UCI Global Political Ecology

Please submit your assignment in a file format that is legible on Canvas / Turn It In, such as .doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, .pdf (but not .pages).

The professor and TA will give comments to your assignment on Canvas, so make sure to check your assignment for these comments when you receive your grade.


Abstract and References for Final Essay

An abstract is a 150 to 250-word summary of your essay topic and argument.

Make sure you also include a proposed title and five academic references.

Essays should focus on a specific environmental problem, and clearly discuss how a political ecology framework understands that problem and proposes solutions to it, and how that is different from other common frameworks to understand and propose solutions for that problem. Students can select any environmental problem, and any competing frameworks to discuss alongside political ecology. Papers can cite readings from the class, but must also cite additional academic materials (e.g. journal articles and academic book chapters) identified independently. At least five academic references are required. Additional references (journalistic sources, etc.) can also be included

To help guide you in this assignment, work through the following questions and write your responses as a single paragraph.

(1) what is the environmental problem you want to discuss? (try to be specific, and focus on concrete issues)

(2) what is a common way that problem is normally understood? what are the common solutions given for addressing that problem?

(3) how would this problem be understood differently from a political ecology framework? what different solutions might be sought if we adopt that political ecology approach to understanding this problem?

Here are some examples of possible abstracts:

Example 1: Air pollution is a major environmental problem in many parts of the world, from LA smog to industrial cities in India and China. One of the most common ideologies that attempt to explain the problem of air pollution is “modernization theory”. According to modernization theory, air pollution is a natural and inevitable environmental problem of an early stage of development, marked by fast industrialization and urbanization, but as modernization continues, places shift to more service-oriented economy and air pollution naturally becomes better. But a political ecology framework might critique this account from modernization theory, showing that economic development alone does not solve air pollution (like we see in LA). Instead, a political ecology framework shows that since air pollution can exist across all “stages” of modernization, solutions cannot arise “naturally” from technological modernization and economic progress, but require political interventions that regulate emissions and reduce its sources in the first place.

Example 2: There has been a lot of attention in recent years to single-use plastic straws. Banning single-use plastic straws is now a very common issue among many environmentalist people and organizations. Some argue that this type of waste causes serious environmental problems, such as air pollution from burning plastics in incinerators, and water pollution from disposal in oceans. But a political ecology framework shows that focusing on such consumer products actually shifts attention and responsibility for good environmental management from the broad systems of power and institutions of the economy that drive environmental destruction, to isolated individuals purely as consumers. Drawing upon literature in political ecology, we can see that the effect of banning the use of plastic straws is minimal for the environmental damages they are associated with, and that it would be much more important to frame the problem as an issue of industrial policy and lack of environmental tax in production. In other words, while neoliberal approaches focus on individual consumer demand that creates pollution, political ecology helps focus instead on how corporations produce unsustainable products in the first place (like plastic straws) without having to pay any environmental tax.

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