History | Environmentalism: from Thoreau to Nader
W300 | 4471 | Perry


For many people “environmentalism” and the “environmental movement”
are synonymous with the peace demonstrations and conservation
politics of the 1970s.  Though certainly these most visible moments
reveal the overwhelming desire to protect the environment amidst the
growing consumerism and nuclear threat of that time, the 1970s did
not mark the beginning nor even the most typical moments of
environmentalism.  As this course will demonstrate political and
cultural ideas about the environment have existed since the
beginning of the modern era.  Indeed ideas about the environment
have been at the core of some of the most important political and
cultural movements of the past two hundred years:
Transcendentalism, Romanticism, Nationalism, the Industrial
Revolution, the invention of public health, National Socialism,
nature conservation and globalization to name just a few.  This
course examines the history of environmentalism and traces the ever-
changing concept of the environment from the early 19th century to
the present.  Through an examination of poetry, painting, political
treatises, music, manifestoes, film, video clips and newspaper
articles we will chart environmentalism as it is used (and sometimes
abused) by philosophers, artists, politicians, feminists, dictators,
peaceniks, protestors and vigilantes.

This course has several aims.  Intellectually it will develop
analytical and reasoning skills in undergraduate students by asking
them to engage with primary source material.  The course also aims
at incorporating the IU environment—both the university campus and
the Bloomington surroundings—into the intellectual experience of the
course, thus expanding our notions of “environment”.  Therefore, the
class will take occasional field trips to the Lilly Library, IU Art
Museum, Dunn Woods and other campus buildings in an effort use the
intellectually-rich resources available here on campus.  Towards the
end of the course we will examine environmentalism in our own
backyard.  We will examine the manifestation and deployment of these
ideas here in Bloomington by looking at local events or programs
such as the “blooming-dollars program”, the health food movement,
urban/university planning and expansionist programs, local/”slow-
food” movements, or eco-terrorism and local protest organizations.
Students will be expected to read and discuss primary sources while
also actively participating in group discussion.  Readings will also
include Silent Spring, The Green Revolution and selections in a
Course Reader.  Grading will be based on discussion, weekly 1-page
microtheme papers, 1 mid-term and a final exam.