Environmental Politics & Policies 

         Political Science 3480
       Fall 2017

        12:30-1:45 Tuesday & Thursday

        201 SSB

        Link to Printable Syllabus


     Instructor: Dave Robertson                 

   Office 347A SSB; Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:00, 2:00-3:00; I will arrange other times to fit your schedule.

    Phone (314) 516-5836; e-mail DaveRobertson@umsl.edu; twitter @daverobertsonMO





Contents: What Is The Course About?How To Get A Good GradeExamsBooksParticipationThe Memo / Detailed Course Schedule
Environmental Policy & Politics WebsitesHow to Be Fair Minded About Politics & PolicyEnvironmental Politics Bibliography

1.  What is the Course About?
  Our hopes, ideals, and conflicts shape our choices about the land, air and water that are essential to our lives. We value our environment for the beauty that ennobles us and the resources that allow us to prosper. Environmental policy reveals what is at stake in society’s decisions about the environment and on the priorities we set. It also tells us about the way that government solves problems and the strengths and weaknesses of government as an instrument for realizing our ideals.


Our course has two goals. First, we have to understand the facts about key environmental controversies and the way American government has responded to them. Topics include environmental ideas, land use, energy, water and air pollution, environmental justice, climate change, solid and hazardous waste, endangered species, population growth, and international environmental co-operation. The second goal is to build problem solving skills by applying them to these difficult problems. Political science analyzes the way that groups of people work out problems when they disagree about values and are uncertain about facts. Environmental issues offer a great way to explore our different standpoints, and the way try to solve our common problems together. United States, then, you will have a better understanding of solving other kinds of problems.

By the end of the course, then, you should have (1) mastered a body of basic information about environment issues and policies, and (2) a better command of the problem-solving skills used to make public policy, including standpoints, priorities, the issue-attention cycle, purity versus pragmatism, the separation of powers, federalism, and elections.  To measure your achievement, the course includes extensive class participation, three examinations, two quizzes, and a policy memo. 

This course does not require that you have a background in biological or other sciences. The class enrolls students majoring in Political Science, Biology and other disciplines. Graduate students in biology, political science, and other disciplines should contact the instructor to discuss concurrent individual readings courses to allow them to participate in the course.

2. Our Contract.  By enrolling in this course, you and I have agreed to a contract with each other.  I'll work hard to be prepared, enthusiastic, fair and respectful of every student and their standpoint.  I'll be accessible and try my best to return graded materials after no more than a week.  By enrolling in the class, you've agreed to (1) attend every class, (2) to participate by asking questions and joining in class discussions, and (3) reading the assigned material and completing assignments on time. 


You are paying good money for a University of Missouri class.  Of all the consumer purchases you make, don't let your University of Missouri education be the one purchase where you want less for your money. You should want more for your money.

3. Books. The following books, which are required reading in this course, are available at the Missouri S&T bookstore.

Easton, Thomas A. ed. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues, 17th edition. Paperback. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2017. ISBN 978-1259853357

Ibsen, Henrick, An Enemy of the People (any edition - available used and in many public libraries)

Rosenbaum, Walter A., Environmental Politics and Policy, 10th ed. Paperback. Los Angeles: Sage/CQ Press, 2016. ISBN 13: 9781506345376

There are a number of additional readings; many of them are very short newspaper articles. All are available on My Blackboard, Assignments.

The class schedule below lists all the reading, quiz, exam, and assignment dates.  Each date has a title.  Click on the title to get an outline of the day's class. Each outline will be available the evening prior to the class.

4How to Get a Good Grade. The grade for the course will be determined in the following way:

Participation: 10% of the final grade

Quizzes:   10% of the final grade
Exam 1: 15% of the final grade
Exam 2: 15% of the final grade
Exam 3: 20% of the final grade
Memo Topic: 5% of the final grade
Memo Synopsis/Outline/Bibliography: 5% of the final grade

Memo: 20% of the final grade


Bonus points for all: 1 point if 70% of the students complete the course evaluation at the end of the course; 2 points if 90% complete it

NOTE: You are not are NOT competing with other students for a grade. There is no curve in this course. Each student can get an A, or can get a D. It's up to you.

I strongly urge you to take written notes during this class. Experiments show that students who write their notes out on paper have a better understanding of course material and perform better on tests than those who use a laptop. For more information, see: https://www.brookings.edu/research/for-better-learning-in-college-lectures-lay-down-the-laptop-and-pick-up-a-pen/

5. Participation. You must participate in this course actively in order for it to work well. You must prepare for and attend class, and you must contribute thoughtfully to discussion, including taking the lead on the Taking Sides issues you choose. To ensure fairness in allocating this portion of the grade, sign-up sheets will be circulated during some of the classes. I strongly encourage you to ask questions about environmental policy and public policy. I strongly encourage you to ask questions about the day's readings and lecture.

Students who succeed in this course write good notes during the class.  The outline for each class session is available for download and printing by the evening before our class. Just scroll down this syllabus to "Course Schedule," scroll down to the date of the class, and click the title of the class. For example, for the class on August 24, scroll down to August 24 (Tuesday) Priorities for the Environment: Wealth  and click the link.

Your reading assignments are listed on the attached class schedule. You are expected to read the material before coming to class, and you are expected to be prepared to discuss the reading material in class. You may be asked to discuss a question regarding the reading during the class for which the reading is assigned. You are expected and must plan to participate in class for the trial of Dr. Stockmann (September 5) and the Mediterranean exercise (November 14 & 16).

6. Exams. There will be three exams in our classroom: on September 26 during class time, on October 26 during class time, and on December 14 at 10:00 am. Each of the exams will consist of three parts: 20 true / false questions worth 2 points each, 2 identification questions worth 10 points each, and an essay worth 40 points.  The final exam will include an additional essay question that summarizes the course. 

7. Environmental Policy Memo. You will write a 14-16 page fair-minded (see below) environmental policy memo for the class. Samples of past memos are available on Blackboard at Assignments. The paper requires you to provide information to U.S., Missouri (or other, by arrangement) legislative committee (addressing members of both parties) about an specific environmental policy issue of your choice. The memo is due no later than Tuesday, December 5. You must turn in two assignments in advance.  First, you have to submit a 1-2 paragraph written proposed topic question and significance of the memo topic on Thursday, September 14. This proposal must include must include a statement of the policy issue or question, and a statement of why the question matters.   Second, you have to submit a one-paragraph synopsis of the memo, an outline of the memo and a bibliography at least 6 sources (no Wikipedia or online encyclopedia) by Tuesday, October 17 (see below). The proposal and the outline each are worth 5% of the paper grade.


This assignment aims to encourage you to use the course concepts to analyze the environmental problem and policy response of your choice. The purpose is to apply your knowledge of environmental politics & policy to a topic that interests you.  To do that, you should provide information that a policy maker should know about the policy choices involved (you can make up a name, or use a real office, like director of the EPA or Secretary of State, or name the person you are addressing this to – whatever helps you focus on writing the memo). I urge you to start researching your topic with CQ Researcher (available online through the UMSL library). These research reports address questions similar to yours, and provide a good example of how to go about briefing a policy-maker.


There are six kinds of things a policy-maker should know about. I strongly recommend that you use these headings to outline your memo:


1.  Why should this issue be on the government agenda?  Explain to the policy-maker how many people the issue affects, and how it affects them.  The policy-maker needs to know as clearly why she or he should care about this issue.  What’s the problem or the danger if something isn’t done?

2.   What are the key things to know about past government efforts to deal with this issue?  The policy-maker needs to know what has been done about this issue in the past. This asks about policy development: the public institutions and laws that affect the issue now. How have we dealt with this issue in the past?  Has past government policy encouraged behaviors we should change, and if so, how did that evolve?

3.  What are the key alternative choices for addressing this issue, and what are their consequences? The policy-maker needs to know what different choices government can make.  How can government deal with this? What tools are available – command and control? Taxes and subsidies? Cap & Trade? What else.  Remember, doing nothing is an alternative – and a choice.

4.  Who are the key participants in this issue and how do their standpoints differ?  The policy-maker needs to know the standpoints of influential groups about this issue and especially how they feel about the alternative choices.  Are there difference in public opinion?  Do people in different regions have different standpoints on the issue?  What businesses have strong standpoints: oil? coal? The electrical utilities? The auto industry?  How about the environmental groups? Trade unions?  How about state and local officials and members of the US Congress from different states (Midwestern states are different from states on the West Coast). How powerful are these interests?  How will they react to different alternatives?

5.  Describe the political costs and benefits of different alternatives.  The policy-maker needs to know exactly how the answers to 3 & 4 are connected by reasoning through the political consequences of a solution.  Will an alternative be more likely to help participants agree, or will it divide them? Will it reduce political opposition to a solution, or strengthen and broaden the opposition? For example, higher taxes could increase opposition from those who are taxed, and make it harder for the solution to succeed (and it might cost the policymaker her job).  If one group gets benefits, it will be more likely to help the solution succeed (and might help the policymaker, too).  

6.  What is the best alternative course of action in the future? Based on your answer to questions 3, 4, and 5, explain to the policy maker why one choice is better than others.  Explain not only in environmental and economic terms, but in political terms as well. 

The memo is 14-16 pages.  Grading criteria include: (1) the degree to which you put effort into the paper; (2) the degree to which you thoroughly answer all the questions above; (3) use specific facts and figures in your analysis; (4) how fair-minded your argument is; (5) the quality of the writing and organization of the paper; (6) the quality and diversity of the sources; (7) the persuasiveness of the your argument for the proposed improvement in the situation. An "A" paper will be clear, concise, and specific. It will cite at least 9 sources (of which 1 should be from class readings, 2 from outside research articles, and 2 from outside books).

In the Synopsis/Outline/Bibliography due October 17, I want to know that you have been working on the memo.  The synopsis briefly summarizes (1 paragraph) the memo so far. The outline should indicate that you’ve thought about, and read some information about, answering the 6 questions related to the central question in your memo. You can submit an outline based on these six questions, providing a preliminary answer to most of them under each heading (you can organize this in a different way if you prefer). I’d expect this outline to fill about a half a page or more, single spaced.  Also, show that you have read enough to be able to list at least 6 sources (not Wikipedia); they can be books, articles, or websites that provide specific evidence you are likely to use in writing your memo. Give a full citation.

LATE MEMOs lose 1 point for every day that ends in the letter "y".

8. QuizzesThere will be two short quizzes in the class: September 5 and November 14. These quizzes will cover your preparation for the trial of Dr. Stockman and for the Mediterranean exercise. 

9. Current Events. Pay closer attention to environmental policy developments this semester. You can do this by reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal are among the newspapers available daily. Grist, the Environmental New Network, Politico's Energy and Environment website, the Guardian and the BBC have very good coverage of environmental issues.  See also the Environmental Politics Links on the course website. The Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report and the National Journal are weekly publications available in the reference area, and they are outstanding sources for national policy developments.

10. Plagiarism.  Plagiarism means taking the written ideas of someone else and presenting them in your writing as if they were your ideas, without giving the author credit.  Plagiarism (a word which comes from the Latin word for kidnapping) is deceitful and dishonest.  Violations that have occurred frequently in the past include not using quotation marks for direct quotes and not giving citations when using someone else's ideas; using long strings of quotations, even when properly attributed, does not constitute a paper of your own.


Plagiarism in written work for this class is unacceptable. The University of Missouri Student Conduct Code classifies plagiarism as a form of academic dishonesty.  Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, punishment can include receiving no credit for the assignment, failing the course and referral for university disciplinary action.

10. Other Stuff. When I return your exam, please check to make sure that I have computed your grade correctly. Please ask questions! Please be in your seat by the time class begins. Please do not hold private conversations during class. If you do not understand lecture, if you have further questions about lecture, please don't hesitate to interrupt and ask your question.


* indicates article is in .pdf form on Canvas

August 22 (Tuesday) Introduction & Standpoints


August 24 (Thursday) Priorities for the Environment: Wealth

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 1-9
     (Recommended, not required: Taking Sides, Introduction, pages 6-14)


August 29 (Tuesday) Other Priorities for the Environment: Conservation, Beauty, Health, & Justice 

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 9-28, 144-157

               * Konisky, "The Challenge of Achieving Environmental Protection for All"


August 31 (Thursday): Class does not meet - read the play.


September 5 (Tuesday) The Trial of Dr. Stockmann

    READ: Ibsen, An Enemy of the People (entire)


    QUIZ  1


September 7 (Thursday) How Serious are the Risks? 

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 127-155

               Taking Sides, pages 305-317, "Do Current TSCA Reform Efforts Adequately Address the Need to Protect Public Health from Industrial Chemicals?"


September 12 (Tuesday) How Much is the Environment Worth?   

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 163-180

               Taking Sides, pages 52-65, "Should We Be Pricing Ecosystem Services?"


September 14 (Thursday) Environmental Politics and Policy-Making

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 33-62


   MEMO TOPIC DUE (1-2 paragraphs describing a national environmental policy problem and why it is a national issue)


September 19 (Tuesday) Science, Public Opinion and Polarization

    LISTEN: Dr. Katherine Hayhoe-productive ways to discuss climate change with others (NPR)
    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 62-73
               Taking Sides, pages 277-291, "Do We Need New Regulations for Synthetic Biology?"


September 21 (Thursday) Polarization and Interest Groups

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 79-122


SEPTEMBER 26 (Tuesday)  EXAM 1 - Study Guide for Exam 1


September 28 (Thursday) How Does the United States Govern Land?

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 313-327

                Taking Sides, pages 97-107, "Should Environmental Regulations be Able to Limit Property Rights?"


October  3 (Tuesday) Forest and Wilderness 

    READ:  Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 328-354

                Taking Sides, pages 69-79, ""Does Designating 'Wild Lands' Harm Rural Economies?"


October  5 (Thursday) How Does the United States Govern Energy? Fossil Fuels

    READ:  Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 273-290

                 Taking Sides, pages 258-275, "Is the Fracking Industry Adequately Regulated for Public Safety?"


October 10 (Tuesday) How Does the United States Govern Energy? Nuclear Power & Nuclear Waste

       READ:  Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 290-301

                    Taking Sides, pages 318-331, "Is the Process for Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors Sound?"


October 12 (Thursday) How Does the United States Govern Energy? Renewables
     READ:  Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 301-307

                Taking Sides, pages 166-197, "Should We Continue to Rely on Fossil Fuels" & "Do the Benefits of Biofuels Exceed their Costs"?


October 17 (Tuesday) Why do we use Command and Control to Regulate Air & Water Pollution

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 195-201
               Taking Sides, pages 125-146, "Can We Reduce Carbon Emissions Enough to Limit Global Warming?"




October 19 (Thursday) How Does the United States Govern Air Pollution?

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 201-215


October 24 (Tuesday) How Does the United States Govern Water Pollution?

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 215-234


OCTOBER 26 (Thursday)  EXAM 2 - Study Guide for Exam 2


October 31 (Tuesday)  How Does the United States Govern Hazardous & Solid Waste?

        READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 237-267


November 2 (Thursday) Climate Change: Why So Much Political Controversy?

November 7 (Tuesday) Climate Change: Why So Much Political Controversy?

    READ: Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 357-373
Taking Sides, pages 101-120, "Is Anthropogenic Global Warming Real and Dangerous?"


November 9 (Thursday)  International Problems

    READ:  * Smith, The Environmental Policy Paradox, 288-322  

                Rosenbaum, Environmental Politics and Policy, pages 373-387

                Taking Sides, pages 101-120, "Is Anthropogenic Global Warming Real and Dangerous?"


November 14 (Tuesday) The Mediterranean 1

    READ: Assignment & Assigned Country Basic Information in CIA Factbook

                * State of the Mediterranean 2012  




November 16 (Thursday) The Mediterranean 2


November 28 (Tuesday) What Problems Do Population & Food Pose?

    READ: Taking Sides, 195-206, "Do we Have Population Problem?"
                Taking Sides, 219-228, "Does the World Need High-Tech Agriculture?"


November 30 (Thursday) How do we deal with Biodiversity?

    READ:  Taking Sides, pages 203-218, "Does Commercial Fishing Have a Future?"   
                 Taking Sides, 80-95,
"Does Excessive Endangered Act Litigation Threaten Species Recovery, Job Creation, and Economic Growth?"


December 5 (Tuesday) What Choices Will You Have to Make? Technology

    READ: Taking Sides, 289-303, "Should Genetically Engineered Mosquitos Be Released into the Environment to Fight Disease?"

               Taking Sides,148-163, "Do We Need Research Guidelines for Geoengineering?"


December 7 (Thursday) What Choices Will You Have to Make? The Big Picture

    READ: Taking Sides, pages 19-35, "Is 'Sustainability' Still Possible?"
               Taking Sides, pages 37-50, "Are There Limits to Growth?"


    MEMO DUE  (-1 point for each late day that ends with the letter "y")




DECEMBER 14 (Thursday)   FINAL EXAM, 10:00-12:00 - Study Guide for Final Exam



How to Be Fair-Minded About Politics and Policy  

When you complete the course, you should be more skilled in your ability to:


1. Understand and respect your own standpoints and standpoints that differ from yours.


2. Distinguish Fact and Opinion. A fact is a statement that can be proven to be true. An opinion is a statement of a person's feelings about something.


3. Determine Cause and Effect. Does a person assert that one fact follows as the result of another? (Examples include such statements as "Increased auto exhaust causes global warming," or
   "Government regulations cause unemployment"). How sweeping are these assertions? What is the evidence for it? How persuasive is this evidence?


4. Determine the accuracy and completeness of the information provided. When you read more than one point of view on an issue, ask yourself, why am I sure this is true?


5. Recognize Bias, Rhetoric, and Manipulation. Is a person trying to appeal to your emotions instead of using facts and logic?


6. Recognize poor logic and faulty reasoning. When you read more than one point of view on an issue, you should think about the following logical problems.


a. Cherry-picking evidence (if you look at the years 19xx-20xx, global warming was not occurring, so global warming is not occurring).


b. Oversimplifications that ignore important information ("Tougher environmental laws can create jobs in the long run, so the economy will be better off if stricter laws are enacted;" such a statement ignores the number of persons who may be displaced in the short run with a given environmental law).  Often, opponents of a standpoint oversimplify it (setting up a “straw man”) and attack the hollow argument


e. Stereotyping ("all environmentalists are kooks;" "all Republicans or Democrats are greedy crooks"). Modifiers such as "all," "never," or "always" often provide a tip off stereotyping.


f. Incorrect cause-effect relationships ("The Clean Air Act of 1990 preceded the recent economic recession, therefore the CAA caused the recession") Many political arguments rely on “slippery slope” cause-and effect relationships, such as, “if we adopt this policy, we will be on the road to communism" (or fascism, or anarchy, or ruin, or some other negative result).





Society of Environmental Journalists Headlines / Environmental Health News
Associated Press / Reuters / BBC / The Guardian: Environment
Washington Post / New York Times / The Hill / Politico Energy and Environment /
Earth Policy Institute
Florida Center for Environmental Studies
Environmental Organizations

Check the facts! Snopes / FactCheck

Congress /  The President /  The Federal Judicial System / Environmental Law
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of the Interior /  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
U.S. Department of Energy / U.S. DOE Energy Topics A-Z
State and local government / Council of State Governments Environmental Policy / Interstate Compacts

Missouri Department of Conservation / Missouri Department of Natural Resources
St. Louis City / St. Louis County / St. Charles County / Jefferson County / Warren County / Lincoln County
Missouri Botanical Garden

EPA Envirofacts / St. Louis Air Quality Camera

League of Conservation Voters
Sierra Club / Sierra Club - Missouri Chapter
/ Natural Resources Defense Council / National Audubon Society / Audubon Society-St. Louis
/ National Wildlife Federation / Izaak Walton League / Environmental Defense Fund
/ World Wildlife Federation
/ Missouri Coalition for the Environment / American Rivers
Wilderness Society  /Greenpeace  /Resources for the Future
Nature Conservancy / the Trust for Public Land
/ Sustainable St. Louis / Trailnet / Greenway Network
Friends of the Earth  / Earth First! / Sea Shepards

U.S. Chamber of Commerce / National Association of Manufacturers
National Federation of Independent Business
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers /
American Waterways Operators /
American Farm Bureau / Missouri Farm Bureau / National Corn Growers Association /

US Clean Air Market Programs / US Watershed Trading Programs

American Petroleum Institute / Peabody Energy / Ameren Missouri / Nuclear Energy Institute /
MIT Report on the Future of Coal
Platts Energy News / Edison Electric Institute /

CRS Briefing on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1996 / CRS Briefing on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 2001

Heritage Foundation Energy and Environment
Heartland Institute  
Competitive Enterprise Institute / American Land Rights Association

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Pesticide Net
Superfund / EPA Oil Spill program /
Missouri DNR Hazardous Waste Program / Superfund, RCRA, and other environmentally sensitive sites in St. Louis

U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste / St. Louis Region Solid Waste Disposal
Recycler’s World / Missouri Recycling Association    
Zero Waste America

Biotechnology Industry Organization

President's Council on Sustainable Development - Final Report / EPA's Community-Based Approaches site /
Northwest Environment Watch / National Geographic's Smart Suburb / Sierra Club Sprawl site / Sprawl City
Smart Growth Online
Sustainable St. Louis / Great Rivers Greenway

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program
Defenders of Wildlife / WildAid  / Center for Biological Diversity

Mountain States Legal Foundation

American Rivers / Mississippi River Collaborative / Coalition to Protect the Missouri River /
Missouri River Basin Association
The Ocean Conservancy

Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook

United Nations Environment Programme  / UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre
 Center for International Environmental Law

North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation

Last Updated August 15, 2017

Background downloaded from http://www.grsites.com