2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Listening to the Land


Winter 2012 quarter

Ted Whitesell geography, environmental studies , Frances V. Rains Native American studies, history, women's studies
Fields of Study
Native American studies, environmental studies, geography, history and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
conservation, ecological restoration, history, and Native American studies.

Modern development controls and reshapes landscapes and their natural communities in many ways.  Our natural shorelines have been covered with asphalt and buildings, our rivers have been dammed, our forests have been turned into timber plantations, our wetlands have been drained, our arid basins are endless fields of intensive agribusiness, and our scenic areas have turned into tourist meccas full of roads, buildings, and fun seekers.  Is there a future for at least some landscapes where humans would behave as respectful members of diverse natural communities; where we would listen to what the land is telling us?  Many Native Americans and non-Natives have been fighting for generations to promote the wellbeing of places that are special to them, and to recover many areas that have been "developed."  This program will look at important approaches to this challenge, allowing students to discover what a sustainable and just landscape looks like -- particularly in the places that we know and love -- and how, exactly, we can help some places remain free of "progress," as commonly defined.  We will approach this topic by looking at the tensions behind the major approaches to interacting with and protecting the land by Native and non-Native peoples, investigating practices that have been called "conservation," "wilderness preservation," and "stewardship," and examining the different meanings associated with these terms.  We will look at both historic and contemporary efforts to mitigate the tensions between different approaches and competing interests and viewpoints, including interests and viewpoints grounded in race, class, gender, and culture.  A number of regional case studies of Native and non-Native practices will be used to ground our work, showing how some lands have been safeguarded, some ecosystems have been restored, and some cultural practices might be evolving in both Native and non-Native communities, leading toward sustainability, justice, and the autonomy of natural systems.  It is essential for any society that intends to be sustainable to foresee the consequences of its treatment of the natural communities where they live.  Therefore, a central concern will be that students learn from past experience how to foster a future society characterized by humility, respect, and reverence toward natural communities.

Learning will take place through writing, readings, seminars, lectures, and films.  Students will improve their research skills through document review, landscape observations, critical analysis, and written assignments.  Each student will research and report on one on-going case that represents a hopeful path forward toward autonomous and just landscapes.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 3rd, 2011 New offering added.