This interdisciplinary program focuses on the production and transformation of landscapes by different cultures in the Pacific Northwest, South America and the Middle East. It serves to introduce students to the foundations of environmental, cultural, media and community studies, with an emphasis on sustainability, human geography, cultural practices, struggles for environmental justice, and movements to preserve land and cultures faced with colonization and globalization. We explore themes such as the connection between native peoples, land, resources and struggles for self-determination; the potential for creating labor-environment coalitions; national security in relation to civil liberties and human rights; environmental and human impacts of war and military occupation; and the role that public art and media can play in community struggles and organizing. Through our studies, observation and engagement with movements and communities we hope to reframe these often polarized debates and identify emerging solutions. Students are introduced to a variety of approaches to action for sustainability and justice, including movements that emphasize popular democracy and decision-making, national autonomy, and coalition-building across cultural, regional and national borders.

We expect to take a 2-3 day field trip in Washington each quarter, emphasizing field observations of the landscapes and cultures of the Pacific Northwest. Students will learn to “read” landscapes—natural, urban/industrial, rural or militarized landscapes—as primary sources of information about community identity, culture, social relations and human/environment relationships. We will also analyze cultural texts, including literature and film, to understand the relationships of people and communities to their natural and created environments and how their sense of identity is influenced by their experience of place.

Selected topics in environmental studies will be introduced, including climate change, human population, energy, pollution and species extinction. We will look at the role the media plays in shaping our understanding of people and places. We will also learn how people in diverse political, economic and social situations are working to create justice and sustainability and we will explore strategies and media for observing, analyzing and collaborating with communities engaged in these efforts.

Students will be encouraged to conduct research on a specific movement or community effort for sustainability or environmental justice, and to use a variety of documentation strategies in their research. Students will develop skills in field observation, creative and expository writing, photography, audio recording, analytical reading, quantitative reasoning, interviewing, literary analysis, and the terminologies and methodologies of the natural and social sciences.

Fall quarter will focus on the histories of expansion, colonization and globalization in the Middle East, South America and the American West. In winter, we will more closely examine specific international case studies in the Middle East and South America (Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Venezuela and Brazil). We will also look at case studies of industrialization, to understand how communities co-exist and struggle with corporations and how they negotiate the complicated terrain of jobs, health and sustainable economic development. In spring quarter, students will build upon these foundations by participating in and documenting local activism connected to issues of sustainability, power and justice. Students are also encouraged to participate in community-based internships in spring quarter.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 69

Internship Possibilities: Internships are one option for spring quarter projects.

Special Expenses: Potentially $100 per quarter for photography materials and $100 per quarter for overnight field trips.

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in geography, cultural studies, international affairs, environmental conservation, community organizing and advocacy, documentary journalism and education.

Major areas of study include environmental studies, cultural studies, geography, community studies and media studies.

Class Standing: This Core program is designed for freshmen.

Fields of Study: Community Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Media Studies, Sustainability Studies

Accepts Winter Enrollment: This program will accept new enrollment, with signature. Admission will be based on some evidence of photography instruction and experience. Students will be expected to do some catch-up work to review fall-quarter fundamental readings.

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