This course examines the politics underlying the societal decisions we make regarding the environment. It is more ambitious than a survey of environmental problems in the U.S. because problems do not speak for themselves. While environmental problems reflect certain empirical realities about our physical world, they come to our attention through human contests over values. Environmental problems are strategically defined, managed, promoted, and challenged by a complex array of social actors. The essential question for this course is: Why do some environmental problems rise on governmental agendas while other problems are neglected? Students in this course 1) develop enduring understandings of the politics affecting our societal environmental decisions; 2) cultivate analytical and research skills that reveal the values, incentives, and strategies of political actors affecting environmental policy; and 3) gain familiarity with a range of national and regional environmental problems. The content of this course is divided in half between the theory and application of environmental politics. The first half of the course grapples with theoretical questions central to environmental politics. It explores and critically assesses existing theoretical frameworks and concepts that attempt to explain the values that influence environmental decisions, the strategic selection and definition of the environmental problems we address as a society, and the identification of solutions to these problems. The second half of the course centers on an applied project concerning environmental politics in our region. Work on this project involves engaging environmental stakeholders and decision makers to develop a set of local case studies.
Prerequisites: PG 101.