In this class, students will engage in a critical examination of environmental transformations that arise from the complex interactions between natural systems and human activities. The pursuit of knowledge about natural resources and ecological systems is a scientific enterprise, yet addressing questions about the production, consumption, distribution, worth, degradation, and preservation of these resources is a historically, politically, and economically specific endeavor. As geographers, then, we cannot simply approach environmental science as an isolated set of fixed principles that exists somewhere in a universe free of humans.
We will attempt to balance our explorations into aspects of the physical environment—like biomes, the carbon cycle, and climate systems—with various social relations that are inextricable from them— like human behavior, social values, identity, power and the state, capitalism and labor practices. The critical approach applied here will encourage students to develop an appreciation of environmental conditions in historical and political context.