Peter Taylor
Swarthmore College, Biology 8, Fall 97
(see also revised version, proposed for the future
and summary of comments from students' evaluations, fall 1997)
Course description: Critical thinking about the diverse influences shaping ecological and environmental sciences. Topics include ideas of nature; commodities and environmental history; agriculture and biotechnology; conservation and colonialism; systems thinking; population growth and futures modeling; the tragedy of the commons; stability and complexity; environmental economics; local knowledge; and socio-environmental analysis. We interpret episodes in science, past and present, in light of scientists' historical location, economic and political interests, use of language, and ideas about causality and responsibility. Readings, class activities, and written assignments are designed so that you develop interpretive skills and explore your own intellectual and practical responses to controversies in environment and society.

Sessions combine lectures, discussions, and other activities. Weekly handouts will describe the classes ahead and how they build on what we have already done, explain the unfamiliar terms (including those marked * in this syllabus), review the themes and questions we have addressed, and specify assignments. This course will require considerable reading, writing, and work on learning skills, especially collaboration in small groups -- be prepared.

Course goals: The most important goals of this course are that you i) actively ask questions about the shape and direction of inquiries in ecology and environmental studies -- not just during class time, but all the time -- and ii) develop your ability to express your own synthesis of issues succintly. With these goals in mind the course involves various kinds of writing, preparation, and participation in the teaching/learning dynamics*.

Sessions: Martin 213; TuTh 11.20-1.10 (Note: 1h50m length of sessions)
Professor: Peter Taylor, Lang Visiting Professor for Social Change
Office: Pearson 102; mailbox in the Biology office, Martin 207
Phone: 690-6858
Email: ptaylor1
Office Hours: 1.30-3.30 Tu

Texts: No texts need to be purchased. Xeroxes of most readings that you need to read and bring to class are available from the Biology Office, Martin 207. I recommend that you buy a 3 ring binder to store the readings and other xeroxes in. Note that a few of the required readings and other readings are only on reserve, i.e., they are not among the xeroxes supplied to you. These reserve items will be in Cornell science library.
In areas where your background in biology or history is weak you will need to do additional prescribed reading before some of the classes.

Assessment: This is divided into two parts: Participation 30%; Written assignments 70%
For each part, 80% of assignments satisfactorily completed earns a B+. The idea in not grading assignments and other work is that more time and attention can be given to comments and other teaching/ learning interactions. (Below 80%, grade is pro-rated, i.e., 0% gives D-; 70% gives B, except that if participation is less than 2/3, the overall grade cannot be higher than the participation grade. The idea is that completing assignments cannot substitute for participation in class.)
To have a chance (but not a guarantee) of getting more than B+, additional work is needed.

Basic work=
For Participation: Notecard exercises*, Discussion co-leading* or reporting* on discussion dynamics.
Written assignments: Submitted by due date and resubmitted until satisfactory. Last date for resubmissions is December 4

Additional work, in considering whether more than B+ is to be given=
For Participation: high attendance, active participation, special effort when leading activities, commentary on teaching/learning dynamics
For Written assignments: Final take home exam, to be distributed on December 4 and due by 12 noon December 18.

SYLLABUS (Provisional -- Some classes may take more than one session and/or lead us into further unscheduled inquiries).

In what follows "Angle" denotes the introduction of a major angle of illumination (aka interpretive theme* or heuristic*) for the course. During some phases of the course, more than one angle may be emphasized, and themes once introduced continue to be woven into subsequent classes.

1. Introduction
Key terms for teaching/learning dynamics: on-going process*, cooperative learning*, sense-making*, critical thinking*, angles of illumination*
Central themes: construction as a metaphor

2a. Introduction continued.
One projected end-point (among others) of the course: socio-environmental analysis* in terms of intersecting processes* -- a case study of soil erosion in Oaxaca, Mexico

Angle I Ideas about nature as ideas about society
2b. Exploring images of society and nature in the West since the middle ages (slide show)

3. "Animals are both like and unlike humans"
Berger, J. (1980). "Why Look at Animals?," in About Looking. New York, Pantheon Books, 1-26 (xerox)
In class we will also interpret some Gary Larsen "far side" cartoons

4. Meeting in base groups* (In these groups students review material, share views, help each other, and undertake other activities with my guidance, but not my direct supervision.)

5. Changes and contradictions in ideas about nature
Williams, R. (1980). "Ideas of Nature," in Problems in materialism and culture. London, Verso, 67-85. (xerox)
In class we will also begin reading Darwin, C. (1859 [1964]). "Chapter 3" in On the Origin of Species, 60-79. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (xerox)

6. Darwin as an ecologist and a Victorian; tensions in his and subsequent ecology
Darwin, chapter 3 (xerox)
Worster, D. (1979). "Scrambling for a place," in Nature's economy. New York: Anchor Books, 145-169. (reserve)

Angle II Material bases for changes in nature
7. Europeans, commodities, and changes in New England; contrasting historical accounts
Cronon, W. (1983). Changes in the Land. New York, Hill and Wang, 3- 15, 159-170. (xerox)

8. Base groups

9. Commodities in relation to social and ecological transformations
Rowling, N. (1987). "Introduction," in Commodities: How the world was taken to market. London, Free Association Books, 7-21. (xerox)

Angle III: Scientists work within a field of economics, politics and moral repsonsibility
IIIA. Science and commodities (continuing angle II)
10. Who benefits from scientific progress? (and other questions): The breeding of hybrid corn and the green revolution.
Lewontin, R. (1982). "Agricultural Research & the Penetration of Capital." Science for the People(January/February): 12-17. (xerox)
Lappe, F. M. and J. Collins (1986). "The Green Revolution Is the Answer," in World Hunger Twelve Myths. New York, NY, Grove Press, Inc., 48-66 (reserve).

11. How autonomous can science be from social influences? -- Directed autonomy and the rise of biotechnology.
Yoxen, E. (1983). "The Life Industry," in The Gene Business, Who should control biotechnology? London, Free Association Books, 1-56. (reserve)

12. Base groups

--Mid-semester break--

IIIB. Episodes in C20 conservation and ecological science (extending angle III to pay attention to the historical context of the science)
13. Conservation and early C20 colonialism, patriarchy, eugenics.
Haraway, D. J. (1984/1985). "Teddy bear patriarchy: Taxidermy in the garden of Eden, New York City, 1908-1936." Social Text 11: 20-64 (xerox).
Also in class, Paper Tiger video: Donna Haraway reads National Geographic

14. Systems: Cybernetics and ecology in the atomic age
Odum, H. T. (1971). "Chaps. 1, part 2, 11," in Environment, Power & Society. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1-41, 304-310. (reserve)

Angle IV: Hidden complexity in simple formulations &
Angle V: Causes proposed are related to the person's favored views of social action
Plus Angle IIIB continued
15. Systems of aggregable individuals: Neo-Malthusianism
Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1997). "The dynamics and rhetorics of socio-environmental change: Critical perspectives on the limits of neo-Malthusian environmentalism," in L. Freese (Ed.), Advances in Human Ecology: JAI. Vol.6., excerpt (xerox)
Meffe, G. K., A. H. Ehrlich and D. Ehrenfeld (1993). "Human population control: The missing agenda." Conservation Biology 7(1): 1-3 (xerox)

16. Base groups

17. Systems of selfish individuals: The tragedy of the commons
Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science 162: 1243-1248. (xerox)

18. Stability/ Change and complexity of ecosystems
Begon, M., J. Harper and C. Townsend (1990). "The influence of predation and disturbance on community structure," in Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. Boston, Blackwell, 739-741, 793, 795. (xerox)
Botkin, D. (1990). Chapters 1 & 2 in Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 3-25.

19. Models of Global change; The Limits to Growth and GCMs*
Meadows, D., D. Meadows, J. Randers and W. W. Behrens (1972). The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, excerpts (reserve)
Glantz, M. (Ed.) (1989). Societal Responses to Regional Climactic Change: Forecasting by Analogy. Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1-7, 407-428 (reserve)

20. Base groups

21. World views; the case of market environmentalism*
Schwarz, M. and M. Thompson (1990). Divided We Stand: Redefining Politics, Technology, and Social Choice. London, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1-13 (xerox).
Pearce, D., A. Markandya and E. Barbier (1989). "Prices and incentives," in Blueprint for a Green Economy. London, Earthscan, 154-172 (reserve).

22. Local knowledge and peasant/ indigenous rationality: adapted, flexible, or vulnerable?
Toledo, V. (1990). "The ecological rationality of peasant production," in M. Altieri and S. Hecht (Eds.), Agroecology and small farm development. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 53-60.(xerox)
Richards, P. (1983). "Ecological change and the politics of land use." African Studies Review 26: 1-72.(reserve)

23. "Coercive conservation"* in 80s and 90s; Gendered ecologies and the politics of production
Peluso, N. (1993). "Coercing conservation: The politics of state resource control." Global environmental change 3(2): 199-217 (reserve)
Taylor synopsis of three articles by R. Schroeder, including "'Re-claiming' land in The Gambia: Gendered property rights and environmental intervention." Annals of the Association of American Geographers, in press.(xerox)


Angle VI. Disciplining, without suppressing the complexities of environmental, scientific, and social change
24. Intersecting processes* and heterogeneous construction*: Theories of intersecting locally-centered, trans-local processes*

Taylor, P. J. (1998). "Inseparable and distributed complexity: Three projects for mapping and negotiating social-natural processes," in F. Fischer and M. Hajer (Eds.), Living With Nature (xerox)
Taylor, P. J. (1995). "Building on construction: An exploration of heterogeneous constructionism, using an analogy from psychology and a sketch from socio-economic modeling." Perspectives on Science 3(1): 66-98 (reserve)

25. Mapping* socio-environmental and scientific production
Taylor, P. (1990). "Mapping ecologists' ecologies of knowledge." Philosophy of Science Association 1990, vol. 2: 95-109 (xerox)

26. Taking Stock of the Course (NOTE: This session will probably be held on an evening before the scheduled date of December 9)

[Notes about the author and site, disclaimer, etc.]