Ecology and Politics

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 6468

This course will examine the relationship between ecology and politics, using the controversies surrounding biodiversity as its primary focus. First, we will explore the basic contours of biodiversity as an environmental political issue: what does biodiversity mean? What is causing biodiversity to decline at multiple scales, and what international political action has been taken to prevent it from disappearing further? Second, we will examine the birth of the biodiversity sciences, focusing particularly on the dual roles of Western conservation biologists as natural scientists and political advocates. How were the key scientific and political concepts that constituted biodiversity formed and contested? What have been the political effects of the idea of global biodiversity on issues like the ownership of genetic information and the conservation of rainforests? What is at stake politically in thinking of biodiversity loss as a moment of emergency, crisis, and exception? Finally, we will examine some specific sites of political-scientific action, including the production of the global biodiversity census; the making of tropical biodiversity “hotspots”; and the rise of biocultural diversity as an organizing logic surrounding UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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