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Syllabus__DS324_Sp08

Syllabus__DS324_Sp08 - Environment and Society DSoc 324...

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Environment and Society DSoc 324 S&TS 324 SOC 324 Cornell University Spring Semester 2008 Credit Hours : 3 Meeting Time & Place : Tuesday & Thursday 02:55-04:10 p.m., 101 Bradfield Hall Instructor : Gilbert W. Gillespie Jr., Ph.D. Contact at: 255-1675, [email protected], or (h) 273-7048 Office: 340 Warren Hall; hours: Tue. 12:00-1:00 or by appointment Administrative Assistant: Linda Warner, 134 Warren, 254-7439, [email protected] Course web site : http://blackboard.cornell.edu/webapps/login , “Environment and Society” Introduction to Environment and Society We live in interesting times. On one hand, environmental laws and regulations are under attack. Species are becoming extinct. Pollutants foul water, air, and land and we may be facing major changes in climate. People are suffering and dying from environmentally-related diseases and malnutrition. On the other hand, environmental laws and regulations are preventing and improving some conditions. Endangered species are recovering. Pollutants are being reduced or eliminated. People’s health and nutrition are improving. How are we to understand these seemingly contradictory statements? What do they really mean? Why the unevenness across geographic and social spaces? Given our contemporary environmental issues, never before have sociological perspectives on these topics been more important. Human activity is intimately related both to what most people think of as "nature" and to most conditions that people define as "environmental problems." At the same time, the ecosystems in which human societies are situated greatly affect the members of these societies. Since both the environment and our knowledge and theories of human-environmental interrelationships change continually (and often rapidly), I intend that the framework offered in this course will give you a foundation for dealing intelligently with both the new information and the new issues that you surely will face in the future. Sociology is characterized by tension between sets of opposing tendencies. One such tension is that between detachment and commitment. We sociologists should be detached from the people and topics we study and discipline ourselves to report accurately the observable features of what we study, consider opposing perspectives honestly, and avoid fooling ourselves into seeing what we would like to see. Another tension in sociology is that between understandings (theory/sociological imagination) and the ambiguous and messy “world” of empirical data. I look forward to sharing with you some of what I know about sociology, the connections between environment and society, and our future prospects–framed necessarily by my sociological detachment and my commitments. Because teaching is not properly a one-way process, at the same time, I look forward to what you have to share with me and the rest of the class. Although my motivations for teaching are many, a very important one is the intellectual stimulation and learning that comes from interacting with students like yourself. From experience, I know that you have information, experiences, and insights that will enrich and clarify my own thinking.
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Syllabus for Environment and Society, Spring 2008, Cornell University, G. W. Gillespie
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