Environmental Political Theory

Political Science Department, University of Colorado  •  Summer 2014

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This course combines the study of environmental public policy with environmental political theory. Beyond learning about various contemporary domestic and global environmental problems, students will analyze weaknesses of relevant environmental laws, and the challenges to forming and implementing new public policies. In considering how we could improve existing environmental regulations, students will also consider how normative concepts and theories frame our understanding of these complex policy problems and how policy-makers could better strive to correct them. Some of the specific policy issues this class will explore include: the distribution and management of scarce natural resources, economic growth and sustainability, environmental racism and the inequitable exposure to dangerous effluents, population growth and consumption, and the distribution of the costs of climate change.

Similarly, among the problems with policy formation and implementation this course examines include: public perceptions of environmental risk; the merit of market-based environmental policies; corporate social responsibility; ecological consumerism, green-washing, and the capacity of individuals to alter national policies; and the role and limit of science in shaping environmental regulations. With each substantive issue area, students will explore how various normative considerations—such as justice, equality, autonomy, security, moral culpability, etc.—may alter how we conceive of the environmental problems we face, and what we understand the aim of environmental regulations to be