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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.

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FALL 2018
WINTER 2019
SPRING 2019
SUMMER 2019

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Fall 2018

ENVS 202 Intro Environmental Studies: Natural Science (4 cr) ( >3)
Instructor: Bothun
Click here for Course Syllabus

This is an introductory course in environmental natural sciences. It is part of the core sequence in Environmental Studies and is required for the Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors. It is an introductory course, designed for freshmen and sophomores, and satisfies University general education breadth requirements for natural sciences. 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.

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ENVS 203 Intro Environmental Studies: Humanities (4 cr) (>1)
Instructor: Wald
Click here for Course Syllabus

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. (The course must be taken for a grade in order to satisfy ENVS/ESCI major requirements.)

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ENVS 225 Intro Food Studies (>2) (>IC)
Instructor: Martin

Click here for Course Syllabus

An exploration of the field of “food studies” and examination of the role of food in historical and contemporary life in the US and around the world.

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ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics (>1)

Instructor: Guernsey
Click here for Course Syllabus

Imagine yourself in the following situation: you are in a room where you can press a button that says “If you press it, the Grand Canyon will be blown away”. What ethical reasons would you have to refrain from pressing that button? Is it morally wrong to destroy something we (humans) deem beautiful? Some philosophers believe that there is no moral value without a valuator. So, what if you were the last person on Earth and you would not care about the Grand Canyon, would it still be wrong to press the button? What if you were not the last person, would it suffice to appeal to the idea that you might deprive future generations from experiencing such ineffable scenery? Imagine the button says, “it you press it, the Grand Canyon will be blown away, but in doing so, you save x human lives.” How many human lives would justify blowing away the Grand Canyon? What if those lives are the lives of some people you will never know/meet with? Does it have to be a human life? What about a non-human animal life? What about an ecosystem?

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ENVS 410/510 Climate-Responsive Design
Instructor: Rempel
Click here for Course Syllabus

How did people design their shelters for thermal comfort, and even thermal delight, before fossil fuels made mechanical heating and cooling possible? This course explores the world’s diversity of climates and biomess, focusing on indigenous building practices developed over centuries of experimentation and innovation. These structures are formed by necessity of local wood, stone, skins, leaves, and earth. They are also often assembled to connect human communities with minimal need for transportation, and they have met great pressures to minimize energy use for providing warmth and coolness. As such, they form the great majority of the world’s truly sustainable buildings, and they offer fascinating lessons for contemporary green design. The goals of this course are to reveal these lessons, to evaluate existing green buildings in light of them, and ultimately to apply them in the redesign of existing projects. This is a seminar course taught through class discussion and field investigation. Discoveries, insights, and experimentation will be synthesized through weekly assignments and a term project.

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ENVS 411 Wolves in Oregon
Instructor: Boulay

Click here for Course Syllabus

Wolves present a complex, thorny environmental issue that can provide insights into the
interplay of ecology, sociology and policy. Variously portrayed as bloodthirsty killers, powerful
leaders, unrestrained loners or symbols of dwindling wildness, wolves evoke strong emotions.
Through this 4-credit course, we will use wolf conservation as a timely case study to explore
tensions such as the dynamics between state and federal policies, urban and rural economies
and values, and ecological and social concerns. Over the summer, students will conduct
background reading and research, identify stakeholder perspectives and create potential
interview questions. During Week 0, we will take an 8-day camping trip to northeastern
Oregon, meeting with people—environmentalists, policy makers, biologists, ranchers and
others—along the way. Stakeholder interviews will be interspersed with field tours and handson
activities. Back on campus, students will participate in a weekly class and group project to
reflect upon and integrate what they heard, observed, and considered during the field trip.

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ENVS 411 Design of Disaster
Instructor: Shtob

Click Here for Course Syllabus

This class will explore how natural disaster, including the risk of future disaster, is experienced throughout the world, with a particular emphasis on how human systems and decisions made about our built environment “design the disasters of the future.”

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ENVS 477 Soil Science 
Instructor: Silva

Click Here for Course Syllabus

Chemical and physical characteristics and classification of soils, field soil identification, soil degradation.

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Winter 2019

ENVS 201 Intro Environmental Studies: Social Science (4 cr) ( >2)
Instructor: 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.

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ENVS 202 Intro Environmental Studies: Natural Science (4 cr) ( >3)
Instructor: Hallett

This is an introductory course in environmental natural sciences. It is part of the core sequence in Environmental Studies and is required for the Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors. It is an introductory course, designed for freshmen and sophomores, and satisfies University general education breadth requirements for natural sciences. 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.

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ENVS 335 Allocating Scarce Environmental Resources (4 cr) ( >2)
Instructor: Cameron

Earth does not have enough resources to permit humans to have as much of everything as they might want. We are the dominant species; other species currently have standing only insofar as humans care about them. In this capacity, we must often make difficult choices about how the earth’s environmental and natural resources are managed. For example, forests can be preserved in their natural state, harvested selectively and sustainably, clear-cut, or turned into farms, housing developments or shopping malls. Lax pollution regulations can permit industry to prosper, allowing higher wages, lower consumer prices and bigger investment returns for people who are saving for their retirements, or pollution can be tightly controlled to improve human health outcomes and protect ecological systems and their services.

Different constituencies have different levels of desire for each of the range of possible management outcomes. The benefits or costs to individual humans under different management scenarios may be modest but widespread, or they may be large and concentrated among fewer people. The benefits may also accrue to very different groups of people than those who bear the costs. There are often benfits and costs from the way resources are managed that spill over onto third parties- who are not directly involved in the decisions that have been made and who therefore do not have any weight given to their preferences in these choices. Likewise, many resources belong to everyone but no one, and sustainable management is often fundamentally impossible without government intervention in the form of policies and regulations.

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 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.

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ENVS 410 Forest Ecology and Management (4 cr) 
Instructor: Dickman

This course provides an overview of forest ecology, emphasizing forests of the Pacific Northwest, and also includes discussions of past and current laws and policies affecting management of forests on public lands in this region. In addition to learning important concepts, we will discuss current issues, we’ll get out in the forest to see firsthand
examples of some local management and stewardship projects, and we will examine complex questions. You will be required to read, synthesize, analyze, and evaluate.

Saturday Field Trips Required: Tentative Dates 1/12, 1/26, 2/9, 2/23, 3/9

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ENVS 410 Water, Public Health and Environment
Instructor: 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 and the human right to WASH and its impacts on market-based approaches to service delivery.

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ENVS 411 Topic: Living in the Anthropocene
Instructor: Fink

ENVS 411 Living in the Anthropocene explores what has come to be called the Anthropocene, a geological era defined by radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests and an epoch marked by plastic pollution and anthropogenic climate destabilization. Through critical engagement with a problem on which people across this university and the globe are working, we will consider how living in the Anthropocene demands that we think about ourselves not only as individuals, but also as members of a planetary population and as a geological force that determines the physical conditions around us on a global scale. We will investigate the contested designation of the Anthropocene and the implications embedded within it. Further, we will analyze this proposed epoch through the lens of race, gender, settler colonialism, and white supremacy. The course includes readings on racial ecologies, climate change, and the future of the planet that will encourage us to think with critical self-awareness about our roles as students, scholars, and human beings experiencing, thinking, and writing about our changing world.

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ENVS 411 Topic: Environmental Law, Protection, and Justice
Instructor: Shtob

How and why do environmental laws and regulations succeed or fail in promoting environmental protection and justice? When can the application of environmental laws lead to unintended or unwanted consequences? Can fundamental legal assumptions create and perpetuate injustice? If so, can this be avoided? In this course, we will examine legal theory and practice using several case studies in human and non-human environmental protection and justice. We will begin with a brief survey of environmental law and justice issues, including how they intersect. We will then examine contributory factors such how laws are developed; how they are used in practice by activists, legal professionals and other interests; how regulatory approaches reflect environmental, social, economic and other priorities; and how the guiding philosophies of environmental laws are reflected in legal practice. While this course is intended to be useful for students considering careers in environmental law or policy, a background in these topics is not required to be successful.

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ENVS 435 Environmental Justice
Instructor: Norgaard

Environmental justice and its impact on current decisions. Focus on civil rights law, perception of risk, and relation of sustainability and equity.

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ENVS 450 Political Ecology
Instructor: Walker

Examines how social relations and economic, social, and cultural control of natural resources shape human interactions with the environment. Theory and case studies.

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ENVS 467 Sustainable Agriculture
Instructor: Martin

Examines sustainability issues in agricultural production and current food systems. Focuses on environmental aspects of seed, water, soil, energy, and pest management.

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ENVS 494M Passive Heating
Instructor: Rempel

Conceptual and quantitative investigations of passive solar heating design and performance, including precedents, solar resource evaluation, glazing selection and orientation, thermal mass materials and positioning, movable insulation, and control scheduling, supported by solar site surveys and modeling in EnergyPlus.

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Spring 2019

ENVS 201 Intro Environmental Studies: Social Science (4 cr) ( >2)
Instructor: Schreiner

Syllabus

Our course will explore how social structures and
ecological processes intertwine and interact to
produce the world, although with differential
experiences and unequal impacts for people and
places. We will consider how critical social science
approaches engage in such inquiry. Our primary
learning goal will be the development of a critical
“socio-ecological imagination,” or the awareness of
the interrelationship between embodied personal
experience and the wider social and ecological
systems in which we are embedded, and of the power
dynamics that shape these relationships. Important
“eco-social structures” of power that we will examine
include the social metabolic order of capitalism,
settler colonialism, and racial capitalism. A key
thematic focus of our course will be analysis of the
global agrifood system and its various impacts, and
you will have opportunity to connect our analysis to
local food systems through participation in a service
learning project at a FOOD for Land County
community garden. Your learning for the term will
culminate in the development of an online profile of a
key issue from our course that you find most
significant, thereby allowing you to contribute to
social scientific inquiry and research. We will take the
cultivation of a critical socio-ecological imagination
very seriously – but have fun along the way! – and this
means we will need to think critically and creatively
about the perspectives, data, and analyses we
encounter; reflect honestly and thoughtfully on our
own assumptions, views, and experiences; and
interact together with respect and a shared aim for
learning.
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ENVS 203 Intro Environmental Studies: Humanities (4 cr) (>1)
Instructor: LeMenager

Syllabus

In this course we will learn about what the Humanities are, as an interdisciplinary field, and how Humanities methods and research contribute to environmental thought and action. The class involves reading and research but also creativity and innovation. It is a lab in which we will think together about the possible futures of our stressed planet and how to harness imagination in the service of a livable world.

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ENVS 410/510: Justice, Capitalism, and the Anthropocene
Spring 2019 (4 cr)

Instructor: Muraca

Syllabus

Geologists are about to name the age in which we live according to its main geological driving factor: human influence – the Anthropocene. This is at the same time a contested and powerful term. Who is meant by the ‘anthropos’, the human, responsible of the devastating ecological crisis we are facing? According to indigenous scholar Kyle Whyte the Anthropocene is intensified colonialism. For others, Capitalism and its specific relation to Nature should be at the core of the Anthropocene narrative. In this course we will discuss the different perspectives on the Anthropocene and analyze the modes of intensified colonization that started before the industrial revolution, but significantly increased in the last 5 decades, and their implications in terms of global justice. We will critically examine the specificity of a colonization that does not only extend to territories, communities, and natural resources, but also to the way in which people think, dream, shape their lives, and relate to other human and nonhuman others. We will also explore alternatives, breaking points, as well as forms of resistance and subversion.

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ENVS 411: The Species Problem (4 cr) 

Instructor: Maggiulli

Syllabus

Since the publication of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of
Species in 1859, it is scientifically accepted that species are fluid ever-changing things but, despite this dynamic view, they are often still treated as fixed categories to be preserved in their
current state. This course explores “species” as a concept and the role the category plays in conservation and in the popular
imaginary. We will take an ethically critical lens to conservation issues to ask questions such as: What is at stake when we represent non-native species as aggressive invaders? How does policy aimed at protecting threatened species disable innovative conservation tactics? How do you decide when lethal control is acceptable? Should de-extinction and rewilding projects be considered as conservation strategies? We will use USFWS outreach publications, environmental education materials, Environmental Impact Statements, contemporary news articles, and more as our archive of materials in this course. Participation in this course includes a field trip and in-class meetings with local land management organizations. Students will be required to participate in one Saturday half-day field trip.

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ENVS 493: Passive Cooling (4 cr)

Instructor: Rempel

Syllabus

Air conditioning in America has risen from a luxury to a perceived necessity in the past fifty years. Non‐residential
buildings that once relied on awnings, shades, and operable windows for cooling have been retrofitted to the
extent that three‐quarters of those built before 1964 now have mechanical cooling; in 2013, only 9% of new
homes were built without air conditioning. As a result, space cooling in the U.S. now consumes an estimated 6
quadrillion Btu of energy each year, at a cost of $62 billion, and emits over 340 million metric tons of CO2. At the
same time, the pressure to design buildings with smaller carbon footprints is rising, promoting new interest in
passive cooling designs. Diverse strategies, including shading, cross ventilation, stack ventilation, wind catchers,
passive cool towers, night‐flush cooling of thermal mass, green roofs, earth tubes, and courtyards have now been
well‐studied in numerous climates. In this course, students will gain the tools and experiences to estimate the
passive cooling performance of each strategy under specific climatic conditions through field, laboratory, and
computational exercises. This course has a service learning component: small‐group term projects will develop
passive cooling strategies for projects of interest to a community partner, including existing or planned buildings,
incorporating spatial, experiential, and quantitative components. One field trip to an off‐site location may be
required.

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Summer 2019

TBA
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2017-2018 Course Description, Information & Syllabi

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2016-2017 Course Description, Information & Syllabi

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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