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U.S. Environmental Politics (329-0-20)


Kimberly Ruggles Marion Suiseeya
Office Hours:

Meeting Info

555 Clark B03: Mon, Wed 9:30AM - 10:50AM

Overview of class

This course explores the ongoing socio-political challenges of addressing environmental problems. Drawing primarily on research in political science and political ecology, we will analyze the diverse types of social dilemmas that produce environmental problems and the social effects of environmental politics. We focus on contemporary environmental politics to consider emerging frontiers in US environmental politics. We will examine the nature of environmental problems through different theoretical frameworks, including collective action, distributive, and ideational explanations of environmental problems. We will explore core debates in environmental politics that interrogate the role of science, ethics, and economics in shaping environmental policy. We will also consider different approaches and institutions for addressing environmental problems. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to the values conflicts that constitute environmental politics, with a particular emphasis on Indigenous and underrepresented communities. The course is designed to give students an understanding of important conceptual issues in environmental politics.

Learning Objectives

The overarching objective of this interactive lecture-based course is to cultivate critical thinking and reading skills to generate a nuanced, analytical approach for understanding the socio-political dynamics of environmental issues. By the end of this course students will be able to: (1) Prepare appropriately to participate effectively in class discussion, including challenging and offering substantive replies to others' arguments, comments, and questions, while remaining sensitive to the original speaker/writer and the classroom audience. (2) Identify and analyze how key debates in environmental politics shape our understanding of various environmental challenges (3) Evaluate environmental challenges to understand how problem structures shape the politics around environmental issues (4) Produce a political analysis that evaluates an environmental problem, analyzes the conflicts, institutions, and actors that shape the problem, and offers a well-reasoned assessment of politically possible pathways forward (5) Effectively communicate their ideas, opinions, and arguments on different environmental policy topics

Teaching Method

The course is comprised of mini-lectures, interactive class sessions, and discussion sections. The lectures will provide an opportunity for students to contemplate different approaches to explaining and addressing environmental challenges. Interactive class sessions will facilitate debate and reflection. Discussion sections will challenge students to delve more deeply into a particular topic by applying concepts introduced in readings and lectures to specific US-based cases, as well as seek to understand the critical variables that explain how a case is evolving.

Evaluation Method

Participation (10%) Policy Briefs (20%): two short analytical policy briefs (2-4 pages each) Midterm (25%) Policy Analysis (45%): one final policy analysis (5-7 pages)

Class Materials (Required)


Class Attributes

Social & Behavioral Sciences Distro Area

Associated Classes

DIS - Parkes Hall 213: Wed 11:00AM - 11:50AM

DIS - University Hall 418: Wed 11:00AM - 11:50AM

DIS - University Hall 418: Wed 5:00PM - 5:50PM

DIS - University Hall 218: Wed 5:00PM - 5:50PM