Geography 360: Environmental Geography
Syllabus: Fall Semester 2012
Meeting: Wednesday 6:00 – 9:00 pm: 218 Science Center
Instructor: Dr. John Krygier
Office: Science Center 206
Office phone: 740-368-3622
jbkrygier @ owu.edu
Office hours: MWF 12-2, or by appointment or chance or happenstance
Class blog: http://environmentalgeography.wordpress.com/
Course Description: Environmental Geography, one of the most traditional components of the discipline of Geography, encompasses natural science, social science, and humanistic understandings of the Earth’s environment. Environmental Geographers study the complex relationships between humans and the natural environment over time and through space. Geography 360 is conducted as a seminar focused on social science and humanistic approaches to the environment. This course will provide a historical, geographical, and humanistic foundation for understanding the environment and the plethora of environmental issues that confront us at the beginning of this century. As a group, we will discuss current environmental issues and read and discuss a series of key books on the environment. Students will also examine a particular environmental topic in depth, culminating in a presentation and annotated bibliography of relevant sources at the end of the semester.
Please make sure your sports, fraternity/sorority, or other activity schedule does not conflict with our one meeting a week on Wednesday eve.
Course Prerequisites: A willingness to read, think critically, engage in discussion, and present to your peers.
Course Format: This course mimics seminars you may encounter as a graduate student. The meetings are highly interactive and may even be interesting. Student participation is vital in this course and is a substantial part of your grade.
On Paper Usage: A noble effort will be made to minimize paper use in this course. Students will blog reading notes, project progress, and current events on a weekly basis. Any other assignments should be emailed (PDF, Open Office, Word). For help with compiling digital documents, see my Digital Submissions Guide.
Typical meeting format:
1. Discussion of weekly readings: Discuss for 1.5 – 2 hours: This part of the meeting begins with a 20-30 minute overview of the readings for the week, presented by the instructor (first reading) and students (the rest of the readings), along with primary issues and topics for discussion. This presentation sets the context for a discussion of the readings.
Students presenting the reading overview will blog notes on the readings along with relevant images, videos, links, etc., and questions for discussion – 24 hours prior to presentation. There is no preset agenda for the presentation and discussion. Presenters will read the material, decide what is interesting and relevant, incorporate personal interests, and seek additional information on interesting issues (Google is fine, but real books and other library resources are good also). Just make it interesting, even if you have to be creative or take things in an unexpected direction.
Non-presenting students will blog a series of notes in outline format from the readings. Please include interesting quotes, facts, ideas, or even personal experiences and how they relate to the readings – anything you think is worth discussing in class. If something – anything! – piques your interest while reading, document it. Also include three issues or questions worth discussing, and Google three issues (anything of interest to you).
Your instructor will provide you with his notes during week two as a model for note-taking in the course.
2. Current environmental issues: Discuss for 20-30 minutes: Each student will locate an environmental issue of interest per week and post a brief summary to the blog at least 24 hours prior to class meeting. You can include images and links in your posting and we can refer to it in class. The issue can be almost anything – current events, interesting book (or book review), media articles, personal experience, etc. Please try to relate these issues to the issues we are reading about for the week. Hopefully, our seminar readings will begin to provide us with insights into current events.
3. Discussion of individual projects: Discuss for 20-30 minutes: Each student will select a topic that relates to the general content of this course. The outcome of the project is a 30-40 minute presentation at the end of the semester. Preliminary reports on student progress on this work will be blogged and presented in class prior to the final presentation in order to assess progress and get feedback from the instructor and students.
Evaluation: Students will compile a digital course portfolio consisting of 1) Project Report, 2) Links to all work and postings on the course blog, 3) personal course evaluation. Create a new blog posting, put it in the Final Materials category, and include 1) and 2); send me 3) as a separate Word or PDF or text document. Meeting materials and participation will determine 50% of the grade in the course. The project will determine the other 50% of the course grade.
Page 1: Project Title, Name or Names, brief outline of presentation.Page 2: One page overview of your project or presentation.Page 3: Appendix: include any data you collected, contacts, materials you created, photos or other stuff related to your work. If you have recommendations or plan to carry on the project in future semesters, include relevant comments and plans for future work.
Notes for readings, organized by date (with link to actual posting)Current event postings, organized by date (with link to actual posting)Course project postings, organized by date (with link to actual posting)
Course Evaluation: Write up one or two pages on your general thoughts about the class: focus on content (readings, projects), format (seminar, discussion, projects), and anything else that strikes you as important. Indicate one or two of the best things about the class, and one or two of the worst things about the class (with suggestions as to fixing them). Comment on the kind of projects we did this semester, versus a more typical research project (which is what was done in previous semesters). Comment on the readings, which might go, which should stay, and any topics that might be included in the class.Course Summary Comments: In a page or two, summarize your work in the course. Include participation, effort, reading notes, and projects. Based on this, suggest a grade you believe you deserve for the course, and justify this grade with evidence. You may discuss personal development, the slavish hours you put into the readings, the obvious superiority of your project, your sparkling and witty comments in class, etc. I reserve the right to adjust student suggested grades up or down.
Basic Seminar Readings (Additional readings may be provided): Make sure you have the Meadowlands book asap for reading/discussion the 2nd week of classes. The How to be Idle book is officially out of print, and not available at the OWU Bookstore. You should, however, be able to find cheap used copies on the internets.
Robert Sullivan. 1999. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City: Travel just five miles outside of New York City, venture off the crowded New Jersey Turnpike. and you will be surrounded by the Meadowlands, a much vilified but still untamed thirty-two-square-mile swamp that is home to rare birds and missing bodies, shiny corporate headquarters and the remnants of ancient cedar forests, tranquil marshes and burning garbage dumps. Robert Sullivan is this weird and wild place’s unofficial naturalist, archeologist, and explorer, and here he reports back from the field. Revealing what he has found while traversing one of America’s first — and most fascinating — frontiers.
Edward Abbey. 1968. Desert Solitaire: With language as colorful as a Canyonlands sunset and a perspective as pointed as a prickly pear, Cactus Ed captures the heat, mystery, and surprising bounty of desert life. Desert Solitaire is a meditation on the stark landscapes of the red-rock West, a passionate vote for wilderness, and a howling lament for the commercialization of the American outback.
Peter Coates. 1998. Nature: Western Attitudes since Ancient Times: Is nature an objective reality unaffected, in its beautiful simplicity, by time, culture, and place? What does this extraordinarily complex term mean? These are the riveting questions examined by Peter Coates as he demonstrates that nature, like us, has a history. Beginning with Roman times, he lifts the veil of nature and reveals the ideological and material factors that have influenced human perceptions of, attitudes to, and uses of nature – notably religion and ethics, science, technology, economics, gender, and ethnicity. The book is essential reading for those who seek an understanding of the history of ideas and the role of nature in that history.
Paul Robbins, John Hintz, and Sara Moore. 2010. Environment & Society: A Critical Introduction: “A rigorous environmental text suitable for undergraduates based on current theory, so badly needed to move on from the tired platitudes that have dominated discussion over environment and society for the last four decades. I especially appreciated its inclusion of objects ranging from carbon dioxide to french fries, clearly demonstrating how environment and society are inseparably entangled.”
Tom Hodgkinson. 2005. How to be Idle: From the founding editor of the The Idler, the celebrated magazine about the freedom and fine art of doing nothing, comes not simply a book, but an antidote to our work-obsessed culture. In How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson presents his learned yet whimsical argument for a new universal standard of living: being happy doing nothing.
Jonathan Safran Foer. 2009. Eating Animals: “For a hot young writer to train his sights on a subject as unpalatable as meat production and consumption takes raw nerve. What makes Eating Animals so unusual is vegetarian Foer’s empathy for human meat eaters, his willingness to let both factory farmers and food reform activists speak for themselves, and his talent for using humor to sweeten a sour argument.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)
J. Vandermeer & I. Perfecto. 2005. Breakfast Of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction (2nd ed): The continuing devastation of the world’s tropical rain forest affects us all—spurring climate change, decimating biodiversity, and wrecking our environment’s resiliency. Millions of worried people around the world want to do whatever it takes to save the forest that is left. But halting rain forest destruction means understanding what is driving it. In Breakfast of Biodiversity, John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto insightfully describe the ways in which such disparate factors as the international banking system, modern agricultural techniques, rain forest ecology, and the struggles of the poor interact to bring down the forest. They weave an alternative vision in which democracy, sustainable agriculture, and land security for the poor are at the center of the movement to save the tropical environment.
Paul Robbins. 2007. Lawn People: For some people, their lawn is a source of pride, and for others, caring for their lawn is a chore. Yet for an increasing number of people, turf care is a cause of ecological anxiety. In Lawn People, author Paul Robbins, asks, “How did the needs of the grass come to be my own?” In his goal to get a clearer picture of why people and grasses do what they do, Robbins interviews homeowners about their lawns, and uses national surveys, analysis from aerial photographs, and economic data to determine what people really feel about-and how they treat-their lawns. Lawn People places the lawn in its ecological, economic, and social context. Robbins considers the attention we pay our turfgrass-the chemicals we use to grow lawns, the hazards of turf care to our urban ecology, and its potential impact on water quality and household health. He also shows how the ecology of cities creates certain kinds of citizens, deftly contrasting man’s control of the lawn with the lawn’s control of man.