Political Science | The Politics of Sustainability
Y200 | 30706 | Bower-Bir

Over the course of this semester long course students will investigate
and analyze the political debates and strategies surrounding
environmental sustainability at the global, national, state, and
campus levels. Students will be introduced to economic and political
theory relevant to the topic, and they should be prepared for a fair
bit of writing.  Weekly reaction memos will help students refine their
ability to evaluate political arguments, and periodic debates will
help students to make them.  So that students can better appreciate
the role of empirical research in the sustainability movement (and
counter-movements), the class will undertake a collaborative,
large-scale research project.  The findings of this study will be of
direct use to IU’s Office of Sustainability.

Much of the material covered will be of general interest to political
observers.  Students who are specifically attracted to the topic of
sustainability, however, will have their fill.  Subjects include:

- The science behind climate change and sustainability
- A social scientist’s understanding of climate change and sustainability
- America’s historical approach to the environment
- Sustainability and public opinion
- Sustainability and organized interests
- Sustainability and the media
- Sustainability and the three branches of government
- Bureaucracy and the environment
- Local politics and the environment
- Sustainability in a comparative perspective
- An international approach to climate change

Some of the overarching themes of the course include:

- The role of science in a public discussion
- “Fair and balanced” in a scientific debate
- The implications of peer-review for democracy
- Technical expertise versus local knowledge
- Multiple (conflicting?) lenses through which to view environmental
- Is it about fairness (between generations, developing and developed
nations, etc.), practicality (economic growth/decline, health, etc.),
human survival, spirituality, and so forth?
- Ownership of natural resources
- Economic, political, and philosophical ramifications
- Changing people’s payoffs
- How to make people care about the environment… even if they don’t

This course will be more fun than a three-ring circus.  If you do not
like the circus, then it will be more fun than dogs, which are widely
considered enjoyable.  Interested students should feel free to contact
the instructor Jacob Bower-Bir with questions at <jbowerbi@indiana.edu>.