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Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus

Course Information


Murray J. Leaf Time: 2:30-5:15 Soc CRN 101809 Office hrs: one hour before class, my office.

Office: GR 3.128 Place: GR 3.406 Tel: 972 883-2732 email:

This is a new course. The syllabus will be subject to change as we proceed.

Last update 10 Mar 09

Course Pre-requisites, Co-requisites, and/or Other Restrictions: None.

Course Description

Environmental Sociology is a new interest in Sociology, going back only to the mid-1970s. It is a much older interest in Anthropology and Geography, actually going back to the beginnings of what Geographers call Human Geography in the early 19 th century and to the Anthropological concern with cultural evolution, which is co-terminus with the beginning of the field in 1870s. The difference is that while Environmental Sociology is mainly focused on issues involved in the relationship between “modern” (urban and industrial) society and the environmental crisis as it has been recently recognized, the geographical and especially anthropological perspectives are concerned with the environment in relation to human adaptation more broadly and over a much longer period. This course will, for the most part, put the sociological perspective inside of the anthropological perspective. We will look at the contemporary concern with the relation between industrial society, or “modern” society, and the environment in the framework of the longer and wider adaptive perspective. Human society is not only a threat to nature. It is also a part of nature. An environment is what surrounds something—a community, a group, or an individual. It is the natural or physical situation in which such a community or group or individual finds itself, and to which it has to adapt. But with adaptation, such an environment is very often changed. With human adaptation, environments often change a great deal. A human ecology is what results, the environment as modified through adaptation. Since we recognize that humans adapt mainly through culture, the human

ecology is also especially a cultural ecology, but different aspects can be focused on under labels like political ecology, agricultural ecology, and so on. Generally speaking, cultural ecology focuses on the dynamics of the system: what it is and what maintains it, what causes societies to adapt or collapse. Environmental sociology is more focused on the problems, how “society” in some sense

is the cause, and what can be done about it.

done about them. We will be particularly concerned with analyzing the current environmental movement and the opposition to it, especially in the United States, as the arena of debate in which our future as a species will probably be decided.

If enrollment is small enough to permit it, the course will use a seminar format, with two to four presentations a day. The numbered items in the schedule are the topics. Each presentation will either be directly on the assigned reading or on a topic that the reading discusses but does not explain as well as it should. The student will present his/or her criticism formally and then lead the class discussion. The presentation ought to be accompanied by a short one or two page handout. It should not be a simple outline or resume of the chapter or article, but a guide to your own argument. Make copies for everyone. The presentation should include:

We will start with the general relationship, then go to the problems and what can be

1. The main theoretical idea or practical problem that the reading is concerned with. This can be something very simple—and usually more than a little doubtful.

2. The main arguments for it.

3. A critical assessment of those arguments.

For accreditation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools requires all courses at UTD to state specific “Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes.” For this course, the objectives are:

Objective 1. To provide an overview of key issues in current debates on the environment. Objective 2. To provide an overview of the main sociological views of what sociology can do in relation to these problems. Objective 3. To provide an analysis the relationships between science and politics in these debates.

This should not be understood as precluding the more general objectives of all undergraduate courses, namely to learn how to find and interpret relevant material, learn the kind of critical thinking that it requires, and to understand how one can conduct research on these topics.

Required Textbooks and Materials

Leslie King and Deborah McCarthy. Environmental Sociology. Paperback. Roman and Littlefield. ISBN-10 0742535088Amazon new: $55.95. Other necessary materials are on the web.

Course Syllabus

Grading. The grade will be based on two in-class examinations (30% each) and a research paper (40%).

The examinations will

be short answer format, designed to test the breadth of your grasp of basic concepts and terms from the readings and lectures. The paper is to go into depth on some aspect of cultural ecology of particular interest to you personally.

Course Schedule:

We will have five main units, and will go through them in order. The first three are each based on one of your readings: a general introduction and two case studies. The last two will be based on information on the web, and will involve discussing the various perspectives and interests in two major current ecological policy issues. The units are:


Readings and materials

1. General Introduction

Videos in class. Story of Stuff. DVD0865

2. Agriculture

Leaf article on "Agricultural Societies" in Encyclopedia of World Environmental History.

UTD Reference. Library use only. GF10 .E63 2004 For a pdf version click here. Leaf article “The Green Revolution: South Asia” in Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. David Levinthal, ed. Berkener/Scribners Publications. eBook, UTD

Robert McC. Netting article on "Cultural Ecology" in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, UTD library (hard copy only). Energy Flows in Agricultural and Natural Ecosystems. Very good article showing what systems analysis can do.

3. The Collin County Landfill

Continue Agriculture: First we will work through the spreadsheets associated with the Leaf article THE

and Lake Lavon

PHYSICAL FARM BUDGET: AN INDIGENOUS OPTIMIZING MANAGERIAL ALGORITHM at Then we will watch and discuss: The Goddess and the Computer (58 min)VT1540.

Then we will discuss the recent Lavon landfill fight:

In 2000, two landfills were proposed in central Collin County, near McKinney. The Collin County Board of supervisors was in favor, because it would bring in revenue. Many citizens were opposed and two groups formed to present the reasons. Among other things, both landfills will be in the watershed area of lake Lavon, which is the water source for Plano and most of the rest of the county. Click here for an annotated list of links on the issue. With respect to the link to the diagram showing how the dump would be covered once it was filled, the important thing to know is that the top of the dump pit (not the top of the mound) is below the flood level in the flood plain that feeds into Lake Lavon (as indicated by the location map).

4. The Newfoundland Codfish collapse.

“The Political Ecology of Crisis and Institutional Change: The Case of the Northern Cod.” Article by Bonnie J. McCay and Alan Christopher Finlayson. Rutgers the State University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. /cod/mckay.html. Update in opinion piece in newpaper from Martha's Vinyard:


And in case you think it is only cod: Other sites and articles on the issue:

Sierra Club Home Page Greenpeace. Use their google search to find an article on the cod collapse. FAO fisheries section home page FAO fisheries information system 1999 marine fisheries information bulletin, Alaska. Coastal Communities Network Home Page. Coastal Communities bulletin Welcome to IMMA inc. Cape Cod Times article that containst incidental information on cost of nets. Biography of the Atlantic Cod. Oceans Without Fish (article) Earth First Network For Change.


Politics and Economy

Preface through chapter 5 in King and McCarthy. Chapters and leaders are: 1-Molly; 2-Tim,

Course Syllabus

6. Environmental Justice

Part II in King and McCarthy

7. Work and Corporate

Part III and Part IV in King and McCarthy




Part V in King and McCarthy




Media and Science and Health

Part VI and Part VII in King and McCarthy


Social Movements and

Parts VIII and IX in King and McCarthy

Working for Change


Global Warming—the

Ice and History. Editorial in Science. Vol 311. 25 mar 2006. p. 1673. United Nations IPCC website: Full Report: Cattle vs cars: Our Changing Climate A Scientific and Policy Challenge Heinz center. on you tube. video 1 to 6

EPA Climate Change Website:

Scientific Consensus

12. Global Warming Opposition.

Congressional Report on Bush administration efforts to delay and water down required EPA report on global warming. Website devoted to opposition, publicizing statement of “400 environmental scientists” in opposition to global warming:

Greenpeace website to document Exxon’s funding of opposition (includes organizations not funded by Exxon).

13. Review

Last class day.

Detail of Paper Assignment. The assignment for the paper is to analyze a piece of research and see how it might be improved.

pages. It isn’t a page number requirement as such, however, it is just that my experience is that this is what it takes to cover all the

basis in a reasonably thorough way.

Expected length is about twelve

1. Select a monograph on some topic related to society and the environment: sustainability, pollution, economics of cleanup, global

warming, or the politics of any of these

falsified or supported by evidence. It can be something the author says they are arguing, or it can be something they just assume. But either way, any important thesis has a theoretical purpose, which means something the author believes or argues for about what theory should be, as well as about what appears to be the subject matter. A "major work" may be an important and substantial article or, more likely, a monograph, like the two case studies we will use.

Then, within this work, identify a major thesis. A thesis is a factual claim that can be

2. Describe the thesis. How is it related to the rest of the argument in this particular work? What important idea or problem is it

related to in general? How is this related to the author’s idea of theory? What else is not true if it is not? What follows from it if it is true? Exactly what evidence is relevant to proving or disproving the thesis?

3. Criticize the treatment of the thesis in the work at hand. Does the evidence collected actually support the thesis? There are two

possibilities. Either it does or it does not. If it does, completely, then this is not an area where more research is needed, so you

should go on to say what the implications are--such as the policy implications. Also, how important is the thesis, after all?

4. If it does not, you should say why not, and there are again two possibilities. Either the thesis is actually provable, but the author

has not collected the right evidence. Or the thesis is false, on the evidence presented. In the first case, you should be able to say what kind of evidence is really needed, how you would get it, and what it would show exactly. In the latter case, you should be able to reformulate the thesis to show what is correct and what does fit the data on hand, or other data you can reasonably expect to obtain.


In conclusion, say what comes next--where do you (we) go from here?


is strongly recommended that you come in to discuss possible papers with me before you start. I will also be happy to look over

outlines or drafts and advise you.

I do not care what kind of footnote or endnote style you use, but recommend the American Anthropologist style (same as Modern

Language Association Style or American Psychological Association Style). The two major sociology journals (AJS and ASR) use the

same style. The AA, ASR, and AJS are in the journal section of the library, and it will only take a few minutes for you to go and look. It

is an extremely simple and logical style that will save much time compared to more common systems. You can use another system if you

want to, but whatever you use be sure it is consistent and complete.

Course Syllabus

Whenever you use someone else's words, you should indicate them with quotation marks; whenever you use quotation marks, you should have a reference that will allow another person to locate that quotation quickly and efficiently. If you use someone’s words

without quoting, it is plagiarism, and will be treated as such. If you paraphrase someone, it does not relieve you of the need to give

. “as my mother said when I asked her about her experiences in Bali”). As a student, you should own and use a style manual. Chicago is the most widely accepted standard. No serious writer can survive without one. Giving credit to others is an essential part of making a scholarly context for yourself.

., or

credit, although it does not have to be in a formal footnote (ie: as Bates says in Chapter

, or as Author X argues repeatedly

If you get something off the internet, you need to give the full http// address to reference the site as well as the document. But do not under any circumstances think you can rely on the internet entirely and still do a decent job. Whenever you quote something, you are responsible for it. If you quote junk and do not recognize that it is junk, you become responsible for junk, and there is an enormous amount of junk out there. Unless you have substantial subject matter expertise and/or personal knowledge of what it is about, or unless it is a journal source through a library data-base, don’t trust it. If you do site something, give your reasons for taking it as reliable.

If you get a book or a journal article from the library, the journal will be a scholarly journal and the book will usually be from a recognized academic press, which guarantees that it went through a refereeing procedure before publication to assure that it is at least sane and scholarly. There is no such procedure for the internet.

Downloading material or otherwise copying it and editing it so that it seems to flow along is not research. If you do not give credit, it is plagiarism. If you do give credit, it is wasting time. Why not just give me the references and let me read them for myself? Research, at a minimum, is taking information, digesting it, and applying it to some new issue or question. Beyond that, it is discovering new information.

Grading Policy The grade will be based 30% on the class presentations, 30% on the midterm, and 40% on a final paper. The midterm will probably be take-home, essay format, and call for critical evaluation of important theoretical ideas from the readings and discussion.

Course & Instructor Policies I do not allow “extra credit” or make up work. You are expected to complete all assignments on time. Anything not handed in on time is failed, unless you have made an arrangement with me in advance.

No Field Trips

The following statements are standard for all syllabi and come from general UTD rules. They are required in response to accreditation critiria of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Student Conduct & Discipline

The University of Texas System and The University of Texas at Dallas have rules and regulations for the orderly and efficient conduct

of their business. It is the responsibility of each student and each student organization to be knowledgeable about the rules and

regulations which govern student conduct and activities. General information on student conduct and discipline is contained in the UTD publication, A to Z Guide, which is provided to all registered students each academic year.

The University of Texas at Dallas administers student discipline within the procedures of recognized and established due process.

Procedures are defined and described in the Rules and Regulations, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, Part 1, Chapter VI, Section 3, and in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures. Copies

of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist

students in interpreting the rules and regulations (SU 1.602, 972/883-6391).

A student at the university neither loses the rights nor escapes the responsibilities of citizenship. He or she is expected to obey federal,

state, and local laws as well as the Regents’ Rules, university regulations, and administrative rules. Students are subject to discipline for

violating the standards of conduct whether such conduct takes place on or off campus, or whether civil or criminal penalties are also imposed for such conduct.

Academic Integrity

The faculty expects from its students a high level of responsibility and academic honesty. Because the value of an academic degree depends upon the absolute integrity of the work done by the student for that degree, it is imperative that a student demonstrate a high standard of individual honor in his or her scholastic work.

Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, statements, acts or omissions related to applications for enrollment or the award of a

Course Syllabus

degree, and/or the submission as one’s own work or material that is not one’s own. As a general rule, scholastic dishonesty involves one of the following acts: cheating, plagiarism, collusion and/or falsifying academic records. Students suspected of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Plagiarism, especially from the web, from portions of papers for other classes, and from any other source is unacceptable and will be dealt with under the university’s policy on plagiarism (see general catalog for details). This course will use the resources of, which searches the web for possible plagiarism and is over 90% effective.

Email Use The University of Texas at Dallas recognizes the value and efficiency of communication between faculty/staff and students through

electronic mail. At the same time, email raises some issues concerning security and the identity of each individual in an email exchange. The university encourages all official student email correspondence be sent only to a student’s U.T. Dallas email address and that faculty and staff consider email from students official only if it originates from a UTD student account. This allows the university to


maintain a high degree of confidence in the identity of all individual corresponding and the security of the transmitted information.

furnishes each student with a free email account that is to be used in all communication with university personnel. The Department of Information Resources at U.T. Dallas provides a method for students to have their U.T. Dallas mail forwarded to other accounts. Withdrawal from Class

The administration of this institution has set deadlines for withdrawal of any college-level courses. These dates and times are published in that semester's course catalog. Administration procedures must be followed. It is the student's responsibility to handle withdrawal requirements from any class. In other words, I cannot drop or withdraw any student. You must do the proper paperwork to ensure that you will not receive a final grade of "F" in a course if you choose not to attend the class once you are enrolled.

Student Grievance Procedures

Procedures for student grievances are found in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities, of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures.

In attempting to resolve any student grievance regarding grades, evaluations, or other fulfillments of academic responsibility, it is the obligation of the student first to make a serious effort to resolve the matter with the instructor, supervisor, administrator, or committee with whom the grievance originates (hereafter called “the respondent”). Individual faculty members retain primary responsibility for assigning grades and evaluations. If the matter cannot be resolved at that level, the grievance must be submitted in writing to the respondent with a copy of the respondent’s School Dean. If the matter is not resolved by the written response provided by the respondent, the student may submit a written appeal to the School Dean. If the grievance is not resolved by the School Dean’s decision, the student may make a written appeal to the Dean of Graduate or Undergraduate Education, and the deal will appoint and convene an Academic Appeals Panel. The decision of the Academic Appeals Panel is final. The results of the academic appeals process will be distributed to all involved parties.

Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and regulations.

Incomplete Grade Policy

As per university policy, incomplete grades will be granted only for work unavoidably missed at the semester’s end and only if 70% of the course work has been completed. An incomplete grade must be resolved within eight (8) weeks from the first day of the subsequent long semester. If the required work to complete the course and to remove the incomplete grade is not submitted by the specified deadline, the incomplete grade is changed automatically to a grade of F.

Disability Services

The goal of Disability Services is to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled peers. Disability Services is located in room 1.610 in the Student Union. Office hours are Monday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The contact information for the Office of Disability Services is:

The University of Texas at Dallas, SU 22 PO Box 830688 Richardson, Texas 75083-0688 (972) 883-2098 (voice or TTY)

Essentially, the law requires that colleges and universities make those reasonable adjustments necessary to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. For example, it may be necessary to remove classroom prohibitions against tape recorders or animals (in the case of dog guides) for students who are blind. Occasionally an assignment requirement may be substituted (for example, a research paper versus an oral presentation for a student who is hearing impaired). Classes enrolled students with mobility impairments may have to be rescheduled in accessible facilities. The college or university may need to provide special services such as registration, note-taking, or mobility assistance.

Course Syllabus

It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors of the need for such an accommodation. Disability Services provides students with letters to present to faculty members to verify that the student has a disability and needs accommodations. Individuals requiring special accommodation should contact the professor after class or during office hours.

Religious Holy Days The University of Texas at Dallas will excuse a student from class or other required activities for the travel to and observance of a religious holy day for a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property tax under Section 11.20, Tax Code, Texas Code Annotated. The student is encouraged to notify the instructor or activity sponsor as soon as possible regarding the absence, preferably in advance of the assignment. The student, so excused, will be allowed to take the exam or complete the assignment within a reasonable time after the absence: a period equal to the length of the absence, up to a maximum of one week. A student who notifies the instructor and completes any missed exam or assignment may not be penalized for the absence. A student who fails to complete the exam or assignment within the prescribed period may receive a failing grade for that exam or assignment. If a student or an instructor disagrees about the nature of the absence [i.e., for the purpose of observing a religious holy day] or if there is similar disagreement about whether the student has been given a reasonable time to complete any missed assignments or examinations, either the student or the instructor may request a ruling from the chief executive officer of the institution, or his or her designee. The chief executive officer or designee must take into account the legislative intent of TEC 51.911(b), and the student and instructor will abide by the decision of the chief executive officer or designee. These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.