Winter 2021 Class Schedule
ENVR_POL 340: Global Environments and World History
Environmental problems have today become part and parcel of popular consciousness: resources are being depleted at a record pace, human population levels just crossed the seven billion threshold, extreme poverty defines the majority of people's daily lives, toxic contaminants affect all ecosystems, increasing numbers of species face extinction, consumerism and the commodification of nature show no signs of abating, and weapons and energy systems continue to proliferate that risk the planet's viability. This introductory lecture course is designed to help students understand the relatively recent origins of many of these problems, focusing especially on the last one hundred and fifty years. Students will have an opportunity to learn about the environmental effects of urbanization, industrialization, population growth, market economies, empire-building, intercontinental warfare, energy extraction, and new technologies. They will also explore different environmental philosophies and analytic frameworks that help us make sense of historical change, including political ecology, environmental history, science studies, and world history. Finally, the course will examine a range of transnational organizations, social movements, and state policies that have attempted to address and resolve environmental problems.
ENVR_POL 390-21 Special Topics: Climate Change, Law and Policy
Climate change is the keystone environmental issue of this generation, and most likely for many generations to come. It now appears inevitable that temperatures will increase this century by more than 2ºC, and perhaps by substantially more than 3ºC, with the inertia of the system ensuring that temperatures will continue to increase for centuries thereafter even under scenarios of total decarbonization. Climate change is already posing serious risks for both human institutions and natural ecosystems. These risks will seriously escalate throughout this century, especially if the world community fails to substantially increase its commitment to addressing greenhouse emissions, inadequately allocates resources to adaptation, or, perhaps, fails to commit itself to technological approaches to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
This course examines the potential role of the law in confronting climate change from an institutional and policy perspective, examining the role of treaties, national legislation (in the United States), sub-national responses and judicial and quasi-judicial fora. Among the topics that will be addressed include the science associated with climate change, the role of key international climate treaty regimes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, national and state and local responses to climate change in the United States, the role of litigation in confronting major emitters, and the potential role of climate geoengineering approaches. It will also seek to help students develop critical skills of analysis of treaty provisions, legislative language, and court decisions, public speaking and cogent writing.
ENVR_POL 390-23 Special Topics: Maple Syrup and Climate Change
As the earth's climate changes, maple trees and the maple syrup industry in the U.S. and Canada are being affected, in both good and bad ways. The class will cover these effects, their impact on Native American and non-Native communities, the maple syrup industry, and maple species themselves through articles and readings.
This class is on site and will practice Northwestern’s social distancing protocols. In the event of a Stay-at-Home Order, the course will meet via Zoom and we will adapt our field observations and sap collection accordingly.
Students will work in groups, to collect data from three maple species on campus and examine sugar ratios, sap flow rates, and ambient temperature and precipitation. There will be a focus on species differentiation, soil science, and campus micro-climates. Students would also learn about how to utilize outdoor space as an informal science classroom and community science methods.
The final product for the class would be a group data report. A copy of the report will go to facilities management to be added to their campus tree inventory.
ENVR_POL 390-26 Special Topics: Archaeologies of Sustainability and Collapse
This course is a seminar that uses archaeological case studies from the past to interrogate human-environment relationships across time and space, including the present and the future. The emphasis here will not be on learning environmental archaeology methods. Instead, we will be focusing on how archaeologists think about key environmental concepts, including climate change, sustainability, and resilience. We will discuss examples of “failure” and “success” in the long history of human-environment interactions, and see if there’s room for nuance along the way. We will also use this course as an opportunity to consider how archaeology can contribute to environmental sustainability and environmental justice efforts. Prior coursework in archaeology is not required to appreciate this class or do well, but would be helpful.
ENVR_POL 390-28 Special Topics in American Art: The Visual Language of Protest in Winter
The year 2020 has witnessed a series of crises in which protest has been both effectively and creatively used and also, at times, demonized. This class examines themes in the visual language of protest in the United States since the 1960s, with particular emphasis on recent political movements and topics that will include climate change and global climate justice and responses to police violence, prisons, and antiblackness, and may also include Indigenous sovereignty, antifascism, disability and trans rights, activism around Covid19, and other efforts. We will bear in mind relationships to more traditional forms of art like painting and sculpture as well as print media and social media; we will also discuss theories of collective action and questions of force and violence as well as nonviolence, but the main focus is on modes of creativity connected to protest. The organizing principle will be specific tropes and media of protest: for example, tree-sitting, tents and occupations; the megaphone, sound, and music; bicycles, automobiles, pushcarts, floats, and other vehicles; the mask; giant puppets; parties and pleasure; coffins, memorials, and the Grim Reaper; stenciling, graffiti, murals, and mark-making; video and social media; and other modes of performance and strategies for producing visibility. Class will be held remotely; if possible, we may have one or two optional socially distanced field trips. Following a short sequence of introductory readings, students in small groups will participate in researching imagery and themes that they will present to the class as a whole for group discussion. The final project will involve small groups each making contributions to the curating of a collective "guidebook" of protest imagery, format to be determined. Work will be assessed both collectively and individually.
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