Population, Equity, and Environmental Change examines contemporary debates over the relationships among population growth, environmental change, and sustainability. Scientists agree that the ecosystems of planet Earth cannot long support the human species at its current levels of consumption. They argue that the human species has made itself a geological force, one whose impact on the planet might be compared to the earthquakes and floods that shaped its topography in prehistoric time. Though there is widespread agreement about the magnitude of this change, there is intense debate about how to characterize the crisis it poses. Some define it in terms of the limits of nature, terming it a mismatch between available resources and human numbers: it should be addressed as a “population problem.” Others define it in political terms as a crisis of distribution and social practice.
This course examines the ethical and ecological implications of conceiving humanity-as-geological-force. We draw on works of social science, social theory, and natural science to challenge this framing of environmental crisis as a “problem of population” and, thereby, to open up broader questions regarding how we think about and model the relationship between nature and society.
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Intended for sophomores and above. It assumes no prior exposure to political science or political theory.
The course is a lecture-discussion format and will use a variety of active learning techniques — including designing and playing games — to foster learning and engagement.