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Undergraduate Courses

Environmental Studies Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Please note that the following lists only include descriptions of courses with the ENVS prefix. Please consult the UO Class Schedule and the UO Catalog for other course options.

WINTER 2016
SUMMER 2015
FALL 2015


Winter 2016

ENVS 201 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Science
(4 cr) Syllabus
Schreiner
Through engagement with some of the significant social-environmental challenges of our time, our course will explore ways in which social processes shape ecological systems and influence human actions. Our primary goal will be to develop a “socioecological imagination” or the abilities 1) to examine ecological problems as shaped by uneven social forces; and 2) to envision research-based, solution-oriented alternatives that empower individuals and communities. The main social-scientific tools we will use include key concepts and methods of critical social inquiry, participatory action research, and mindfulness-based transformative learning. We will refine our focus through the thematic lenses of environmental justice, political ecology, and economic democracy. Adding these social-scientific tools and thematic lenses to your toolkit will enable you to develop a more sophisticated understanding of social-environmental issues, of the potential options to address them, and of your own capacity to contribute meaningfully to making change happen.  We will take the cultivation of a socioecological imagination very seriously, and this means we will need to think honestly, critically, and creatively about the knowledge and skills we will encounter, examine our own experiences and observations, and be open to perspectives, data, and analyses that challenge our assumptions.
ENVS 202 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Science
(4 cr) Syllabus
Sutherland
This course is part of the three term core sequence in Environmental Studies and is required for Environmental Studies (but not Environmental Science) majors. It is an introductory course, designed for freshmen and sophomores, and satisfies university general education breadth requirements for natural sciences. ENVS 201, 202, 203 may be taken in any order. The only prerequisite is Math 95 or equivalent. Course goals include to promote understanding of the value and limitations of science in understanding environmental issues; to increase familiarity with scientific concepts underlying selected environmental issues and quantitative techniques that scientists use to evaluate them; to promote an understanding of how science is used to manage natural resources to promote a sustainable economy; to enhance ability to think creatively, analytically, and without bias (i.e. to think critically); and to understand how environmental science issues pervade our lives and gain confidence to understand these issues and make decisions based on your understanding and values. Four environmental issues are examined in some depth: human population growth, loss of biodiversity, climate change, and energy use.
ENVS 335: Allocating Scarce Environmental Resources
(4 cr) Syllabus
Cameron
Considerations for the design of environmental and natural resources policies and regulations: balancing society’s preferences and the cost of environmental protection and resources conservations. We will explore how environmental and natural resource management decisions are made. Given that we need to use at least some natural resources to survive, it is not possible to completely eliminate all mining, fishing, or logging. Likewise, it is not possible to reduce all forms of pollution to zero. But how much of each of these activities is too much? We will examine some pragmatic criteria and some evidence which can be used to help guide decision-makers who are responsible for setting policies and regulations. We will pay particular attention to circumstances when government intervention is essential because private incentives definitely cannot be relied upon to yield socially desirable outcomes.
ENVS 411: Top Armed Conflicts
(4 cr) Syllabus
Bacon
This course aims to explore the relationship between the natural environment and armed social conflict. Students will consider the complex relationship between armed conflicts over ecology and the ecological impacts of armed conflict. Students will be asked to think critically about narratives of scarcity, security, and nationalism in the context of globalization, neo-colonialism, and transnational capitalism.
ENVS 411: Top Climate Ethics
(4 cr ) Syllabus
Myers
  Given the stakes, climate change is perhaps the defining issue of our age. How we respond (or don’t) to this issue will likely influence the course of human existence for generations to come. But is this simply a technological or economic problem waiting to be solved by the experts, as most Westerners believe? Or, as many are now claiming, is this primarily an issue of ethics and justice? The implications of climate change throw basic assumptions about how we live our lives and how we think into question. Perhaps no other issue compels us to so thoroughly reexamine how we relate to nature and to each other. Thus, as we struggle to confront the depth and gravity of climate change, new ways of thinking and living are increasingly called for. This course is designed to offer a variety of inter-disciplinary perspectives and approaches to this end.
ENVS 425 Top Environmental Education Theory and Practice
(4 cr)  Syllabus
Lynch
This class is the first quarter of the Environmental Leadership Program’s two-quarter Environmental Education Initiative. During the winter we will explore various educational theories and the rationale for getting children outside. We will cultivate our own ecological literacy as we develop our skills as environmental educators. This year we are focusing on developing sensory awareness. You will work in your team to apply your skills, strengths and creativity towards developing educational materials that will help children connect to the magnificent natural world. Then during spring term you will deliver your environmental education program – in the classroom and in the field. This year the two EE teams and community partners are:
Canopy Connections – H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and Pacific Tree Climbing Institute
Restoring Connections – Mt. Pisgah Arboretum and Adams Elementary
ENVS 427 Environmental and Ecological Monitoring
(4 cr) Syllabus 
Boulay
Environmental scientists collect, analyze and share information for a variety of reasons. In this course, we will use a broad definition of environmental and ecological monitoring, one that encompasses a variety of activities, including rigorous research and long-term surveillance. Your specific objectives will shape your questions which in turn will drive your project design and methods. In the Environmental Leadership Program’s (ELP) “Conservation Science in Action” projects, students collect and use information to assist our community partners with habitat restoration, management planning, species conservation and other needs. This course is designed to prepare you for your spring ELP projects by introducing you to your team, community partners, project background and protocols. However, to be an effective field scientist, you need to know more than one or two methodologies. We will examine the entire process of designing and implementing a monitoring program. We will investigate several local case studies and gain hands-on experience using common techniques to collect, manage, summarize and present data. The ELP projects all use established techniques to address current conservation issues, so these case studies are relevant to our course work regardless of your affiliation with a particular ELP project. In addition, we will practice some fundamental skills that all field-based environmental scientists should know.
ENVS 455 Sustainability
(4 cr) Syllabus
Meier
This course is about the evolution of the concept of sustainability and its complex and sometimes problematic uses among scholars, policy makers, environmentalists and businesses. The course examines the competing social, cultural, economic, and ecological assumptions and priorities that are often quietly but powerfully promoted in the push for sustainability. A concept means that all things to all people can too easily come to mean little or nothing. The purpose of this course is to help students to go beyond fuzzy buzzwords by critically examining these multiple meanings and encouraging more explicit and rigorous thinking about sustainability that is supported by sound theory and evidence, as well as efforts to understand reconcile the ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions in the concept. Prereq for 455: ENVS 201.
ENVS 465/565 Wetland Ecological Management
(4 cr)  Syllabus
Bridgham
This is an upper-level undergraduate/graduate course that examines management and policy issues relating to wetlands, while providing enough scientific background to understand these issues.  The course is divided into three parts (see syllabus). The first section includes an overview of cultural perceptions of wetlands and how these have changed through time, a general description of different types of wetlands, and then a more in-depth discussion of jurisdictional wetland definitions, classification schemes, wetland distributions globally and in the U.S., and current and historical wetland loss rates.  The middle section is an introduction to wetland ecology and includes factors controlling their formation and development over time on the landscape, an introduction to hydrology as it pertains to wetlands, hydric soils, and plant community ecology.  It focuses on the three main criteria for most definitions of wetlands:  hydrology, hydric soils, and hydrophytic vegetation.  The last part of the course returns in more depth to the management and policy issues that were introduced in the beginning of the term.  We will discuss wetland laws and policy in Oregon, the U.S., and globally, mapping and delineation of wetlands, and wetland restoration and creation. In a single quarter, we cannot cover all aspects of wetland ecology and/or wetland management.  The emphasis of this course is on management and policy issues relating to wetlands, with hopefully enough science provided to properly evaluate these more applied concerns.

Summer 2015

ENVS 201 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Science
(4 cr) Syllabus (June 22 – July 19)
Meier
This course introduces some of the major contributions of the social sciences to understanding how and why environmental problems happen—the social ‘root causes’ of these problems. Environmentally harmful human behavior is not simply a fact of life: it is a product of specific social conditions, which can be studied, understood, and changed. This course also examines social approaches to resolving environmental problems, including ideas such as ‘sustainability’, ‘market-based’ environmental policies, reforms of property systems, and social movements that promote concepts such as environmental justice, ecofeminism, and deep ecology. In this course, students practice applying these conceptual approaches by using them to analyze the root causes, consequences, and possible solutions to specific environmental topics. In previous years, the course has focused on topics such as global warming, energy, and the Pacific Northwest salmon crisis.
ENVS 202 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Science
(4 cr) Syllabus (July 20 – August 12)
McHolm
This course introduces key concepts and methods in environmental ethics and surveys a range of contemporary positions in this field while developing skills of value clarification and ethical reasoning applicable to areas of interdisciplinary environmental study and problem-solving. Topics covered include the interdependence of facts and values in environmental decision-making, the relation of environmental ethics to traditional ethical theory, the conceptual foundations of environmental ethics, attributions of intrinsic value and rights to nature and other species, consumption and sustainability in our conceptions of the good life, and problems of resource distribution and environmental justice. The course concludes with case studies of specific ethical problems confronting environmentalists today (recent examples include restoration of oak savanna and the Klamath River salmon controversy). Emphasizing the skills of critical thinking, value reasoning, and philosophical inquiry within an interdisciplinary context, this course guides students in the application of these skills to real-world examples requiring analysis and interpretation. The course fulfills a General Education requirement in the Arts and Letters Group.
ENVS 202 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Science
(4 cr) Syllabus (June 22 – September 6 [WEB])
Bothun
This course examines the various ways nature is represented in U.S. popular culture. What can advertisements, films, television, and popular music teach us about the ways we imagine nature and the environment? What ideas about nature are conveyed by zoos, aquariums, and nature-oriented theme parks? In this course, we will talk about what is at stake in these kinds of depictions of the natural world? We will consider how ideas about race, gender, and sexuality articulated through popular representations of nature as we explore why and how representations of nature and the environment in popular culture matter.
ENVS 203 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Humanities
(4 cr) (July 20 – August 12) Syllabus Flyer
Bacon
This course introduces some of the major contributions of the humanities to understanding the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. Through critical theory, fiction, art, environmental history, film and music, we will explore the relationship between contemporary US cultures and environmental practices. In particular we will consider how creative works (art, literature, music) confront environmental crisis and provide inspiration to those resisting environmental destruction. Some of the authors we will read include: Michel Foucault, William Cronon, Jennifer Price, Jean Baudrillard, Suzanne Collins, Cutcha Risling-Baldy and Gloria Anzaldúa.
ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics
(4 cr) Syllabus (July 20 – August 12)
Guernsey
This course introduces key concepts and methods in environmental ethics and surveys a range of contemporary positions in this field while developing skills of value clarification and ethical reasoning applicable to areas of interdisciplinary environmental study and problem-solving. Topics covered include the interdependence of facts and values in environmental decision-making, the relation of environmental ethics to traditional ethical theory, the conceptual foundations of environmental ethics, attributions of intrinsic value and rights to nature and other species, consumption and sustainability in our conceptions of the good life, and problems of resource distribution and environmental justice. The course concludes with case studies of specific ethical problems confronting environmentalists today (recent examples include restoration of oak savanna and the Klamath River salmon controversy). Emphasizing the skills of critical thinking, value reasoning, and philosophical inquiry within an interdisciplinary context, this course guides students in the application of these skills to real-world examples requiring analysis and interpretation. The course fulfills a General Education requirement in the Arts and Letters Group.
ENVS 435 Environmental Justice
(4 cr) Syllabus (June 22 – July 19)
Hall
The study of environmental justice is the study of environmental inequality. Environmental inequality refers to the uneven distribution of environmental burdens (such as being exposed to toxics) and benefits (like access to clean air) across space and time. This class will examine how space and place affects human and environmental well-being.By taking this course, students will develop a critical understanding of what constitutes environmental privilege and oppression by examining the historical roots of current, persistent environmental inequalities across the globe. What are the historical roots of environmental inequality? Why is it that some people are exposed to high levels of pollution or don’t have access to clean water, while others enjoy green spaces and nutritious food? Does inequality drive ecosystem degradation?Is social justice essential to, or at odds with, efforts to build a sustainable world? To answer these, and other questions affecting each of us in an ever more interconnected, and embattled, world, we’ll work together to place different kinds of texts—research articles, images, literary fiction, testimony, manifestos—into conversation with ourselves as researchers of environmental justice. We’ll examine how aspects of human identity (such as race, gender, class), history (including colonialism, development, and globalization) and nature (biogeography, animal studies) contribute to environmental inequality and tackle the ethical question of how much, if any, inequality is just in the 21st century.
ENVS 455 Sustainability
(4 cr) Syllabus (June 22 – July 19)
Walker
This course is about the evolution of the concept of sustainability and its complex and sometimes problematic uses among scholars, policy makers, environmentalists and businesses. The course examines the competing social, cultural, economic, and ecological assumptions and priorities that are often quietly but powerfully promoted in the push for sustainability. A concept means that all things to all people can too easily come to mean little or nothing. The purpose of this course is to help students to go beyond fuzzy buzzwords by critically examining these multiple meanings and encouraging more explicit and rigorous thinking about sustainability that is supported by sound theory and evidence, as well as efforts to understand reconcile the ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions in the concept. Prereq for 455: ENVS 201.

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Fall 2015

ENVS 201 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Sciences
(4 cr) Syllabus
Walker
This course introduces some of the major contributions of the social sciences to understanding how and why environmental problems happen—the social ‘root causes’ of these problems. Environmentally harmful human behavior is not simply a fact of life: it is a product of specific social conditions, which can be studied, understood, and changed. This course also examines social approaches to resolving environmental problems, including ideas such as ‘sustainability’, ‘market-based’ environmental policies, reforms of property systems, and social movements that promote concepts such as environmental justice, ecofeminism, and deep ecology. In this course, students practice applying these conceptual approaches by using them to analyze the root causes, consequences, and possible solutions to specific environmental topics. In previous years, the course has focused on topics such as global warming, energy, and the Pacific Northwest salmon crisis.
ENVS 203 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Humanities
(4 cr) Syllabus
Wald
This course is a survey of the contribution of humanities disciplines (e.g., literature, intellectual history, religious studies, and philosophy) to understanding the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. Theoretical perspectives covered in the course include the intellectual history of Western cultural attitudes and perceptions of nature, the role of religion in shaping environmental values, Native American perspectives on the environment, and the suggestions of contemporary radical ecology movements – deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism – for revitalizing human relationships with the environment. The last segment of the course examines humanities perspectives on several current environmental issues: wilderness preservation, the Pacific Northwest salmon crisis, population and resource use, and global climate collapse. The course emphasizes the skills of textual and cultural interpretation, value reasoning, and critical inquiry as these are demonstrated in the engagement of the humanities with environmental concerns. This course fulfills the Arts and Letters Group Requirement and is a core course requirement for Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors.
ENVS 225 Introduction to Food Studies
(4 cr) Syllabus
Wooten
Food plays an integral role in our lives, socially, economically, physically and culturally. Academia has traditionally given food very little attention, but now is your chance. Learn about how individuals and communities choose and obtain food, where that food comes from, where it goes and how food systems around the world affect the environment.
ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics
(4 cr) Syllabus
Morar
This course introduces key concepts and methods in environmental ethics and surveys a range of contemporary positions in this field while developing skills of value clarification and ethical reasoning applicable to areas of interdisciplinary environmental study and problem-solving. Topics covered include the interdependence of facts and values in environmental decision-making, the relation of environmental ethics to traditional ethical theory, the conceptual foundations of environmental ethics, attributions of intrinsic value and rights to nature and other species, consumption and sustainability in our conceptions of the good life, and problems of resource distribution and environmental justice. The course concludes with case studies of specific ethical problems confronting environmentalists today (recent examples include restoration of oak savanna and the Klamath River salmon controversy). Emphasizing the skills of critical thinking, value reasoning, and philosophical inquiry within an interdisciplinary context, this course guides students in the application of these skills to real-world examples requiring analysis and interpretation. The course fulfills a General Education requirement in the Arts and Letters Group.
ENVS 411 Cultures of Oil, Cultures of Climate Change
(4 cr) Syllabus Flyer
McHolm
 Imagination has material consequences. The root causes of climate change derive from a set of cultural values and understandings. These values and understandings are produced and reproduced, in part, by the tremendous capacity of petroleum.  Oil’s undeniable power has not only made possible most of the elements of mainstream American and, in many cases, global culture, it has produced the conditions of anthropogenic climate change. But how do we see petroleum? How do we experience climate change? The hard sciences have contributed invaluable data and resources to help us understand these processes, but is this the same thing as “knowing” them? As experiencing them? Can we expect a solution from the same ways of thinking and acting that have produced the problem in the first place? To answer these questions, we must turn to an understanding of culture.This course investigates the cultural values, representations, understandings and material manifestations of oil and climate change. Throughout this course, we will take a multi-disciplinary approach to consider what the humanities can add to the important conversations about understanding climate change and the culture of oil that has produced it.  We will begin our course with an overview of the processes of climate change and oil’s role in those processes. From this foundation, we will begin to explore how the arts and culture have produced, and then responded to, a culture made possible by cheap and available oil. Throughout the course, we’ll be looking at the various ways that literature (including novels, graphic novels, poetry and short stories), visual media (including photography, film, sculpture and activist art) and even video games have been enabled by and respond to oil. Then, we’ll spend the final portion of the course investigating the ways these same media have begun to address anthropogenic climate change.
ENVS 411 Perspectives on Food and Water Security
(4 cr) Syllabus Flyer
Shtob and Dreher
Human interaction with the natural environment is often experienced through our relationship to food and water. Focusing on diverse situations including drought, this course will focus on how environmental, economic, political, and social factors combine to promote or inhibit adequate access to appropriate food and water resources. Join us as we explore these issues using ideas, perspectives, and case studies developed around the world.
ENVS 429 Environmental Leadership
(4 cr) Syllabus
Lynch and Boulay
*This course is part of the Environmental Leadership Program*
ENVS 450 Political Ecology
(4 cr) Syllabus
Walker
Political ecology examines the politics (in the broadest sense of the word) of the environment. Whereas environmental politics courses often focus on the role of government and interest groups in shaping specific environmental policies, political ecology expands our understanding of ‘politics’ to examine the roles of: 1) environmental rhetoric (‘discourse’), ideology, and knowledge; 2) politics and environmental change; 3) economic systems (including ‘globalization’); 4) gender-based dimensions of resource ownership and use; 5) and everyday struggles within communities and households (including ‘community’-based resource management) as they shape human relationships with nature. Although much of the political ecology literature comes from studies of the less-developed ‘third world,’ this course also examines the political ecology of the ‘first world.’
ENVS 467 Sustainable Agriculture
(4 cr) Syllabus
Martin
 Examines traditional non-industrialized, modern industrialized, modern organic, and genetically modified crop-based systems through the lens of sustainability.

2014-2015 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


2013-2014 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


2012-2013 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


2011-2012 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


2010-2011 Course Description and Information


Environmental Studies in the UO Catalog