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Library Guide to EST 361

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EST 361 History of the American Environmental Movement


 Course Outline

EST 361
History of the American
Environmental Movement

David Sonnenfeld, Ph.D., Instructor

Jongdae Song, Teaching Assistant

Dept. of Environmental Studies


SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Fall 2019, TuTh 2:00-3:20 pm, Marshall 212



This upper-division course examines the historical and cultural origins, and evolution of the complex, multifaceted, social phenomenon known as the American environmental movement. The course surveys the events, philosophies, and historical/ cultural processes that marked and continue to drive various attitudes toward nature in the United States. Course units examine conservationism and preservationism; early urban environmental reform; the 'second wave' of environmental activism in the 1960s and '70s; the environmental justice movement; and contemporary environmental movements including those in response to global issues. Course methods include reading, writing, lectures, films, discussion and debate. As a final course project, students examine in depth an historical or contemporary American environmental issue, campaign, advocate, opponent, or environment-oriented organization of their choosing, employing course concepts, frameworks and understandings in writing a research paper on that topic.


Sophomore status or consent of instructor


By successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with key moments in the history of the American environmental movement, including conservationism, preservationism, early urban reform movements, the 'second wave' of environmental concern, the environmental justice movement, and contemporary movements including transnational environmental advocacy;
  • Relate contextual environmental, social, political, economic, and cultural factors with the rise, fall, rebirth, diversification, successes and limitations of the American environmental movement;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in applying basic course concepts and analytical frameworks in the analysis of a particular historical or contemporary American environmental issue, campaign, advocate, opponent, or environment-oriented organization.


  • Read all required texts & view all in-class films
  • Participate in course discussions and debates
  • Write a series of Weekly Reading Notes (@ 1 p.) on the required readings
  • Complete three formal essay assignments (@ 3-5 pp.)
  • Prepare and submit a final research paper (10-12 pp.)


Essays (3), 33.3%

Research paper, 33.3%

Weekly reading notes (10) & participation, 33.3%


Office:    211B Marshall

Hrs.:        TBA

Tel.         315.470.4931/ 6636, fax 315.470.6915

E-mail:    <>




Nash, Roderick F. 2014. Wilderness and the American Mind, 5th ed. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-19038-0

Gottlieb, Robert. 2005. Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 9-781-55963-832-6

Cole, Luke W., and Sheila R. Foster. 2001. From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 9-780-81471-537-6

Speth, James G. 2009. The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9-780300-15115-2


Johnston, Hank. 2014. What Is a Social Movement? Malden, MA: Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-6085-1

Merchant, Carolyn, ed. 2012. Major Problems in American Environmental History: Documents and Essays, 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth/ Cenage Learning. ISBN 978-0-495-91242-2

Lester, James D., and James D. Lester, Jr. 2015. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide, 15th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-0-321-95295-0

Litfin, Karen T. 2014. Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community. Malden, MA: Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-7950-1

Klein, Naomi. 2014. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-9739-1


ESF Virtual Bookstore, available via myESF. For further information see:

EST361 Library Guide


"The Wilderness Idea: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and the First Great Battle…" (Thurs., 9/5)

"Wild by Law: The Rise of Environmentalism and the Creation of the Wilderness Act" (Thurs., 9/12)

"Earth Days: Seeds of a Revolution" (Tues., 9/24 & 10/1)

“Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring” (Thurs., 10/10)

"Laid to Waste" (Thurs., 10/22)

"Cesar Chavez: Pesticides Kill Farmworkers" (Tues., 10/29)

"Kids at Risk" (Tues. 10/29)

"Martin Sheen" (Tues. 10/29)

"In Our Own Back Yard: The First Love Canal" (Thurs., 10/31)

"This Changes Everything" (Tues., 11/12)


Weekly reading notes (due most Tuesdays, as noted below)

Essay #1, "Early American Environmental Movements" (due Tues., 9/24)

Essay #2, "American Environmentalism: The Second Wave" (due Tues., 10/22)

Essay #3, "The Environmental Justice Movement" (due Tues., 11/12)

Research paper (see below)

Research Paper

Assignment. A detailed assignment will be provided during Week 7.      

Proposal (T-1). By Week 10, submit a proposal in the form of an abstract (~1 p.) describing the historical or contemporary American environmental issue, campaign, advocate, opponent or environment-related organization that you would like to examine in your research paper.

Abstract, outline and bibliography (T-2). By Week 12, submit a revised abstract, outline and preliminary bibliography for your research paper. At least 10 relevant, peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles on your topic should be included in the bibliography, in proper reference form.

Specifications. Term papers should be at 10-12 pp. in length, double-spaced, 11 or 12 pt. Times New Roman, plus coversheet and bibliography.

Deadline (T-3). Due at the beginning of the regularly scheduled Final Exam period for this course.

EST 361 Syllabus

Reference Help

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Direct reference queries to us using this form, calling 315-470-6711 or directly contacting a librarian.

Jane Verostek is the department liaison for EST.