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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Alison Cullen
C ENV 590
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Environment

Covers topics related to all areas of the environment depending on curricular needs and interests of students and faculty.

Class description

In organizing scientific research, in interpreting scientific research findings to the public, and in informing policy makers, there are multiple ways of framing environmental issues. One approach is to focus on a single issue such as human-induced climate change and consider the impacts, the ways in which ecosystems and human society might adapt to those impacts, and the actions that might be taken to mitigate the gravity of those impacts. A notable example of this approach is the focus on global climate change in the assessment reports of the IPCC and the recent suite of reports by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences entitled America’s Climate Choices. An alternative approach is to frame the discussion of adaptation and mitigation, not in terms of individual issues such as climate change but in terms of the suite of pressing global environmental and resource issues of the 21st century with a view toward policy decisions on energy, food security, fresh water supply, preservation of biodiversity, and control of pollution. The goal of this course is to compare and contrast these two paradigms for framing global environmental issues with respect to (i) their effectiveness in mobilizing public support for sound policy decisions and (ii) the implications for organizing environmental education and research. In discussing the issue-focused approach, climate change will be used as the main exemplar.

Topics: week-by-week Introduction 1. A primer on agenda setting and understanding how policy making works in practice. 2. Issue-focused versus pan-environmental reference frames with specific reference to climate change.

Survey of global environmental issues 3. 21st Century global environmental issues: Population, Food security. 4. 21st Century global environmental issues: Water, Nonrenewable Resources. 5. 21st Century global environmental issues: Energy, Climate change. 6. 21st Century global environmental issues: Pollution Biodiversity, Human Health.

Implications of the framing of environmental issues 7. Impacts, mitigation, adaptation. 8. State of the global environment in 2040. 9. Equity issues. 10. Implications for education and for institutions.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This is a seminar course open to graduate students.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Alison Cullen
Date: 12/01/2010