Environment, Politics, and Action

What is the relationship between the natural environment and the design of successful places? How do we know? And how can we mobilize these ideas as planners and citizens? This class will explore environmental planning as an inescapably political and ideological practice and will give you tools to contextualize environmental planning methods in time and place. Starting with a brief survey of the history of environmental planning and its alternatives, we will explore recent planning perspectives that focus on empowering communities to shape their own environmental conditions, including Environmental Justice, Political Ecology, democratic resource management, and other methods of community governance and environmental activism. We will consider how environmental planning ideas spread, how they work in different contexts, and how they have been disruptive and disrupted. We will question the relationship between environmental protection and community empowerment. Finally, we will explore our own politics as planners and designers, in order to be more aware of the assumptions and values that drive the work we do, and to figure out how we can most fairly and equitably live in and with the natural world.

This class will be intellectually omnivorous, combining perspectives from planning, environmental history, anthropology, political science, and other fields. We will therefore occasionally interrogate how different fields produce knowledge and use these varied perspectives as data to explore how people experience nature and the built environment.