Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 532 - Conservation and Culture

Instructor: Christopher Laursen

Credits: 3

Conservation and Culture provides graduate students with a hands-on learning experience of nature conservation practices. As students gain cultural, ideological, and historical context about the rise of nature conservation through online readings and discussions, they will simultaneously embed themselves in and discuss an active conservation project of their choosing. They may actively volunteer in a conservation project in-person to observe it. Or students may participate in specific online discussions or analyze print or electronic media around conservation. Either way, each student will orient themselves toward a specific conservation project and interact with some of its advocates and/or critics. The goal is to authentically get a broader and deeper sense of how conservation works.

This applied learning approach aims to ground students’ scholarly studies in real-world practices, building a bridge between the two worlds. Each week is designed to guide students to develop and complete a successful final project (which may be a scholarly paper, a public education piece, or a creative work) that aims to deepen our understanding of ecological issues, how people think about them, the practices of environmental advocacy, and how to speak on behalf of the natural world.

Course Description

The course is organized as follows:

• Introduction: Applying Liberal Studies to Comprehend Conservation and Culture, in which we learn the basics about conservation and policy, and define how the course will combine scholarly analysis and applied learning.

• Early Twentieth-Century Conservation, in which we examine the making of North American conservation around the creation of national parks, as each student is guided toward choosing and establishing their project with a conservation topic.

• Environmental Crusades, in which we consider how the mid-twentieth-century environmental movement emerged, and students relate those movements to their chosen conservation topic.

• Dark Green Religion, in which we explore how spirituality and philosophy provide a language to envision and feel the human connection to the biosphere, and determine the language used by the chosen conservation topic to advocate its cause.

• To complete a Final Project, an applied learning approach guides students toward successful engagement with their chosen conservation practice. Step-by-step, students reflect deeply on their immersion in a conservation topic, content that helps them build their Final Project.

• Peer review of draft Final Projects allows for input that helps improve the focus and quality of students’ research and writing. Students will then have time to revise their Final Projects for evaluation.

Students begin units by reading text online that gives context to the topic and week’s readings. Online discussions provide a lively, interactive environment between students and the instructor.

Required Texts

If you register in this class, please purchase the following two texts:

(1) Andrew Dobson, Environmental Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). ISBN: 978-0199665570

(2) Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion: Nature, Spirituality and the Planetary Future (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). ISBN: 978-0520261006

(3) Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). ISBN: 978-0231169547

Other materials will be available online, through UNCW’s Randall Library, or Interlibrary Loans. Assigned films can be rented and viewed for free online.

Reliable internet access is required for online courses.

Last Updated: August 12, 2019