PLSC 235: Environmental Politics

PLSC 235: Environmental Politics


Matthew Evans

Days Taught:


Time Offered:


Semester Offered:

Fall 2024

This course explores the political implications of climate change and the increasing scarcity of many of the world's resources. It provides students with an understanding of the actors and issues driving debates over decision-making and the use of natural and economic resources, with a focus on the American political process. The first part of the course presents the frameworks, actions and interests of various policy actors who affect environmental decision-making and the formation and implementation of environmental policies. The second part develops specific environmental issues, including climate change, resource scarcity and waste management. Much of the reading assumes that our civilization faces the twin problems of increasingly serious shortages of resources and a growing ecological crisis that threatens the basis of life. Further, it argues that these twin crises feed upon each other, and that together they pose serious short and long run challenges to survival. Some readings attribute these problems to the dominant values that characterize modern Western society. The course does consider some dissents from this perspective, arguments that things will be just fine. However, it concentrates on problems and predictions of trouble. It recognizes that most of what we learn, read, and see supports the status quo and assumes our civilization and energy-dependent way of life will continue. Consequently, it emphasizes the less frequently argued position that we may be headed for disaster. The class aspires to appeal to students regardless of major or college -- to scientists, engineers, students of the humanities, and even economists and political scientists. It fulfills the University-wide general education requirement in Social Science. Although it discusses the role of politics in general and the role of the American political system in particular in discussing the "twin crises," it mostly grapples with fundamental questions of value that underlie and guide the play of power in our political system and with how the massive changes now taking place globally both affect and are affected by politics.


Social Sciences