Professor Chris Wells
Environmental Studies 

Course snapshot: What is the history and evolution of environmental thinking and writing? How have writers shaped the ways we understand our relationship with the natural world? This course explores these questions, drawing on ‘classic’ texts from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that have had a major impact on academic and wider public thinking—primarily in the USA.  

Why should I take this class? To understand influential environmental ideas in greater detail and historical context, to evaluate the strengths and shortcomings of “classic” works alongside voices and ideas that the traditional environmental canon overlooks, and to understand how these ideas are relevant to our own lives.

What are some of the classics I will read? A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, All Our Relations by Winona LaDuke, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. 

Fun fact: When it’s time to talk about the classics, we often turn off our Zoom cameras and head over to Slack. The back and forth as we dig into the texts can get pretty heated, but it’s also a great way for people to share links to things they’ve read recently, from news stories to the occasional meme—and people can react to their peers with emojis. 

Sitting around the campfire: Building community is one of the explicit goals of the course. There are also some things you can do in Zoom that are harder to pull off in real life: everyone can use the same virtual background, for example, to make it feel like we’re in a common space. There aren’t any marshmallows, but with the magic of Zoom you also don’t have to brave Minnesota’s February weather to sit around a campfire, either!

Podcast Showcase: All environmental classics advance a clear, important idea. For your final class project, you will produce a short podcast that explains and examines a key idea that is (or has been) influential within Environmental Studies, and share it with the rest of class in our end-of-term Podcast Showcase.

February 23 2021

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