Fossil fuel powered the making--now the unmaking--of the modern world. As the first fossil fuel state, Pennsylvania led the United States toward an energy-intensive economy, a technological pathway with planetary consequences. The purpose of this seminar is to perform a historical accounting--and an ethical reckoning--of coal, oil, and natural gas. Specifically, students will investigate the histories and legacies of fossil fuel in connection to three entities: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania. Under instructor guidance, students will do original research, some of it online, much the rest of it in archives, on and off campus, in and around Philadelphia. Philly-based research may also involve fieldwork. While based in historical sources and methods, this course intersects with business, finance, policy, environmental science, environmental engineering, urban and regional planning, public health, and social justice. Student projects may take multiple forms, individual and collaborative, from traditional papers to data visualizations prepared with assistance from the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. Through their research, students will contribute to a multi-year project that will ultimately be made available to the public.
This course fulfills Arts & Humanities Approaches to Environmental Inquiry requirement.