A philosophical investigation of conceptual and normative issues associated with one of several broad domains of social and political thought: human rights, the varieties of human conflict, and war and peace. Examines both classical and recent texts. Brings theoretical perspectives to bear on contemporary issues.
How just is alternative energy? Solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, and biomass, as well as clean coal and natural gas, are all being touted as "green" alternatives to our current fossil fuel-based energy system. But would everyone benefit from transitioning to these low-carbon alternatives? Or would they, like other industrial technologies, impose disproportionate risks and harms on the people and communities who are already the least well off? In this class, we will learn about environmental justice through group study of alternative energy technology. In asking “how just is alternative energy?"—a question for which scholars and policy makers have no ready answers—we will consider • What is environmental injustice? What social structures produce it? • What are the requirements for an environmentally just society? • How do we assess a project’s just-ness?
As a class, we will create criteria for environmentally just alternative energy. Then, working individually or in small groups, you will prepare a proposal that outlines the research necessary to assess the just-ness of a particular alternative energy system.
Student learning goals
Describe how environmental injustices are produced and exacerbated by structural racism, technocratic decision-making processes, and technological infrastructures;
Articulate and defend an ethical framework for environmental justice (critical thinking);
Apply criteria for environmental justice to proposals for alternative energy, identifying conditions under which the technology would advance environmental justice;
Specify what information would be necessary to establish the just-ness of alternative energy (interdiscipinary research);
Communicate your conclusions to policy makers and the broader public (writing and presentation); and
Work effectively as part of a team to synthesize existing information and elaborate new concepts (shared leadership and collaboration).
General method of instruction
The majority of classes will be organized around group discussion; appropriate guest speakers will be featured when possible. Small group investigation of alternative energy proposals will also be an important part of student learning: some class time will be set aside for group work. As investigations proceed, students' research will become an integral part of class discussion.
BIS 300; familiarity with basic sociological concepts would also be helpful.
Class assignments and grading
The final project for the course will be a detailed proposal for research into the environmental justice consequences of some form of "green" energy. Students will work in small groups on the background research and will be encouraged (though not required) to submit the final project as a group.
Additional graded writing assignments will build toward the final project. Students will make group presentations of their research proposals in a public forum (TBD, but likely not during scheduled class time).
Students' participation in and preparation for class discussions will also determine a portion of their grades.
Work for class entails: Reading Research on alternative energy technologies. Participation (15% of grade) Weekly Short (1-2 p) Papers (15% of grade) Student-led Discussions in week 5 (10% of grade) Contribution to Class Wiki in weeks 8 and 9 (10% of grade) Proposal Presentation on 12/6 (10% of grade) Written Proposal, 10-12 p, due 12/13 (40% of grade)