Environmental Justice



This class gives you an introduction to the field of environmental justice. We will begin with fundamentals of Rawlsian justice and touching on theories of situatedness and privilege. Students will develop an understanding of why environmental justice is a critical and controversial topic, as well as understanding the history of the concept and the movements it relates to. Both domestic and international aspects of environmental justice will be considered. Once students have had a solid grounding in the theory of environmental justice, cases will be examined such as: cities and their role in the cause of environmental justice, prisons, black lives matter, indigenous peoples, climate change, and the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan.


Learning Outcomes


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Explain why environmental justice is important
  • Understand how the idea of environmental justice has changed and developed over the past three deacades
  • Apply theoretical ideas of environmental justice (including privilege, distribution, and process) to case studies
  • Understand their own self-selected case studies and explain their importance to both the class and the instructor
  • Write critically and thoughtfully on a range of academic perspectives around the idea of environmental justice
  • Recognize the tension between environmental justice as an academic idea and a social movement

Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies

How are we influenced by our environment, and how do our actions influence that landscape in turn? In this class, we will read classic and contemporary environmental writing (fiction and nonfiction) to see how writers and other artists use landscape as a tool in narrative storytelling. Sometimes the nonhuman landscape is a character, other times a mirror for the people who live there. You will also engage in your own artistic and analytical explorations of your own relationship to the environment – be it agricultural, suburban, urban, or wilderness.


By the end of this course, you should have interrogated your own assumptions about the environment, and have a richer and more critical understanding of the iterative relationship between environment and society. You will have learned skills which are essential to your success in college, including critical reading, writing analytical papers, and undertaking self-motivated original research.

Read the most recent syllabus for this course: FYS Syllabus

American Culture and the Environment (ENV 120)

A lower-level introduction to the fundamentals of American environmental thought.

Class Description

This introductory course in Environmental Studies explains key environmental concepts and surveys the changing relationships between people and their environments through key texts in American literature, sociology and history. It particularly emphasizes the way that social differences including race, class, and gender have changed the way both individuals and groups relate to their environment.

In this class, society and its environment – its physical surroundings – exist on a continuum rather than having a well-defined separation. Each shapes the other, in a mutually reinforcing relationship. In the United States, the landscape is a critical element of national story-telling and myth-making as well, with an intimate connection to culture. Throughout this course, we will investigate and interrogate these relationships to develop our understanding of how we as citizens are participants in the landscape we inhabit.


View the syllabus for the most recent version of this class: env 120 syllabus wi19