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Politics Department

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Politics 341: The Politics of Environmental Policy Making
Spring 2008
TuTh  8:00-9:30 am  Collins 210    

LAB: Th 1-4 pm Collins 211

Dr. Joe Bowersox
Department of Environmental and Earth Sciences
Collins 206, 370-6220,
Office Hours: Tu 1-2 pm, W1:00-2:00 pm, or by appointment

Previous course pictures and maps

Course Description
Whether we're talking about the management of our national forests or the protection of the quality of our inland waters, environmental and natural resource concerns invariably confront the apparently illogical and unscientific world of "politics." When making decisions concerning the protection, management, or use of our environmental resources, it often appears that politics simply get in the way....

This course starts with the premise that understanding contemporary environmental dilemmas requires a firm grasp of not merely the political process and the various "inputs" to public policymaking, but also the social and political history of various environmental and natural resource dilemmas and the scientific research behind them as well. Thus, in the "class time" portion of the course  we will focus on the fundamentals of the policy process, including the roles of legislative bodies, executive agencies, politically salient changes in public opinion and social values, and the basics of environmental law. The unique characteristics of environmental and natural resource issues will also be explored, since these tend to complicate the handling of these issues in the existing political and legal processes. In our required labs, will be problem oriented. In addition to developing familiarity and expertise with specific spatial, statistical tools like ArcGIS, and MultiSpec, we employ them for critical thinking and analysis of local problems like alternative transportation planning and design. Additional linkages will be made between the lab and class portions of the course, as we employ case studies in landfill siting, climate change, endangered species protection, air toxins, environmental justice, and urban planning. In each case, we will examine both national and local scale policies and processes. We will conclude with an examination of broader policy trends endemic to environmental and natural resource policy processes in the Pacific Northwest.

Course Goals
Since this course is an upper division policy course counting towards both the Politics and Environmental Science majors, it serves a particularly important purpose of introducing students to the broad fields of environmental policy and law. More specifically, this course's focus on environmental issues ought to demonstrate to students the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary policy issues, and illustrate the importance of cross- disciplinary approaches for problem definition and resolution. After providing a general introduction to policy, the latter portion of the course is designed to prepare students to conduct independent policy research necessary for completion of a disciplinary senior thesis.

N. Kubasek, G. Silverman, Environmental Law. Hereafter EL.

S.Spray, K.McGlothlin, (eds.). Wetlands. Hereafter WET.

S.Spray, K.McGlothlin, (eds.). Global Climate Change.Hereafter GCC.

Additional readings will be distributed in class, on electronic reserve, or via the web. I reserve the right to add short additional readings as needed.

Course Requirements
This course will include two one-hour midterm exams (100 points each), a final research assignment (100 points), a series of lab exercises (200 points total), and a participation grade (100 points) for a total of 600 points.

A brief note on written assignments/exercises. I take due dates seriously. Assignments are due on the day and time noted. Assignments that are turned in later will be subject to a penalty of 5% per twelve-hour period of delay. All paper assignments should include proper citation and a bibliography.

A brief note on participation. While some of our time will be spent in lectures, a major portion of this course will be spent in discussion of the readings and topics assigned. Therefore it is imperative that students come PREPARED to class. Our readings and topics should invoke lively and spirited conversation and debate, so make sure that you get the most out of it by being quite familiar with the readings by the time you get to class. Written responses to some readings will be required prior to the class in which they will be discussed. Furthermore, attendance/participation in some outside activities will not be simply encouraged but required. Again, ACTIVE participation is worth 100 class points of the course.

A final brief note on attendance--my standard disclaimer: Attendance is expected and viewed as a minimal requirement for satisfactorily completing this course. Students who are absent more than FOUR times during the semester without a valid excuse (legitimate medical condition or mandatory university activity) will be penalized 10% (60 points) from their total grade, and another 10% for each additional four absences. Use your quota of four sparingly, for though I do not always take attendance and you may get off lucky one day, on another you may not. I have final discretion on what is considered legitimate.

Computers and cellphones in the classroom. Laptop computers are a marvelous learning tool, and the expansion of WiFi on our campus has enhanced many learning opportunities. But such technological advances can have negative consequences in the classroom. Please feel free to use your laptop for notetaking in class. Occasionally, we may want to look things up on line as well. However, please refrain from checking email, iChatting, websurfing, etc. during class. If you are observed doing so during class time, you will asked to no longer bring your laptop to class. Cellphones should be turned off prior to class.

Grading will be on a straight point/percentage basis without a curve, using the following breakdown on a 600 point scale:

94% (564 points)             A
90% (540 points)             A-
87% (522 points)             B+
83% (498 points)             B
80% (480 points)             B-
77% (462 points)             C+
73% (438 points)             C
70% (420 points)             C-
67% (402 points)             D+
63% (378 points)             D
60% (360 points)             D-
59% or below (<360 pts)  F