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 ENVS 180: Radical Environmentalism
, Fall 2013
Wednesdays, 4 – 7 PM, Lafayette L311. Registrar’s code:
Instructor: Brian Tokar, Institute for Social EcologyE-mail: btokar@uvm.edu, or briant@pshift.com.
As environmental problems escalate, a variety of radical currents have come to influence ecological thoughtand activism, representing a critical alternative to traditional environmentalism. This course will describethe historical emergence of various radical environmentalisms, examine several ecologically-basedphilosophies, and explore new ideas that have emerged from environmental resistance movements in the USand around the world. Readings, class discussions, and guest presenters will include a wide range of perspectives – scholarly and popular, analytical and prescriptive, political and philosophical. Students willhave the opportunity to examine today's pressing environmental issues through the lens of emergingmovements and philosophical traditions, and develop a hands-on group project that serves to apply thisknowledge to a local or regional environmental campaign.During the semester, we will explore the ideas and experiences underlying a wide variety of movements thathave emerged as an alternative to traditional environmentalism. Several represent a critique of the moreconventional sectors of the environmental movement; others originated with popular responses to urgentissues affecting people’s health, ethical values, and important natural places. These movements are rich inexperience, in philosophy, and in their unique lore. Their activities are often controversial, and we willbecome deeply immersed in several of these controversies.It is just about impossible to simultaneously agree with all of the ideas that will be presented and discussedin this course. Many dedicated environmentalists disagree with many, or even most, of these views. Radicalenvironmental outlooks are often hotly contested and debated. Students are encouraged to voice youropinions, however controversial, and to challenge the ideas and assumptions of the authors whose work weare reading.
Requirements and grading system:
Class participation, including student presentations of readings and postings to online discussions:25%
2 response and reflection papers to readings, 4-7 pp. each, focusing on analysis, comparison andcritique: 25%.
News presentation and research paper: Analyzing an item in the news that is relevant to any of theideas and/or movements discussed in class: 25%. These will be presented throughout the semester.Students have 3 weeks after their presentation to submit this paper.
Group project/presentation/paper: Participation in and/or analysis of a local environmentalcampaign, event, or project: 25%. These will be presented during the final class session and alsodocumented in writing.The class will mainly be in a discussion/seminar format. The instructor’s presentations will introduce eachweek’s topic, aiming to highlight and clarify key concepts, and much of our class time will be devoted toquestions, answers and discussions, including small group discussions. The instructor will offer qualitativecomments on student papers in addition to grades.
Students are expected to read the week’s materialscarefully, and be prepared to participate in discussions drawing upon the ideas developed in the readings.
2Everyone is expected to attend every class (
see Blackboard for specific absence policies
) and participate inan active, informed and respectful manner in our class discussions, which will address many diverse aspectsof the readings and related issues. Please feel free to respectfully share your disagreements and challenges,as these are generally far more interesting than simply echoing what you’ve read.Students will have the opportunity to supplement in-class participation with comments on a Blackboarddiscussion forum. Two additional forums will be used to to report back from small group discussions and tofacilitate formation of project groups..Each week, students will volunteer to present key ideas and questions from our week’s readings. Everyoneshould aim to do 1-2 such presentations, and they will be a part of your class participation grade. Thesepresentations will usually follow the instructor’s introduction to the material.
When you volunteer to present to the class on a reading, please aim to accomplish the following:
1. Explain how the particular reading was meaningful to you, and how/whether it added to yourunderstanding of the week’s topic. It is important that you do NOT attempt to summarize the entire reading,in order to maximize time for discussion.2. Choose 2 - 3 key passages from the reading to help orient our class discussion.3. Offer a discussion question for the class, related to the reading as well as the overall topic. Theseshould be specific enough to challenge everyone’s understanding of the reading, and open-ended enough tospark a good conversation.
Written assignments for the semester are in three parts:1. Two
response/reflection papers on readings:
These are short papers of 4-7 pages each, reflecting upon2 or more of the required readings up to that time in the semester. The purpose is to offer analysis,comparisons and critiques of the ideas expressed, not to either recap what the authors are saying norscrutinize their writing style. All papers should be printed in 12 point type, 1 1/2- or double-spaced on areasonable quality printer. Readings should be addressed in a single, unified essay, not separatecommentaries on each individual reading.These papers are due the fifth and tenth weeks of class (9/25, 10/30), and students will be penalized for latepapers, other than in exceptional circumstances with prior permission. There will be some leeway, however,for students who have a news analysis paper due that week.
 News analysis – Presentation and paper:
Throughout the semester, students are urged to keep a closeeye on the news (in newspapers, magazines and electronic sources) for current articles relevant to thevarious topics addressed in this course. These may be accounts of radical environmental actions, or otherenvironmental stories that the ideas discussed here may shed some light upon. Perhaps a particularphilosophy helps explain why something is happening, or clarify the motivations of people taking aparticular course of action. The ideas we are discussing in this class have influenced people in manydifferent ways, and this presentation/paper offers an opportunity to broadly reflect upon these influences.Each student will be expected to offer one presentation of approximately 10 - 15 minutes during thesemester, and then develop the topic further in written form. The research paper should be 7-10 pages inlength, draw upon a variety of sources, and offer background on the issue, the people and organizationsinvolved, and feature an analysis of how it relates to any of the particular movements or philosophies
3explored in this class. You are encouraged to offer a thorough analysis of the story and/or organization, anyimportant successes and/or limitations, and your conclusions and/or recommendations for further action.These papers should be fully documented and referenced, using any standard format for footnotes.
* Please be sure to contact the instructor via email for approval of your news presentation topic.
The paper is due 3 weeks following your presentation.
 Final project/paper:
Students will work in groups to develop a final project, or work with an existingorganization or campaign that applies one or more of the ideas and perspectives developed in this course.Your project should have some public component, whether in the form of a demonstration, performance, artshow, website, video or radio program, or other public presentation. These can be in coordination with anexisting project or organization, either on or off-campus, or something developed uniquely by your group.Actions are encouraged to be creative and even bold, but not in violation of any university rules, andcertainly nothing that endangers any people or non-human animals.Groups of 2 - 5 students are encouraged to work together, though individual projects are permitted,especially if the activity is part of an ongoing campaign or organizing effort. Projects can be documented inany appropriate medium, along with a final written report. During the 3
week of class (9/11), we will beginto choose projects and groups. By mid-semester (10/16), groups and individuals should be prepared tosubmit a brief written proposal (1-2 pp.) which will not be graded, but rather allow the instructor to offersuggestions and resources to facilitate the success of your project; only one proposal per project is needed.Presentations of everyone’s final projects will be scheduled during our final class meeting, though somemay choose to present earlier.Documentation of your projects (
due no later than December 4
) can be a combination of group andindividual writing. However, group reports should include an individual reflection by each participant (2 - 3pages) describing your particular role in the project, your feelings about the group effort and dynamics, andwhat you might do differently in the future (these can be submitted together as part of a whole package, orindividually if you wish). Project reports should be 6 - 12 pages in length, not including the self-reflections.They may tend toward the shorter end if you are offering substantial non-written documentation (slidepresentations, videos, art projects, etc.), and on the longer end if you are not, and address:1. The overall concept of the project, its rationale, motivation, public significance.2. The methods and techniques used, and their relation to the ideas discussed in this course.3. The effectiveness of the project, public impact (tangible or potential), creativity, and effective useof time and resources.4. The outcome of the project, and possible future steps.Students who for some particular reason do not wish to engage in a project, will have the option of submitting a final research paper instead. These will be 15 - 20 pages in length, are graded on analysis andoriginality, and the topic needs to be pre-approved by the instructor.
Course Schedule and Readings
All readings are in a course packet available from the Environmental Program office at The Bittersweet House, 153 South Prospect St.]

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