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Undergraduate Courses from 2019-2020

Summer 2019

ENVS 411: Food Access and Shortage 

Instructor: Dan Shtob

Topics Include:
-International approaches to food and water security and access.
-Food security versus food sovereignty: food as a human right.
-Factors that influence access to food and water: environmental, cultural, economic, and political.
-Why do people experience food and water shortages and famines when we can produce enough food?

ENVS 411: Water as Power, Life and Death 

Instructor: Lisa Fink

ENVS 411 Water as Power, Life, and Death is an online interdisciplinary course that will explore water issues (e.g. water quality, water scarcity, energy and water, privatization, food and water, climate change and water, etc.) 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 will include 1) analysis that attends to multiple intersecting categories of identity, such as race, ethnicity, indigeneity, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, citizenship, ability, and species, 2) analysis that brings multiple spatial and temporal scales together, giving special 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. This water studies course will also explore your local watersheds and their major features, reflecting on how water acts as an agent that affects the lived experience of communities. It will include a final digital project to encourage different kinds of engagement and thinking about contemporary water issues. Contact Lisa Fink at for more information.


Fall 2019

ENVS 411: Ecohorror-Ecocide: The Environmentalist Rhetoric of Fear

Instructor: Katrina Maggiulli

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. While not always identified as such, ecohorror narratives are a familiar rhetorical structure in contemporary popular culture as well as in popular science writing and scientific outreach publications. 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. But are these threats of apocalypse doing what we hope? Do they instigate productive change in the social understanding of the environment or are they doing more harm than good?

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: Species in Conflict

Instructor: Kirsten Vinyeta

This course explores the ways in which humans and non-humans shape each other’s lives. Non-human animal and plant species form part of every aspect of our daily existence, whether we recognize it or not. In some cases, another species can be critical to our survival. Certain species may come to define our identity either as individuals or as part of larger social groups. Because of their crucial role in human lives, non-human species can also lead to, or embody, social conflict between human groups. All the while, we too shape the lives of other species with our interactions.

In this course, we will examine interdependence and conflict between species by engaging a variety of interdisciplinary and multi-cultural readings. A significant portion of the course will be dedicated to exploring this topic in relation to five species of significance in Oregon: spotted owl, cannabis, turf grass, salmon, and matsutake. These case studies will illustrate how human/non-human relations come to embody issues of class, race, aesthetics, indigeneity and settler colonialism, globalization, and government policy. The cases will also illustrate how these interspecies relationships impact the environment as well as the lives of the other species in question. Students will have a chance to explore this topic in relation to one or two species of personal interest through both a creative project and an academic paper.


Winter 2020

ENVS 411: Global Political Economy of Climate Change

Instructor: Hugo Seguin

The fight against climate change is shaping politics, economies, innovation, and the flows of capital and ideas. What are these transformations based on? Where do they lead? How can we speed up change towards a more sustainable future? This ENVS 411 interdisciplinary capstone course will explore these new dynamics, as well as the rapid technological, energy, financial, political, social and ideological changes and conflicts in the country and around the world. This course posits a world in transition, working to avoid climate catastrophe. It sees deliberate actions at all levels of governance (individuals, local, state and national governments, businesses and groups from civil society, international) that, if still way insufficient, are impacting national and global political economies. It also sees political and economic actors pushing back, as well as structural and ideological constraints to change.

The course will foreground primary literature (government, scientific, business and NGO reports; treaties, laws and regulations). It will punctuate lectures with guest speakers from the field. The course also postulates pressures on energy systems, as well as the emergence of accompanying upstream and downstream technologies as one of the main indicators of change in the global and national political economy. It also conceives of climate change as a market failure, and thus foregrounds the roles of markets and the State in addressing climate change, using documents and readings from distinct perspectives.


Spring 2020

ENVS 411: Multispecies Studies & The Anthropocene

Instructor: Nate Otjen

Life during the Anthropocene presents a number of challenges for humankind and other species. Perhaps the greatest challenge during this unsettling moment of human-induced change is learning to live with more-than-human others who are also suffering from climate change, extinction, urbanization, pollution, and industrial activity. Unable to adapt fast enough to the profound environmental changes of the past few centuries, many species are threatened and going extinct. At the same time, domesticated and non-native organisms have been flourishing in the wake of human activity. As these examples indicate, the Anthropocene — perhaps more than any other moment during humanity’s brief history — reveals the various ways that humans are tethered to the lives of others. If humankind hopes to survive this difficult moment, we must learn to live together with other plants, animals, fungi, microbes, and even physical matter. With its interest in how a multitude of creatures are connected to human lives and cultures, the emerging interdisciplinary field of multispecies studies offers a promising way to explore, and act upon, people’s relationships with the beings and things of the world.

This class charts the development of multispecies studies throughout the past few decades and considers how the various modes of togetherness posed by the field can help us all survive and resist anthropogenic disruption. To do this work, we will examine four broad themes taken up by multispecies practitioners: the animal, the plant, the material, and the human. Taken together, these four subjects offer points of departure for exploring the configurations that currently characterize the field. We will think about how animals, plants, and material things impact people, and we will work to deconstruct the very idea of the human. The ideas gathered from the readings and class discussions will inform a final project that explores an animal, plant, or material that impacts your life in some substantial way.

ENVS 411: Land Use / Biodiversity 

Instructor: Geoffrey Johnson

Much of the biodiversity in the world today is understood to be the result not of land and life without human influence, but of coevolution with human impacts integral to maintaining ecosystem function. This course explores human relations to the environment in a changing world and applies the historical context of past land-use to current conservation issues. With a central focus on indigenous land-use course content will span native studies, environmental history, conservation science, disturbance ecology, archeology and paleoecology, and as such we will emphasize an interdisciplinary approach. Despite recognition of the importance of human impact in generating biodiversity, much of the existing work in these fields conforms to the settler-colonial tradition of subsuming indigenous ways of knowing. Thus, while examining texts and materials from subdisciplines, we will apply a decolonial lens to understanding the ecological relationship of indigenous peoples to land around the world and throughout time. The course will begin by briefly exploring concepts of biodiversity, identifying settler-colonial narratives of land (ie wilderness), and configuring a lexicon of decolonial critique. In conjunction, we will survey selected accounts of indigenous relations to the environment and the settler-colonial context for erasing the use of land by indigenous peoples. Next, we will discuss conservation science, its goals and methods, its relationship to history, and the ongoing issues surrounding access to land and protection of biodiversity. Finally, to prepare for an individual research project, we will examine various prehistoric epistemologies and diverse lines of evidence to understand conservation issues as long-term socio-ecological outcomes. Projects will form the core of this course and students can expect time in class and out of class developing comprehensive case studies of conservation in light of prehistory.