Forests,People& Climate Change – 40766 – ENST 147 – 01

Professor: TBA

The role that forests and trees play in popular American consciousness, society, and culture has evolved dramatically over time. This course will explore that evolution — from a young country that felled millions of acres of old growth trees to facilitate westward expansion, to a modern-day nation grappling with catastrophic wildfires and forest management controversies, all set against the background of a warming climate. Where we once tried to wall off untamed forests from human settlements, and authors warned of the dangerous animals therein, Americans grew to desire communities ringed by wild lands, and now actively seek out encounters with wildlife. While we have a rich and storied history with our forests, our relationship with trees today is changing more than ever in light of climate change. As the planet continues to warm, forests that are adapted to periodically regenerate with fire are now burning more often, more severely, and more uncontrollably; these blazes were once considered a minor nuisance relegated to the backcountry, but are now burning through subdivisions in the suburbs of major cities. Throughout this historical transition in the American mindset, authors, artists, and other cultural leaders have been there to document the progression in the country’s attitudes, from Thoreau’s Walden and the Hudson River School of painters, all the way through Richard Powers’s Overstory (winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for literature). Indeed, whether we cut them down for lumber, protect them for wildlife, plant them to sequester carbon, or watch them burn in a wildfire, forests have always been inextricably linked to our national character. This course will examine that connection, both historically and in light of the immense present-day challenges associated with climate change. We’ll rely on a variety of resources, ranging from award-winning books to TED talks from obscure scientists, to guide our learning and help us understand how a nation of millions relates to and manages the one-third of the country’s landscape that is covered by forests.

  • Categories:
    2021 Spring Semester, ENST, Humanities
  • Spring
    Module A

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