This course explores key themes and case studies in political ecology. Political ecology is an approach to understanding environmental change and conflict, and natural resource problems. This approach emerges from multiple disciplines, including sociology, geography, and anthropology. Political ecology provides a way of understanding the mechanisms producing environmental change, the complex factors contributing to environmental conflict, and the possible paths toward sustainability. Political ecology conceptualizes environmental conflict as both material (as in struggles over resources) and discursive (as in struggles over meaning). In political ecology, natural resource and environmental conservation are believed to be place-based, but intimately connected to broader political-economic factors. According to political ecology, conservation and natural resource management is fundamentally political, and shaped by both local and global processes.
Historically, political ecology was concerned with the role of broader political-economic forces in place-based environmental degradation in the developing world. However, the political ecology approach has since been applied to an array of natural resource and conservation issues in both industrialized and developing country contexts. In this class, we will examine a number of key themes and areas of study, including globalization, property, the politics of knowledge, tourism, protected area conservation, land use change, gender relations, and conservation in urban environments.
This course is a social theory course, with an emphasis on how social theory is applied to a variety of conservation and natural resource problems. That said, FOR 570 is not a comprehensive survey of the social theories utilized in conservation and natural resource social science. We focus specifically on the key themes and tools used in political ecology. Students will learn about the history of political ecology, how it has been applied in domestic and international contexts, and how the political ecology “toolbox” can assist graduate students in the examination of critical conservation and environmental issues.