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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, UO Catalog, and Tip Sheets for other course options.

Winter 2021

ENVS 201 Intro Environmental Studies: Social Science
(4 cr) ( >2) 
 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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 202: Natural Science
(4 cr) (>3)
Rempel
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.Syllabus
ENVS 335 Allocation of Scarce Environmental Resources (4 cr) (>2)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.
Syllabus
ENVS 410 Unnatural Disasters
(4 cr)
Scott
ENVS 410 Water, Public Health, and EnvironmentRussel
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.
ENVS 411 Climate Change ConflictRenirie
This course analyzes global climate change as a multi-dimensional conflict and explores potential areas of intervention for resolution and transformation. As a distinctly global phenomenon, individuals come to understand climate change through unique social, cultural, and political lenses that often hinder effective communication across difference. Recognizing that much of the public discourse about climate change is dominated by polarizing and adversarial debates, this course aims to expand the ‘toolkit’ environmental professionals can use to resolve conflicts through non-adversarial methods. While acknowledging the systemic nature of climate change, particular emphasis will be given to the malleable social systems that drive it.
Core assignments and exercises for the course are designed to foster both analytical skills and practical techniques in conflict resolution. Through a series of case studies, we will frame contemporary climate change discourse as sites of personal, interpersonal, and societal conflict. We will ask questions about who defines the problem, what impacts are deemed important, what timescale is utilized, what solutions are considered worthwhile, and how identity shapes personal environmental attitudes. Using frameworks for conflict analysis, students will complete a ‘conflict assessment’ paper throughout the term that analyzes a particular area of climate conflict using scholarly literature, primary sources, and their own lived experiences. In-class exercises and reflective writing assignments will help students reflect on their learned beliefs and develop communication skills necessary to collaborate across diverse worldviews.
ENVS 435 Environmental Justice
Norgaard
In this class we will consider how environmental conditions produce and are in-turn shaped by social inequality. The course is interdisciplinary with a focus on the environmental social sciences (sociology, geography, political science, law) and on the environmental humanities (philosophy, literature, history). Students will learn the basic history of, and theories / methods applied to Environmental Justice.
ENVS 455 Sustainability
(4 cr)
Walker
In the last few decades we have heard the word “sustainability” used more and more frequently, but what does it mean? Some cynics would say, with some validity, that sustainability has become a buzzword—often with little or no clear meaning. Yet, with the world facing the greatest environmental crises (climate change, mass extinctions, etc.) that modern humans have ever known, we cannot afford cynicism. The concept of sustainability has a rich history and potentially great conceptual power. As a roadmap to the future, it is more important than ever that we utilize the power of sustainability to its fullest potential. As we work hard in practical ways to ensure a sustainable future, we will need to be hard-headed and rigorous in how we apply the ideas of sustainability. Fortunately, the concept of sustainability has been discussed and developed by scholars and scientists for generations. Unfortunately, many of our actions do not take advantage of that reservoir of knowledge. This course seeks to bring to the attention of a new generation of students the valuable conceptual tools of sustainability that are often neglected—tools that we need more today than ever.
As the dominant concept shaping our environmental actions today, it is essential that sustainability not be allowed to slip into intellectual muddiness, since, by any reasonable definition, the world is today becoming less sustainable. It may be said without exaggeration that how we think about sustainability today may shape the future of the planet.
ENVS Wetland Ecological Management
(4 cr) (>2)[GP][IC] 
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.
Syllabus
ENVS 467 Sustainable Agriculture
(4 cr)
Martin
Examines sustainability issues in agricultural production and current food systems. Focuses on environmental aspects of seed, water, soil, energy, and pest management.Syllabus
ENVS 494M Passive Heating
(4 cr)
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.

Fall 2020

ENVS 202 Intro Environmental Studies: Natural Science
(4 cr) ( >3) 
 Russel
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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 203: Humanities
(4 cr)
LeMenager
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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 225 Intro to Food Studies
(4 cr) (>2)[GP][IC] 
Martin
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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 410 Data Management
(4 cr)
Hallett
This course covers the non-statistical aspects of the data life cycle, including how to store, clean, visualize and communicate data. It is intended as a complement to statistics courses – we will cover how to get your data into shape for analysis, and how to communicate your findings visually. It is primarily a methods class and will be taught in R (but there is no expectation that students know R coming in).
ENVS 410 Outdoor School for All Lynch
In this class, we will examine Oregon’s Outdoor School for All program – looking at the history, implementation, and outcomes of this statewide initiative on academic success and environmental literacy. We will use a JEDI lens (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) to examine the efforts of providers and facilities to live up to the goal of “for all.”  Students will hear from an array of guest speakers from across the state who will share their experiences with Outdoor School.
ENVS 410 Wolves: Ecology & PolicyBoulay
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. Wolves also influence prey behavior and populations with effects that ripple through ecosystems. In this remote 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. We will learn about wolf biology and management, then interview stakeholders such as environmentalists, policy makers, biologists, ranchers and others. While this course is interdisciplinary, it will prioritize a natural science perspective so will meet the Area 3A Life Science/3A Natural Science requirement for ESCI/ENVS majors.
ENVS 411 Gender and Climate Justice Moulton
This course engages with human geography, advances in glaciology, and feminist science and technology studies to explore gender and climate justice in glaciated regions. Students will engage with both gender identity and feminist theory as a structuring principle for re-thinking how climate change knowledge is produced and valued.  We will use the framework of climate justice—which demands that we consider multi-faceted questions of power and inequity to understand the unequal distribution of climate change burdens and benefits— to explore three case studies in icy regions: the Andes, the Arctic, and the Pacific Northwest.
ENVS 411 EcomusicologyHilgren
In this course we’ll examine the many intersections between sound, music, and environmental justice. We’ll begin by exploring our engagements with the Eugene soundscape – these experiences will serve as launching points for a survey of contemporary ecomusicological research. Through engagement with readings and music, sound art, films, and other media, we will explore the interactions and overlaps between sound/music and such topics as creative environmental activism, ecofeminism, multispecies justice, Indigenous studies and decolonization, critical race theory, and science and technology studies. Throughout the course we’ll consider the contributions of sound/musical arts, creative exploration and critique, and arts and humanities scholarship to other areas of environmental inquiry.

Summer 2020

ENVS 201 Intro Environmental Studies: Social Sciences
(4 cr) ( >2) 
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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 202 Intro Environmental Studies: Natural Science
(4 cr) ( >3) 
Bothun
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.Sample Syllabus
ENVS 203 Intro Environmental Studies: Humanities
(4 cr) (>1) 
 Otjen
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.)Sample Syllabus
ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics
(>1)
Meire
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?Sample Syllabus
ENVS 411 Ecohorror-Ecocide: The Environmentalist Rhetoric of FearMaggiulli
Visual renditions present an apocalyptic future New York City that has been flooded by the effects of climate change; playful “creature features” introduce Pacific Northwest youth to the threats of non-native species invasions; Mother Nature fights back in a film where plants release toxins to kill off the human species. The generic structures of the horror genre are harnessed to frame revenge of nature narratives and to garner attention for the immediacy of environmental problems. While constructed with the best of intentions, these narratives often represent troubling conceptions of the “natural” that widen the separation between humans and their environment (or other species) and reinforce problematic conceptions of race, gender, ability, and sexuality.  This course will take a cultural studies approach to identifying where, and how, the genre of ecohorror appears by exploring a broad set of contemporary U.S. cultural artifacts ranging from blockbuster movies to comics and climate activism videos. We will be particularly attentive to horror’s role in science communication by analyzing texts such as USFWS outreach publications, documentaries, news articles, and popular science writing.  We will consider what horror’s generic tropes do for a broader cultural imaginary of environmental degradation and explore potentially productive applications of these tropes. This course should be a generative space for not only students in the environmental humanities and those interested in the social life of science but also for environmental science students who must consider communicating their work to the public.
ENVS 411 Water JusticeFink
Water Justice is an online interdisciplinary course that explores environmental justice issues related to water, such as the Flint water crisis and #NoDAPL, using a Critical Environmental Justice (CEJ) framework. Following the four pillars of CEJ as outlined in David Naguib Pellow’s 2018 book What Is Critical Environmental Justice?, this course includes 1) analysis that attends to multiple intersecting categories of identity, such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, citizenship, ability, and species, 2) analysis that brings multiple spatial and temporal scales together, with attention to the body, 3) interrogation of the role of the state in water issues, and 4) recognition of the indispensability of all human and more-than-human actors. It invites students to explore their local watersheds and reflect on how water acts as an agent that affects the lived experiences of their communities. ENVS 411: Water Justice provides an opportunity to learn and practice digital scholarship by creating a digital final project. This course will be of special interest to undergraduate students interested in pursuing nonprofit work or graduate studies. Contact Lisa Fink at lfink@uoregon.edu for more information.
ENVS 411 Gender and Climate Justice Moulton
This course engages with human geography, advances in glaciology, and feminist science and technology studies to explore gender and climate justice in glaciated regions. Students will engage with both gender identity and feminist theory as a structuring principle for re-thinking how climate change knowledge is produced and valued.  We will use the framework of climate justice—which demands that we consider multi-faceted questions of power and inequity to understand the unequal distribution of climate change burdens and benefits— to explore three case studies in icy regions: the Andes, the Arctic, and the Pacific Northwest.
ENVS 411 EcomusicologyHilgren
In this course we’ll examine the many intersections between sound, music, and environmental justice. We’ll begin by exploring our engagements with the Eugene soundscape – these experiences will serve as launching points for a survey of contemporary ecomusicological research. Through engagement with readings and music, sound art, films, and other media, we will explore the interactions and overlaps between sound/music and such topics as creative environmental activism, ecofeminism, multispecies justice, Indigenous studies and decolonization, critical race theory, and science and technology studies. Throughout the course we’ll consider the contributions of sound/musical arts, creative exploration and critique, and arts and humanities scholarship to other areas of environmental inquiry.

2019-2020 Course Descriptions & Information


2018-2019 Course Description, Information & Syllabi 


2017-2018 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


2016-2017 Course Description, Information & Syllabi


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