I teach four courses in the Environmental Studies Program at Wellesley: an introductory course on climate change (ES102), a comparative course on environmentalism (ES203), a U.S. environmental history course (ES299), and an upper-level course on U.S. environmental politics (ES381). Syllabus, assignments, and some student work for these courses follows. If you draw on the syllabi or assignments for ideas, I'd appreciate seeing how you adapt these assignments to your course.

ES 102 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Issues & Concepts [syllabus]

This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to environmental studies, with a focus on a climate change. Major concepts that will be examined include: the state of scientific research, the role of science, politics, and economics in environmental decisionmaking, and the importance of history, ethics and justice in approaching environmental issues. The central aim of the course is to help students develop the interdisciplinary research skills necessary to pose questions, investigate problems, and develop strategies that will help us address our relationship to the environment.

ES102 Assignments

Assignment #1. Profiling the potential impacts of climate change for three communities around the world: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, Quito, Ecuador, and Maitbhanga, Bangladesh.

Assignment #2. Examining the Arguments of Climate Change Skeptics. The Great Global Warming Swindle. [pdf]

Assignment #3. Students produce an individual carbon footprint analysis by hand and double-check it for accuracy using an online calculator.

Assignment #4. What difference would it make for U.S. carbon emissions if everyone in the United States... This group assignment challenges students to make a back-of-the-envelope estimates of the potential significance of greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. [pdf]

Assignment #5. Policy to encourage greenhouse gas reductions. Students describe three different policy strategies for encouraging one of the activities analyzed in Assignment #4. [pdf]

Assignments #6, #7, and #8. Carbon Wedge Portfolio. In the final three assignments, students working together generate a carbon wedge portfolio based on Socolow and Pacala's 2004 climate wedge framework. In assignment #6, students profile a carbon wedge. [pdf] In assignments #7 and #8, student teams produce a 12-page portfolio explaining the basics behind climate change science, policy, and potential wedges for stabilizing emissions over the next fifty years. [pdf]

ES102 Sample Student Work

What follows are two Carbon Wedge Portfolios (Assignments 6-8) from two teams of students from the spring of 2009. [example #1] [example #2]


ES 203 Cultures of Environmentalism [syllabus]

What is environmentalism? This course explores how different communities of people have answered that question in the United States and abroad. It focuses on the mainstream environmental movement and other formulations of environmentalism, such as environmental justice, deep ecology, animal rights, and indigenous peoples’ concerns for the environment. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the role of culture in shaping how people have valued the environment and organized to protect it. What role do the arts, popular culture, and literature play in environmental activism? What are the ethical and philosophical foundations of modern environmental movements? How is environmental activism historically specific and shaped by particular constructions of race, gender, religion, and nature? The goal of this course is to consider how environmental activism and decision making can and must be sensitive to cultural context.

ES 299/HIST 299 United States Environmental History [syllabus]

This course examines the relationship between nature and society in American history. The course will consider topics such as the decimation of the bison, the rise of Chicago, the history of natural disasters, and the environmental consequences of war. There are three goals for this course: First, we will examine how humans have interacted with nature over time and how nature, in turn, has shaped human society. Second, we will examine how attitudes toward nature have differed among peoples, places, and times and we will consider how the meanings people give to nature inform their cultural and political activities. Third, we will study how these historical forces have combined to shape the American landscape and the human and natural communities to which it is home. While this course focuses on the past, an important goal is to understand the ways in which history shapes how we understand and value the environment as we do today.

ES 381/POL1 381 United States Environmental Politics [syllabus]

This course examines the politics of environmental issues in the United States. The course has two primary goals: First, to introduce students to the institutions, stakeholders, and political processes important to debates over environmental policy at the federal level. Second, to develop and practice skills of analyzing and making decisions relevant to environmental politics and policy. Drawing on the literature of environmental politics and policy, this course will consider how environmental issues are framed in political discourse, various approaches to environmental advocacy and reform, and the contested role of science in environmental politics. The course will be organized around environmental case studies, including endangered species conservation, public lands management, air and water pollution, and toxics regulation.

ES381/POL1-381 Assignments

The first five assignments for ES381 introduce students to the federal environmental regulatory state and stakeholders.

Assignment #1. Profile a U.S. Senator. [pdf]

Assignment #2. Profile a Interest Group. [pdf]

Assignment #3. Identify an Incidence of Intercurrence in the Green State. [pdf]

Assignment #4. Analyze the Administrative Rulemaking Process. [pdf]

Assignment #5. Identifying Alternative Pathways to Policy Reform. [pdf]

Long Issue Brief Assignment. [pdf]

ES381/POL1-381 Sample Student Work

The final assignment for ES381/POL1-381 is a 12-15 long issue brief profiling a specific policy problem, stakeholders, relevant information for decisionmakers, and a policy recommendation. The following two documents are compilations of some of the strongest long-issue briefs from the spring of 2009 and 2011. Note, students were asked to model their reports on the Congressional Research Service's briefs, hence the formatting is similar to the CRS's reports. [Spring 2009 Environmental Politics Reader] [Spring 2011 Environmental Politics Reader]