The Influence of Ecology on the History of Environmentalism
In the life sciences there is always someone who was the first to describe the world we see around us. In a world of increasing environmentalism, everyone experiences ecology, but most people know very little about how or why we know the things we do about the world we live in. In a globally connected world, understanding how these discoveries influenced our modern environmentalism is crucial to becoming an ecologist. The goal of this class is to learn about the founders of ecology and modern environmentalism—John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson, among others—and to understand what they discovered and how it influenced the sciences of ecology, evolution and conservation. Students will spend time reading primary literature as well as historical texts regarding the environmental movement. Discussions will focus on how those works might have influenced our modern environmentalism and the changes in society. The analysis of primary literature as well as reviewing the broader impacts of those works on the wider scientific field will be presented as short writing assignments and short individual and group oral presentations. The semester’s work will culminate in a longer 8-10 page research paper on an individual scientist and his or her original contributions to the fields of ecology, evolution or environmental sciences.