This course is not related to Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory.
ENVS 350, Environmental Theory, is an upper-division elective course in the Environmental Studies Program usually offered in the Spring of every year, primarily focused on analysing and exploring the various theoretical paradigms that have come to influence environmental scholarship and apply them to our own bodies of work.
The three main goals of this class, as with others within the department are to:
- Appreciate the intellectual and practical complexities of environmental problems and solutions.
- Master key concepts and methods of environmental analysis drawn from, and integrating, a broad range of disciplines.
- And fuse this background knowledge and analytical ability with leadership and communication skills to successfully devise and implement creative, academically grounded solutions to environmental problems.
This course portfolio will consist of reflection and synthesis posts related to the various theories and themes explored on a weekly basis, a deep analysis of Bruno Latour’s Facing Gaia, and lastly the development and application of a framework related to my Capstone.
Content Summary Here
The first three weeks of the course consisted of us exploring Ecotypes and their binaries in order to help us think about the ways in which the axes may manifest themselves in theory and other perspectives. To begin, each student picked an Ecotypes axis and did a presentation on their chosen axis. I chose Society, whose poles were consensus and conflict, which strongly related to sociological theories. The post about the presentation can be found here.
Realms of Theory
During the following weeks, we systematically approached environmental theory through the four realms of reality, knowledge, ethics, and politics. Each of these domains helped us think of theory as a vehicle and in layers to answering and critiquing ways of knowing. This approach consists of thinking about theory as a framework, explanation, critique and action. The posts relating to each realm can be found by clicking on their names above.
Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia
Drawing upon the concepts that ground us from the previous weeks, we now take a deep dive into Bruno Latour’s, Facing Gaia. We hope to deconstruct and rebuild our conceptualisations of nature and the Earth and our relation to them through invoking notions we explored through the four realms above and Ecotypes. In the first two chapters, we explored the nature/ culture binary, its origins and how to deconstruct it as we move toward building solutions for the future, in loom of climate change. The post summarising this can be found here. In the consequent weeks, we explored the consequences of the was in which nature is portrayed, the role of A.N.T in capturing reality and the anthropocene. To conclude our deep dive of Latour, we came to the reconceptualisation of the way in which we conceptualise the earth and our relationship with it, in the manifestation of the reconstructed Gaia. This notion illustrated how wholistic thinking is needed for solutions and also the necessity for agency to be given to nonhuman entities, which may be flora, fauna and other entities in the biosphere.
Framework for Capstone
Stemming from my concentration which sought to explore the role of coloniality and ecological imperialism in the construction of disparities and solutions in peripheral countries, my topic of interest seeks to explore these notions, to varying degrees, in the context of conservation. In the last century and a half, many conservation areas have been created in order to protect various flora and fauna from humans and extinction as a result of many reasons. As a person who was born and has lived in Southern Africa, I have had the opportunity to visit various game reserves and wildlife conservation areas on safari and as a larger part of other recreational activities. Whilst doing so, I have seen the effects that these areas have have on the livelihoods of people, through their origins, the economy of the countries, where tourism plays a major role in the annual GDP, and also for the species that are protected, some of which would’ve been extinct, incurring negative consequences for whole ecosystems. These impacts are far reaching in the human and nonhuman worlds, and pose many ethical issues related to the rights of both humans and other animals and entities. And so this framework seeks to explore the question: Is conservation beneficial?, using the theories and concepts drawn from Postcolonialism, Political Ecology and Conservation Biology.
Click below to view the presentation:
[iframe src=”https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vT66p5yOPlsEUg-NvvIwiugPTlnBhULdQTiN22FOlI_4L5a_wDQVhk1tQQgmQwYM_ypPLhxN1sVQ0tc/embed?start=false&loop=false&delayms=10000″ frameborder=”0″ width=”960″ height=”569″ allowfullscreen=”true” mozallowfullscreen=”true” webkitallowfullscreen=”true”]