Human / Nature theme home page
 Richard Beyler's section home page
Human / Nature
University Studies 103N (Freshman Inquiry)
Portland State University, Spring 2000

Instructor: Richard Beyler Mentor: Michelle Strausbaugh
Tel.: 725-3996
Office (History Dept.): Cramer 441-O
Office Hours: W 11-12, Th 12:30-1:30 (note change from last term!)

Mentor: Michelle Strausbaugh

Main class meets: TuTh. 2:00-3:15 in Cramer 103
Mentor sections meet: MW 3:15-4:05 in Cramer 249; TuTh 11:00-11:50 in Cramer 247;
TuTh 1:00-1:50 in Cramer 145

Other Human / Nature faculty: Becky Boesch, Anne McClanan, and Michael Toth
Other Human / Nature mentors: Beth Gallagher, Susi Rourke, and Jennifer Wiandt

Theme and objectives

Our theme in this final term of our sequence is human interactions with nature. To understand these interactions, we need to be aware of relevant qualities, behaviors, and self-images of humens (our subject fall term), as well as how humans think about nature (our subject winter term). Hence we are in many ways re-assembling pieces from our previous two terms on inquiry; some of our reading and discussion this term will review the background of human nature and humans’ representations of nature. However, our main purpose will be to consider the impact of the environment on our lives and also the impact of our decisions and behavior–individually and collectively–on the environment. Much of our interest, particuarly in some of the main assignments, will thus involve questions of public policy, ethics, social repsonsibility, and political decision-making.

Our work for the term is aimed at the University Studies goals of improving communication, practicing critical thinking and inquiry, gaining awareness of the diversity of human experience, and fostering reflection on ethical and social issues. Apropos the theme and specific assignments for the term, this means that members of the should be able (or better able) to:

• Identify key environmental policy issues at a global and regional level, and describe the diverse range of viewpoints represented in these debates, and research additional information on them
• Identify and describe the kinds of information and theories relevant to environmental policy
• Analyze how images of and assumptions about nature affect individual and collective decision making about environmental issues
• Report on you analysis and research in oral presentations and in writing
• Articulate your personal connection to broader social and environmental issues
• Participate constructively in civil, critical discussion of controversial issues
• Report on and summarize analysis and research in writing and oral presentation
• Integrate written and visual media including computer software


We will be using the following texts (available for purchase at the PSU bookstore) extensively this term: Allen, John L., ed. Environment 00/01. Annual Editions. Guilford, Conn.: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Cronon, William, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.
We will also return to: Fouts, Roger. Next of Kin: My Conservations with Chimpanzees. New York: Bard, 1997
Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 1999.

1. Reading assignments and associated activities (35%). Much of our work this term will involve reading, interpreting, analyzing, and discussing the material in Environment 2000/2001 (E00/01) and Uncommon Ground (UG).

A. For the assigned essays in UG; you should come to class prepared with questions, comments, etc. There will be a take-home mid-term exam dealing with the UG essays, based on our collective discussions (10%).

B. For E00/01, discussions will start with a background report by a group (based in the mentor sections), which will introduce the material, put it in conceptual and thematic context, review the argument in the articles, and provide starting questions for our discussion. You will sign up the preferred topics early in the term, though I cannot guarantee that everyone will get their top choice. Members of the class not doing a background report are also expected to read the assigned chapter(s) carefully and to come prepared to contribute constructively to the discussion. (The background report is worth 10%)

C. There may be ad-hoc assignments connected with the reading; specifically, connected with several units of E00/01 there will be some minor assignments involving data collection and analysis. (10%)

D. Overall participation/contribution to discussions. (5%)

2. E-magazine (35%). Each of the section-based groups will be responsible for producing an "electronic magazine" in web-site format on a specific current environmental policy debate in Oregon or the Pacific Northwest–perhaps one related to the topic of your background report or your community service project(s). Each e-magazine must be thematically coherent, and as whole should represent all sides (or all significant sides) of the debate in question. The overall web site needs to function effectively as a unified structure; however, individuals are each responsible for their own particular contributions in terms of content and design. The format of your individual article(s) is up to you, within the parameters set by the design of the magazine as a whole; however, it must contain at least 1200 words of original text (i.e., written by you, not copied or transcribed from elsewhere).

3. Community service projects and journal (15%). Each member of the class will participate in a couple of environmentally related community projects in the Portland area, e.g., though Portland Parks, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, etc. In connection with these projects you will write a set of brief journal entries in which you desribe the experience and reflect on the project’s connections to the themes of the course. The journal entries will total about 6-8 pp. of informal writing.

Since the service projects entail a time commitment at a specific time out of class, one of the two mentor sections each week will be optional this term. Michelle will decide with each of the mentor sections which of the two meetings will continue to meet regularly. If you wish (and I would encourage this) you may use the other time for computer "lab" work or additional discussion; however, this should be determined in advance so that Michelle can set her schedule accordingly.

4. Year portfolio and reflective essay (15%). An assignment for all Freshman Inquiry classes this term is the compliation of a portfolio which contains examples of your work over the course of the year towards each of the major FRINQ goals, along with your comments on them. A significant additional part of the portfolio is an essay in which you reflect on what and how you have learned over the course of the year. For our class, this reflective essay should be a statement of how you understand the various themes we have been exploring this year, their connection to each other, and their connection to you personally. We will work on assembling the portfolio and the "summing-up" or reflective essay through brainstorming, drafting, and peer review.

Attendance will factor into the final grade in a different fashion this term:

• Regular attendance at the main class meeting and mentor sections is expected
• Each absence beyond three results in a deduction of one grade division from your final grade
• You may "make up" missed classes by reading a supplemental article (assigned by me) and writing a 2-3 pp. review of it, due not later than one week after the missed class.
Provisional Schedule – Subject to Change!

Tu 3/28
Logistics and review of fall & winter.    
Th 3/30
Orientation to themes and to assignments. E00/01, 7-41  
Tu 4/4
Discussion: The "tragedy of the commons" in the human / nature dynamic. UG, 23-56, 256-68; E00/01, 126-33  
Whose commons? The idea
Th 4/6
The "commons" idea and our own work/experience.    
Tu 4/11
Discussion: Edenic narratives. UG, 69-90, 114-31  
Th 4/13
Discussion: Reconstructing Eden? UG, 91-113, 132-59 Pf. essay, draft I
Whose commons? The purpose
Tu 4/18
Discussion: Preservation or utilization. UG, 171-85, 269-97  
Th 4/20
Discussion: Nature as commodity. UG, 186-202 E-mag. prospectus
Whose commons? The persons
Tu 4/25
Discussion: Biomedical research. Fouts, 309-31, 358-85  
Th 4/27
Discussion: Middle class only? UG, 298-320 Comm. serv. jour, part I

Mid-term assigned

Tu 5/2
Community service issues. Working with data.    
Actual and Potential Tragedies
Th. 5/4
Presentation/Discussion: The World’s Population: People and Hunger. E00/01, unit 2 Mid-term due
Tu 5/9
E-magazine "editorial board" meetings.   E-mag. "drafts"
Th 5/11
Presentation/Discussion: Energy: Present and Future Problems. E00/01, unit 3 Pf. essay, draft II
Tu 5/16
Working with data.    
Th 5/18
Presentation/Discussion: Biosphere: Endangered Species. E00/01, unit 4 Comm. serv. jour., part II*
Tu 5/23
Th 5/25
Presentation/Discussion: Resources: Land, Water, and Air. E00/01, unit 5  
Tu 5/30
Presentation/Discussion: Pollution: The Hazards of Growth. E00/01, unit 6  
Th 6/1
Summing up.   E-magazine
F 6/2
at 5:00

* Depending on the projects in which you participate, this due date might vary.

Human / Nature theme home page
 Richard Beyler's section home page