In this advanced writing seminar, students analyze the history of debates over the environment, technology, and climate change; assessing how they are portrayed by experts, advocates, writers, journalists, and political leaders; focusing on the implications for effective communication, policymaker engagement, civic participation, and personal decision-making. Students improve their ability to find, discuss, evaluate, and use expert sources of information; assess competing claims and narratives; think historically, cross-culturally, and strategically; write persuasive essays, analyses, and commentaries; and author evidence-based research papers.
CLASS SCHEDULE / READINGS
Sept 14 & 17— The City and the Pastoral
- Guha, R. (2014). Environmentalism: A global history. Penguin UK pgs 1-24.
- Thoreau, H. D. (1862). Walking. The Atlantic
- Ruskin (1896). The Extension of Railways in the Lake District.
- What does Guha mean when he argues that environmentalism is now global, “constituting a field-of-force” in which groups and individuals far removed in space, collaborate and sometimes compete in forging a movement that often transcends national boundaries”? Drawing on the Guha, Cronon and Nisbet articles, what role does discourse, narrative, intellectual tradition, and power relations play in shaping these collaborations and competitions within the global environmental movement? Provide specific relevant examples of these influences and factors from these readings and others in the course.
- Explain the romantic tradition in English and American environmentalism; its roots in writings by Woodsworth, Ruskin, Thoreau, and Emerson; and its shift by the late 1800s from a prior emphasis on the pastoral by these writers to an emphasis on wilderness by Muir? Be sure to describe key concepts like romanticism, primitivism, wilderness, the pastoral, and the frontier. Also be sure to include examples from a specific author that reflect these examples.
Sept 21 & 24 — Telling Stories About Nature and Climate Change
- Guha, R. (2014). Environmentalism: A global history. Penguin UK pgs 25-62.*
- Robbins, P. & Moore, (2021, Summer). John Muir’s Tormented Landscape Why Conservation’s Original Sin Always Returns. The Breakthrough Journal.*
- Cronon, W. (1996). The trouble with wilderness: or, getting back to the wrong nature. Environmental history, 1(1), 7-28.
- Allitt, P. (2014). A climate of crisis: America in the age of environmentalism pgs 189-214.
- Nisbet, M. C. (2014). Disruptive ideas: Public intellectuals and their arguments for action on climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(6), 809-823.
*Focus on for Tuesday.
- What does Guha mean when he describes scientific conservation as an ideology of “doom and resurrection,” a style of thinking about and managing natural resources that was both “apocalyptic and redemptive”?
- How did the growing prestige of science and an emphasis by state governments on efficiency and centralization lead to the creation of numerous conservation-focused institutions across countries? Provide specific examples.
- Explain what conservation scientists like George Perkins Marsh and Gifford Pinchot meant by sustainable yield. Is sustainable yield similar to what we refer to today as sustainability or sustainable growth?
- Describe the basic elements of the “Wilderness Ideal” as articulated by John Muir and the “Land Ethic” as defined by Aldo Leopold. What were the key differences between the two discourses and what were the similarities? Do you see any problems with these constructions of nature and society?
- Explain Cronon’s main arguments about why the “wilderness ideal” is problematic. Do his arguments also apply to the “land ethic”?
- Describe the key characteristics that define a public intellectual and how their ideas help promote shared problem framings, theories of change, and solutions relative to climate change. Are there discourses from the three outlined by Nisbet missing from his typology/main table or that need to be updated?
Sept 28 – Oct 8 — Experts, Publics, Knowledge, and Decisions
- Guha, R. (2006). How much should a person consume?: Environmentalism in India and the United States. Univ of California Press, pg. 90-151.*
- Cooke, S. J., Nguyen, V. M. et al. (2021). Knowledge co‐production: A pathway to effective fisheries management, conservation, and governance. Fisheries, 46(2), 89-97.
- McGreavy, B., & Hart, D. (2017). Sustainability science and climate change communication. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science.
- What does Guha mean when he writes that the “global discourse on forestry has moved towards a more accommodationist perspective” between central governments, conservation scientists, and local peoples? Drawing on Guha, describe the long history of criticism of how the Indian state managed the forests and the related conflicts and problems that the dominant management approach produced. By the 1970s, according to Guha, why were these longstanding adversarial discourses about forest management able to finally breakthrough leading to forms of accommodation? Specifically, drawing on Guha, what did these forms of accommodation in forest and wildlife management include; and how did they differ from the past?
- Drawing on Cooke et al and McGreavy and Hart, discuss how sustainability co-management is deployed today specific to fisheries management and other environmental challenges? What do the authors argue were the main problems specific to past approaches; the challenges in implementing co-management approaches; and their advantages? Drawing on the authors, provide specific examples.
Oct 12 & 15 — The Age of Affluence, the Population Bomb, and Scientific Authoritarianism
- Allitt, P. (2014). A climate of crisis: America in the age of environmentalism pgs 1-95.
- Guha, R. (2014). Environmentalism: A global history. Penguin UK pgs 63-97.
- Connelly, M. (2008). Controlling Passions. The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), 32(3), 60-66.
- Drawing on Guha and Allitt; describe the key trends, historical factors, writers, and ideas that helped shift U.S. culture from an age of innocence during the 1950s to a new age of anxiety about affluence during the 1960s. Be sure to carefully define how these specific eras differed in their assumptions; what the authors say accounted for these differences; and why they mattered to the growth of environmentalism; and changed in U.S. national policy.
- Drawing on Guha’s writing on the role of the authoritarian biologist and state power in India specific to forest management and endangered species; describe the specific parallels with the discourse, assumptions, and scientific voices that led to “Population Bomb” fears and to the violent mass sterilization campaigns in India as described by Connelly and Allitt. Make sure to draw on specific examples from the multiple authors in your answer.
Oct 19 & Oct 22 — Catch Up & Review
TUES OCT 26 FIRST ESSAY EXAM— NO CLASS
DUE THURS OCT 28 at 5PM EST
Fri 29 — Technology, Politics, and Expertise
- Nisbet, M.C. (2021, May 20). The Cayuga Lake Nuclear Controversy. Substack: Wealth of Ideas newsletter.
- Nelkin, D. (1995). Science controversies: The dynamics of public disputes in the United States. Handbook of science and technology studies, 444, 456.
- Jasanoff, S. (2016). The ethics of invention: technology and the human future. WW Norton & Company, pg 1-58.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2019, Dec 16). Carbon Removal Is No Easy Fix. Issues in Science and Technology.
Oct 26 & 29 — Cultures of Climate in a Mediated World
- Hulme, M. (2016). Weathered: cultures of climate. Sage, pg 1-118.
Nov 2 & 5 — Communication, Advocacy, and Engagement
- Nisbet, M. C. (2009). Communicating climate change: Why frames matter for public engagement. Environment: Science and policy for sustainable development, 51(2), 12-23.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2018). Scientists in Civic Life: Facilitating Dialogue-Based Communication. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2019). The Limits of Strategic Messaging. Issues in Science and Technology (July 24, 2019).
- Nisbet, M.C. (2013, May 1.) How Bill McKibben Changed Environmental Politics and Took on the Oil Patch. Policy Options magazine.
- Hulme, M. (2021). The Tragedy of the Climate Wars. Issues in Science and Technology, 37(3), 88-90.
FRIDAY NOV 12 — ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY DUE
Nov 9 & 12 — The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism
- Schäfer, M. S., & Painter, J. (2021). Climate journalism in a changing media ecosystem: Assessing the production of climate change‐related news around the world. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 12(1), e675.
- Nisbet, M. C., & Fahy, D. (2015). The need for knowledge-based journalism in politicized science debates. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658(1), 223-234.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2019) The Trouble With Climate Emergency Journalism. Issues in Science and Technology 35, no. 4: 23–26.
- Revkin, A. (2016). My Climate Change. Issues in Science and Technology 32, no. 2.
- Revkin, A. (2021, Sept 7). Climate Journalist Andrew Revkin on Evolving Beyond Storytelling. State of the Planet, Columbia University.
- Voosen, P. (2018). Meet Vaclav Smil, the man who has quietly shaped how the world thinks about energy. Science News
- Voosen, P. (2021). Panel confronts impossibly hot models. Science 373, 6554 p. 474-475
- Fieseler, C. (2021, Aug 5). The case against the concept of biodiversity. Vox.com
Nov 16 & 19 — Governing the Environment, Climate Change, and Technology
- Hulme, M. (2016). Weathered: cultures of climate. Sage, pg 119-154.
- Hulme, M. (2019). Climate emergency politics is dangerous. Issues in Science and Technology 36, no. 1 (2019): 23-25.
- Jasanoff, S. (2016) The ethics of invention: technology and the human future. WW Norton & Company, pg 59-115; 211-268.
- Rayner, S. & Sarewitz, D. (2021, March). Policymaking in a Post-Truth World: On the Limits of Science and the Rise of Inappropriate Expertise. Breakthrough Journal.
Nov 23 — To Be Announced
Nov 26 — THANKSGIVING
NOV 30 — DRAFT FINAL PAPER DUE
Nov 30 — Catch Up & Review
DEC 3 — SECOND ESSAY EXAM
Dec 7 — Discuss Final Paper