With Earth Day fast approaching, we’re seeing more stories about climate change (for example, see this sighting) and other environmental issues. While there are many ways to study our environment sociologically, courses about environmental justice are becoming more popular. Here we share a syllabus graciously provided by David Pellow at the University of Minnesota. The description for his course, Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature, is provided below. You can download the syllabus here: Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature.
The phenomenon known as environmental racism has made headlines during the last three decades, in large part because the movement for environmental justice has placed this issue on the public agenda. This course introduces students to the theoretical and historical foundations of environmental racism and environmental inequality. We will examine and interrogate both the social scientific evidence concerning these phenomena and the efforts by governments, residents, workers, and community activists to combat it. We will consider the social forces that create environmental inequalities so that we may understand their causes and consequences. We will also consider ideas and practices that may lead to (1) a more equitable social distribution of the costs and benefits of markets and (2) more ecologically sustainable forms of production and social organization. Students will be expected to master several social scientific theories and concepts related to the subject matter. In particular, we pay close attention to the ways in which the concept of race intersects with gender, class, citizenship, indigeneity, and nation in order to better understand how systems of power and inequality are constructed, reinforced, and challenged.