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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.

 


Spring 2017

ENVS 202 Intro Env Stu: Natural Science (4 cr) Syllabus  

Rempel

The natural and applied sciences underlying contemporary environmental issues- microbiology, physiology, aquatic and atmospheric chemistry, population ecology, freshwater hydrology, oceanography, climate science, fluid dynamics, agronomy, wind, solar, and nuclear engineering, transportation engineering, and many others- are essential background for environmental decision-making at all scales. With an understanding of photosynthesis, the carbon biochemical cycle, and contemporary agricultural practices, for example, one can better evaluate conflicting claims regarding the benefits and harms of particular bio fuels. This course is focused on the acquisition and use of such evidence, i.e. quantitative, scientific evidence, to support and refute arguments surrounding environmental issues. In this way, it promotes the acquisition of “science literacy”, the ability to work fluently with observations, measurements, model predictions, survey results, maps, graphs, and other forms of scientific data toward a desired end: an evidence-based argument, policy, interpretation, or perspective. Environmental action is often political, in that it relies on human decisions made with incomplete information and influenced by conflicting goals and desires. This course will explore the boundaries between environmental science and environmental action closely, drawing on some of the most influential, engaging, and controversial environmental science writing available and asking students to respond critically through their own writing and section discussions.

 

ENVS 203 Intro Env Stu: Humanities
(4 cr) Syllabus
 

Bacon

WHAT? This course is a survey of the contribution of
humanities disciplines—literature, intellectual history, religious
studies, and philosophy—to understanding the relationship
between human beings and the natural environment.

HOW? The course emphasizes the skills of textual and
cultural interpretation, reasoning, and critical inquiry through
active engagement with a variety of theoretical concepts and
texts.

 

ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics
(4 cr) Syllabus
Jason

Shreiner

Environmental ethics invites us into an exploration of the role of values in shaping our relations with the environment and other living beings, including our personal perspectives and actions, and the policies and practices of institutions at all levels, from local to global. Quite literally, environmental ethics directs us to ask what in our environment is (most) valuable to us, why it matters, and why we – and others – should care about it enough to preserve, conserve, defend, restore, build, extend, stand or fight for it. In other words, what has moral standing, and what does “having” moral standing mean for our relations with other beings and things? Ethical consideration thus compels us to identify and justify our perspectives, interpretations, claims, beliefs, and actions through careful scrutiny of reasons and evidence, especially in those instances when values and facts don’t align.

It can be a demanding endeavor, but its demands are premised on hope “because it rests on the conviction that we can do better. As reflective, thinking beings, we can learn from our successes and our failures, and as empathic, caring beings, we can take into account the well being of other persons, other living beings, and our planet as a whole” (Hourdequin, p. 3). Those are reasonable claims to justify why we ought to engage in environmental ethical study – using what Martin Luther King, Jr. called a “tough mind and a tender heart.” Our course will uphold the spirit of this conviction as we accept the invitation to explore our values together, to determine what matters, and to express our aspirations for how we and our world ought to be.

 

ENVS 375 Oregon Seminar, part of Oregon Abroad Syllabus

 Dennis
By the end of the term, in combination with work done in our other Oregon Abroad courses, you should be able to:

  • Trace the physical, natural, and cultural history of the Oregon landscape, particularly from the mid-19thcentury to the present.
  • Explain Oregon as “landscape”—that is, as physical space that is simultaneously natural and cultural.
  • Critically analyze, interpret, and integrate a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary materials in the Sciences and Humanities that inform us about Oregon’s dynamic and diverse physical and natural environment.
  • Write essays that present and develop your own argument or thesis, illustrated and supported by evidence.
  • Assess and contextualize information about contemporary environmental problems that confront Oregon, including those in the realm of social and environmental justice.

 

ENVS 410 Water, Pub Health, Env
(4 cr) Syllabus

Russel

Water, public health and the environment will examine the provision of water and sanitation services around the world with a particular focus on cases studies from low and middle income countries in Africa and South East Asia. This course will examine: – The current crisis of access to water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services and infrastructure around the world. – The public health and environmental impacts of insufficient WASH services. – Technology, planning and policy options for expanding WASH services. – The economic and behavioral barriers to the adoption of WASH technologies and services. – The human right to WASH and its impacts on market-based approaches to service delivery.

 

ENVS 411 Top Environmental Interpretation and Communication  Willingham
Environmental interpreters connect people to resources. They bridge the meanings of our resources to the interests of the people. And through this, interpreters inspire people to care about our resources enough to protect them. Environmental interpreters are the nation’s park rangers, museum guides, zoo educators, and living history reenactors. The goal for this course is to help prepare students for careers or jobs in environmental interpretation and communication, such as in the National Park Service, US Forest Service, cultural heritage and historical sites, or in the public, private, or non-profit environmental sectors.

We will critically examine the foundations of environmental interpretation and gain the tools needed to develop our own interpretive programs and create effective environmental communication. We will have the opportunity to observe real interpretive programs at local parks and museums, and by the end of the course you will lead your own interpretive program. These experiential components will be augmented by readings and in-class discussions to develop an understanding of the history of environmental interpretation and communication, power and privilege in the environmental field, and best practices to follow.

 

ENVS 411 Top Conservation and Community Areas: Perspective on Parks and Protected Areas
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Martin
From Malheur to Madagascar, protected areas (PAs) are the cornerstone of strategies to preserve biodiversity. While the bulk of the world’s biodiversity is located in developing countries of the global South, international initiative and funding for conservation stems largely from the industrialized nations of the North.  By necessity, international discourse regarding preservation of biodiversity involves a wide range of actors and interest groups.  While the language of sustainable development and eco-toursim suggests a possible synergy between conservation and human welfare, in practice the relationship remains problematic and highly politicized.  Scientists, politicians and local residents literally and figuratively speak different languages and attach various meanings to the notions of nature, wilderness, biodiversity, and development.  These contested meanings have profound implications for protected area management.  As a class, we will establish a set of criteria for evaluating conservation practice and policy as reflected in various case studies throughout the world.  In the process we will critique our own values and assumption regarding the constructs of nature, culture, development and scientific knowledge.

 

ENVS 429 Environmental Leadership Program (ELP)
(4 cr) EE Syllabus CSA Syllabus
Lynch Boulay
This class is the second quarter of the ELP’s two-quarter Environmental Education (EE) and Conservation Science in Action (CSA) projects. This spring you will have the opportunity to implement your community based projects and continue to develop your collaboration and leadership skills. The success of this term – even more so than last term – depends upon your active involvement: identifying next steps and taking action to make sure your project is successful. It is up to you to identify issues and opportunities as they arise and to deal with them immediately. Active participation is central to all projects! As a team, you will be responsible for the learning that occurs. Everyone is expected to work together, share their perspectives and ensure this is a rewarding learning experience for all. The ELP provides you with an opportunity to be involved in your community, as well as time to reflect and discuss these experiences. Inspiring an ethic of civic engagement is integral to all ELP projects. The ELP is designed to develop your communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and give you the confidence to take leadership roles regarding environmental issues.

Winter 2017

ENVS 201 Intro  Env Stu: Social Science (4 cr) Syllabus  Walker
Environmental Studies 201 introduces some of the major contributions of the social sciences to understanding why environmental problems happen—the social ‘root causes’ of these problems. This course is not about environmental topics (climate change, deforestation, toxics, etc.). It is about learning to think critically about why these problems happen and what it might take to solve them. Humans aren’t stupid, and environmentally harmful human behavior isn’t inevitable: rather, it is a product of specific social as well as physical conditions. Those conditions can be studied and understood. An understanding of the social root causes of environmental
problems is an essential step in finding effective ways to prevent and resolve such problems. As such, this course examines both mainstream and non-conventional approaches to understanding and resolving environmental problems, including ideas such as ‘sustainability’, ‘market-based’ environmental policies, reforms of property systems, and social movements to promote concepts such as environmental justice, ecofeminism, and deep ecology. In this course students will learn to think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches and how these approaches can be used in integrative and interdisciplinary ways.
ENVS 202 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Sciences
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Dickman
By the end of the term, you should be able to:
• describe the value and limitation of science in understanding environmental issues
• explain how scientific research is done and what motivates scientists
• identify causal relationships, feedback loops, and construct concept maps
• interpret and analyze information presented in graphical format
• talk and write in an informed way about several environmental issues including:
o environmental and ecological history of the Willamette Valley
o ecosystem change, species diversity, keystone species, indicator species
o population ecology models and their application to humans and wildlife
o Earth’s atmosphere, climate change, and human impacts on climate change
• have confidence in your ability to make decisions consistent with your knowledge and values
about one environmental issue that is of special interest to you

ENVS 410 Nature in Popular Culture
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Wald
This course examines the various ways that nature is represented in U.S. popular culture. What can advertisements, films, television, and video games 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? Popular culture representations of nature tell us more than how we imagine nature and the environment. They also articulate and naturalize ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and ability. They present certain kinds of identities as natural and normative and other kinds of identities as unnatural or out of place in nature. We will examine the politics of identity and environment in depictions of SeaWorld, gay penguins, and Mother Earth. What is at stake in movies like Pocahontas, Avatar, and Moana? How are ideas about race and colonialism communicated in advertisements for the Discovery Channel and The Body Shop? We will explore the ways that representations of nature can at times justify existing relationships of power and privilege in society and the ways in which such representations may also at times contest those existing relationships of power and privilege.

ENVS 411 Topic: Farmworkers & Food Justice
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Hishida
Environmental justice refers to the unequal distribution of environmental benefits, environmental risks, and environmental burdens. Food justice also addresses inequality, but is instead in reference to unequal access to food for consumption as well as the benefits of food production. At the intersection of these two fields, we find the racial, economic, and social inequalities seen in issues of farmworker justice. By exploring numerous issues facing farmworkers through an Environmental Justice framework, you will become familiar with some major themes of Food Justice. Such themes include the exploitation and permeability of farmworkers’ bodies, institutional marginalization of farmworkers, and the inability of current alternative food movements to address these issues. Just as Environmental Justice has diverged from traditional Environmentalism in light of the movement’s failure to address structural discrimination against low-­‐income, communities of color, the Food Justice movement has grown in response to the mainstream Alternative Food Movement. This divergence has occurred in order to promote equity and justice for similarly marginalized communities that are exploited throughout the food production process.Together we will explore why these communities struggle to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food in a system for which they are the very foundation of.

ENVS 425 Environmental Education (ELP)
(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. Developing sensory awareness – both ours and the children we work with – will be central to our mission. 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 three 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
  • School Garden Team – School Garden Project

ENVS 427 Environmental and Ecological Monitoring
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Boulay
Environmental scientists collect, analyze and share information for a variety of reasons. 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 ecological research, 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. We will also examine the entire process of designing and implementing a monitoring or research 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 435 Environmental Justice
(4 cr) Syllabus
 Norgaard
 How and why are environmental problems experienced differently according to race, gender and class? How do different communities experience and respond to environmental problems? Why does it matter that there is unequal exposure to environmental risks and benefits? What do we learn about the meaning of gender, race and class by studying the patterns of exposure and creative resistance of different communities to environmental hazards? In other words, what does the study of environmental risks tell us about racism, classism, sexism in our nation and world today? What is environmental privilege and why does it matter? These are some of the questions we will take up in the next ten weeks together. This course will be highly reading and discussion intensive. Environmental justice is one of the most important and active sites of environmental scholarship and activism in our country today. We will read classics and new material and work both inside and outside the classroom. In particular, we are very fortunate that the largest public interest environmental law conference in the country is held annually here in Eugene Oregon. Attendance is mandatory as we will integrate ideas, issues and information from the conference into our class.

ENVS 455 Sustainability
(4 cr) Syllabus
Walker
This course is about the evolution of the concept of sustainability and its now 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 that means 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 and reconcile the ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions in the concept. This is a “tough love” course for sustainability: by examining sustainability with a critical eye, students will be better positioned help make sustainability “real” through rigorous thinking about how to make it ecologically sound, socially effective, ethically and culturally defensible, and technologically achievable. This course is intended to help us find a path to a more meaningful, just, and practical sustainability.

ENVS 477 Soil Science
(4 cr) Syllabus
Anya Hopple
This course will introduce students to the wonderful world of soils that lie, often forgotten, beneath your feet every day. Soils are one of the most fundamental ecological constraints on patterns and processes of plant distributions, nutrient and water cycling, and the productivity of both natural and managed ecosystems. Soils are also an important component of many current and historical environmental problems.
For Environmental Science majors, this course satisfies an upper division elective (Area 3A) in natural sciences. It is also widely applicable to graduate and undergraduate students in Biology, Geography, Geology, Anthropology, and Landscape Architecture, along with other majors on campus. This course is open to undergraduate juniors and seniors who have completed a general chemistry sequence (CHEM 221-223, 224-226H or equivalent).

Fall 2016

ENVS 201 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Science
(4 cr) Syllabus
Martin
Environmental Studies 201 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, conservation, life-cycle analysis and social movements that promote concepts such as environmental justice, and natural and social capital. 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. We will focus on issues that include global warming, consumerism, biodiversity conservation and energy reform.

ENVS 203: Introduction to Environmental Studies Humanities
(4 cr) Syllabus
Wald
This course introduces humanities approaches to environmental studies. We do so by focusing on two different landscapes common in Oregon – forests and fields. We will look at the history, ideology, and debates over public lands, including conservation, federal management, Native perspectives, and labor. In relation to farming, we will consider the legacy of Thomas Jefferson’s writings, slavery, and immigration to contemporary debates over agriculture. The class introduces the history of particular places and parses out some of the differing ideologies at the heart of contemporary environmental conflicts. Particular attention is paid to race, class, gender, and colonialism. This course fulfills the Arts and Letters Group Requirement and is a core course requirement for Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors (The course must be taken for a grade in order to satisfy ENVS/ESCI major requirements).

ENVS 345: Environmental Ethics
(4 cr) Syllabus
Morar
Why should I really care about the environment? What makes environmental issues genuine
moral issues?This course has a number of learning outcomes. The instructors are interested in working with you to develop a series of more general skills that you will need during your college education and even after graduation. These include the ability to:
• Enhance reading skills (from philosophical texts to more science-oriented texts).
• Articulate, evaluate, and engage with (philosophical) arguments.
• Explain and summarize different approaches to environmental ethics.
• Develop communication and argumentation skills; especially, learning the difference between ‘stating an opinion’ and ‘arguing for a conclusion’.
• Develop writing skills and learn how to manage your thinking-process in a limited amount of time.

ENVS 350: The Ecological Footprint of Energy Generation
(4 cr) Syllabus
Bothun
The current ecological footprint of our energy and electricity generation takes the primary form of dumping waste heat into the surface layers of the ocean. In turn that leads to climate changes if that excess heat can’t be mixed rapidly. The oceans are currently near there saturation point which means that the rate of climate change is accelerating  (while this video is a bit dated,  the global situation nevertheless continues in the manner described, meaning that posting a video on YouTube doesn’t change a damn thing …)

ENVS 411: Food, Trees and Culture—Indigenous Sustainable Agroforestry Systems
(4 cr) Syllabus
Faye
The purpose of this course is to make students of environmental studies, food studies and other natural resources disciplines familiar with the major types of sustainable agroforestry systems used by people in both developed and developing countries, and to inform them about the ecological benefits they provide to humans, plants, animals, and the environment. It also considers the major critiques of the limits and potential romanticism of agroforestry. This course aims to educate students interested in the interaction of biophysical, social, political and economic issues underlying the adoption and application of world agroforestry systems. The lectures emphasize the basic components and concepts of cognate subjects of agroforestry and human environment relations. Assigned readings add training in analyzing complex social and ecological systems and specific applications such as nut-tree crop combinations, forest farming,carbon farming, and notions of climate change mitigation and adaption.

ENVS 411: Oil & Culture
(4 cr) Syllabus
Bacon
This course investigates the cultural values, representations, understandings and material manifestations of oil. 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.

Overall, this course will ask you to use the tools you’ve collected from your time as an Environmental Studies or Sciences major, drawing on backgrounds in the sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Check out the syllabus for an extensive list of course objectives.

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 environmental policies, political ecology expands our understanding of politics to examine the roles of: globalized capitalism; relations of power and inequality between and among social actors (differentiated, for example, by class, race, or gender); social institutions, such as land tenure; government, nongovernmental organizations, and social movements; and language, symbolism, and discourse as they shape human interactions with the physical environment. Although much political ecology research comes from studies of the less-developed ‘third world,’ this course also emphasizes the political ecology of the ‘first world’.

ENVS 467: Issues in Sustainable Agriculture
(4 cr) Syllabus
Martin
The purpose of the class is for students to develop an informed critique of agricultural production.  We will review traditional non-industrialized, modern industrialized, modern organic, and GMC (genetically modified crops)-based systems through the lens of sustainability.  For our purposes, sustainability includes not only environmental, but also economic and cultural considerations.  While holding a holistic perspective, the course examines the various material components of production systems.  In each unit we will highlight problems and explore alternatives to current methods of production.  Finally, we will discuss food policy and food security.  The greatest single share of the course material stems from North American experience but the class is decidedly global in scope.

By course end students will have a fundamental understanding of how food is produced, the options and constraints of producers, and the obstacles and potential for more sustainable food production systems.

2015-2016 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


 

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