Geography 170-1: Political Ecology

Geography 170-1
CCN: 36353
(3 units)
Ann Laudati
Location: 575 McCone
Times: Tu 1-4

A concern for the relationship between nature and society has been one of the pillars of geographic inquiry, and has also been an important bridge between other disciplines. This critical thinking unit explores the how and why of environmental problems. We begin from the proposition that human-environment relations are always socio-political relations: how natural resources are produced, distributed, valued, consumed, conserved and degraded are historically- and geographically-specific questions whose answers cannot be reduced to “the earth’s carrying capacity.”

The question is how to understand these relations as simultaneously social-political and ecological. For most of course of the unit we will focus on a series of key themes, including an emphasis on the politics of access to and control over natural resources, attention to the poor and marginalized, an examination of the environment through attention to social relations and history, the implications of different ideas of nature, the consequences of colonialism and uneven development, and how these contribute to current struggles over landscape and livelihoods.

Using case studies from a variety of geographic contexts (developed and developing countries) we’ll travel around the world from the petroleum soaked landscape of the Niger Delta to the corn dominated fields of the US, and explore a range of environmental issues including deforestation, resource conflicts, parks and protected areas, common fisheries management, environmental justice, and consumption. We’ll then consider the implications of these issues for food security and the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people, in particular, and the role that we, as global citizens, play in shaping the current environmental climate.

As an advanced undergraduate unit, there will be considerable emphasis placed on writing, reading, and discussion assessed through a set of activities including reading blogs, class facilitation, a final project, and participation both within and outside the traditional classroom setting.