.
Uphold the institutional norms of the college, including academic honesty and integrity.
Communicate with me regarding special needs.
Contact me for help with the course material if you need it.
What you can expect from me:
I care deeply about your learning experience. I want you to do well and to get as much out of the course as possible. I set high standards and will help you meet them.
I will provide course materials and assignment instructions in a timely fashion.
While some of the readings can be challenging, I will set aside class time to explain and discuss them. Please let me know if there are particular topics you would like me to review.
I will grade your assignments objectively, fairly, and promptly.
Academic Honesty – Plagiarism, cheating, stealing, or lying will not be tolerated in this class. Handing in someone else’s work is plagiarism. I take these subjects very seriously and will take all available measures to address suspected incidents of any of these. If you do not know what constitutes cheating, plagiarism, stealing, or lying, please see the college’s website ( or ask me. Committing any of these acts in this class will result in you failing the class and referral to the Dean’s office for further disciplinary action, which is defined in UWS 14.03, Wisconsin Administrative Code. Students on the UW Oshkosh campus have been suspended from the University for academic misconduct.
Early Alert - UWO conducts an Early Alert Program for all 14-week undergraduate courses to provide students with performance feedback early in the term so that appropriate action can be taken if needed. The first exam in this course has been scheduled for October 6 specifically to provide you with a meaningful early alert grade. You will receive an email from Academic Advising with the subject “Early Grade Report” around week 5. Please read the email carefully and see me if your grade is lower than a C and/or you have not attended class regularly for any reason.
Courtesy and Tolerance –As the course progresses, you maydiscover that you disagree with the ideas presented by or opinions of—the authors you are reading, me, and/or your fellow students. I strongly believe that disagreements are potential sources of new insights and new knowledge, but only when the discussions about these disagreements focus on the ideas involved and the evidence that is presented to support them. I expect discussions in this class to speak to these ideas and the strength of evidence, not target specific people. Discussions should be based on information and analysis, not emotion or volume.
Special Circumstances – UWO is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities should contact Disability Services (424-3100 (voice) or 424-1319 (TTY)) or visit their web site at for the University’s accommodation request form and documentation requirements as soon as possible to discuss academic accommodations and/or services.
If you have any kind of special circumstances that I should know about, including any kind of diagnosed or undiagnosed disability or you are an athlete competing on a college team, please tell me right away. Sharing this information with me will allow me to create a suitable learning environment for you and further facilitate your academic success. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
Reading Study Center - The Reading Study Center offers students at all stages of academic development an opportunity to acquire more sophisticated reading and study techniques. Students can schedule individual consultation for topics such as note-taking, learning and memory enhancement, textbook reading strategies, test preparation, time management, and test-taking techniques. Student can schedule an appointment online, in person, by phone, or via email. For more information, please visit their website The Reading Study Center is located in the Nursing/Education building, room 201.
Center for Academic Resources - The Center for Academic Resources (CAR) provides free, confidential tutoring for students in most classes on campus. CAR is located in the Student Success Center, suite 102. To schedule a tutoring session, call, email or go to the SSC suite 102.
Tentative ScheduleDate / Topic/Reading assignment due date listed: / Assignment
PART I / FOUNDATIONS
Sept 7 / Introduction & review of syllabus
WEEK 1 / Foundations 1: Social construction
Sept 12 / Cloke, P. J., Crang, P., & Goodwin, M. A. (2005). Introducing human geographies. Routledge: London. IGH chapter 1: Culture-Nature, pp. 8-17
Sept 14 / IGH chapter 2: Society-Space, pp. 18-33
WEEK 2 / Foundations 2: Space
Sept 19 / Pollan, M. (2001). The botany of desire: a plant's-eye view of the world. Random House: New York. Chapter 1: The apple
Sept 21 / IGH chapter 3: Local-global, pp. 34-50
WEEK 3 / Foundations 3: Scale
Sept 26 / Review
Sept 28 / Quiz I
PART II / ECONOMY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
WEEK 4 / Early expansion and colonialism
Oct 3 / Knox, P. L., & Marston, S. A. (2007). Places and regions in global context: human geography. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 34-50; 116-119
Oct 5 / Blaut, J. M. (2012). The colonizer's model of the world: Geographical diffusionism and Eurocentric history. Guilford Press. Chapter 1: pp. 1-25 / Check in on journals
WEEK 5 / Legacies of colonialism
Oct 10 / Selections from Blaut, chapter 26-49
Oct 12 / Selections from Blaut, Ch. 2
WEEK 6 / Capitalism v. Marxism and neoliberal natures
Oct 17 / What is capitalism? BYOR (bring your own reading)
Oct 19 / Couper, P. 2015. “Marxism and Critical Realism: Seeking What Lies Beneath” ch. 4 in A Student’s Introduction to Geographical Thought, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. pp. 61-84.
WEEK 7 / Alterative economies for sustainable futures
Oct 24 / Schumacher, E.F. 1973. Small is Beautiful. London: Blond and Briggs.ch. 4: Buddhist Economics
Oct 26 / Exam I
PART III / ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
WEEK 8 / Introduction to policy
Oct 31 / Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives, chapter 2 (first ½)
Nov 2 / Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives, chapter 2 (second ½) / Check in on journals
WEEK 9 / Environmental policy and politics
Nov 7 / Kraft, M. 2014. Environmental policy and politics, Routledge: London. Ch. 3
Nov 9 / Kraft, M. 2014. Environmental policy and politics, Routledge: London. Ch. 4
WEEK 10 / Major environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s
Nov 14 / M.E. Kraft and N.J. Vig, Environmental Policy, Ch. 1 (“Environmental Policy over Four Decades: Achievements and New Directions”), 2-29.
Nov 16 / Environmental policy current events
WEEK 11 / Policy Quiz and holiday
Nov 21 / Quiz II
Nov 23 / Thanksgiving
PART IV / CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENT & SOCIETY
WEEK 12 / The Anthropocene
Nov 28 / What is the Anthropocene? BYOR / Check in on journals
Nov 30 / REQ: Castree, N. 2014. The Anthropocene and Geography I: The Back Story. Geography Compass 8(7): 436-449.
Optional: Crutzen, P. 2002. Geology of Mankind, Nature, 415(3 January 2002): 23.
WEEK 13 / Plants & people
Dec 5 / Gibbons, E. Stalking the Wild Asparagus, excerpts
Dec 7 / Poe, M. R., McLain, R. J., Emery, M., & Hurley, P. T. 2013. Urban forest justice and the rights to wild foods, medicines, and materials in the city. Human Ecology, 41(3), 409-422. / Socio-nature journals due
WEEK 14 / Review and Finals
Dec 12 / Review
Dec 14 / Exam II