Public Policy of Conservation
& Sustainable Development
Printable Syllabus here

Biology 6250 / Political Science 6452 Section G01 
            (Reference Biol #14701, PolSci #14604)
Thursday, 6:55PM - 9:25PM, SSB344A

       John Trevathan; 544 Clark; ph 314-516-6240;  email:
             Office hours: M, W 11-12:30 or by appointment
       Dave Robertson, 347 SSB; ph: 314-516-5836; email       
            Office hours: M, 1-3 or by appointment    

  1. Description. How do our societies govern the environment? Can they do better?  In Public Policy of Conservation and Sustainable Development, we focus on the challenges, the uncertainties and the different standpoints that drive our response to environmental problems. This course aims to help students (1) master key facts, concepts, and relationships in the field of sustainable development; (2) develop tools and skills for analyzing sustainable development policy and (3) apply the knowledge, tools and skills to sustainable development policy building. In the first part of the course, we analyze the cultural, historical, and institutional roots of environmental policy.  In the second part, we examine the concepts and approaches to environmental policy-building.  In the third part, students will apply the background knowledge and approaches to current sustainable development issues of their choice. This course should be of interest to students in conservation biology, domestic and international public policy, political science, cultural anthropology and other social sciences, education, and public policy.  A prior course in ecology can be helpful but is not required.

Catalogue course description: BIO 6450 & POL SCI 6452 Public Policy Of Conservation And Sustainable Development: 3 semester hours Prerequisites: Graduate standing in Political Science or Biology and consent of instructor. Prior course in ecology is recommended. This course will introduce the student to concepts and techniques for formulating, implementing, and analyzing public policy with an emphasis on environmental concerns, conservation, and sustainable development. The course will be team taught by a political scientist and a biologist. Course materials will include case studies that demonstrate the special problems of environmental policymaking in developing and developed economies.

  1. Objectives. This course aims to help

3. Grading

The grade for the course is allocated in the following way:

Participation:                30% of the final grade
Midterm Essays:          20% of the final grade
White Paper:                50% of the final grade


The value for each final letter grade is as follows: 
                          B+ = 87-89%         C+ = 77-79%          D+ = 67-69%
 A  = 93%           B  =  83-86%         C  =  73-76%          D  = 63-66%    F = 59% / less          
 A- = 90-92 %     B- =  80-82%         C- = 70-72%           D- = 60-Less     
DL = Delayed    EX = Excuse         FN = Failure/Non Participation 


4. Books

The following books are required reading in this course. They are available at the UM-St. Louis bookstore.  Be sure to purchase the most recent edition of the books:

  1. Participation. You must participate in this course actively in order for it to work well. You must prepare for and attend class, you must develop and use active listening skills, and you must contribute thoughtfully to discussion. To ensure fairness in allocating this portion of the grade, sign-up sheets will be circulated during some of the classes. If we invite a guest speaker, you can be certain that your absence will reduce your grade.

    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.

      We very strongly encourage you to ask questions.

  1. Essays on Course Readings and Seminar Sessions. You will write a midterm essay in response to two questions we will hand out in class.  These essays aim to measure your command of the readings in the course.  These essays combined will be a total of no more than 8 pages.  These are due by email on or by Monday April 1.|

  2. White Papers. Half of your grade depends on the white papers you will complete by the end of the course. You will identify an agency and write a white paper for it. More details on this assignment will be provided in readings and in class. Table 7.1 in Susan Clark’s The Policy Process (page 141) provides an outline of a white paper. We copied the outline on the following table:



You will submit drafts of sections of the white paper on these dates

February 7       - Draft of Introduction of the White Paper due

February 21     - Draft of Problem analysis & Preliminary Bibliography of White Paper due

March 21         - Draft of Analysis of the Policy Problem & 2nd Draft of Bibliography due

April 11            - Draft of Recommendations, Part A of the White Paper due

Apr 18-May 2  - Each student presents their project to the class


  1. 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's 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.



Course Schedule   * indicates reading or video on Canvas, “Files”


January 24     Thursday                    


Discussion: Taking Different Standpoints Seriously

    Discussion 1: The Stockmann Brothers

    Discussion 2: Why Farmers Object to the “Waters of the United States” rule


The Dominant Social Paradigm: Using Nature for Short-Term Economic Benefit

            Example: Wilderness


January 31     Thursday        

A. Comments and Discussion: Introduction to Sustainable Development

            Read:   * UN General Assembly, “A Life With Dignity for All”

                         * Hempel, Concepts of Sustainability

            Questions: How do you know “sustainable development” when you see it?

                           How do you ensure that development is sustainable?

B. Comments & Discussion:
Environmental Thought: Preservation, Conservation, Environmentalism, Environmental Justice

              Read: Latour, “War and Peace in Age of Ecological Conflicts”

C. Comments & Discussion: The Big Picture

                Read:     McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, pp. 3-17


February 7     Thursday                    

- Draft of Introduction of the White Paper due

Comments and Discussion: Introduction to the Policy Process

              Read:  Scott, selection from “Seeing Like a State”

                          Clark, The Policy Process, pp. ix-16, 140-145.

                        * Policy creates politics 

Discussion: Biodiversity

            Read:   McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, pp. 192-268

Comments and Discussion: Land & Cities

            Read:   McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, 21-49, 269-295


February 14   Thursday

Comments and discussion: Risk

           Read:   * Beck, “Living in the World Risk Society”


Comments and discussion: Air & Water

            Read:   McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, pp. 50-191

Comments and discussion: Energy and Technology

            Read:   McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, pp. 298-324


February 21   Thursday

- Draft of Problem analysis & Preliminary Bibliography of the White Paper due

Comments and Discussion: Culture & Social Process

            Read: Clark, The Policy Process, pp. 17-55

Comments and Discussion: Big Ideas

            Read:   McNeill, Something New Under the Sun, pp. 325-362

Comments and Discussion: Public Opinion and Motivated Reasoning

           * Watch: Motivated Reasoning video

           * Read: Downs, “The Issue-Attention Cycle”


February 28   Thursday

Comments on Politics and Government

            Read: * Mazmanian & Nijaki, Sustainable Development  & Governance

 Comments and Discussion: Institutional Standpoints, Bureaucracy, NGOs

Discussion: Case Studies

              Read:   * NOx Case Study
                           * Bighorn Sheep & Mountain Lion case study
                           * The Prestige oil spill: A scientific response
                           * Caballero & Soto-Oņate, "Environmental crime and judicial rectification

March  7        Thursday

The Decision Process and Problem Orientation

              Read: Clark, The Policy Process, pp. 55-110


March 21       Thursday         

- Draft of Analysis of the Policy Problem & 2nd Draft of Bibliography of White Paper due

Discussion on the Policy Process

              Read: Clark, The Policy Process, pp. 111-172

Exercise on Clark, The Policy Process, pp. 32-110 


March 28       Spring Break; class does not meet


April 1            Monday

- Essays on Course Readings and Seminar Sessions due.


April 4            Thursday

Individual meetings with students on white paper    


April 11          Thursday                     Summary

- Draft of Recommendations, Part A of the White Paper due        


April 18          Thursday                    

Project Presentations


April 25          Thursday                    


Project Presentations


May 2             Thursday                    


Project Presentations


May 9            Thursday



Read: O'Neill, “Global Environmental Policy Making”

Course Summary   

            ReRead: UN General Assembly, “A Life With Dignity for All”



January 23




Taking Different Standpoints Seriously


            How to approach controversy


The Dominant Social Paradigm


            Example: Wilderness


            Ecological sovereignty & nature as a set of resources