Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Fall Syllabus #2: Environmental Protection!

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My other course is also super exciting: a version of the “Material Cultures” course I developed with an NEH grant a few years back devoted to “Environmental Protection.” Some of the assignments are pulled from the ecologically focused modules of the old Cultural Preservation course, others are new to this one.

Again, below you can find the course description and week-by-week schedule; full syllabus is here…

Recently, “sustainability” has become a powerful concept in both academic discourse and popular debate; however, since the time of Heraclitus in Ancient Greece philosophers have recognized that change is inevitable and that there is always tension between what we should preserve and what is disposable. This course will use interdisciplinary scholarship to probe the central question underlying all environmental protection: what should we value enough to pass on to future generations? It will ask students to confront this dilemma by interrogating what precisely makes a natural resource sufficiently valuable to cherish and keep. In our time, the concept of “value” is dominated by economic language, but this view is crucially incomplete: what gives objects value is not their exchangeability but the fact that humans care about them and are willing to preserve and maintain them. A park is just open land, after all, until someone declares it worthy of protection. Establishing and asserting these sorts of non-economic values has long been a defining characteristic of study in the humanities, which have always appreciated how shared heritage links us to the past, creates meaning and relevance in the present, and allows us to shape our collective future. In that spirit we will examine a wide variety of political, philosophical, and aesthetic questions around sustainability, and environmental protection, and develop a framework for engaging pressing contemporary debates about the preservation of our shared natural heritage.

T Aug 28 FIRST DAY OF CLASS
Charles Stross, “Designing Society for Posterity” (Web)
Th Aug 30 Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future(Chapters 1-3, plus epilogue)
T Sep 4 Johan Rockstrom et. al, “Planetary Boundaries” [D2L]
John Bellamy Foster, “Ecology against Capitalism” [D2L]
Naomi Klein, “Climate Rage” [Web]
Th Sep 6 Nathaniel Rich, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” [Web]

Responses to Rich from Robinson Meyer, Naomi Klein, Alyssa Battistoni, and Matto Mildenberger and Leah C. Stokes [Web]

T Sep 11 Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (first half)
Th Sep 13 Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (second half)
T Sep 18 S.B. Banerjee, “Necrocapitalism” [D2L]
Arundhati Roy, “The Greater Common Good” [Web]
Vandana Shiva, “Earth Democracy” [Web]
Th Sep 20 Clare Kendall, “A New Law of Nature” [Web]
Mihnea Tanasescu, “When a River Is A Person” [Web]
Manuela Picq, “Can the Law Prevail Over Chinese investments in Ecuador?” [Web]
T Sep 25 case study: Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars2-3, 94-96,133-158, 168-179 [D2L]
Chris McKay, “Does Mars Have Rights?” [D2L]

Th Sep 27 Daniel Quinn, Ishmael (first half)
T Oct 2 Daniel Quinn, Ishmael (second half)
Lisa Wells, “The Blaze” [Web]
FIRST PAPER MINI-WORKSHOP
Th Oct 4 CLASS CANCELLED FOR MILWAUKEE COUNTY ZOO TOUR
T Oct 9 Kathy Rudy, “Where the Wild Things Ought to Be” [D2L]
Kim Stanley Robinson, “Empty Half the Earth of Its Humans. It’s the Only Way to Save the Planet” [Web]
FIRST PAPER DUE
Th Oct 11 FALL BREAK—NO CLASS
T Oct 16 Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History” [D2L]
McKenzie Wark, “Critical Theory after the Anthropocene” [Web]
film (in class): Ramin Bahrani, “Plastic Bag”
Th Oct 18 Daniel Hartley, “Against the Anthropocene” [Web]
Margaret Atwood, “Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet” [Web]
Ted Chiang, “The Great Silence” [Web]
T Oct 23 Richard McGuire, Here
Th Oct 25 Richard McGuire, Here
SECOND PAPER MINI-WORKSHOP
T Oct 30 Graeme Wood, “Re-Engineering the Earth” [Web]
Eduardo Porter, “To Curb Global Warming, Science Fiction May Become Fact” [Web]
Adam McGibbom, “There Is No Quick Fix for Climate Change” [Web]
Phil Torres, “Engineering the atmosphere: Is it possible? And would it prevent catastrophe, or cause it?” [Web]
Alexander C. Kaufman, “The King of Climate Fiction Makes the Left’s Case for Geoengineering” [Web]
Peter Frase, “Geoengineering for the People” [Web]
Th Nov 1 case study: refreezing the Arctic
Robin McKee, “Could a £400bn plan to refreeze the Arctic before the ice melts really work?” [Web]
SECOND PAPER DUE
T Nov 6 Kim Stanley Robinson, introduction to Future Primitive [D2L]
Ernest Callenbach, “Chocco” [D2L]

99% Invisible, “Ten Thousand Years” [Web]
Sarah Zhang, “The Cat Went Over Radioactive Mountain” [Web]
Alan Bellows, “This Place Is Not a Place of Honor” [Web]
WIPP Exhibit, “Message to 12,000 A.D.” [Web]

Th Nov 8 Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home
T Nov 13 Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home
Th Nov 15 Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home
T Nov 20 Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home
Th Nov 22 THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS
T Nov 27 Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation
Th Nov 29 Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation

FINAL PAPERS/PROJECTS MINI-WORKSHOP

T Dec 4 Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation
film (out of class): Annihilation
LAST DAY OF CLASS
Th Dec 6 CLASS CANCELLED DUE TO INSTRUCTOR TRAVEL
W Dec 12 FINAL PAPERS/PROJECTS DUE BY 10 AM VIA D2L DROPBOX

 

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