Spring 2021

GRMN 151-401, CIMS 152-401, COML 154-401, ENVS 151-401

Simon Richter

Tuesday / Thursday 7:00-8:30pm

The destruction of the world’s forests through wild fires, deforestation, and global heating threatens planetary bio-diversity and may even, as a 2020 shows, trigger civilizational collapse. Can the humanities help us think differently about the forest? At the same time that forests of the world are in crisis, the “rights of nature” movement is making progress in forcing courts to acknowledge the legal “personhood” of forests and other ecosystems. The stories that humans have told and continue to tell about forests are a source for the imaginative and cultural content of that claim. At a time when humans seem unable to curb the destructive practices that place themselves, biodiversity, and forests at risk, the humanities give us access to a record of the complex inter-relationship between forests and humanity. Forest Worlds serves as an introduction to the environmental humanities. The environmental humanities offer a perspective on the climate emergency and the human dimension of climate change that are typically not part of the study of climate science or climate policy. Students receive instruction in the methods of the humanities—cultural analysis and interpretation of literature and film—in relation to texts that illuminate patterns of human behavior, thought, and affect with regard to living in and with nature.

Spring 2021

GRMN 312-301

Simon Richter

Monday / Wednesday 4:00-5:00pm

Many regard Germany as a leader in the transition to renewable energy. The Green Party has been a significant player in federal and local politics since 1981. The current Austrian chancellor is a member of the Green Party. Soon, Germany will shutter its last nuclear reactor. Work on the coal phase-out has already begun. Germans overwhelmingly support aggressive climate action by their government. How can we explain this? In this course, we will become familiar with current climate, environmental, and energy policy and practice in Germany and Austria, but we will also delve into the cultural history of German environmentalism. We'll learn about the origin of the German concept of sustainability in early 18th-century forestry; the role of the forest in Romanticism; the origin of the concepts of ecology and environment in the work of Ernst Haeckel and Jacob von Uexkull; the role of the mountains in Austrian environmental thinking; Nazi-era environmentalism; "Waldsterben," the anti-nuke movement and the rise of the Green Party; the "Energiewende"; and the impact of the uprising to protect the Hambacher Forest on the coal phase-out. We'll make use of readings from policy, history, and literature, and screen feature and documentary films. Pre-req: Taught in German, Prereq: GRMN 203

Spring 2021

ARCH 718

Daniel Barber

Wednesday 9:00am-12:00pm

This course discusses the history of thinking about climate in architecture. We confront the geographic and epistemic challenges of climate change and other environmental threats, and reconsider the forces seen to condition the development of the field. We elaborate narrative for the field that focuses on architecture as a device for climatic adaptability. As many of the arguments and innovations in the climate discourse were made through visual means, the images produced by architects will also be a central arena of exploration, in the context of other environmental-mediatic practices. This is a small lecture course, required for students in the Master of Environmental Building Design, undergrads and grads are welcome. 

 

This course fulfills the humanities requirement for the minor.

Spring 2021

ARTH 577/ ARCH 411/711

Daniel Barber

Thursday 1:30-4:30pm

This seminar will address the diverse narratives of ecological thinking in the history of art, architecture, and urban planning during the 20th century. The course will contextualize and interrogate contemporary disciplinary discourses as well as historical assumptions related to ecological thinking in art and architectural history and environmentally-conscious practices. By mapping received trajectories of Eco Art, Ecocritical Art History, and Ecological Histories of Architecture and Urban Planning, the course will work from a subtly hidden foundation of eco-historical knowledge that connects these fields of inquiry, while also critiquing these trajectories and seeking to provide more focused and robust alternatives for knowledge production in the present. It aims to attract students from the School of Arts and Sciences and the Weitzman School of Design in a discussion on the interconnected histories of art and architecture during the 20th century.

 

This course fulfills the humanities requirement for the minor.

Spring 2021

BEPP/OIDD 763

Arthur van Benthem

Tuesday / Thursday 3:00-4:20pm

BEPP/OIDD 763 (Energy Markets and Policy) teaches you how to think about energy markets – ranging from fossil fuels to renewable energy to cap-and-trade systems – from an economist’s perspective and how regulation impacts important large-scale investment decisions in the energy space.

 

This course fulfills the social science requirement for the minor.

Spring 2021

BEPP/OIDD 263

Arthur van Benthem

Tuesday / Thursday 12:00-1:20pm

BEPP/OIDD 263 (Environmental & Energy Economics and Policy) examines environmental and energy markets from an economist’s perspective, ranging from fossil fuels to renewable energy to cap-and-trade systems, and explains how different regulations can provide efficient or counter-productive incentives for firms, consumers and politicians.

 

This course fulfills the social science requirement for the minor.

Spring 2021

ENGL 158/STSC 118

Peter Tarr

TBD (once per week, for approximately 2 hours)

Millions of Americans are science-illiterate; a growing number are "science-deniers." This state of affairs was brought to light as never before in the uneven response to expert advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much confusion about science and technology as reported in the press. Are GMOs dangerous? Does climate change pose a threat we need to act upon now? Should biologists be permitted to “edit” germline cells? Is data privacy something we should no longer expect? This workshop is for students interested in using popular science writing to broaden public understanding of such questions. The premise is that good sci-tech writing should help the public assess the role of science in society. Each student will produce 4 polished pieces of writing (3 fact-based op-eds of 750 words + a scientist-profile of 1500-2000 words) about scientists and sci-tech subject matter, based on a range of techniques that all journalists must master: researching a topic; identifying potential interviewees; focusing the story; and writing and rewriting story drafts. The object is to show improvement between first and subsequent drafts, with help from others in the workshop, who will provide periodic short critiques. [Note: The profile project will be modified to reflect what is possible under pandemic conditions.] This course is cross-listed in Science, Technology and Society as STSC 118.

 

This course meets both the humanities and public engagement requirements.

Spring 2021

PHIL070-301

Kok-Chor Tan

Tuesday / Thursday 12:00-1:30 PM

The theme of this first-year seminar course is the ethics and politics of wildlife and environmental conservation. We will explore two sets of questions related to conservation. (i) First, what do we owe to (non-human) animals and the natural environment? For example, what intrinsic interests and rights do animals have? And is there such a thing as "the right of nature?" Do rivers themselves, for example, have rights? (ii) Second, what do we owe to each other regarding animals and the natural environment? For example, what are the societal costs of wildlife conservation and how are these to be fairly distributed? How do considerations of social justice and global justice affect our understanding of ethical conservation? What is a globally just allocation of the burdens of climate justice and environmental protection? And has global eco-tourism contributed positively to both conservation and social/local justice? Among other things, this seminar will attempt to integrate the more familiar field of animal and environmental ethics with the less explored question of the justice and politics of conservation.

Spring 2021

GRMN 544-401, ANTH 543-401, COML 562-401, ENVS 544-401, URBS 544-401

Bethany Wiggin

Wednesdays 2:00-5:00 PM

By necessity, work in environmental humanities spans academic disciplines. By design, it can also address and engage publics beyond traditional academic settings. This seminar explores best practices in public environmental humanities. Students receive close mentoring and build collaborative community to develop and execute cross-disciplinary, public engagement projects on the environment. This broadly interdisciplinary course is designed exclusively for minors in the environmental humanities and Fellows and Research Interns in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) who hail from departments across Arts and Sciences as well as other schools at the university. 

 

Public Environmental Humanities course poster
 

Spring 2021

ANTH-541-301

Kristina Lyons

Tuesdays 3:00-6:00 PM

This course places science studies in conversation with counterforensic and ethnographic methodologies, decolonial and feminist approaches, data and environmental justice, critical race and disability studies, and conflict medicine, among other topics. We will be looking at the ways that the arts, natural and social sciences, and community-oriented research agendas come together, and what tensions and possibilities these emergent alliances, intersectional modes of thinking, and practical collaborations may produce. This class offers a unique opportunity for graduate students from engineering, medical school, natural and social sciences, humanities, and the arts to learn to converse and collaborate around pressing socio-environmental issues. Emergent transdisciplinary fields, such as the environmental and medical humanities, reflect a growing awareness that responses to the environmental and public health dilemmas being faced require the collaborative work of not only diverse scientists, but also more expansive publics, including artists, urban and rural communities, and their relationships with nonhumans and materialities. Aspirations for justice and the possibilities for evidence making require translation across different practices, temporalities and scales; negotiations with the forces of extractive economic structures; and endurance within racist and colonial legacies as well as situations of everyday militarization and social and armed conflict. Throughout the course we will collectively explore moments of newly shared insight, mutual incomprehension, and partial connection between disparate actors and potentially unlikely allies. The idea is not for us to necessarily give up our disciplinary orientations, but rather to learn how to approach shared matters of concern without canceling out our differences and the generative agonisms they produce.

Spring 2021