28POLS 346, Spring 2016. 

The Assignments page.


The Last Essay.  Please answer any one (1) of the following questions.  Answer all parts of the question, and limit yourself to 900 words.  Remember that last essays are opportunities to demonstrate your thoughtful command of course material, and your own sense of whether politics matters in your life.  This is due Tuesday, May 24, at 1:00 p.m.  You may turn it in via email or the Sakai drop box. 


1. Your text authors argue we have a "green drift" built into our system of government.  What does this concept draw your attention to when examining environmental politics?  What does it avert your attention from when examining environmental politics?  On balance, is the concept helpful in understanding which issues we tend to pay attention to in our politics? 



2.  One of your textbooks (KS) presents a thesis about the multilayered state, gridlock, and alternative policy pathways.  Show how this perspective helps us understand any two of the following policy areas:

      Global Climate Change

      Cancer-inducing Toxins

      Washington's Fish Consumption Rate

      Regulation of Oil Distribution


3.  You are the vice-president for public affairs of a major interest group-- more prominent than Ducks Unlimited but less so than The American Petroleum Institute.  How do you monitor policies of interest and press for new policies?  


Monday, May 16.  Your policy papers are due in class today.   We will discuss the approach to policy questions.  Also, we begin preparation for a final essay.  Start with this thought:  The very small and the very big things are connected.   Next, look at this apparently unconnected very big thing, via a review of a book about how Americans see themselves.  (The reviewer understands this, the book's author probably does not.  The book's author has been an advisor to Republicans and Democrats, worked in the Obama administration, and is married to another official in the Obama administration.)  The connection to environmental issues are many--such as, it is an argument about the US role in providing international public goods that have a bearing on environmental policy. 


Monday, May 9.  How fundamental must change be?  Today we look at different visions of a sustainable future. 

Begin with Steingraber, Chapter 12.  What does she say we need to do? 

Next, see the three items in the Sakai resources section, and bring written responses to the questions for each item:

1.  ClimatePolicyDilemma2013 argues the knowledge required for making sensible decisions (using economic criteria) is, at this point, beyond us.  We don't know how to deliberately build a particular vision of a sustainable future.  What are the key claims in his argument?  (Limit yourself to four.)

2.  eco_socialism is just like it sounds, an argument that a democratic socialist economic and political (and social) system is needed to construct a sustainable future.  What does the author propose as transition steps?  

3.  Eisler_challenge argues that a fundamental reorientation of human relationships is needed to construct a sustainable future.  What does she mean by a shift from domination to partnership relations?  How does she propose we do this?


Wednesday, May 11.  Are Values the center of environmental politics?  What do we know about environmental values?  See the review article in the Sakai resources section, environmental_values.  Does the study of values appear to offer practical tools toward building a sustainable future?  Why or why not?  Bring notes to class on specific claims in the essay that lead to your "why or why not" conclusions. 


Monday, May 2.  China, a special case.  Your group case study papers are due in class today, in a print copy, please.  We will look at China through the lens of a recent documentary, "Last Train Home."  The documentary attempts to show how a state policy-driven quest for development, dynamics of the world economy, and dedication to family and work combine to affect lives of ordinary citizens of China.  We won't watch the entire movie. The other readings are online, not in Sakai. In general, tensions are rising between the governments of China and the USA, with some exceptions-- such as in environmental policy.  The government of China is seriously looking at a law that will limit pollution in soil, and understands its energy has to become sustainable.  For example, electric cars are very popular now, but since so much of their electricity is from coal, the electric cars make air pollution worse.  It takes a long time and a lot of money to turn a large economy around.  In the case of China, this is complicated by the need of current leaders to keep the party in power.  Here is a recent description of the directions taken by the current head of government (and Party). 


Wednesday, May 4.  Reasons for hope.  It is a good idea to bring your laptop to class today.  The Rocky Mountain Institute summarized many opportunities for environmental and sustainable progress with its Reinventing Fire project.  Find two opportunities for improvement, and follow up what has happened in the ensuing five years.  Here is a recent report from the UK on sustainable aviation fuels.  What does the expected timeline suggest?  Remember the Princeton Carbon Mitigation Initiative....  What wedges would you choose?  More countries' governments, including the US, are talking about decarbonizing their energy sectors. 

United Airlines, first commercial use

More on biofuels from wastewater   

When Exxon bowed out 

Some clear steps are available, including diet.  The whole world can't eat like we do in the USA. 


Monday, April 25.  We look at justice.  Please read Steingraber, Chapter 11 and the Afterword.  Chapter 11 is about biomonitoring and related means of making sense of the chemicals in us.  What do you think of Steingraber's conclusion about safe doses of carcinogens? And, is this a justice question? The Afterword contains the Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle.  Please answer this question:  Should the principle you apply in raising your children be applied to public policy decisions?  Why? 

   At the national level, consider the EPA's environmental justice initiative.  What has been going on for the last 7 years?  You can see the 2014 progress report linked here.  The next step is their building of a plan that culminates in 2020.  What is it you would advise them to include in the plan?  Bring at least two suggestions to class.  Please note that the environmental justice movement started with a focus on environmental racism.  Here is a representative example of the arguments, from about 20 years ago.  And, what precisely does PLU mean by sustainability?  Does it include a justice component?


Wednesday, April 26.  We look at security issues.  See the report by CNA, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change.  Note the report is done with the advice of some people who know what they are doing.  Make a list of the report findings and recommendations, and bring to class.  You may wish to compare it with a later scenario gaming report on the same topic.  Do they say the issues have changed over the last 7 years?  The IPCC produced a similar document about global security risks, summarized here.  Do the two reports substantially agree on what are the risks, and what we should do about them?  Bring clear notes on this to class. Finally, the International Crisis Group published this broad summary of the global security situation.  How does their perspective appear to be similar to or different from the other two readings for today?   





Monday, April 18.  Air and Water.  Read Steingraber, chapters 8 and 9.  Please bring detailed notes on these chapters.  For Chapter 8, what is the evidence that links air pollution to (non-smoking related) diseases?  How much of this appears to be due to inadequate controls on industrial pollution?  For Chapter 9, how do waterborne pollutants get into our bodies?  How strong is the evidence that waterborne pollutants are a significant health care problem?  For both chapter, keep track of her arguments about why we do not collect more thorough evidence on health issues from air and water pollution. 

   You should receive your group paper turn-ins from last week. 

   Tuesday April 19 is part of Earth Week at PLU.  The keynote speaker is Dr. Alex Wilson, whose talk is entitled Indigenous Sovereignty: Bodies, Water, Land, Sky, and Scholarship.  It begins at 7:30 pm in SCC, and will probably be lived streamed.  Probably.  Attend and respond to anything you found particularly interesting or relevant to our course themes, about one page, and you will be rewarded. 


Wednesday, April 20.  Today bring to class the first two pages of your Group case study paper. 

  We shift, before finishing Steingraber, to a look at economic analysis in environmental policy.  Benefit cost analysis and related techniques are a regular part of environmental policy discussions.  You need to become an intelligent consumer and critic, which requires learning the vocabulary.  The EPA has a web site on their use of the techniques in their rulemaking process.  They call it the National Center for Environmental Economics.  They include their guide to conducting benefit-cost analysis.  Use the table of contents to find the sections (table of contents has hot links) on

(1) how they measure benefits,

(2) how they measure costs,

(3) how they discount, and

(4) how they take distributional effects into account. 

(5) Also, see their page on  value of a statistical life, or mortality risk valuation  [Recall the earlier class discussion on reading tactics for such documents—we are looking for the concepts here.] WRITE a brief paragraph for each of these points, and include enough detail to describe how one actually measures each of them.

**Browse through this report on expert opinion on risks of shale gas development.  In about half a page, describe how the use of these concepts to discuss the topic affects considerations of policy (compared to, for example, how Klyza & Sousa would handle the topic). 

**Here is an attempt to develop measures of environmental features, as a way of injecting environmental values into policy considerations.  Here is a more general methodological argument about this type of analysis. 

**Here is an example of a report on policy incentives to improve the safety of deepwater drilling operations.  Read at least the executive summary.  Note how use of the core concepts affects considerations of policy. 



A couple of news pieces:  Story on coral reefs, the de Waal piece on tickling apes, and how much companies spend to avoid climate-related regulations. 


Monday, April 11.  More on Food and chemicals.  Please read S, chapters six and seven.   Chapter six focuses on animal studies.  Is it possible to test all chemicals on the market that end up in our food?  Would that be a good policy goal?  Chapter seven is about how we grow our food.  The promise of organic agriculture, with fewer chemicals, is appealing.  What are the forces that discourage movement in that direction?  Describe the tradeoffs between the fecundity of our approach to agriculture and the health problems that are part of it.

Also see in Sakai the two essays, Khatchadourian_flavor, and unhappy meals.  These are about how you eat.  For each, identify three key claims that you would like to develop more. 

Also, Reports of findings on your groups are due, and will be discussed.  Bring to class a critical summary of your findings, and a draft of the first two pages of your paper.  A critical summary reports your findings, and is organized according to your paper's critical perspective. 


Wednesday, April 13.  Today we do a workshop on the policy paper approach.  Bring to class a written account of what rule you chose to write about, the part of the rule that will be your main focus, the conclusion you reach, and why.  This should be about one to two pages in length. 



Monday, April 4.  Please read KS, chapter 8.  What is the authors' prognosis for environmental policy over the next few years?  A year ago, the Senate Majority Leader was encouraging states to defy national climate change policies.   Those of you interested in the "Death of Environmentalism" argument will find it fully described here.   Note this came out a dozen years ago.  The call for pragmatism has been tested.  Of course, all the news from the science world has pointed in the direction of bigger, faster effects of GHG emissions than previously believed, such as in this recent story about Antarctic ice. 

We will also go over the policy paper assignment, and revisit your progress on your group case studies.  Remember there is something due on that project in one week. 


Wednesday, April 6.  The Politics of Food Safety, and the chemicals connection.  Please read S, chapters 3, 4, and 5.  Bring written notes on paper to these question to class:  For chapter three, what are the possible causes of breast cancer?  What is the evidence linking environmental causes to cancers among children, and to non-Hodgkin lymphoma?  For chapter four, what is a cancer cluster?  Are higher rates of cancer near sites of heavy chemical use clear evidence of a chemicals/cancer connection?  Describe why or why not.  For chapter five, Steingraber write that WWII "changed chemistry and physics forever."  What is the evidence for this claim?  How did these new chemicals find their way into your home?  And, you should be able to briefly describe the chief differences between the regulation of chemicals in the US, the European Union (REACH), and Canada.

Please also browse through Marion Nestle's politics of food safety blog, and Marler Clark's Food Safety News.   You might want to wait until after eating to browse these two sources. 


Monday, March 21.  Please read KS, chapter 6:  Can we escape gridlock?  They describe an emerging "collaborative pathway."  Is this convincing?  Please note this chapter has material that is probably relevant to your paper.  Here are some items to supplement the chapter:  An interview with a conservative advocate of clean energy;  an argument that the Oregon Malheur Wildlife refuge is an example of collaboration; and an account of a failure of collaboration, on the issue of climate change--See the essay, gcc_God_Climate, in the course sakai site. 


Wednesday, March 23.  Today we look at the states, and their relation to the national government-- aka Federalism.  Please read KS, chapter 7.  There are many pieces to the chapter, and we will look at some of the practical issues along these lines in our region.  For example, you should understand the state's official fish consumption rate.  We are currently in a comment period on a proposed rule.  How can you get involved?  Here is the state's technical analysis of the issue, and here is an account of Boeing's role in the issue.  Also, briefly check what is going on at the Sightline Institute.  Please bring to class a written response to this question:  What does the Oregon case in chapter 7 tell us about the role of state governments in environmental policy?  Also today you will receive your policy paper topics and discuss the assigned approach to policy. 



Monday, March 14.  We will depart from the syllabus a bit here.  We will discuss your group paper assignment critical perspective.   Bring to class a list of the concepts you use to make sense of your group.  Next, we will look at two articles that try to put together environmental issues, policy issues, and, in one of the articles, the current election cycle.  Please read the articles in Sakai, Iowa_politics and lead_crime.  Two of the original articles, lead_study and lead_study_2, are also there.  For the two articles, identify and describe the main claims presented by the authors, and bring to class your notes on this. 


Wednesday, March 16.  We will have a class panel discussion on groups in the policy process.  A complete description of the assignment, with details on future due dates, is here.  Please bring to class a one-page description of how your group gets involved in the policy process, and what evidence exists to document this involvement.  Also, bring an annotated outline of your paper's critical perspective.  We will initially organize panels by how groups become involved. 

Those two links mentioned in class: 




Monday, March 7.  Read K&S, Chapter 4, Presidents.  The chapter presents three cases (national monuments, roadless rule, and new source review).  Describe (and bring on paper to class) the features of each that illustrate the independent power of presidents, and describe the features that illustrate the limits of presidential power.  Also read the article in Sakai, spill_scandal_pres.  What are the major claims about which political actors produced the outcomes?  Do this in about a page, and bring to class on paper.


Wednesday, March 9.  The topic is the Courts in environmental politics.  For today, Read KS, ch. 5.  Describe (and bring on paper to class) the features of the cases in the chapter that illustrate the importance of courts in environmental policymaking.  Do you find instances where the court action undermines working political compromises?  Please note that the section on the Center for Biological Diversity is a fine paper on an interest group, much like you were assigned. 

      Here is a Scotusblog summary of Sackett v. EPA. 

      Another recent case is CTS v. Waldburger.  Read the syllabus.  It is about business liability in environmental issues. 

      The chapter material should be updated by reading the syllabus of Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. 

      Read the article in Sakai, unregulated_offensive.  What is going on?  What does the title refer to?  What is the connection to previous topics in POLS 346?  [That last question has some bearing on many of your group case studies.]



Please Note:  Vandana Shiva is speaking this Friday, at the Phillips Center on Red Square, at 7:30.  Attend (or watch on the PLU website), pick any of her arguments related to our course that you find interesting, and write a thoughtful response to it.  Bring these on paper to class Monday, February 29, in the SCAN Center.    You may be interested in the entire schedule for the Symposium that Dr. Shiva is here for.  Here is the Friday list of events. 


Monday, February 29.  Today we meet in a different place!  Please go to the SCAN, Scandinavian Center on the lower floor of the University Center, at our regular time.  We will see and discuss a film made by PLU students. 


Wednesday, March 2.  Today we shift to looking at the Congress.  Read Klyza & Sousa, Chapter three.  Write and bring to class a one-to-two page summary of their main claims, paying particular attention to these two ideas:  How we are building a system that produces contradictory policies, and how we are working closer to the edge of political legitimacy?  Also today we will discuss what it means to develop a critical perspective on your interest group case study paper.   You will be asked to state the name of the group you will study. 


Monday, February 22.  Class is on today.  Let us try to look at the material scheduled for last week: 

Institutions and politics.  Please read KS, prefaces and chapters 1 & 2.  Read carefully, take notes on the arguments in each chapter, and bring them to class.  Be sure you understand (a) the argument about the "new pathways" for environmental policymaking, (b) the attempt to explain congressional gridlock, and (c) the argument about the layers of the green state (and green drift).  We will also begin looking at the roles of groups in the policy process.  This will be important background for your case study assignment.


Wednesday, February 24.  The topic is climate change.  Here is a recent description of a controversy going on within the scientific community.  Please check the linked news stories that provide more detail on key claims.  Our own region will be affected by climate change, as described in the report, State of Knowledge, from the UW Climate Impacts Group.  Read the executive summary and familiarize yourself with the report structure. 


Monday, February 15.  President's Day holiday, no class.


Wednesday, February 17.  Institutions and politics.  Please read KS, prefaces and chapters 1 & 2.  Read carefully, take notes on the arguments in each chapter, and bring them to class.  Be sure you understand (a) the argument about the "new pathways" for environmental policymaking, (b) the attempt to explain congressional gridlock, and (c) the argument about the layers of the green state (and green drift).  We will also begin looking at the roles of groups in the policy process.  This will be important background for your case study assignment. 




Monday, February 8.  Welcome to Environmental Politics and Policy.  For our first class meeting, please read Steingraber, Chapter Two.  We will examine the legacy of Rachel Carson. 


Wednesday, February 10.  The topics are Cancer, Nuclear Weapons, and Infectious Diseases. 

      For the Cancer topic, read Steaingraber, Forward and Chapter One.  Find three critical claims you believe are important to the author's approach, and write a brief summary of why you chose each.  Bring to class on paper, please.

      For the Nukes topic, read the Report Summary linked on this site from from FAS (The report is linked in the first sentence of the summary, and needs to be downloaded).  Then go to the Sakai course folder on Nukes & Diseases (in the resources section) and read the article, nuke_threat.  Write an abstract of each piece, bring on paper to class.  Identify any claims you regard as central to the authors arguments.  Also include any claims you find particularly interesting about how we make decisions about nuclear weapons.

      For the Infectious Diseases topic, from the same Sakai folder, read specter_doomsday, and Nature_infectious_diseases_origins.  Write a half-page response to the articles that identifies opportunities to intervene and reduce the risks.