Thursday, November 22, 2007


You will be handing in your final exam to me at the beginning of our last scheduled class meeting together.


Here, in alphabetical order, are seventy-one Green Keywords that have figured centrally in various ways in a number of the texts we have read and discussed over the course of this term.

1. "Abrasion,"
2. "Agroforestry,"
3. "Backstory,"
4. "Biodiversity,"
5. "Biomimicry,"
6. "Biopiracy,"
7. "Bioregional"
8. "Biosphere,"
9. "Capital,"
10. "Climate Change,"
11. "Commodification,"
12. "Commons,"
13. "Companion Planting,"
14. "Consensus Science,"
15. "Cradle-to-Cradle,"
16. "Culture Industry,"
17. "Deep Ecology,"
18. "Democracy,"
19. "Denial,"
20. "Depletion,"
21. "Ecofeminism,"
22. "Ecology,"
23. "Economy,"
24. "Ecosocialism,"
25. "Ecosystem,"
26. "Ecotage,"
27. "Endangered Species,"
28. "Energy Descent,"
29. "Environmentalism,"
30. "Externality,"
31. "Field Worker,"
32. "Footprint,"
33. "Greenhouse Gas,"
34. "Greenwashing,"
35. "Guerilla Gardening,"
36. "Heirloom Produce,"
37. "Industrial Agriculture,"
38. "Integrated Pest Management,"
39. "Leapfrogging,"
40. "Limit,"
41. "Luddite,"
42. "Malthusian,"
43. "Monoculture,"
44. "Native,"
45. "Natural Capitalism,"
46. "Natural Capital,"
47. "Naturalist,"
48. "Nature,"
49. "Objectification,"
50. "Offsets,"
51. "Organic,"
52. "Recycling/Downcycling,"
53. "Permaculture,"
54. "Pollution,"
55. "Polyculture,"
56. "Post-Scarcity,"
57. "Precautionary Principle,"
58. "Primitivism,"
59. "Profit,"
60. "Renewable,"
61. "Seed Saving/Seed Sharing,"
62. "Service/End Use,"
63. "Sustainability,"
64. "Technical Metabolism,"
65. "Toxicity,"
66. "Triple Bottom Line,"
67. "Use Value/Exchange Value,"
68. "Vegetarianism,"
69. "Viridian,"
70. "Waste,"
71. "Wilderness"

Choose fifty Keywords from this list. Organize your chosen Keywords into three separate, conceptually connected, sets. You can use any criteria that seems useful to you to organize these sets. The only rule is that no resulting set can contain fewer than six Keywords.

Each set should have a title or heading that indicates the criteria governing inclusion to that set. Once you have organized your three sets in this way, briefly define each one of the Keywords you have included in each set in your own words. Ideally, your definitions should be as clear and as concise as possible. These definitions should be a matter of a sentence or two rather than a paragraph or two. They are definitions, not essays or explanations. It should be clear from your definitions why each of the Keywords in each of the three sets are conceptually connected to each other, but it is also crucial that no terms within a set are to be treated as synonymous, and that your definitions distinguish Keywords from one another (even if the resulting distinctions are sometimes matters of nuance).

Once you have defined all these Keywords, provide a short quotation (feel free to edit and prune to keep your chosen citations properly pithy) from one of the texts we have read this term to accompany your definition. The quotation you choose can be a definition you found helpful in crafting your own definition, it can be an example or illustration you found especially clarifying, it can a matter of contextualization, framing, or history that you found illuminating, it can even be something you disagreed with so strongly it helped you understand better what you really think yourself.

Obviously, there are endless ways of organizing these sets, defining their Keywords, distinguishing them from one another, and connecting them up to the texts we have read. What matters for this first part of the exam is that you follow the rules of the exercise, not that you arrive at some single "right answer" you may think I have in mind.


Write a short essay (5pp.), in which you show that the conception(s) of "nature" -- understood as intelligibility, as sublimity, as home, as resource, as object, as wilderness, as custom, or what have you -- assumed or expressed in the argument of one or two (at most two) of the texts we have read together this term yields unexpected insights or problems for that text, or provides the basis for an unexpected commonality or continuity between two texts texts you are comparing in your reading. (How do you know the problem or insight you are calling attention to in your reading is sufficiently strong to warrant consideration as "unexpected" in the sense I mean? That's easy: It must simply be a strong enough claim that you can imagine an intelligent opposition to it.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some Terms

Some of the terms we've discussed the past few weeks, most of which are likely to appear on the final. The list is not yet complete. But it would be a good idea to start thinking about these terms in advance. Also, I thought it might be fun to open the list to you all. What are terms that should appear but are not yet here? Add them in Comments. Check back here over the next couple of weeks, the list will continue to expand.

"Climate Change,"
"Companion Planting,"
"Consensus Science,"
"Deep Ecology,"
"Endangered Species,"
"Integrated Pest Management,"
"Natural Capitalism,"
"Precautionary Principle,"
"Technical Metabolism,"
"Triple Bottom Line,"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Those having trouble scrolling back to the syllabus links, this should take you there. Those who have a chance, check out this piece by Vandana Shiva as well. Lots to talk about tomorrow, see you then!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Provisional Syllabus

Critical Theory B: Nature in Theory, Fall 2007

Instructor: Dale Carrico;
Course Site:

Grade Breakdown:
Attendance/Participation 20%
Co-facilitate Class Discussion/Precis 20%
In-Class Report 20%
Final Exam: 40%

Week One | Introductions

August 30
Administrative Introduction, Personal Introductions

Week Two | Contemporary Environmentalist Idols and Transcendentalists Precursors

September 6

Curtis White, Idols of Environmentalism, Ecology of Work
Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Nature; Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

Week Three | Ecofeminism

September 13

Cathleen McGuire and Colleen McGuire, Ecofeminist Visions
Rosemary Radford, Ruether, Ecofeminism: Symbolic and Social Connections of the Oppression of Women and the Domination of Nature, from Carol Adams, ed., Ecofeminism and the Sacred
Catherine Keller, Dark Vibrations: Ecofeminism and the Democracy of Creation
Greta Gaard, Toward a Queer Ecofeminism

Week Four | Ecosocialism

September 20

An Ecosocialist Manifesto by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy
Joel Kovel, Why Ecosocialism Today?
Common Voice, Ecosocialism
James O'Conner: Selling Nature
Mike Davis, Slum Ecology
Walter R. Sheasby's Amazon Guide: "So You'd Like to… Replace Capitalism with Green Socialism"

Week Five | Natural Capitalism

September 27

Paul Hawken: Natural Capitalism
A Roadmap for Natural Capitalism, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawken
Michael Albert: Natural Capitalism?
Wayne Normand and Chris MacDonald, Getting to the Triple Bottom Line
James Boyle, Enclosing the Genome
Peter Barnes: Capitalism, 3.0
Time to Upgrade
A Short History of Capitalism
The Limits of Government
The Limits of Privatization
Reinventing the Commons
Trusteeship of Creation
Universal Birthrights
Sharing Culture
Building the Commons Sector
What You Can Do

Week Six | Deep Ecology

October 4

Arne Naess, The Shallow and the Deep
Introduction to Deep Ecology, An Interview with Michael E. Zimmerman, by Alan Atkisson
E.P. Pister, The Rights of Species and Ecosystems
Church of Deep Ecology
Murray Bookchin, Social Ecology Versus Deep Ecology

Week Seven | Some Victoriana

October 11

Guardian UK Review: Victorian Holocausts
Amartya Sen NYT Review, Victorian Holocausts
Mike Davis, Victorian Holocausts, Chapter One.
Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying
John Stuart Mill, On Nature

Week Eight | Critique of Technological Society

October 18

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception
Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
John Zerzan, Agriculture
John Zerzan, Technology
John Zerzan, Why Primitivism?
Marc Stiegler, The Gentle Seduction

Week Nine | Bright Green or Dim?

October 25

Bruce Sterling, Viridian Design
Grist on Worldchanging's Bright Green Principles (read the Comments!)
Apple Computer: Fun for You, Toxic for the Environment
When 1st Life Meets 2nd Life
Kirkpatrick Sale, Lessons from the Luddites
The Californian Ideology

Week Ten | Toxic World

November 1

Al Gore on Silent Spring
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, The Obligation to Endure
Michael Braungart, Intelligent Materials Pooling: Evolving a Profitable Technical Metabolism
What Happened at Bhopal?
Alex Kirby, Contaminated Breastmilk
Blacksmith Institute, 10 Most Polluted Places

Week Eleven | Alternative Agricultures

November 8

Malcome Scully, The Destructive Nature of Our Bountiful Harvests
Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources
Deborah Madison, Grace Before Dinner
Ted Nace, Breadcast of Democracy
Jack Kittredge, Pesticides in Food
AMS/USDA, Organic Food Standards and Labels
Sustainable Agrigulture Delivers the Crops

Week Twelve | Extracting Ourselves from Extraction

November 15

Saul Landau, Ronald Reagan and Bottled Water
National Resources Defense Council, Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?
BBC: World Water Crisis
The Coming Water Wars: Demography and Water Resources
The Coming Water Wars: Chart
Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels
Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency
Howard Kunstler, A Five Part Online Video Exploration: The Long Emergency
Chris Vernon, Agriculture Meets Peak Oil

Week Thirteen

November 22 Thanksgiving Holiday

Week Fourteen | The Death of Environmentalism

November 29

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, The Death of Environmentalism

Don't Fear the Reapers
, A Grist Special Series on the Alleged Death of Environmentalism

Week Fifteen | An Inconvenient Truth

December 6

"An Inconvenient Truth" (Screening)
Closing Remarks Hand in Take Home Final Exam

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Readings for Week Two

A Provisional Syllabus for the Whole Term will be ready in a few days. But here's what we're covering next week:

Part One:

Curtis White: Idols of Environmentalism and Part Two: The Ecology of Work


Part Two:

From Nature, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Beauty. Read more, if you like.

From Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, Where I Lives and What I Lived For, Spring, Conclusion. Read more, if you like.

It would be great to have at least a couple of folks step up to co-facilitate the discussion of these early texts. Talk to me after class tomorrow or e-mail me over the weekend if any of these texts appeals to you with special forcefulness.

Co-facilitating Discussions and Writing a Precis

One of the key assignments for our course will be your co-facilitation of class discussion of an assigned text. This assignment also requires that you generate a précis of the text you are taking responsibility for. This precis should provide a point of departure for your contribution to the discussion in class, and you will also hand it in to me at the end of the session.

Think of this precis as a basic paraphrase of the argumentative content of a text.

Here is a broad and informal guide for a precis, consisting of question you should ask of a text as you are reading it, and again after you have finished reading it. Don't treat this as an ironclad template, but as a rough approach to producing a precis -- knowing that a truly fine and useful précis need not necessarily satisfy all of these interventions.

A precis should try to answer fairly basic questions such as:

1. What is the basic gist of the argument?
2. To what audience is it pitched primarily? Does it anticipate and respond to possible objections?
3. What do you think are the argument's stakes in general? To what end is the argument made?

a. To call assumptions into question?
b. To change convictions?
c. To alter conduct?
d. To find acceptable compromises between contending positions?

4. Does it have an explicit thesis? If not, could you provide one in your own words for it?
5. What are the reasons and evidence offered up in the argument to support what you take to be its primary end? What crucial or questionable warrants (unstated assumptions the argument takes to be shared by its audience, often general attitudes of a political, moral, social, cultural nature) does the argument seem to depend on? Are any of these reasons, evidences, or warrants questionable in your view? Do they support one another or introduce tensions under closer scrutiny?
6. What, if any, kind of argumentative work is being done by metaphors and other figurative language in the piece?
7. Are there key terms in the piece that seem to have idiosyncratic definitions, or whose usages seem to change over the course of the argument?

As you see, a piece that interrogates a text from these angles of view will yield something between a general book report and a close reading, but one that focuses on the argumentative force of a text. For the purposes of our class, such a precis succeeds if it manages
1. to convey the basic flavor of the argument and
2. provides a good point of departure for a class discussion.