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Pollution and Policy

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number IDSEM-UG1853
Section 001
Instructor Rachel Rothschild
Days M
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI



Environmental pollution from human activities has presented considerable challenges to scientists, policymakers, businesses and the general public for more than a century. In this seminar, we will examine the history of pollution problems with the goal of understanding how the definition of “pollutants” changed over time, the ways in which science, politics, and economics have influenced our perceptions of environmental dangers from pollution, and how various forms of pollution have shaped ideas about what levels of risk, damage, and costs to the environment are acceptable. Each week, we will explore a different pollution problem to think critically about the role of scientific expertise, social movements, and government regulation in responding to pollution problems, as well as what these case studies can reveal about broader historical trends in environmental science and politics. In addition to the historical content of the course, we will also study the ways in which environmental issues present unique challenges to historical investigation. The course will pay particular attention to the different methodological approaches used in constructing histories of pollution problems, including environmental history, the history of science and medicine, economic history and diplomatic history. Readings will include texts by prominent environmental activists against pollution such as Alice Hamilton, Rachel Carson and Devra Davis as well as selections from Peter Thorsheim’s  Inventing Pollution  and Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt .


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)