POL S 384 A: Global Environmental Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:00am - 11:20am
KNE 220
Joint Sections: 
Karen Litfin
Karen Litfin

Syllabus Description:

                Professor Karen Litfin                Office hours: Tu 1-2 pm, W 12-2 pm or by appt.

                Email:  litfin@uw.edu                  Office:  Gowen 33

               Teaching Assistants:  Brian Huang  bphuang@uw.edu   (Sections AA and AB)

                                                                 Lizzy Barker ebarker1@uw.edu   (Sections AC and AD)

What We Will Study

Global problems like climate change, the mass extinction of species, ozone depletion, etc. cry out for unprecedented levels of international innovation and cooperation yet traditional political institutions seem inadequate to the task at hand. In this course, we will study a range of intergovernmental, nongovernmental and business responses to the challenges posed by global ecological interdependence, with a strong emphasis on North/South relations. We will also "bring the material home" by exploring how these global problems challenge our sense of human identity, ethical responsibility, and personal efficacy. The dawning of the Anthropocene, the new geological era in which humanity is operating as a planetary force, compels us to ask not only, "What on Earth are we doing?" but even more fundamentally, "What on Earth are we?" The course integrates objective learning, subjective experience and a group action project.

What You Will Learn

If you participate actively in this course, including grasping content from lectures; readings and videos, engaging yourself dynamically in quiz sections; collaborating on an innovative group action project; and writing thoughtful blog posts and papers, I expect that you will improve your skillfulness in many arenas, most especially the following:

  • Critical thinking skills about the interpenetration of global human and ecological systems
  • Your ability to articulate ideas and feelings about these issues, in writing and conversation
  • Your capacity for collaborative learning
  • Your sense of social and political agency
  • A deeper sense of what it means to be a human being living at this moment in history

What You Will Do

Participation: What you learn depends upon what you do. Please bring your full presence to lectures and quiz sections, having read the associated materials beforehand.  You will read 100-150 pages per week.  Please, no laptops or other electronic distractions during class time!

Service Learning option: If you do service learning, you will work 20-40  hours during the quarter for a local environmental agency or organization. You will write a 3-4 page mid-quarter assessment and a 4-5 page final           synthesis of your experience.

Research paper option: Students will write a 3-page proposal by mid-quarter.  Final papers will be 8-10 pages including bibliography. “W” credit is optional.

Action project option: Students will collaborate in groups of five (5) to bring their learning to the larger polis.  Action groups will submit a 3-page group proposal and each student will submit their own final 4-5 page paper.

Footprint paper: This 3-4 page paper will help you to consider your lifestyle in light of global environmental resources and constraints.

Midterm: Multiple choice, true/false and short ID questions.  October 22 in class.

Final exam: Monday, December 9, 10:30-12:20.

Course Grading

Participation          25%

Footprint paper    10%

Midterm                    10%

Midquarter paper  10%

Final paper                 25%

Final exam                  20%


Required Texts

Paul Wapner and Simon Nicholson (eds.), Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet (Paradigm Publishers, 2014). [WN]

Peter Stoett, Global Ecopolitics: Crisis, Governance and Justice, SECOND EDITION. University of Toronto Press, 2019.

Online readings posted to Canvas

One of the following daily or weekly international environmental news sources: enn.com; npr.org/sections/environment/theguardian.com/us/environment;  or  http://grist.org

Recommended Texts

Pamela Chasek and David Downie, Global Environmental Politics, Seventh Edition (Westview Press, 2016).

David Ciplet, et al. Power in a Warming World: The Global Politics of Climate Change and the Remaking of Environmental Inequality. The MIT Press, 2015.

Olaf Corry and Hayley Stevenson, eds. Traditions and trends in global environmental politics: international relations and the earth. Routledge, 2018.

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World (Penguin, 2008).

Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History (Longman, 2000).

Paul Hawken, Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. Penguin, 2017).

Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch (eds.), The Post Carbon Reader (University of California Press, 2010).

Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization (Island Press, 2008).

Sikhina Jinna and Simon Nicholson, eds. New Earth Politics: Essays from the Anthropocene. MIT Press, 2016.

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon and Schuster, 2014).

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt, 2014).

Sheryl R. Lightfoot. Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution. Routledge, 2016.

Karen Litfin, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community (Polity, 2014).

Joanna Macy, Active Hope: How the Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy (New World Library, 2012).

Kari Norgaard, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life (MIT Press, 2011).

Christian Parenti and Jason W. Moore. Anthropocene or capitalocene?: nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism. PM Press, 2016.

Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates and Ken Conca (eds.), Confronting Consumption (MIT Press, 2002).

Sharon J Ridgeway and Peter J Jacques. Power of the Talking Stick: Indigenous Politics and the World Ecological Crisis. Taylor and Francis, 2015.

Stuart Rosewarne. Climate action upsurge: the ethnography of climate movement politics. Routledge, 2014.

Paul Steinberg. Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Paul Wapner. Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism. MIT Press, 2013.


Late papers and missed exams

Late papers are not accepted without a medical excuse. All requests on these matters must be made through me, preferably before the due date.  Similarly, a missed exam can only be made up if you have a written medical excuse. No exceptions will be made for holiday travel before our final exam date.

About plagiarism

In our society, taking another person’s words or ideas and passing them off as one’s own is a form of theft—so please do not succumb to this temptation! Any direct quote should be placed in quotation marks and cited appropriately; likewise, any ideas or paraphrasing of another author’s thoughts or information should be attributed to that author. When in doubt, cite! A good rule of thumb is to never cut and paste from an online source into your own paper.

The same tools that make it easy for students to plagiarize in today’s information age also make it easy for instructors to detect plagiarism. And, even if one is not caught, any marginal benefit gained is greatly outweighed by the harm inflicted upon one’s own character. In a nutshell, the university’s rules on plagiarism will be strictly enforced in this class. The UW Library provides a good definition and an overview of ten types of plagiarism.

Disabled Student Provisions

If you wish to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924.  If you have letter from DSS indicating that you have a disability that requires special accommodations, please present it to me.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available here.  Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request Form.  

Mental Health Resources

As a student, you may experience a range of challenges that can interfere with learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, substance use, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may diminish your academic performance and/or reduce your ability to engage with others inside and outside of the classroom. Counseling services are available and treatment does work. You can learn more about UW health & wellness services by contacting Student Coaching and Care at livewell@uw.edu or 206.543.6085. You might also benefit from the mindfulness resources available on campus and beyond.


Catalog Description: 
Examines the globalization of environmental problems, including climate change, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity, as well as the globalization of political responses to these problems within the framework of globalization as set of interlinked economic, technological, cultural, and political processes. Offered: jointly with ENVIR 384.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm