INFLUENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL WRITERS
Professor Lee Irby
FO 101, MWF 10:45-11:45 and M 5:00-6:00
This course will provide a sampling of influential environmental writers, authors who
have made significant contributions to enriching our understanding of Nature and man’s
place in it. Some of the works we will consider might be familiar, while others will not.
Our task is to engage these texts with a critical eye and ask hard questions of them. We
will take a comparative approach, one that is largely thematic and inherently broad. This
class breaks down into two different sections. The first set of texts will focus on authors
who have tried to make sense of Nature through their experience of it, and the second set
will take aim at some of the major environmental issues in the contemporary world.
“On my honor, as an Eckerd College student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal nor to
tolerate these behaviors in others.” You must pledge every assignment.
Attendance: Since this class meets once per week, attendance is mandatory; even one
unexcused absence will negatively affect your grade. You need to get in touch with me
regarding missed classes and assignments. In other words, show responsibility.
Late Papers: I do not accept them.
Make-Up Exams: I do not give them.
Cheating or Plagiarism: I will fail you for the class and send a letter to the dean for your
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden.
Carson, Rachel. The Sea Around Us.
Muir, John. The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures.
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air.
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. Field Notes from a Catastrophe.
Foreman, Dave. Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.
McDonough, Will. Cradle to Cradle.
Midterm Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 20%
Reading Quizzes: 20%
Class Participation: 10%
Paper 1: 15%
Paper 2: 15%
*Both the midterm and final exam will consist of a mixture of short answer and essays.
*Quizzes on the reading will be given at the start of each class and will vary in format
(most should take about 10 minutes). If you are late to class and miss the quiz, you will
NOT be able to make it up. Your grade will be determined by your best 7 quiz scores
(you get to drop the lowest 2).
*Class participation means more than occupying a seat, although I appreciate and will
reward perfect attendance. What I want evidence of is active engagement with the texts.
*Paper 1: Due March 5. This paper will require you to experience nature and write about
it. In your piece, you should grapple with the ideas we have been discussing in class. You
should try to have a conversation with the authors (at least two). You will need to visit a
park or natural area (Boyd Hill, Indian Key, etc) and spend enough time there to record
your impressions and cogitate. Length: 5 pages (no more than 6).
Paper 2: Due May 7. This paper will require you to research and write about a local and
contemporary environmental issue, using as guides the texts we’ll read in class. I will
provide a list of possible topics; if you have a topic not on the list, you will need to get
my approval. This paper will require you to identify and describe a local environmental
issue, which might include a brief historical account, to determine what is being about the
issue (which agencies and NGO’s are involved), and to offer your own assessment about
the proposed fixes (or inaction). Interviews with participants will be helpful but not
mandatory. Suggested length: 5-7 pages (no more than 8).
Feb. 5: Class Introduction/Safe
Feb 12: On the Pond
Assignment: Read Walden, “Economy,” “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,”
“Solitude,” “Visitors,” “Winter Animals,” and “Conclusion”
Feb. 19: Thalata
Assignment: Read The Sea Around Us, “The Gray Beginnings,” “The Birth of an Island,”
“The Shape of Ancient Seas,” “Wind and Water,” “The Moving Tides,” “The Global
Thermostat,” “Wealth from the Salt Seas,” and “Afterward”
NOTE: CLASS WILL BEGIN AT 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 26: The Wild Man
Assignment: Read Muir, all.
Mar. 5: The Wild Child
Assignment: Read Into Thin Air, all.
Paper 1 due
Mar. 12: MIDTERM EXAM
Mar. 19: Spring Break
Mar. 26: Spring Break
April 2: Who’s Smarter?
Assignment: Read Guns, Germs, and Steel, pp. 13-82
April 9: Who’s Smarter, Part Two
Assignment: Read Guns, Germs, and Steel, pp. 293-402
April 16: The Big Question
Assignment: Read On Human Nature, Chapters 1-2 and 5-7
April 23: You’re Not Paying Attention
Assignment: Read Field Notes from a Catastrophe, all
April 30: Doing Something About It
Assignment: Read Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, all
May 7: Doing Something About It, Part Two
Assignment: Read Cradle to Cradle, all
Paper 2 due