Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization

Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

Climate Change, Environment, and Society

Christopher Kindell

Tu/Th, 3:30–4:50pm
CEGU 20001, ENST 20011


Against the background of planetary environmental emergencies in the early twenty-first century, this course provides an overview of key approaches to climate change and socio-environmental transformation in the social sciences and humanities. The course situates contemporary socio-environmental crises in relation to various time-scales of world-ecological transformation-including the origins of agriculture around 9,000 B.C.; the last four hundred years of global capitalist development; the consolidation of a fossil energy regime in the nineteenth century; and the ‘Great Acceleration’ of the mid-twentieth century. Students will explore the dynamics of society and environment through the study of, among other interconnected issues, energy regimes, resource extraction, agriculture, colonialism, population displacement/migration, urbanization, and the global commons, as well as the role of state institutions and governance arrangements in mediating the unequal distribution of environmental risk and vulnerability across and within populations. In considering such issues, we explore the connections between socio-environmental transformations and class-based, racialized, and gendered forms of inequality. Concepts of value, ethics, morality, equity, and environmental justice will be explored in considering the prospects for a “just transition” to more sustainable forms of collective social existence and more hopeful planetary futures.

Students who have taken ENST 21201: Human Impact on the Global Environment may not enroll in this course.


The Politics of Environmental Knowledge

Jessica Landau

Tu/Th, 12:30–1:50pm
CEGU 20002, ENST 20012


How has “nature” been understood and investigated in the modern world? Building upon diverse approaches to environmental history and philosophy, the history of science, and cultural studies, this course surveys the major frameworks through which the environment has been understood, investigated, and transformed since the origins of global modernity. Such issues are explored with reference to the mobilization of science, technology, and politics in several major areas of socio- environmental transformation in the modern world. Case studies might explore, among other issues, empire, race, and public health; cities and infectious disease since the Black Death; the ‘great enclosures’ of land associated with settler colonialism; the ‘Green Revolution’ in industrial agriculture; strategies of resource stewardship, land conservation, terraforming, hydrological engineering and watershed protection; the politics of global warming; and current debates on urban sustainability, carbon capture and geo-engineering. The course also considers the rise and evolution of environmentalist movements and conservation strategies, and the contested visions of nature they have embraced. The course concludes by investigating the competing paradigms of knowledge, science, and environment that underpin divergent contemporary programs of environmental governance and visions of ‘sustainability’.


Writing the City

Evan Carver

Mo/We, 3:00–4:20pm
CEGU 20180, ENST 20180, ARCH 20180


How do great writers convey sense-of-place in their writing? What are the best ways to communicate scientific and social complexity in an engaging, accessible way? How can we combine academic rigor with journalistic verve and literary creativity to drive the public conversation about urgent environmental and urban issues? These are just some of the questions explored in WRITING THE CITY, an intensive course dedicated to honing our skills of verbal communication about issues related to the built and natural environments. Students will research, outline, draft, revise, and ultimately produce a well-crafted piece of journalistic writing for publication in the program's new annual magazine, Expositions. Throughout the quarter we will engage intensely with a range of authors of place-based writing exploring various literary and journalistic techniques, narrative devices, rhetorical ​approaches, and stylistic strategies.


Introduction to Spatial Data Science

Luc Anselin

Mo/We, 1:30–2:50pm
CEGU 20253, SOCI 20253, SOCI 30253, GISC 20500, GISC 30500, MACS 54000


Spatial data science consists of a collection of concepts and methods drawn from both statistics and computer science that deal with accessing, manipulating, visualizing, exploring and reasoning about geographical data. The course introduces the types of spatial data relevant in social science inquiry and reviews a range of methods to explore these data. Topics covered include formal spatial data structures, geovisualization and visual analytics, rate smoothing, spatial autocorrelation, cluster detection and spatial data mining. An important aspect of the course is to learn and apply open source GeoDa software.


Genealogies of Environmental Organizing and Activism

Mary Beth Pudup

Mo/We, 1:30–2:50pm
CEGU 21501, ENST 21501


This course explores how organizations-civic, private, governmental-working in the field of environmental advocacy construct, deploy and are shaped by distinct discourses governing relationships between nature and society. The environment is a field of social action in which organizations attempt to effect change in large domains like resource conservation, access, stewardship, and a basic right to environmental quality in everyday life. The work of effecting change in these complex domains can assume a variety of forms including public policy (through the agencies of the state), private enterprise (through the agency of the market), ‘third sector’ advocacy (through the agency of nonprofit organizations) and social activism (through the agency of social movements and community organizations). State, market, civil society and social movement organizations are where ideas are transmitted from theory to practice and back again in a recursive, dialectical process. These contrasting forms of organization have different histories, wellsprings and degrees of social power. Moreover, they bring different epistemologies to their claims about being legitimate custodians of nature-that is to say they can be understood genealogically. As such, organizations working to effect environment change are at once animated by and constitutive of distinct discourses governing the relationships between nature and society. The course explores how those distinct discourses are associated with a suite of different organizational realms of social action; the goal is trying to connect the dots between discursive formations and organizational forms.


Economics and Environmental Policy

Sabina Shaikh

Mo/We/Fr, 10:30–11:20am
CEGU 21800, ENST 21800, ECON 16520


This course combines basic microeconomic theory and tools with contemporary environmental and resources issues and controversies to examine and analyze public policy decisions. Theoretical points include externalities, public goods, common-property resources, valuing resources, benefit/cost analysis, and risk assessment. Topics include pollution, global climate change, energy use and conservation, recycling and waste management, endangered species and biodiversity, nonrenewable resources, congestion, economic growth and the environment, and equity impacts of public policies.


Introduction to Critical Spatial Media: Visualizing Urban, Environmental, and Planetary Change

Alexander Arroyo & Grga Basic

Tu/Th, 2:00–3:20pm
CEGU 23517, ENST 23517, ARCH 23517, DIGS 23517, MAAD 13517


This course introduces critical theories and techniques for visualizing interconnected transformations of urban, environmental, and planetary systems amidst the pressures of climate change, urbanization, and global economies of capitalism. Weekly lectures will introduce major themes and theoretical debates, paired with hands-on lab tutorials exploring a selection of methods in conventional and experimental geographic visualization. Thematically, the course will be organized around critical interpretations of the Anthropocene, a concept designating the epoch in which anthropogenic activities are recognized as the dominant force of planetary climatic and ecological change. We will present these interpretations through modules structured around different conceptual paradigms and alternative epochal designations (e.g. the Urbanocene, the Capitalocene, the Plantationocene). Through weekly lab exercises and a final, synthetic project, the course will move from critically analyzing prevalent theoretical frameworks, geospatial data, and associated visualization techniques to creatively visualizing critical alternatives. Students will learn how to construct visual narratives through a variety of spatial media (e.g. maps, diagrams, visual timelines), scales (e.g. bodies, neighborhoods, landscapes, the planetary), and techniques/platforms (e.g. GIS, web mapping, basic programming language tools, and vector/raster visualization programs).


Nature and the Natural in the Middle Ages

Daisy Delogu

We 3:00–4:50pm, We 5:00–5:50pm
CEGU 24110, ENST 24110, FREN 24100, FREN 34100, GNSE 24103, GNSE 34103, MDVL 24103


In this course we will undertake a study of nature and ideas about what is “natural” centered around three main axes, and will adopt a variety of relevant critical perspectives (e.g., ecocriticism, studies of gender and sexuality, political theory) to support our analyses. First, we will explore nature as the created world of which humans are a part (as one of God’s creations), yet from which they also stand apart (as sovereign caretakers). Second, we will examine how the diffusion of Aristotelian works (notably the Politics) in the later Middle Ages provided a justificatory framework for social and political hierarchies and practices of economic exploitation. Third, we will consider the intersection of nature with gender, sexuality, and reproduction, a topic complicated by the fact that Nature is itself represented, in allegorical terms, as a woman.


U.S. Environmental Policy

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 12:30–1:50pm
CEGU 24701, ENST 24701, PBPL 24701


How environmental issues and challenges in the United States are addressed is subject to abrupt changes and reversals caused by extreme partisanship and the heightened significance of the issues for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants. The relatively brief history of this policy area, and the separate and distinct tracts in which public lands and pollution control issues are adjudicated, makes for a diverse and complex process by which humanity’s impact on the natural world is managed and contained. This course focuses on how both types of environmental issues are addressed in each branch of the Federal government, the states and localities, as well as theories of how environmental issues arrived onto the public agenda and why attention to them is cyclical. Students are encouraged to understand the life cycle of public policy from its initial arrival on the public agenda to the passage of legislation to address adverse conditions, as well as how changes in the policy occur after the inevitable decline of intensive attention.


Environmental Justice in Principle and Practice

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
CEGU 26260, ENST 26260, PBPL 26260


This course will investigate the foundational texts on environmental justice as well as case studies, both in and out of Chicago. Students will consider issues across a wide spectrum of concerns, including toxics, lead in water, waste management, and access to greenspaces, particularly in urban areas. These topics will be taught in accompaniment with a broader understanding of how social change occurs, what barriers exist to producing just outcomes, and what practices have worked to overcome obstacles in the past. The class will welcome speakers from a variety of backgrounds to address their work on these topics.


Urban Design with Nature

Sabina Shaikh & Emily Talen

We, 12:30–3:20pm
CEGU 27155, ENST 27155, BPRO 27155, CHST 27155, GISC 27155, PBPL 27156


This course will use the Chicago region as the setting to evaluate the social, environmental, and economic effects of alternative forms of human settlement. Students will examine the history, theory and practice of designing cities in sustainable ways – i.e., human settlements that are socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Students will explore the literature on sustainable urban design from a variety of perspectives, and then focus on how sustainability theories play out in the Chicago region. How can Chicago’s neighborhoods be designed to promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals? This course is part of the College Course Cluster program: Urban Design.


Global Environmental Humanities

Isabel Gabel

We, 1:30–4:20pm
CEGU 28307, ENST 28307, HIPS 28307, CHSS 38307, KNOW 28307, KNOW 38307, HIST 25422


This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities, which calls on us to study the global environment, and the threats posed by globalization and climate change, using the tools of history, cultural studies, philosophy, and literature. Reading texts from these and other disciplines, we will attend to the ways that “environment” registers in political, aesthetic, and social life across the globe. Sample authors: Fernand Braudel, William Cronon, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Amitav Ghosh, Ursula Heise, Joseph Masco, Jed Purdy, Anna Tsing.


Revision, Expression & Portfolio Design

Luke Joyner

Mo, 3:00-5:50pm
CEGU 23401, ENST 23401, ARTH 23401


This studio course, similar to a “senior seminar” in other disciplines, serves five purposes: (1) to allow students to pick up a few elements (drawings, models, collages, visual and place-based research, etc.) they’ve produced in other ARCH studio courses and spend more time refining them, outside the broader demands of a thematic studio class, (2) to acquaint students with advanced skills in expression and representation related to the revision and refinement of these elements, based on student interest and needs, (3) to assist students in the development of a portfolio of studio work, either toward application for graduate school or simply to have for themselves, and in systems to organize projects and revisions, (4) to add to students’ typographic and graphic design skillsets, primarily using the Adobe Creative Suite, as part of the portfolio process, and (5) to practice and hone communication and writing skills related to discussing architectural projects. While there will be a modest set of skills-based exercises each week, to help structure the studio, most of the work for this class will be students’ own project revisions and portfolios, and most of class time will be spent sharing and refining both. Work will be primarily individual, but students will be expected to actively and eagerly support one another, and learn from each other, all along the way. Students will be required, throughout this course, to work with both Adobe Creative Suite and Rhinoceros, as well as through hand drawing and whatever other media the original projects used; other tools or software will be optional, based on student interest. Note: this course counts as a capstone class for the ENST/CEGU major, as well as toward the Architectural Studies minor.

Consent only: Strong priority will be given to third and fourth years who’ve taken at least two other ARCH studio classes already. Students who have not already taken ARCH 24205 (Skills & Processes for Architecture and Urban Design) may be asked to consult some of the problem sets from that class ahead of this one, to ensure a baseline upon which this class will build. 

Water Water Everywhere?

Susan Gzesh & Abigail Winograd

Fr, 9:30-12:20pm
CEGU 24193, ENST 24193, ARTH 24193, BPRO 24193, CHST 24193, HMRT 24193, SOSC 21005

This interdisciplinary course explores aesthetics, environmental racism, and a human rights approach to the Commons to inform our perspective on the politics and aesthetics of water from the local to the global. The course will look at issues of scarcity and abundance through the lenses of art and human rights. The course will incorporate work by artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, who will visit the class. Students will consider works by other artists including Mel Chin, Allan Kaprow, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Fazal Sheikh, to understand how art can confront the 21st century’s environmental challenges. Readings will include Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, and Fred Moten & Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons. The course will include visits to site specific installations by artists Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and Mel Chin, and visits to Chicago-area natural sites such as the Big Marsh and Lake Michigan. This course is an extension of a collaborative project at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry with human rights lawyer Susan Gzesh, artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, and curator Abigail Winograd.

Sustainability and Computing

Andrew Chien

Tu, Th 11:00-12:20pm
CEGU 29520, ENST 29520, BPRO 29520, CMSC 29520

Once a darling of the economy, the computing industry has come under fire as "techlash" brings a spotlight to its negative environmental and societal impacts. We focus on understanding computing's environmental impact, and the productive and substantial (not greenwashing) actions that can be taken to reduce it. The objective of this course is to expose students to a sophisticated view of how computing affects the environment, and how it can become more sustainable through action in several dimensions, including technology invention and design, business/ecosystem structure, individual and government action. Students will be empowered with the intellectual tools to understand and act with insight on these issues in their professional careers.

BA Colloquium I 

Christopher Kindell

We, 9:30am–12:20pm
CEGU 29801, ENST 29801


This colloquium is designed to aid students in their thesis research. Students are exposed to different conceptual frameworks and research strategies. The class meets weekly.