Introduction to Environmental Literacy syllabus

LLED 565D/480D, Section 921

Introduction to Environmental Literacy

Summer Term 2A (July 2 - July 18, 2014) - MTWRF, 2:30 - 5:30pm,

Instructor: Dr. Kedrick James   Office: Ponderosa F106   Email:



This course provides a working knowledge of theories and practices that position literacy from an environmental and ecological perspective. Bridging natural and virtual ecologies, this course affords opportunities for students to explore personal and research-based relationships to a variety of information environments, and develops ecological approaches to literacy teaching and research that emphasize sustainability and the creative potential for deep ecological education.



During this course we will review, consider, discuss and be able to apply:

  • Major theories and approaches to environmental and ecological literacy.
  • Address personal and pedagogical strategies to improve sustainability of both natural, rural, urban, and virtual environments
  • Major issues and concerns regarding the stability of both ecosystems and info-systems.
  • Assessments of environmental problems and solutions to those problems
  • Transdisciplinary approaches to research in which environmental interactions are significant variables.
  • Ecophilosopy, environmental ethics, indigenous knowledges, ecocomposition and ecocriticism, ecopolitics, "commons" philosophies, and placed-based ecological arts.


Links to Thematic Strands

  1. Social and Ecological Justice
  2. Problematics in Pedagogy, Curriculum and Assessment
  3. Sustainability

Format: All classes, except for introduction, will begin with student presentations on given readings. Students are asked to keep these presentations to a maximum of 15 minutes. Lecture/discussion format will follow in a variety of locations around UBC.

Course Readings are arranged according to the day # at

Course Schedule

Day 1/July 2: Introduction to Environmental Literacy



Place and perception: Environments and ecosystems


Guiding Questions

What is an environment? “Process, not container”.

What is ecology? Study of evolving, complex, interdependent systems.

Do environmental literacy and ecological literacy differ?

How are these concepts applied in education, and to what end?

What is place-based education, Environmental Education?

How does the transience of place and person affect perception of environments?



The organic course structure: Choose one reading for each day. Scheduling reading presentations. Sharing copies of the May 2014 issue of Common Ground.

What are the main environmental issues affecting life today - and tomorrow?

What is the relationship between a mushroom and your cell phone?

How do different values systems treat the concept of waste "one person's garbage is another's treasure"?

How can we awaken local and global consciousness with environmental literacy?


Day 2/July 3: Types of Environment and Environmentalism



Networks and codependent systems


Guiding Questions


What is systems theory and how does it's inherent transdiciplinarity affect this field of study?

What is deep ecology? What is permaculture? How are words like "natural", "organic," "green" and so on used and misused?

How is the narrative of environmental activism represented in popular media?

How does this conflict with scientific and technological narratives of "progress"?

What is a carbon footprint? What is the relationship to food, housing, transportation, and industrial systems?

How is identity shaped within social systems by becoming environmentally/ecologically literate?

See: 12 principles of permaculture by David Holmgren



Golley, F. B. (1998). A primer for environmental literacy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Fukuoka, M. (1978). One-straw revolution: An introduction to natural farming. Rodale Press. (p. i-28)

From environmental literacy to transdisciplinarity. (pp. 15-28).


Day 3/July 4: Environmental Literacy and Education


Connections between evolution, natural selection, and responsibility

Guiding Questions


How does formal education influence environmental awareness?

What is the relationship between competition and evolution?

How can we scaffold different modes of reading the world to create broader understandings?


Bowen, J. (1994). Educational imperatives for the twenty-first century: Environmental literacy and ecological understanding. In J. Bowen (Ed.), Environment Education: Imperatives for the 21st century (pp. 35-58). Albert Park, Australia: James Nicholas Publishers.

Pisani, F. (2007). Networks as a Unifying Pattern of Life Involving Different Processes at Different Levels: An Interview with Fritjof Capra. International Journal of Communication 1, 5-25. Download at

OECD (2009). Green at fifteen: How fifteen-year-olds perform in environmental science and geoscience in PISA 2006. Programme for International Student Assessment.

Day 4/July 7: Concepts of the Commons



Ecopolitics, ecoethics, ecophilosophies, not-for-profit productivities, and "human nature".

Guiding Questions


What is a commons? How has this notion changed over time?

How does this challenge "human nature"?

How can we envision the commons as an eco-ethical challenge to dominant paradigms?

How might the commons as an ideal be adapted to suit education?


Fox, W. (1990). Toward a transpersonal ecology: Developing new foundations for environmentalism. Boston & London: Shambala. (pp. 150-196)

Haraway, D. (1992). The promise of monsters: A regenerative politics for inappropriate/d others. In L. Grossberg, C. Nelson &, P. A. Treichler (Eds.), Cultural Studies, (pp. 295-337). New York & London: Routledge. Online:

Boyle, J. (2008). The public domain. Enclosing the commons of the mind. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.  (see especially chapter 3, p. 42, & chapter 10, p. 230):

Hardin, G. (1996). The tragedy of the commons. In M.A. Cahn & R. O'Brien (Eds.), Thinking about the environment: Readings on politics, property and the physical world (pp. 173-178). London: M.E. Sharpe Publishers.

Day 5/July 8: Ecologies of mind


Head space: Media ecologies, information environments and post-persons

Guiding Questions


Where is the divide between real and artificial environments?

How can perception of natural environments be affected by immersion in artificial ones?

In what way do artistic practices bridge this divide?


McLuhan, M. (2003). Understanding me: Lectures and interviews. S. McLuhan & D. Staines (Eds.). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

Guattari, F. (1989). The three ecologies. C. Turner (Trans.). New Formations (8) Summer. 131-147.

Bateson, G. (1991). A sacred unity. Further steps to an ecology of mind. A Cornelia & Michael Bessie Book. (pp. 259-313).

Day 6/July 9: Ecocomposition and Environmental Art



Ecocomposition and writing to learn how to be aware

Guiding Questions


Respond to the McLuhan quote. Please respond in the comment section beneath the quote.

What is the relationship between formal and creative writing?

What writing activities support awareness and responsibility

What role do the different discourses of home, school, and community play?

Science is sometimes blinded by its inherent faith in human invention. When is non-intervention a better solution to environmental stewardship?


Agnew, W. (2008). Autopoietic education - Contours of the future: Or - The poetics of science in constructing eco-Identity. In J. Gray-Donald & D. Selby (Eds.), Green frontiers: Environmental educators dancing away from mechanism. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. (pp. 263-285)

Snyder, G. (1969). Earth house hold: Technical notes and queries to fellow dharma revolutionaries. New York: New Directions Press. (pp. 117-130).

Dobrin, S. I., and Weisser, C. R. (2002). Natural discourse: Toward ecocomposition. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (pp. 1-15).

Donop, A., Davies, T. & Hills, (Prods.) (2000). Rivers and tides. A documentary about Andy Goldsworthy. Mediopolis Productions.

Day 7/July 10: Waste & Recycling


Civilized waste

Guiding Questions


What are the major theories and concepts guiding waste production?

What is the waste stream, and where does trash go when we throw it away, i.e. where is away?

How do the environmental fundamentals -  reduce, reuse, recycle - function online?

How does these fundamentals fit design - of habitation, commodities, economies, natural resources, etc.?

What is remix culture? What role does transcendence play in junk art, music sampling, cut-ups, collage...?


Moser, W. (2002). The acculturation of waste. In B. Neville & J. Villeneuve (Eds.), Waste-site stories: The recycling of memory (pp. 85-105). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Neville, B. and Villeneuve, J. (2002). Introduction: In lieu of waste. In B. Neville & J. Villeneuve (Eds.), Waste-site stories: The recycling of memory (pp. 1-25). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Yaeger, P. (2003). Trash as archive, trash as enlightenment. In G. Hawkins & S. Muecke (Eds.), Culture and waste: The creation and destruction of value (pp. 105-115). Lanham and Boulder: Rowan & Littlefield, Publishers.

Strasser, S. (2000). Waste and want: A social history of trash. New York: Owl Books. (pp. 265-293)

Veblen, T. (August 6, 2008 Ebook). Theory of the leisure class. (Specifically, Chapter 5, The pecuniary standard of living) on Project Gutenberg.

Day 8/July 11: Presentations of an Environmental Survey



Applying an understanding of ecological priorities to personal environments

Guiding Questions


How does creativity relate to sustainability?

How do biosemiotics and biophilia play a role in human learning?

What role might popular culture play in environmental education?

What are the benefits of a enriching the literacy environment for diverse learners?



Day 9/July 14: Field Trip to the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability: Dr. John Robinson, speaker


Sustainability: Human impact, modification, and creation of environments

Guiding Questions


How does habitation tell a narrative of human consumption?

How do design and construction need to change in order to create sustainable habitats?

What are some solutions to resource depletion?

Can we close the pandora's box of carbon emissions before it's too late?


Choose one of the four chapters by Orr on Sustainability: from

Orr, D. W. (1992). Ecological Literacy: Education and the transition to a postmodern world. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Rees, W. E. (1993). Why preserve agricultural land?. Urban growth and the Agricultural Land Reserve: Up not out. Symposium proceedings March 9, 1993, at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Center. Burnaby. BC: B.C. Agricultural Land Commission.

Bergman, D. (2012). Sustainable design: A critical guide. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. (pp. 127-135)

Day 10/July 15: Ecocriticism: Literature and Environment



Language, creativity, and literary ecologies

Guiding Questions


How does literature serve as a principle of environmental sustainability.

What is the connection between language and environment.

How do these understandings challenge curriculum and assessment?


Choose any chapter from this book, available online:

Clark, T. (2011). The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Commoner, B. (1996). The closing circle: Nature, man, and technology. In M. A. Cahn & R. O’Brien (Eds.), Thinking about environment: Readings on politics, property, and the physical world. (pp. 161-166). Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Thoreau, H. D. (1962). Walden. In J. W. Krutch (Ed.), Thoreau: Walden and other writings. New York, Toronto, London: Bantam. (pp. 202-219).

Day 11/July 16: Interspecies Empathy and Communication


The species divided: valuing the non-human world

Guiding Questions


What role do religion and politics play in animal persecution?

How can we overcome species-bias?

What are the basic principles underlying anthropocentrism? Why is it less present in children?


Johnson, A. (1995). Barriers to fair treatment of non-human life. In D. E. Cooper & J. A. Palmer (Eds.), Just environments: Intergenerational, international and interspecies issues (pp. 165-179). New York & London: Taylor and Francis.

Lupinacci, J. (2013). Eco-ethical environmental education. In A Kalnieks, D. R. Longboat & Young, K. (Eds.), Contemporary studies in environmental and indigenous pedagogies: A curricula of stories and place. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. (pp. 185-200)

Okamoto, C. (2008). Young people's perceptions of the metal capacities of non-human animals and their moral opinions on animal use. In J. Gray-Donald & D. Selby (Eds.), Green frontiers: Environmental educators dancing away from mechanism. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. (pp. 159-183)

Day 12/July 17: Answering the Call of Nature


No liberty without responsibiity!

Guiding Questions


How does one separate the personal and the ecological?

How does a more rapid pace of technological development interfere with existing systems?

Is there another way?


Fuller, R. B. (1969). Operating manual for spaceship Earth.

Day 13/July 18: Presentation on Final Projects


Interventions in local environments for research, awareness and sustainability

Guiding Questions


Is positive change in ecological trends even possible (given typical attitudes, large scale destruction of natural environments, the cynicism, profit motivation and "progress as continual growth"?

What is holistic assessment in the context of rapidly changing social and environmental practices?

How can people make a difference if people are the problem to begin with?




Attendance Policy:

As this course is participatory in nature and delivered in a condensced time-frame, attendance is mandatory. Each day we are likely to engage in discussions outside of our scheduled classroom environment. Some of these spaces will be chosen randomly. Therefore, punctuality will also save you searching for the class.

Course Assignments and Assessment 

This is a graded course that is cross listed for both graduate and undergraduate students. All students will receive a final grade in the form of a percentage.

Students taking the course as LLED 480 are required to complete Assignment 1 and EITHER Assignment 2 or Assignment 3. Students taking the course as LLED 565b are expected to complete all three assignments.

Owing to the condensced time frame of this course, participation is crucial to success. You should plan to do the following: Complete one of the readings suggested for each day. Decide on a particular environment in which to some writing, reflecting on the reading, your environment, and how your perception of environment changes when "tuning into" all the manifold interdependent systems at work. You may choose to write in any genre that seems most suited to capturing your feelings and thoughts. Use that particular environment as a metaphor to consider how similar conditions are shaping your work, your research, your thought, and your life. Collect these into a writing journal for Assignment 2. Based on your reflections in the writing journal choose an environmental intervention to enact and document. Alter, in some way, big or small, an aspect of your own lived environments with the intention of remediating or nurturing its compexity, diversity, robustness, and sustainability. This can be applied to your personal spaces, your research practices, your teaching methods, your artistic endeavors. Document this intervention and make a statement on how your intervention suits the term Environmental Literacy.


Assignment 1: Presentation on a Reading  30%

Each student will be given 15 minutes to present on one reading, along with their own personal sense of how it applies to their own work, lives, or research and to facilitate a brief class discussion. On the first day of class we will determine which day each person will be giving their presentation. You will choose from the readings for that day which one to present on.

Assignment 2: Writing Portfolio  30%

Environments shape the praxis of meaning production. Broadly construed, environmental literacy is a priori to all other types of literacy practices. Students are expected to complete one reading, and one piece of writing each day. Ideally, you will engage in the practice of writing in several environments: inside, outside, large, small, noisy, quiet, spectacular, mundane. In your writing, you will take the ideas from the reading and reflect on how this affects the way you think, teach, and want to live.

Assignment 3: Media project  30%

For this project you will design and engage in an intervention in a chosen environment. This is intended to advance research and practical understanding of how to increase the sustainability of environments. For example, if you choose the classroom environment, you might consider how arrangement of students and material construction of the space affect learning. Or how the aesthetics and decor does. You can consider how to work with information environments in order to reduce clutter and then reorder them accordingly. Perhaps you have chosen a small patch of grass, and decide to dig a small garden and plant it in the shape of a word, with a commitment to nurturing it. Document your intervention and provide either written or voice-over commentary about how this intervention is an act of environmental literacy.

Participation and Discussion  10%