Global Environmental Politics:
From Disturbed Pasts to Dystopian Futures
POL S/ENVIR 384
University of Washington
Summer 2021: Full-Term
T, Th: 12:00 PM – 2:10 PM
Mathieu Dubeau, Ph.D Office Hours
Gowen 46 TBD firstname.lastname@example.org
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first.”
The pending ecological crisis began with the confluence of Modernity and the industrial revolution. The human desire to master and control has led to unprecedented growth in technology, industry, and economy. But at what social and ecological costs? “Nature,” which was once thought to be abundant and limitless, is increasingly being pushed beyond its regenerative capacities, fundamentally altering and changing our present lived-realities and what it means to be human. This course will, first, introduce the ecological (and socio/political) crisis through Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Oryx and Crake takes place in a, fictional, not too distant dystopian future. We begin to see our potential future world through the eyes of our protagonist, Snowman-the-Jimmy. Throughout the novel we will see Jimmy try and navigate life through, what can only be described as, an ultra-security state. You will be forced to think through the connection between authoritarian governments, ecological degradation, and genetic engineering with pigoons and rakunks.
This course will force you to think relationally, that means that ecological concerns cannot be neatly separated from social, political, cultural, and economic relations. At this point in the course, we will turn our attention to André Gorz’s Ecology as Politics, which will make the case that neither liberal capitalism or authoritarian socialism are adequate to address our present eco-social predicament. We might just have to completely rethink the institutions that currently form the basis of society as we know it.
We will finish the course with Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, which is now considered a classic in environmental history. Is Leopold’s “Land Ethic” capable of responding to our present ecological predicament? What does it mean to “think like a mountain”? These questions, and many more, will be investigated through the lens of [in]equality, [in]justice, and the potential for liberation.
Students are required to keep up with a full, though not unreasonable, schedule of readings. Reading assignments are keyed to lecture sessions, in which informed classroom discussion will play an integral role. (In other words, I expect you to be able to answer questions about the readings when called on to do so in lecture.)
 I am in the process of changing and amending the course schedule. You can expect our Canvas site to go through a few more changes before the start of the quarter. Please reach out to me via email if you have any questions.