Yale School of the Environment offers a strong selection of courses across disciplines for students to advance their understanding of environmental justice. The list below highlights courses in which issues of justice and the environment is a central theme but is not comprehensive of all courses related to environmental justice. To learn more about environmental justice-related courses within their area of specialization, students are encouraged to speak with their specialization coordinator.
ENV 551 Qualitative Social Science Research Methods
This course is designed to provide a broad introduction to issues of qualitative research methods and design. The course is intended for both doctoral students who are in the beginning stage of their dissertation research, as well as master’s students developing research proposals for their thesis projects. The course covers the basic techniques of designing qualitative research and for collecting, interpreting, and analyzing qualitative data. We explore three interrelated dimensions of research: theoretical foundations of science and research, specific methods available to researchers for data collection and analysis, and the application and practice of research methods. The final product for this course is a research proposal.
ENV 573 Urban Ecology for Local and Regional Decision Making
Urban ecology is the interdisciplinary study of urban and urbanizing systems from local to global scales. While urban ecology shares many features with the biological science of ecology, it emphasizes linkages with social, economic, and physical sciences and the humanities. Geographically, the subject includes central and edge cities, suburbs of various ages and densities, and exurban settlements in which urban lifestyles and economic commitments are dominant. In application, urban ecology can be useful as a social-ecological science for making cities more sustainable, resilient, and equitable. Emerging “grand challenges” in urban ecology include the development of robust approaches to and understanding of (1) integrated social-ecological systems in urban and urbanizing environments; (2) the assembly and function of novel ecological communities and ecosystems under novel environmental conditions; (3) drivers of human well-being in diverse urban areas; (4) pathways for developing healthy, sustainable, and disaster-resilient cities; and (5) co-production of actionable science for policy, planning, design, and management.
ENV 631 Poverty, Environment and Inequality
This course explores the relationship between poverty, environment, and social inequality. It examines how race and class interact in American rural and urban environments to produce or sustain inequalities. The course examines how structural factors and community characteristics influence environmental outcomes. Students will begin by examining the relationship between degraded environments and poor schooling. They will examine the environmental hazards that exist in or adjacent to urban and rural public schools. Students will analyze inner-city and poor rural communities as they examine disinvestment, the concentration of poverty, efforts to disperse the poor, and the potential for community revitalization. The class will examine homelessness and the ways in which climate disasters impact housing experiences. The course also examines another aspect of poverty – the issue of food security; it looks at the rise in community gardening in poor communities as an attempt to combat lack of access to healthy food.
Students will examine residential segregation and zoning. The class will also study the spatial inequalities that arise from the siting of hazardous facilities in minority and low-income urban and rural communities. The course examines the classic environmental justice question – which came first the facilities or the people? It examines economic questions related to costs of hosting noxious facilities and if and how communities can seek compensation to host such facilities. The course also examines the quandary communities face when presented with economic models that seek to provide compensation – the question of the long-term health of the people and environment take center stage as community residents seek to determine how to balance economic development with concerns about sustainability. Students will analyze water, energy, and climate justice. This course will be taught every two years.
ENV 633 Critical Race Theory
This class will study Critical Race Theory from its origins to its current expression. Understanding the deep interconnections between race and law, and how race and law are co-constitutive is the project of Critical Race Theory. One of the central claims of Critical Race Theory is that racial subordination is not a deviation from the liberal legal ideal but is, unfortunately, part of its expression. We will focus on the origins of the critique that is central to the development of the theory and contrast its analysis with conventional analytic frameworks on race and American law and society. Because it is a positive theory but also driven by a normative vision, we will explore the possibility of transforming the relationship between law and racial power. The law is not the only site of Critical Race Theory; it has had a significant impact on other disciplines in the social sciences. We will examine those impacts as well.
ENV 642 Environmental Justice / Climate Justice
In this seminar, we will focus on the evolution and development of the environmental justice movement. We will pay particular attention to its embrace of climate justice, and we will ask what conception of justice is at play in both the environmental justice and climate justice movement. We will begin with a legal and social-historical survey but will quickly bring the inquiry up to the current moment. We will explore the legal and policy developments that have followed the environmental justice critique. I will expect students to choose a particular movement (or one expression of it) and write a paper bringing to bear all of the questions we raise in the seminar. (For example, how did opposition from environmental justice advocates lead to a reformed climate change initiative in California? Or What is the genesis of the Sunrise movement and what legal or policy changes would be required to make it a reality.) The paper need not focus on a domestic response, because the environmental/climate justice critique is now global.
ENV 759 Power, Knowledge, and the Environment: Social Science
Introductory course on the scope of social scientific contributions to environmental and natural resource issues, emphasizing equity, politics, and the construction and contesting of knowledge. Section I, overview of the field and course. Section II, framing of environmental problems: placing problems in their wider political context, new approaches to uncertainty and failure, and the importance of how the conceptual boundaries to resource systems are drawn. Section III, methods: the dynamics of working within development projects, and the art of rapid appraisal and short-term consultancies. Section IV, local communities, resources, and (under)development: representing the poor, development discourse, and indigenous peoples and knowledge. This is a core MEM. specialization course in YSE, a core course in the combined YSE/Anthropology doctoral degree program, and a prerequisite for ENV 869/ANTH 572.
ENV 764 Sociology of Sacred Values: Modernity, Ecology, and Policy
This course equips students to understand how moral culture shapes all environmental issues and management, driving even the most basic decisions that on the surface may appear to be entirely obvious, rational, or scientific. Modern people and modern institutions are propelled toward certain ends and possibilities that are inescapably rooted in questions of human culture about who we are, what we should do, and why it all matters. The first half of the course draws on theoretical readings from sociology, philosophy, and religious studies to understand the ubiquity of sacred codes and how they work, with an emphasis on late-modernity, rationality, capitalism, and the sacred/profane. The second half of the course introduces recent case studies to see in practice how moral values are embedded in environmental work, including policymaking, advocacy, the free market, scientific research, race and class, death and extinction, ecotourism, and more. Cultivating a lens to see culture and moral values in all things will improve students’ applied work in all sectors.
ENV 788 Urban Landscapes and Geographies of Justice
Amity Doolittle, Karen Seto, Elihu Rubin
What explains the socioeconomic and ecological patterns in a city? This course will introduce students to ideas in the history and theory of urban planning; the production of urban environments; and concepts in environmental justice to understand contemporary cities. Using New Haven as a case study, the class will explore the ways in which structural inequalities are inscribed and reproduced in urban landscape. The course builds up a sequence of historical geographic layers and conceptual frameworks with the goal of unpacking the legacies of planning and urban development decision-making on contemporary social and environmental conditions. We are in a moment of crisis and there is a need for engaged public scholarship. We require theory informed practices to address the real challenges we face in our cities. Therefore, an integral part of this course will be student projects that serve the twin purposes of creating academic scholarship and making this knowledge available for the public and communities.
ENV 789b Energy and Development
This 3 credit course delves into the relationship between energy use and economic development, at a household, national and global scale. The course will provide both a quantitative and qualitative understanding of poverty, energy demand, and the relationship between the two. Students will grapple with different income and multidimensional poverty and living standards indicators, GDP and its limitations as a human development measure. We will learn about energy poverty in various parts of the world, energy consumption patterns with rising income. Students will be exposed to cutting edge research on living standards measures and their embodied energy needs. Students will study actual household survey and national statistics data on consumption and energy use. We will cover basic models for household energy transitions, and appliance diffusion. This is a seminar course, wherein students will be expected to present readings in class. The course involves one term project and presentation which may be quantitative or qualitative. Basic math, excel and microeconomics are required. Those selecting technical projects should have basic R or other data manipulation skills.
ENV 831 Society and Natural Resources Seminar
A “Reflexive Conversation” :
This research seminar explores the relationship between society and natural resources in a genuinely interdisciplinary manner. This session focuses on the foundations (philosophic, methodological, and pragmatic) of social and integrative/interdisciplinary sciences/approaches to understanding and policy. We demonstrate a major case application. Although the specific topic of the seminar varies from year to year, the consistent underlying theme is an examination of how societies organize themselves, use natural resources, and affect their environment. In past years, the seminar focused on energy and the environment, interdisciplinary problem solving, and environmental psychology and sociology. We focus on leadership (the lead and leader’s relationships), too. Guests and students make presentations and participate in discussions each week. Readings, active participation, and student papers are required. The seminar overall looks at people seeking values using natural resources through institutions. This relationship (people, values, natural resources, and institutions) has been extensively written about and discussed in diverse fields. A few years ago, the seminar examined the relationship of human dignity as a universal value goal, professionalism and practice, and sustainability as an applied notion. Other versions of the seminar have looked at conceptual (theoretical) models about society and natural resources from policy sciences, social ecology, political ecology, and other knowledge areas. Still other seminars focused on “Bridging Local and Professional Knowledge in Environmental Sustainability” and “War and the Environment.” Topic for this year’s seminar to be determined.
ENV 878 Climate and Society: Past to Present
Seminar on the major traditions of thought and debate regarding climate, climate change, and society, drawing largely on the social sciences and humanities. Section I, overview of the field and course. Section II, disaster: the social origins of disastrous events; and the attribution of societal ‘collapse’ to extreme climatic events. Section III, causality: the ‘revelatory’ character of climatic perturbation; politics and the history of efforts to control weather/climate; and 19th-20th century theories of environmental determinism. Section IV, history and culture: the ancient tradition of explaining differences among people in terms of differences in climate; and differences between western and non-western views of climate. Section V, knowledge: the ethnographic study of folk knowledge of climate; and local views of climatic perturbation and change. Section VI, politics: the role of climatic change and perturbation in national politics; and the construction and contesting of global views of climate change. The goal of the course is to clarify the embedded historical, cultural, and political drivers of current climate change debates and discourses.
ENV 959 Clinic in Climate Justice, Climate Policy, the Law, and Public Health
This course, an innovative collaboration between Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of the Environment, and Vermont Law School, includes students from both Yale and Vermont Law School. In the course, interdisciplinary student teams carry out applied projects that incorporate elements of climate justice, climate policy, and/or law with public health. Each team works with a partner organization (e.g., state agency, community organization, other nongovernmental organization) or on an ongoing project of the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health and/or the Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic. A given team may include students from one institution or from both institutions, in which case team members work together remotely. The course meets weekly at Yale School of Public Health and Vermont Law School, respectively, connected by Zoom. The course affords the opportunity to have a real-world impact by applying concepts and competencies learned in the classroom. This course should be of interest to graduate and professional students across the University and is open to Yale College juniors and seniors. In addition, this course is one of the options available to students to fulfill the practice requirement for the M.P.H. degree at YSPH and the capstone requirement for the M.E.M. degree at the Yale School of the Environment.
ENV 970 Environmental Protection Clinic Policy and Advocacy
(Follows Law School Calendar -)
The clinic’s mission is to train students in environmental advocacy through skills-based seminars, interdisciplinary project work, and collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other significant environmental organizations. Students are assigned to teams of two-to-four members drawn from both the Law School and the School of the Environment. Teams work on a project developed in collaboration with client organizations, with most projects having both legal and policy components. In addition to covering substantive areas of environmental law, clinic seminars help students master the tools of effective environmental advocacy, including the abilities to research law and science, write and cite persuasively, navigate environmental organizations, and manage projects cooperatively.
ENV 980 Social Justice in the Global Food System Capstone
This course explores social justice dimensions of today’s globalized food system, considering justice in terms of sociopolitical and environmental dynamics. We connect theory and practice through work with community-based organizations working at the nexus of food, agriculture, and social justice.
The capstone project work is grounded in food and social justice concepts examined through course materials and seminar discussions: We examine how governmental environmental strategies affect social equity in the food system at multiple scales. We discuss how land grabbing or food insecurity are connected to relative power on the global stage. We consider how phenomena such as structural violence and neoliberalization surface within the food system, and what this means for sustainability and justice – in urban and rural settings. We examine and debate concepts and practices including food sovereignty, agroecology, Black agrarianism, and The Right to Food used to advance positive change.
Through the capstone project, students will have the opportunity to deepen learning and contribute to the work of community groups forging pathways for equity and justice in the food system, particularly among communities historically marginalized from mainstream economies and policy making. Project work will include meetings with organizational leaders to understand context and co-develop appropriate project approaches. Students will work in groups to conduct in-depth research, analysis, and engage in additional professional and educational activities connected to the project. Student groups will prepare a final presentation and report to be shared with the partner organizations.
The course provides opportunities to develop competencies inanalyzing global food systems phenomena through social justice frameworks; and working within diverse settings on food and social justice issues, as practice for management, policymaking, other professional roles.