University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Curriculum Associated with the University Symposium, Fall 2010

The following courses are associated with the University Symposium on Abundance and Scarcity:

Abundance and Scarcity

EMS 8500, Section 007, HIST 5960, Section 001, 3 credits
Wednesdays, 3:35 to 5:30 p.m.
Instructor: Ann Waltner

The course will look at material aspects to abundance and scarcity (food, water, and energy) as well as less material aspects, such as artistic representations and religious and philosophical texts.  We will be attentive to variations in conceptualizations of issues surrounding abundance and scarcity in different times and places.  Some of the visitors to the University Symposium will speak on Wednesday afternoons during class time and their work will be incorporated into the work of the seminar.  There will be other Symposium events which will meet at other times; students are urged to attend these events whenever possible.

Climate Change

SUST 3480 and COP16
Wednesdays and Fridays, 8:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
St. Paul campus, 380 VoTech (Institute on the Environment)
Instructor: State senator Ellen Anderson, attorney and author of renewable energy legislation for Minnesota.

This class will give students a basic understanding of the science and ecosystem impacts of climate change, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, a practical knowledge of the laws and policies relating to climate change and energy in play at the local level, a review of national policies being debated on climate change, and the knowledge students need to understand and navigate the international United Nations framework and related negotiations on the topic.

Students will be equipped with the expertise and understanding they need to observe and participate either virtually or through study abroad in the international negotiations scheduled for November 29-December 19, 2010 in Mexico (the Conference of the Partners of COP16). An additional 2 credit course will be offered for students to travel to participate in COP16 from November 29-December 5 and students must register for a separate study abroad course, with more information available soon.

Geographical Political Economy: Green Capitalism, Urbanism and the Sustainability Mantra

GEOG 8102, 3 credits
Tuesdays 2:30-5:00
205 Blegen Hall
Instructors: Helga Leitner and Eric Sheppard

The purpose of this seminar is to interrogate the implications for taking seriously the spatialities of socio-economic, political, and environmental transformations. The first six weeks of the seminar will be devoted to gaining an understanding of contemporary debates about the relationship between the economic and the political in socio-spatial theory. We will examine conceptualizations of political economy, the challenges posed to it by feminist, cultural and post-prefixed theorists, and how geographers and other social scientists have conceptualized how geographies/ spatialities (e.g. place, scale, mobility, networks and positionality) matter in socio-environmental transformations. The remaining seven weeks will apply and extend this understanding to questions of the greening of capitalism/urbanism and the sustainability mantra.

Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010

CFAN 3480, Section 4, 3 credits
Mondays 4:05-4:55 and Wednesdays 4:05-6:00
Location: B25 Classroom Office Building, St Paul Campus
Instructor: Robert Gilmer (, History

By exploring the history and ecology of oil drilling in the Gulf this course will raise questions about the economic, environmental, and social impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on communities throughout the Gulf region. If oil drilling is potentially so dangerous to the region, why do many local politicians and citizens demand that it continue? While the oil spill has wreaked havoc on the local fishing industry, can it survive without offshore drilling? What lessons can we learn from past spills about the environmental and economic impacts facing the Gulf region? Who is ultimately responsible for the spill, and who is liable for the costs associated with cleanup, restoration, and economic damages? Do laws such as the Oil Protection Act of 1990, which were intended to hold oil companies responsible for the effects of spills, actually empower them over the government when large-scale spills do occur?

Sustainable Communities

SUST 4004, 3 credits
Wednesdays 1:15-4:15 p.m.
St. Paul campus, 380 VoTech (Institute on the Environment)
Instructors: State senator Ellen Anderson, attorney and author of renewable energy legislation for Minnesota, and Dave Wanberg, practicing architect, landscape architect, and author of community sustainability plans in the upper Midwest.

Utopian Visions in the Modern Era

HIST 3010, section 1, GLOS 3900, section 2, 3 credits
Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:45 – 2:00 p.m.
145 Blegen Hall
Instructors: Chris Isett and Tom Wolfe

Perfect worlds have been present in the imagination since ancient times. People the world over have imagined what it would be like to live without pain or suffering, violence or hardship, poverty or fear. This course will examine a selection of both the ideas and practices of those who thought about and worked toward `better? societies and `utopias.? The course has three areas of focus. First, we look at how writers crafted images of ideal worlds, what they hoped such works would do, and how these works were received. We will read works from across the political spectrum and time from Thomas Moore to Adam Smith, Bentham, Marx, and Tolstoy. Second, we exam intentional and designed communities such as appeared in the early American religious colonies, in the Paris Commune of 1871, the dramatic 20th century revolutions in Russia and China, and in the counter-culture movements of the post-war era. Third, we will use media (film, art, literature, architecture and design) to see how utopian plans, ideas, and views remain a part of contemporary landscape as objects of both ridicule and longing. Throughout the course we will be attuned to how these visions travelled, how actors in different cultures sought to use certain utopian ideas in their own plans to bring about a perfect society.

Writing from Plow to Plate: Sustainable Food Narratives in the U.S.

ENGL 1905, 3 credits
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:45 – 2:00 p.m.
15 Rapson Hall
Instructor: Dan Philippon

This seminar will explore how the sustainable food movement got started in the U.S. by focusing on the farmers, activists, cooks, and eaters who made it all possible. We’ll read some of the most important things they wrote over the last forty years, including manifestos, cookbooks, memoirs, and more. We’ll also spend some time shopping, cooking, and eating; watching a few great new documentaries on food; and visiting “Cornercopia,” the student organic farm on the St. Paul Campus. Writers whose work we’ll read include Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Frances Moore Lappe, Peter Singer, Julia Child, Alice Waters, Carlo Petrini, and Michael Pollan. Our goal throughout will be to discover the role that writers have played in telling the story of our food from farm to table, or “plow to plate.”


To register, go to the class schedule. More information can be found on the course guide or from the individual departments or instructors.

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