FACULTY OF ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
ENVS 1000 6.0 – Perspectives in Environmental Studies: Earth in our Hands
Fall - Winter 2008/09
Calendar Description :
The purpose of this course is to provide students with an initial overview of the concepts and
methods that characterise Environmental Studies, including frameworks for analysis and action.
Prerequisite: This course is open to students in the first year of study: Unenrolled students
seeking to join the class in higher years should seek permission from the instructor.
Course Director: Chris Cavanagh, HNES 114, Course Consultation Hours: 10:30a.m. -
12:30p.m. Wednesdays (other times by appointment). Tel. (416) 736-2100 x22105; E-mail:
(A website will be available during the term.)
• Tania Hernandez-Cervantes ecotania [ at ] hotmail [ dot ] com
• David Hoile dhoile [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Vanessa Holm v.m.holm [ at ] hotmail [ dot ] com
• Stephanie Kirkland sskirkland [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com
• Hannah Lewis lewish [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Ian Malczewski ianma20 [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Timothy Quick timquick [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Helena Shimeles shimeles [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Helen Thang hthang [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Kasim Tirmizey kasimali [ at ] yorku [ dot ] ca
• Carolyn Young carolyn.cay [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com
Course consultation hours & location: TBA
In this course, the Course Director and the Teaching Assistants form a Teaching Team. The
Teaching Assistants, who are either MES or PhD Candidates in the Faculty of Environmental
Studies, will share with the Course Director responsibility for the overall shape and direction of
Time and Location
Lectures: Wednesdays, 2:30 - 4:30, Curtis Lecture Hall L
1 Tutorials: Wednesdays (W) and Thursdays (R) :
TUTR 01 W 16:30 HNE 102 Hannah Lewis
TUTR 02 W 16:30 ACE 002 Kasim Tirmizey
TUTR 03 W 16:30 HNE 033 Carolyn Young
TUTR 04 W 16:30 HNE 101 Helena Shimeles
TUTR 05 R 12:30 HNE B10 Hannah Lewis
TUTR 06 R 12:30 HNE 001 David Hoile
TUTR 07 W 16:30 HNE 035 Vanessa Holm
TUTR 08 W 16:30 HNE 036 David Hoile
TUTR 09 W 16:30 HNE 103 Timothy Quick
TUTR 10 R 12:30 HNE 102 Vanessa Holm
TUTR 11 R 12:30 HNE 104 Tania Hernandez-Cervantes
TUTR 12 W 16:30 HNE 104 Ian Malczewski
TUTR 13 R 9:30 HNE B11 Stephanie Kirkland
TUTR 14 R 10:30 HNE B10 Kasim Tirmizey
TUTR 15 R 10:30 HNE B11 Carolyn Young
TUTR 16 R 9:30 HNE 104 Helen Thang
TUTR 17 R 9:30 VH 2000 Helena Shimeles
TUTR 18 W 16:30 VH 1020 Stephanie Kirkland
TUTR 19 W 16:30 VH 3005 Helen Thang
TUTR 20 R 12:30 VC115 Ian Malczewski
Note: TAs have been directed not to accept students into a tutorial unless they have formally
registered in that section. In exceptional circumstances, the Course Director will consider
recommending to the Undergraduate Program Director that a student be permitted to change
tutorial group enrolment; a written request detailing the reasons why a change is being requested
and the choice of alternative tutorials must be submitted to the Course Director prior to the first
Purpose and Objectives of the Course:
This course is designed to provide students with a perspective or framework of understanding for
environmental studies at the broadest level. The course introduces students to environmental
issues, using the urgent, emerging prospect of the fate of the “Earth in our hands” as the
organizing principle. Lecture and tutorial topics will range over a number of environmental
approaches, drawing on a diversity of arts and sciences, including environmental history,
environmental ethics, ecology, economics, and planning, emphasizing the fact that
Environmental Studies is fundamentally an attempt to integrate the study of the natural world
with the study of the human dimensions of that world.
The specific objectives of the course include:
1. to provide a critical framework of understanding environmental studies
2. to provide an overview of the range of concerns included within environmental studies
2 Organization of the Course
The weekly course format will consist of a two hour lecture which all students will attend; and a
one hour mandatory tutorial. Participation marks will be assigned by the tutorial leaders in
consultation with the course director.
The lectures will be conducted with the full class, and will involve the course director and
selected guest lecturers. Each lecture will contain 2 50 minute sessions (with a 10 minute break).
Tutorial sessions will last for 50 minutes and will be conducted in groups of 20-25 students
meeting with a TA (Teaching Assistant) acting as the tutorial leader. The tutorial session will be
the main context for discussion of required and recommended reading, and the submission of the
The required readings are central to the course. The lectures and tutorials will serve to enrich,
clarify, and illustrate crucial issues from the assigned readings. Readings listed under a particular
date are assigned for tutorial discussion on that date.
Assignments, including Examinations, will be graded by the assigned TA under the supervision
of the Course Director. Questions about marks received should be taken first to the relevant TA.
The course mark will be based on one short essay assignment early in the first term, a research
essay in the second term, and two exams, one at the end of each term. The final exam is
cumulative over the year.
The grade for the course** will be based on the following items weighted as indicated:
• Essay 1 15%
• Mid-Term Exam 20%***+++
• Research Essay 2 25%
• Final Exam 25%
• Participation (Tutorials) 15%
* The Senate Grading Scheme and Feedback Policy stipulates that (a) the grading scheme (i.e.
kinds and weights of assignments, essays, exams, etc.) be announced, and be available in
writing, within the first two weeks of class, and that, (b) under normal circumstances, graded
feedback worth at least 15% of the final grade for Fall, Winter or Summer Term, and 30% for
‘full year’ courses be received by students in all courses PRIOR to the final withdrawal date
from a course without receiving a grade. That is, students MUST receive at least 15% (for term
courses) or 30% (for full-year courses) of their grades BEFORE Nov. 7, 2008 (for fall courses),
Feb. 6, 2009 (for full-year courses) and March 10, 2009 (for winter courses). The policy is
available at http://www.yorku.ca/secretariat/legislation/senate/gradfeed.htm. THIS IS A STRICT
RULE, SO PLEASE BE SURE TO COMPLY.
** If final grades are subject to grades distribution adjustment, it should be specifically noted in
this section by including the following statement:
3 “Final course grades may be adjusted to conform to Program or Faculty grades distribution
*** If Term Test are to be held outside of regularly scheduled class time, include announcement
of day, date and time here (e.g., Saturday, October X, 200Y, 10 am to 11:30, room TBA).
+++ An exam or term test worth more than 20% of the final grade may not be given during the
final two weeks of classes.
Assignment 1(FIRST TERM): A short research Essay (3-5 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font,
with one inch margins). This assignment will require you to write on a topic to be assigned early
in the first term.
Assignment 2 (SECOND TERM): Research Essay (10-12 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font, and
with inch margins).
This assignment will require you to write a research paper on a particular environmental issue. A
list of topics will be circulated at the outset of the winter term. You will also receive materials on
Exams (Mid-Term and Final): The mid-term exam will be two hours, held in December; the
final exam will be three hours, held in April. They will both be a mix of multiple choice
questions, required short definitions/essays, and long essays.
Tutorial Participation: The tutorial participation grade will be based on attendance at tutorials,
and on regular and informed participation in discussions or other presentations assigned by the
TA.Attendance will be taken at each tutorial. One missed session will not affect the participation
grade, but appropriate documentation (such as a note from a physican) must be provided for any
absence from tutorials for more than one week. Any personal emergencies that might affect your
participation or attendance should be reported to your TA as soon as possible.
Each student should obtain an account (no charge) to access the FES networks of Macintosh and
PC computers. All assignments submitted must be word-processed. Students should retain a
personal disk copy of all assignments in case of screw-ups!
(For assignments submitted on the last day of class, please refer to “Instructions for Submission
and Return of Final Assignments” section below)
Required Reading: There is no required textbook for the first term: required readings will be
posted or directed on the course website. There will be a required course kit for the second term.
Supplementary Reading (Recommended - not required):
1994 Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (Second Edition).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Some readings from this book will be
assigned as handouts.)
4 McMichael, A.J.
1994 Planetary Overload. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (This book
provides essential scientific information on global environmental change.)
Conca, Ken et al (eds.)
1995 Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Rio. Boulder,
Colo.: Westview Press. (An excellent collection of essays on planetary politics.)
Adelson, Glenn, et al
2008 Environment: An interdisciplinary Anthology. New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press. (a brand new anthology with a wide selection of relevant
readings including 10 case studies on urgent issues.)
FALL TERM: The Fall Term is divided into two parts -- Part 1: "Earth in Our Hands” -- that is,
what is the environmental situation we face as we enter the next millenium; and Part 2: "Green
History & The Nature of Nature” -- the commanding ideas of Nature and society that have
shaped the development of human history. This will provide an overview of the fundamentals of
emerging environmental thought and practice.
Schedule of Topics
The following list of lecture topics and readings is subject to change. Remember that the
readings listed under each date are assigned to be read by that date and will be discussed at the
tutorial following that date. Readings for the first term will be posted in the previous week for
the following week on the class Web site.
PART 1: THE EARTH IN OUR HANDS (unless specified, all readings are by Peter Timmerman)):
wk date title desc readings
Environmental studies is a complex mixture of the
physical and the social -- the natural ecosystems of
Introduction to the the earth, and the way in which people think about
1 Sep 3 Course: "The Earth in them, react to them, reshape them. The best frame for
Our Hands” study is the Earth as a whole -- its physical and
human dimensions. Case Study: The Monarch
We look early on at the basic signals and dimensions
of global change through time, and take an initial1. “Where Do We Stand With The
2 Sep 10 "Where Do We Find at the transformation of the earth by human activiEarth?”
Ourselves?” and the elements of human productivity and 2. “ The Monarch Butterfly: A Case
development that have led to the current Study”
environmental crisis. Case Study: Mount St. Helens.
A brief introduction to some basic tools of the 3. Raven, Peter. 2003. “Our Choice:
environmental trade, including population growth, How Many Species Will Survive the 21st
Boom and Bust: competition for resources, ecological niches, the Century?”. The Fifth Darwin Lecture:
3 Sep 17 Ecology & Society curve” and the "S” curve. These are explored throuhttp://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/dar
examples of environmental need and history. Case win/lecture/030521.htm (Sept 1, 04).
Study: The Plagues of History 4. “Gaia and the Earth System”.
4 Sep 24 Environmentalism A first look at the elements of environmental stud5. “Why Do Societies Collapse?”
concern. The mixture of powerful images and ideas,
emerging ecological and planetary science, and new
legislative and institutional frameworks, is outlined.
Some elements of modern industrial society and their
environmental impact, ranging from synthetic
chemicals to the foundations of modern agribusiness.
Case Study: Mauve.
5 Introducing the topics of the first short paper
PART 2: GREEN HISTORY & THE NATURE OF NATURE
wk date title desc readings
Myths of Nature: An introduction to the governing structural, 6. “The Human Dimension”
5 Oct 1 Cosmologies and paradigmatic myths of Nature in Western Society, and 7. Environmental Chronology
Concerns in contrast to non-Western approaches.
Agriculture and The The domestication of plants and animals, and in the 8. “Environment/ History I: To the Rise of
6 Oct 8 Rise of Cities rise of the “hydraulic civilizations” of Sumer, Egypt, Cities”
The later ancient world (especially around the
Mediterranean, e.g. Greece) had a complex set of
Ancient views of Gods, and a set of sacred rituals involving nature.
7 Oct 15 Nature: The Greeks, These complexes of myth were challenged by the rise 9. “Environment/History II – The Rise of
the Hebrews, and of monotheism, first in Judaism, modified in the West”
After Christianity, and further exemplified in Islam. Additions
to the “mix” were provided by the first philosophers of
The Christian view of Nature has arguably had the
greatest impact on the development of modern
8 Oct 22 The Medieval View of Western thought. It reached a zenith in the Middle 10. “St. Francis of Assisi: The First
the Natural World Ages. At the same time, there were traces, Environmentalist?”
subversions, and subterranean survivals of alternative
views of nature.