Geography 360: Environmental Geography
Syllabus: Fall Semester 2019
Meeting: Wednesday 6:30 – 9:00 pm: 218 Science Center.
Instructor: Dr. John Krygier
His posh office: Science Center 206
His bijou email: firstname.lastname@example.org
His on the internets: http://krygier.owu.edu
His flaxen office hours: MWF 9-10 or noon-1 or by appointment or chance. Surprise visits always welcome, but don’t cry if I’m not in my office.
Our Ambidextrous Class blog: https://environmentalgeography.wordpress.com/
Course Description: Environmental Geography, one of the most traditional parts 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, Brony Club, 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 (that means talk), 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 esteemed 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 best to focus on more scholarly sources; real books and other library resources are also suggested). 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).
2. Current environmental issues: Discuss for 20-30 minutes: Each student will find one environmental issue of interest per week and post a brief summary to the blog at least 24 hours prior to class meeting. Include images and links in your posting to make it alluring and engaging. The issue can be almost anything – current events, interesting book (or book review), media articles, personal experience, etc.
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-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 final 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.
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.
Pascal Bruckner. 2014. The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings:The planet is sick. Human beings are guilty of damaging it. We have to pay. Today, that is the orthodoxy throughout the Western world. Distrust of progress and science, calls for individual and collective self-sacrifice to ‘save the planet’ and cultivation of fear: behind the carbon commissars, a dangerous and counterproductive ecological catastrophism is gaining ground. Modern society’s susceptibility to this kind of thinking derives from what Bruckner calls “the seductive attraction of disaster,” as exemplified by the popular appeal of disaster movies. But ecological catastrophism is harmful in that it draws attention away from other, more solvable problems and injustices in the world in order to focus on something that is portrayed as an Apocalypse. Rather than preaching catastrophe and pessimism, we need to develop a democratic and generous ecology that addresses specific problems in a practical way.
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.
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)
Bruno Latour. 2018. Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime. The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. It is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today. (Amazon)
Julie Urbanik: Placing Animals: An Introduction to the Geography of Human-Animal Relations: “As Julie Urbanik vividly illustrates, non-human animals are central to our daily human lives. We eat them, wear them, live with them, work them, experiment on them, try to save them, spoil them, abuse them, fight them, hunt them, buy and sell them, love them, and hate them. Placing Animals is the first book to bring together the historical development of the field of animal geography with a comprehensive survey of how geographers study animals today. Urbanik provides readers with a thorough understanding of the relationship between animal geography and the larger animal studies project, an appreciation of the many geographies of human-animal interactions around the world, and insight into how animal geography is both challenging and contributing to the major fields of human and nature-society geography. Through the theme of the role of place in shaping where and why human-animal interactions occur, the chapters in turn explore the history of animal geography and our distinctive relationships in the home, on farms, in the context of labor, in the wider culture, and in the wild.” (Amazon)
Per Espen Stoknes. 2015. What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action: “Stoknes (a psychologist, economist, and entrepreneur based in Norway) does not explain climate change. Rather, he illuminates barriers that prevent solving problems caused by increasing global temperatures while simultaneously giving a clear strategy to overcome these hurdles. The book’s three parts―’Thinking: Understanding the Climate Paradox,’ ‘Doing: If It Doesn’t Work, Do Something Else,’ ‘Being: Inside the Living Air’―examine how people think about climate, what individuals can do to affect climate, and how one relates to environment. Each is well researched and insightful and offers powerful proposals. Stoknes explains why so many people have laissez-faire attitudes to dire predictions from the scientific community, and he reveals tactics employed by those wishing to conduct business as usual. He poses a clear blueprint for new ways to engage in global climate discussions. This book will initiate a paradigm shift in thinking about and discussing climate change.”
Legal note pertaining to Academic Accommodations (from OWU)
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protections for persons with disabilities. Among other things, the legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you have, or think you may have, a disability (e.g., mental health, attentional, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical), please contact Disability Services in Corns 315 or call 740.368.3925 to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations. If you are registered with Disability Services and have a current letter requesting reasonable accommodations, please contact your instructor as early in the semester as possible to discuss how the accommodations will be applied in the course. For more information, consult the Disabilities Services website.