Environment and Democracy

Course Description: 

This course will consider key questions about the relationship (actual and desired) between environment and democracy, notably: Does democracy matter for environmental protection? Are democratic processes conducive to environmental protection, or do they obstruct decision making for sustainability? Does environmental protection require engaged citizens? Can sustainable development be achieved only through the iterative processes of deliberation and experimentation that are possible in democratic systems? Does environmentalism itself pose a challenge to democracy, and if so, how can democracy respond? What is ecological democracy and how is the concept of ecological citizenship relevant to the debates around the environment and sustainability?

The course is organized into three distinct parts. Part I provides students with a  grounding in democratic theory by examining different forms of democracy and the problems inherent in governing democratically. Part II examines what is commonly referred to as “environmental democracy”—that is, the greening of democratic institutions and practices. Part III delves into the concept of “ecological democracy”, a more radical reconfiguration of democracy around green values and ideas.

The course aims to provide students with a deep understanding of the complexities of democratic theory and the competition between different democratic values within existing systems and as they play out across different models of democracy; the challenge that the environment poses to democracy and the performance of democracies in protecting the environment; democratic innovations spurred by environmental problems; and proposals for deep structural reform that would change not only modes of governance but people, and their relation to the environment, themselves.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • Critical understanding of key general theories and challenges of democracy
  • Critical understanding of the theoretical and practical challenges of "greening" existing democratic institutions
  • Crtical understanding of proposals for "ecological democracy" (remodelling democracy along ecological lines)
  • Ability to critically analyse a selected topic in environment and democracy
Assessment: 

Attendance and class participation: 20%;

Presentation of a reading: 20%

Reflection Papers: 30%

Final Essay: 30%