Environmental policy is an interesting policy area to study because it deals with “wicked” problems that are hard to solve. Every time there is a policy discussion about how humans (can) affect the environment and/or use natural resources, you are almost guaranteed to see multiple stakeholders involved in a messy negotiation process from which some (but rarely all) benefit. Do we need a new pipeline or not? Is it preferable to have huge agricultural yields or pristine clear waterways? Is logging as an economic activity more important than protecting the endangered species that live in the forests where the logging takes place? How do we use the water in our rivers in a context of extended drought? Do we use it to sustain important fish species, or do we direct it to the fields that produce the foods we eat? These questions are hard to answer because different people have different (a) views of what constitutes a problem, (b) policy priorities, and (c) availability of resources (i.e. time and money) that they can spend in the policy-making process. In other words, to understand which policies are made (or not), one needs to understand not only the problems at hand, but also the political and social context in which decisions are made.
We will cover a lot of material in our time together. In order for us to get the most out of the course, it is essential for everyone to do the assigned work, which includes reading and thinking about the material before we discuss it in class.
By the end of the semester, students will understand key concepts in environmental and natural resources policy. They will have the skills necessary to understand and analyze how and why certain policy decisions are made to address specific environmental problems. This course will foster a knowledge base and interest level to prepare students well for further study in environmental and natural resources policy, both in and beyond the classroom.
This course fulfills GE category Social Science, subcategory Organizations and Polities, with the following expected outcomes:
- Students understand the theories and methods of social scientific inquiry as they are applied to the study of organizations and polities
- Students understand the formation and durability of political, economic, and social organizing principles and their differences and similarities across contexts
- Students comprehend and assess the nature and values of organizations and polities and their importance in social problem solving and policy making.