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Global Environmental Politics | SIS

GEP & NRSD Courses

The following list includes Masters courses offered regularly by program faculty, as well as courses offered by other campus units that may be used to fulfill GEP or NRSD program requirements. In consultation with a student’s adviser, other courses may be approved to fulfill specific program requirements. Most courses on this list are offered annually unless otherwise noted. Specific offerings each year are subject to instructor availability and scheduling considerations.

American University course list

In consultation with their adviser and faculty, students can chose from a vast array of courses to meet their graduation requirements. The most common courses for GEP students (some are required) include:

SIS-660 Environment and Politics (3)
SIS 660 is the required introductory seminar for the Global Environmental Policy (GEP) and Natural Resources & Sustainable Development (NRSD) programs, to be taken in the fall semester of the first year. The course provides an introductory overview of environmental politics and policy, with emphasis on the international and global dimensions. The purpose of the course is to lay a foundation for more advanced study by introducing students to relevant conceptual frameworks, controversies, issue areas, and analytic methods.

SIS-620 Political Ecology of Food and Agriculture (3)
Food presents a unique lens to examine political, cultural, and technological connections to environment and development. This course provides students with an introduction to political ecology and its approach to global food studies. Students use political ecology and social theory paradigms to examine industrial and alternative food networks, including their impacts on the environment, communities, and rural development. Students also examine how food policy and the global food trading system shape these networks and local environments, communities, and development practices.

SIS-620 Water Governance (3)
Examines international and cross-national dimensions of water politics and policy. Major themes include international and comparative water law; cooperation and conflict in shared river basins; water, poverty, and economic development; transnational activism and civil society; water, violent conflict, and peacebuilding; water and climate change.

SIS-620 Global Climate Change (3)
An interdisciplinary look at the history, science, policy, and politics of preventing global climate change. This course, for non-specialists as well as environmental studies students, focuses on how we created one of humanity's biggest problems and how to solve it, particularly through education, communications, organizing, and advocacy. Meets with SIS-496 001. Click here to view a sample syllabus.

SIS-620 Urban Political Ecology (3)
The 21st Century will be an urban century—for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. While urban activities fuel capitalism, cities are also key arenas for struggles around social justice, resources, infrastructure, and space. This course draws primarily from urban political ecology and associated critical theories to unpack the power relations underlying society-nature interactions and the political and policy impulses that seek to alter them. Topics include infrastructure privatization, informality, disasters, and race and pollution, derived from cases both in the North and the South.

SIS-620 Global Energy Politics (3)

This course offers a global and comparative examination of national energy politics and policies. It moves from assessment of the current global energy landscape to interrogation of national and regional technological, legal, policy, and financial innovations. The course asks, what is the state of energy today, and how can the world move to a sustainable energy future?

SIS-619 Political Economy of Oil and Energy (3)
This course examines the international political economy and security dimensions of oil and energy. The course explores the industry’s many impacts on politics and economics, including Dutch disease and the resource curse; the relationship between oil, authoritarianism, and civil wars; the role of the rentier state; the influence of oil on international warfare; global energy governance; political differences within OPEC; US energy policy and energy security. The materials focus primarily on the political economy of oil-exporters, especially those in the Middle East.

SIS-620 Politics of Conservation (3)

How is the world to respond to increasing losses of biodiversity and habitats? This course will look at the environmental and human impacts of conservation interventions. By considering parks and protected areas to more recent measures such as forest preservation through carbon financing, students will examine the grounded effects of interventions in order to design and implement more socially and ecologically sound responses.

SIS 619 Environmental Peacebuilding (3)

This class examines what we know about the relationships among environmental change, natural resources, and the dynamics of peace and conflict. This is an advanced graduate course designed to provide a strong foundation for working professionally in an emerging field. Substantial emphasis is placed on understanding and accompanying current policy debates, becoming acquainted with the tools used to analyze them, and becoming familiar with the actors and institutions that engage in these debates.

SIS-620 Comparative Environmental Politics (3)
This course investigates environmental degradation through comparison of cases including China, the U.S., Latin America, and other regions. By drawing on multidisciplinary literature that illuminates the specificity and commonality of the cases, the class seeks a deep understanding of the multiple causes of environmental problems, both local and global. Students will have opportunities to investigate cases in which they have particular interest.

SIS-620 Environmental Security in Asia (3)
This course considers environmental issues seen both as causes of conflict and as preconditions for human security, or ultimate security. Another dimension of this course concerns security institutions such as defense agencies and the military, and the relationship between war and the environment. This course asks students to consider: what the proper role of such institutions is in dealing with environmental threats; and how are we to sort out the disparate interpretations of the roles of the environment in security and of security institutions in the environment.

SIS-620 Climate Change and Violent Conflict (3)
The course examines historic and emerging issues in environmental conflict and theories regarding this complex relationship. Key areas of focus are on climate change and resource use as pathways to conflict. Case studies are used to show the policy challenges differing countries and peoples face.

SIS-620 Future of Environmentalism (3)
This course explores contemporary challenges facing the environmental movement. It focuses on the ways the movement can respond to the radically changing character of the natural world, in the face of greater human technological reach, and multicultural understandings of the place of nature in environmental thought and practice.

SIS-620 Sustainable Design and LEED Training (3)
Following the structure of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems, this course combines discussions of theories on sustainable design; field work on specific environmental topics ranging from sustainable sites through innovation in design; and directed study of the LEED Reference Guides and rating systems, with the goal of achieving the LEED Green Associate credential through examination.

SIS-620 Policy Analysis for Global Environmental Policy (3)
Provides critical literacy in the major policy-analytic techniques used in environmental policy, including but not limited to cost-benefit analysis, comparative risk assessment, impact assessment, program evaluation, participatory appraisal, multistakeholder processes, sustainability indicators, and social marketing. Emphasis is placed on analytic techniques most commonly used in and around international institutions, as well as those found in civil-society and multistakeholder contexts. Usually offered in spring.

SIS-649 Environment and Development (3)
An overview of this newly emerging multidisciplinary field. Focuses on debates concerning various human-made or development-related root causes of natural-resource degradation in the Third World. Special attention is paid to the relationship between the poor and the environment. Also looks critically at recent innovative policy responses attempting to link environment and development. Usually offered in the spring.

SIS-650 Global Economy and Sustainable Development (3)
This course looks at the interface between economic globalization (trade and investment especially) and development defined in social, environmental and economic terms. The course is a foundation course for the ID globalization and development concentration. Beyond analyzing how the global economy works, the course explores various initiatives to make it work better for workers, communities, the environment, the poor and marginalized – for example, through such initiatives as voluntary "corporate codes of conduct" (including fair-trade organizations) and regulatory "social clauses" to condition trade and investment on governments' and/or corporations’ respect for worker rights and environmental standards. As such, the course stands as a foundation course to the "corporate responsibility” and “corporate accountability" arenas and to initiatives for a just world economy through “alter-globalization.” SIS 637 is a prerequisite but may be waived for GEP/NRSD students with a suitable background. Usually offered each fall and spring semester.

SIS 620-Building a Post-Carbon World (3)
The world needs, for a host of pressing reasons, to wean itself from fossil fuels. The need is clear, but the path less so. This practice-oriented course will examine the options available for constructing a post-carbon world. The course is project-based, and is built around engagement with real-world examples of individuals and institutions moving beyond carbon. Click here to view a sample syllabus. 

SIS-620: The Political Ecology of Waste (3)

How much waste a society produces, and what it does with it says a lot about societal attitudes towards nature, abundance, and thrift, to say nothing of prevailing political and economic structures and environmental conditions. This course examines the myriad of ways that waste is produced and managed in developed and developing countries, with an eye towards uncovering how waste management paradigms are integrated with consumption and production patterns and influenced by geography and political-economy.  

SIS 596-Practice of Environmentalism (3)
This course brings together students and faculty in environmental science, international politics, and media production to forge an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental action. Students learn field research methods, policy analysis, and documentary communication techniques. Each student, as part of an interdisciplinary team, produces a major media project focusing on a particular environmental challenge. Students also participate in a mandatory two-week international fieldwork component, to explore firsthand the challenges of promoting ecological sustainability in a specific setting.

SIS 663-Washington Environmental Workshop (3)
A capstone seminar in which students conduct original research on domestic and international environmental policy and politics. Explores contemporary environmental issues such as economic and ecological globalization, information technologies and environmental protection, social and ecological evolution, the place of humans in the natural world, postmodern challenges to environmentalism, post-colonial environmentalism, and environmental security. Usually offered every spring.

SIS-696 Skills Institutes (1)
The GEP program occasionally offers intensive training workshops or “skills institutes” that stress professional skills and practical tools for environmental professionals. Institutes are one-credit courses that typically require a two-day time commitment.

CSC-610 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (3)
A geographic information system (GIS) is a system of hardware, software, data, people, organizations, and institutional arrangements for collecting, storing, analyzing, and disseminating information about areas of the earth. This course provides an introduction to GIS, GIS software, and applications of GIS. Usually offered every fall.

ECON-579 Environmental Economics (3)
An analysis of the relationship between economic activity and the natural environment from both mainstream and ecological perspectives. Policy measures for regulating pollution and managing common property resources are explored, including emission taxes, tradable pollution permits, and property rights solutions. Applications to global environmental issues such as climate change and local environmental problems are emphasized. Students gain a understanding of the meaning of sustainable development and the types of policies required to active it. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: ECON-603 or ECON-500 or ECON-703.

ECON-603 Introduction to Economic Theory (3)
The major analytical tools of price and income theory. No credit toward degrees in the Department of Economics. Usually offered every term.

ENVS-580 Environmental Science I (3)
Estimation of environmental interactions through the formulation and analysis of simple, mathematical models enabling exploration of the consequences of a variety of assumptions and conditions. Includes measurement, steady-state modes, and thermodynamics. Usually offered every fall.

ENVS-581 Environmental Science II (3)
Estimation of environmental interactions through the formulation and analysis of simple mathematical models enabling exploration of the consequences of a variety of assumptions and conditions. Includes non-steady box models, biogeochemistry, and climatology. Usually offered every spring.

LAW-618 International Environmental Law (3)
A contemporary perspective on international environmental law focusing on specific environmental threats and the most recent manifestations of the law. The course will include case studies of actual investigations such as global warming and sea level rise; export and import of hazardous waste; the problem of "ghost" driftnets abandoned in the global commons of our marine environment; the endangered African elephant; continued whaling by Japan and Iceland; and the protection of the aboriginal Penan Tribe in Malaysia. Recent manifestations of international environmental law include the Declaration of The Hague and the proposal for a new organization to be known as GLOBE. Attention also will be given to the considerable body of environmental law in the European Community, the general foundations of international law, and the relationship to human rights law and international trade law.

LAW-629 Environmental Law (3)
An overview of environmental law with particular emphasis on the administrative law background; the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended; the governance of public lands; and air and water pollution control.

PUAD-601 Methods of Problem Solving I (3)
The use of analytical techniques to solve problems in policy analysis and public administration. Defining problems, choosing appropriate techniques, and understanding the limits of quantitative approaches. Usually offered every term.

SIS-600 Quantitative Analysis in International Affairs (3)
Introduction to research design, quantitative measurement, statistical analysis, and computer use for international relations research. Usually offered every term.

For the full list of university classes offered by semester, please see the Registrar's Schedule of Classes.


University for Peace course list

Description of DEPS courses available for NRSD students. Please find links to all other UPEACE courses at the end of this document. Many of them are also available for NRSD students.

PCS-6000 Foundation Course in Peace and Conflict Studies (3)
PCS 6000 is a required course for all UPEACE students and is is designed to engage students in an examination of the major contemporary challenges to peace, sources of conflict and violence, and several key nonviolent mechanisms for conflict transformation and prevention. Students develop an understanding of the complex and interconnected challenges to peace will and of the need for multi-faceted approaches to meeting these challenges. Students engage critically with theories of conflict, and will develop their understanding of the theoretical resources available in the area of conflict studies

NRD-6040 Ecological Foundations for Sustainable Land Use (3)
The course addresses the basic ecological factors behind the production of goods and services and to ensure that the land systems are in harmony with ecological foundations based on climate, soils, and other features that are difficult, costly, and often impossible to change. The concepts of climate (and climate change), soil management, life zones, ecological interactions, sustainable development and conservation, will be paramount to understanding successful land use practices, and their limitations, in relation to agricultural production, agroforestry systems, urban use, and the conservation of natural ecosystems, biodiversity, water, and other resources.

NRD-6091 Conservation and Development (3)
This course explores the history of efforts to address poverty and environmental degradation on a global scale. We will begin by examining the history of international development and conservation interventions, respectively, analyzing the ideology or “discourse” informing their practice, and discussing their contemporary convergence under the rubric of "sustainable development". Rather than focusing on specific themes or topics within conservation/development (i.e., forestry, ecotourism, bioregional conservation, etc.), we will emphasize the core conceptual issues that cross-cut and underlie all specific foci. We will try to push our understanding of these issues as deep as possible, probing their philosophical roots and cultural consequences.

NRD-6024 Strategic Planning and Project Cycle (3)
The course teaches students to prepare a strategic plan, prepare, implement, monitor and evaluate international development oriented projects. The emphasis will be put on strategic planning for institutions, communities, NGO`s and their natural resources management oriented towards sustainable development in rural areas. The course deals with strategy, blueprint vs. adaptive planning, analysis/definition, assessment, forecasting techniques, fundraising strategies, among other topics. The course also focuses on project cycle management involving conceptions, design, planning, implementation, monitoring, etc.

NRD-6092 Management of Coastal Resources (3)
This course will provide a brief introduction to coastal and oceanic resources and ecologies. We will investigate the unique attributes of the human economic, social, and cultural systems (i.e. fishing, fisherman and fishing cultures) that are most directly dependent upon them. Among the many topics within this section, the course will specifically focus on understanding artisanal fisheries, large-scale/industrial fishing, and aquaculture, as well as the differences and conflicts that exist between these methods of resource extraction. A broad overview of the development of the current resource crises and conflicts will be presented and examined via case studies from throughout the globe. We will also track the evolution of and trends in coastal and marine management over the last century. Through practical exercises, guest lectures, and field visits, students will be able to explore the complex nexus of relations between humans and coastal/marine resources.

ESP 6010 Introduction to Environmental Security (3)
This graduate seminar will provide an overview of the diverse perspectives in the field of environmental security and peace, and introduce students to the variety of natural and human-induced environmental changes currently affecting humanity. This course will also prepare students for more intensive explorations of aspects of environmental security in other courses in this programme. The course begins with a thorough review of both the historical dimensions of global environmental change and forecasts for environmental change in the coming decades. Students will also be introduced to alternative interpretations of the concept ‘environmental security’ and the ways in which scholars and policymakers have operationalized environmental security. 

ESP 6020 (required for all UPEACE students, including NRSD) Research Methods (3)
The central goal of this course is to provide the students a basic variety of research tools, methods and approaches used in the social sciences. The final goal of this course is to enable students to formulate research problems, select a research approach, develop and implement a thorough research design, and review and criticize investigations executed by peers and colleagues in the wider research community. This course provides students with a foundational knowledge of qualitative and quantitative methods, when they are used, how they are used, and the benefits and drawbacks of each method. It will develop students’ theoretical knowledge and applied skills in conducting qualitative and participatory research with ample field examples from the social and natural sciences, addressing issues, challenges and emerging trends in a globalized world.

ESP-6060 Water, Security and Peace (3)
This course explores conflict, insecurity and collaboration in relation to scarcity, poor quality, and variability of freshwater resources. Students will examine disputes and conflict over access to fresh water resources and rivers, including dam construction. A special focus will be on how conflict over transboundary freshwater resources has fostered peace building through cooperative co-management. Throughout the course, mechanisms and instruments will be introduced to assist the resolution and prevention of water-related conflict and insecurity including: international law; institutional arrangements; governance and policy reform; and involvement of civil society organizations.

ESP/CCS-6120 Science of Climate Change (3)
The main objective of this course is to present and clarify the scientific concepts and theories pertaining to climate change, in order to make them accessible to practitioners without a scientific background. The physical and chemical properties of the environment and atmosphere primarily determine our climate and weather. This course will introduce concepts and processes from different fields such as chemistry, physics, meteorology and biology; all of which are explored and analyzed in the successive IPCC assessment reports. Radiance, carbon cycling, gas absorbance, temperature transference and mathematical models, are only a few of the terms that are commonplace in the literature related to climate change. 

NRD-6093 Sustainable Tourism (3)
Over the past thirty-plus years, tourism – now arguably the world’s largest industry – has been promoted around the globe as a strategy for economic growth and development. Yet is increasingly apparent that tourism is not necessarily the “smokeless” industry it was initially considered. As a result, proponents have begun to search for tools and strategies to make the tourism industry more “sustainable” in terms of all of the dimensions listed above. We will explore the potential and pitfalls of such measures, investigating the relationship between tourism, development, conservation, and socio-cultural change. We will also address issues of supply and demand in the delivery of tourism services, including dynamics of marketing, labor relations, and the demographics/desires of potential consumers. 

NRD-6075 Forests, Forestry and Poverty (2)
This course looks at the links between forests, forestry, and poverty with a special focus on tropical forests. Specifically, it looks at the links between poverty and deforestation, some of the possible strategies to reduce poverty through forest-based activities, and analyzes and discusses economic and policy instruments for the conservation of forests while assuring economic and social sustainability. Some of the strategies and tools to possibly reduce poverty through forests and forestry are: Payment for Environmental Services, Community Based Forestry, certification, and secure property rights. 

NRD-6081 San José Environmental Seminar (1)
The course is oriented to enable students to understand the organizations and institutions and their agendas in Costa Rica, related to the Environment and Natural Resources. Special emphasis is given on the role, strategies, policies and actions of these institutions.
The Seminar consists of visiting the institutions, and discussing their objectives and roles in the sphere of the environmental management and sustainable development and corresponding policies. The students will also have the opportunity to discuss internship possibilities with some of the organizations.

UPE-6028 Simulation Exercise on Model of UN Conference (1)
The UPEACE Model United Nations Conference (UPMUNC) is an academic simulation of the real United Nations Organization, its most important specialized agencies and other associated organizations, held for the purpose of providing participants with valuable insights into procedures and conflict resolution within the UN. UPMUNC is aimed at providing a common platform for students from across the globe to discuss current international affairs and how action can be taken on key global issues. The conference enables participants to become part of the decision making process, whilst hoping to find ideas and solutions where thus far the United Nations has been unable to do so.

NRD-6083 Natural Resource Management Field Course (3)
This class is an opportunity to explore in-depth how different land-uses and conservation approaches intermingle in one particular region: the South of Costa Rica. The purpose of the field trip is to obtain critical direct experience and knowledge of important natural resources management issues in a developing country, given the real political, economic and resources context of the same. Over the course of the trip, we will visit and be exposed to projects and issues with various resources, different actors involved in the management and different institutional settings. 

ESP-6120 Human Vulnerability and Climate Change Adaptation (3)
The course aims at understanding the impact of climate change on the global environment and on human activity. Climate change increases risks to human livelihoods and as such may endanger the security of individuals and groups. Components of the course will include a critical examination of the drivers of climate change, largely induced by human activity, and a review of international efforts to limit the magnitude of climate changes, including those concluded in Kyoto and Copenhagen. Consequences of climate change for human health, for economic activity, for resource use and resource availability will also be examined, as will be the options for adapting to climate change.

DIL-6016 International Environmental Law (1)
This course offers a general overview of the topic of international environmental law. It provides students with a general introduction that overviews the international law field with a particular focus on the environmental law. In five sessions it will provide students with a grasp of the vocabulary of international law, with a sense of the context in which international environmental law originates and operates, with an understanding of the legal and political institutions that play a role in international law. The course will cover the following topics: Sources of International Environmental Law, Implementation, Global Climate Change, Water Law and case discussion.

ESP 6150 Environmental Governance (1)
This course focuses on the capacity of local communities and society to develop solutions to environmental problems through participatory processes of decision making. The course provides an overview of developments in thinking regarding effective local governance for environmental security particularly since the Rio Earth Summit. This will include exploring: the implications of commitments to interdisciplinary, integrated and participatory approaches; the differing roles and responsibilities of governments, private sector and civil society in contributing to effective governance. 

NRD-6051 Measuring Sustainability (1)
The term “sustainable development” was coined nearly thirty years ago, and imagined as a way of redirecting development by incorporating social justice, equity, and environmental concerns into conceptions of development that had focused primarily on economic growth. This led to a proliferation in indicators of sustainability, but many would argue that little overall change has taken place. This class will explore the merits and shortcomings of the idea of sustainability, explore the politics and simplification inherent in measuring, give an overview of mainstream and alternative sets of indicators and other assessment tools.

ESP/CCS-6130 Climate Change Governance (3)
This course analyzes the nature and evolution of systems of governance to address climate change at the international, national, and local levels, charting the changing history of climate policy from the issue's initial introduction into political discussion to its recent ascension to become the new "master concept" of environmental governance generally. The roles of various stakeholders in the negotiation, including transnational institutions, nation states, nongovernmental organizations, private businesses, and municipal governments, will be examined, as will the efficacy of different mechanisms (state-led, market-based, hybrid, etc.) for enacting climate policy.

For courses offered by other departments. Please follow the links: