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Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics


This course introduces students to methodologies and approaches in Science and Technology Studies as they pertain to the analysis of environmental problems. How do science, technology, and society interact to determine what counts as an environmental problem? How are possible responses to environmental crises shaped by technological development and assumptions about what counts as "nature"? We will study, for example, debates around climate change, genetically modified foods, biodiversity, invasive species, and indoor pollution and look at responses to environmental disasters such as Chernobyl, Bhopal, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Questions include: How do regulatory institutions deal with uncertainties in science? Who is an expert and who contributes to environmental knowledge production? How do scientists measure biodiversity, and what counts as a species? What assumptions about the relationship between humans and the rest of nature motivate the genetic engineering of environmentally friendly pigs? How is environmental risk regulated in different countries? What is the relationship between science and politics in various approaches to environmental problems? We will compare debates over environmental issues as they are depicted in the popular media to how science studies scholars approach the same issues. Students will learn how attention to the details of scientific practices can shift questions about the meaning of scientific evidence and social responsibility and how interdisciplinary approaches to controversies over environmental problems may complicate the debates.