Climate change. Mass extinctions. Whether we are watching big-budget Hollywood disaster films or reading specialized scientific journals, crisis and even apocalypse have become watch-words of our contemporary ecological predicament. How do the categories and narratives that we use to conceptualize environmental issues affect how we respond? Students will engage contemporary ecological crises by investigating how concepts such as nature and sustainability have been imagined by different writers, in different genres, at distinct historical moments. They will learn to recognize and deconstruct some of the most common narrative tropes structuring environmental discourse, such as the pastoral ideal, pollution, wilderness, and apocalypse. As a result, students will be able to analyze and evaluate how narratives about nature shape contemporary conversations about the environment in popular culture and across disciplines. Key environmental concepts will be explored through an interdisciplinary range of course materials, including poetry, short stories, and novels; popular science writing and scientific journalism; nonfictional accounts of climate change; acts of Congress; and films. Authors may include Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Luther Standing Bear, Octavia Butler, Bill McKibben, Rachel Carson, and Aldo Leopold. 




This course is initially open to first-year and sophomore students. It will be open to all students after first-year students have pre-registered.

Cross Listed Courses

This is the same course as ES 155.

Registration Restrictions

Open to First-Years and Sophomores

Enrollment Limit

Enrollment limited to 28 students.