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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.

Fall 2021

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: Intro Environmental Studies: Humanities
(4 cr) (>1)
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 345 Environmental Ethics
(>1)
Muraca
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 410 Top Avian ConservationBoulay
Birds have aesthetic, scientific, economic, recreational, and ecological value to humans and provide important ecological services such as insect and rodent predation, pollination, and habitat creation. Yet, bird populations have declined precipitously in the past 50 years. They face a long list of threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, invasive species, over-collection, pollution and disease. Birds’ migratory biology requires that we examine these issues across continents and cultures. This course seeks to understand avian ecology concepts, then apply them to understand conservation threats and the practices that can address those threats. After gaining a foundation in avian biology and ecology, we will examine how regulations, management plans and large-scale partnerships shape conservation actions such as species protection, habitat conservation and restoration, and reintroduction. In addition, we will learn common field methods for monitoring bird populations, including bird identification. 
ENVS 410 Top Plants and PeopleLynch
Humans have always had intimate relationships with plants. We’ve relied on plants since time immemorial for food, medicine, and materials for clothing, shelter, spiritual practices, and decoration.  Today, even in post-industrial countries such as the U.S., people from diverse cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds continue to gather plants for a broad range of reasons.  This class will examine people and plant relationships in the Pacific Northwest. We will look at the gathering practices of Native Americans, the introduced plants and traditions of immigrants, and the emerging practices of people seeking to reconnect with the natural world. We will explore our relationships to plants and how the biodiversity of forests, and other ecosystems in the PNW, is being tapped to promote both conservation and rural economic development. We will investigate the complex economics, multi-faceted politics, and diverse cultural traditions associated with gathering plants in the PNW and the conservation implications. 
 
ENVS 410 Top Orig of Social LfMorar
ENVS 410/510 will provide a close reading of M. Hird’s book The Origins of Sociable LifeThis book does something original since it takes a microbial perspective (from microbial biology and microbial ecology) in order to rethink some of the central concepts that inform our social life such as identity, community, sexual difference, selfhood, etc. It also challenges the basic competition model of evolutionary theory so that more attention is paid to symbiosis and symbiogenesis. 
ENVS 411 Top Multispecies JustiOtjen
This course explores the possibilities of multispecies justice, identifies how the concept builds upon and diverges from various articulations of environmental justice, and practices decision making through an integrated community project. The class will address a number of key questions, including: How do inequities created by specific groups of people harm other human and species communities? How can improving the lives of people and nonhuman species together establish more resilient futures? And which constituents should be responsible for studying, implementing, and overseeing justice-based practices? Once we have achieved an understanding of multispecies justice through the relevant literature, our attention will turn in the second half of the class to study the issue of houselessness in Eugene. By speaking with local groups involved and visiting a previously occupied site to ensure safety, we will develop a research report that considers the needs of multiple human and nonhuman individuals. These reports will be shared with one another and possibly with community partners at the end of the term. 
ENVS 411 Top People, Mtns, ClimProvant
 “People, Mountains, and a Changing Climate” introduces students to the climate impacts affecting mountain communities around the world. Mountains are special places with unique environments and cultures, and millions of people rely on the mountains for their lives, livelihoods, or lifestyles. We will use interdisciplinary scholarship—including environmental justice, political ecology, and environmental history, among others—to address the historical context, vulnerability and resilience, and adaptation of people facing extreme natural and social changes. To avoid oversimplified narratives that frame mountain people as passive victims of a disappearing cryosphere, this course delves into case studies to explore how people exert their own agency alongside disasters, disappearing natural and cultural resources, contested uses of the mountains, and more. Of course, climate change—and climate change adaptation—does not affect all people equally, and we will move beyond mainstream socio-economic indicators to explore intersectionality and juxtapose technoscientific approaches with local and contextual knowledge-based approaches. 
ENVS 477 Soil ScienceLuca
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.Sample Syllabus

Summer 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: 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.Syllabus
ENVS 203: Intro Environmental Studies: Humanities
(4 cr) (>1)
Moulton
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.Syllabus
ENVS 345 Environmental Ethics
(>1)
Otjen
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

See previous years’ course offerings!:

Past Course Archive