ENVIR 384 A Au 17: Global Environmental Politics

ENVIR 384 A Au 17: Global Environmental Politics

Professor Karen Litfin  <litfin@uw.edu>      

Office hours: Wednesdays 2-4 pm or by appointment in Gowen 33

Teaching Assistant:  Mike Brown <lupercal@uw.edu>


What We Will Study

Global problems like climate change, the mass extinction of species, ozone depletion, etc. seem to cry out for unprecedented levels of international innovation and cooperation yet traditional institutions seem inadequate to the task at hand. This sense of inadequacy is heightened in the context of political turbulence. In this course, we will study a range of intergovernmental, nongovernmental, industry and local responses to the challenges posed by global ecological interdependence, with a strong emphasis on North/South relations. We will also "bring the material home" by exploring how these global socio-ecological problems challenge our senses of meaning and identity, ethical responsibility, and personal efficacy. The dawning of the Anthropocene, the new geological era in which humanity is operating as a planetary force, compels us to ask not only, "What on Earth are we doing?" but even more fundamentally, "What on Earth are we?" The course integrates objective learning and subjective experience and includes a service learning option. 

What You Will Learn

If you participate actively in this course, including grasping content from lectures and readings, engaging yourself dynamically in quiz sections, and writing thoughtful papers, I expect that you will improve your skillfulness in many arenas, most especially the following:

  • Critical thinking skills about some of the most important issues of our day
  • Your ability to articulate ideas and feelings about these issues, in writing and conversation
  • A deeper sense of what it means to be a human being living at this moment in history

What You Will Do

Participation: You will bring our full and engaged presence to lectures and quiz sections You should expect to read 100-150 pages per week, ideally before the associated lecture. 

Footprint paper: This 3-4 page paper will help you to consider your lifestyle in light of global environmental resources and constraints.

Service Learning:  If you do service learning, you will work 20-40 hours for a local agency or organization. You will write a short mid-quarter essay and a 5-6 page final essay about your learning experiences. You can read a general overview of how UW service learning works here.

Research paper: Under this option, you will write a research proposal and a 7-9 page final paper excluding bibliography. “W” credit is optional.           

Midterm: Multiple choice, true/false and short ID questions

Take-home final exam: An integrative essay due during finals week.


Course Grading

Participation                 20%

Footprint paper            10%

Research proposal        5%

   or midquarter SL paper

Midterm                        20%

Final paper                   25%

Take-home exam         20%


Required Texts

Paul Wapner and Simon Nicholson (eds.), Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet (Paradigm Publishers, 2014). [WN]

Karen Litfin, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community (Polity, 2014).

Online readings posted to Canvas

A daily or weekly environmental international news source: http://grist.org or http://enn.com.


Recommended Texts

 Pamela Chasek, et al., Global Environmental Politics, Sixth Edition (Westview Press, 2013).

 Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History (Longman, 2000).

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World (Penguin, 2008).

Paul Hawken, Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. Penguin, 2017).

Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch (eds.), The Post Carbon Reader (University of California Press, 2010).

Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization (Island Press, 2008).

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon and Schuster, 2014).

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt, 2014).

Joanna Macy, Active Hope: How the Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy (New World Library, 2012).

Kari Norgaard, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life (MIT Press, 2011).

Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates and Ken Conca (eds.), Confronting Consumption (MIT Press, 2002).

Peter Stoett, Global Ecopolitics: Crisis, Governance and Justice  (University of Toronto Press, 2012).

Service Learning

Because one premise of this course is that a comprehensive approach to global environmental problems must incorporate their personal and local dimensions, you may wish to integrate a hands-on experience into your course work. The Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center and I have chosen several local organizations where you can do so. To learn about placements, visit the Center’s Service Learning webpage. Be sure to consider timing and transportation when you make your choice. Registration is open October 2-4, 8:00-5:00. You’re more likely to get your first choice if you register early!

Once your service-learning registration is confirmed, be proactive in contacting your organization by phone and/or e-mail to either 1) schedule an orientation or 2) confirm your attendance at an already scheduled orientation session.  Carlson Center staff are available 9:00 am-5:00 pm Monday-Friday in MGH 171 to assist you. You may also email serve@u.washington.edu or call 206.616.2885.

You may attend an optional pre-service workshop to help you prepare for your service-learning experience. The workshop will offer an overview of building reciprocal relationships, approaching community work from an asset-based perspective, and cultivating professionalism in your work. You will interact with peers through activities, and small and large group discussions. Pre-service workshops will be offered during the second week of the quarter in the Carlson Center. Please click here for the schedule. No RSVP is necessary.

At mid-quarter, you will write a 3-4 page assessment of your service learning experience. You will also write a 5-6 page final paper integrating your service learning experience with the themes of the course.

Research Papers

If you choose to write a research paper, you will first write a 3-page research proposal outlining your research question, how you will go about answering it, and citing at least five authoritative sources on your topic. Your question should be relevant to course themes and its scope should be within reason for a 7-9 page paper. Your paper may be theoretical or empirical, or both. You may approach your question through a range of methodologies: case study, comparative case study, quantitative analysis, or theoretical inquiry.  Be sure to justify why you have chosen a specific approach. I will distribute a research paper writing guide.

You are encouraged to discuss your topic with your TA or me before writing your research proposal. Our feedback on your proposal will offer you some guidance in the research and writing stage of your project. Your paper will be evaluated on the basis of coherence, organization, clarity, thoroughness, grammar and style, as well as your responsiveness to your TA’s feedback. You will do better and have more fun if you choose a topic that truly engages your curiosity and excitement, so please choose wisely.

About plagiarism

In our society, taking another person’s words or ideas and passing them off as one’s own is a form of theft—so please do not succumb to this temptation! Any direct quote should be placed in quotation marks and cited appropriately; likewise, any ideas or paraphrasing of another author’s thoughts or information should be attributed to that author. When in doubt, cite! A good rule of thumb is to never cut and paste from an online source into your own paper.

The same tools that make it easy for students to plagiarize in today’s information age also make it easy for instructors to detect plagiarism. And, even if one is not caught, any marginal benefit gained is greatly outweighed by the harm inflicted upon one’s own character. In a nutshell, the university’s rules on plagiarism will be strictly enforced in this class.

Late papers and missed exams

Late papers are not accepted without a medical excuse. All requests on these matters must be made through me, preferably before the due date.  Similarly, a missed exam can only be made up if you have a written medical excuse. No exceptions will be made for holiday travel before our final exam date.

Disabled Student Provisions

If you wish to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924.  If you have letter from DSS indicating that you have a disability that requires special accommodations, please present it to me.

Mental Health Resources

As a student, you may experience a range of challenges that can interfere with learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, substance use, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may diminish your academic performance and/or reduce your ability to engage with others inside and outside of the classroom. Counseling services are available and treatment does work. You can learn more about health & wellness services available at the University of Washington at http://depts.washington.edu/livewell/student-care/ (livewell@uw.edu or 206.543.6085).

Course Summary:

Date Details Due