Course description: Trees are extraordinarily important for both society and the environment. As food, fuel, and fiber, trees are one of the most valuable resources people use. As regulators of the global environment, trees play a critical role in maintaining biological diversity, climate stability, and ecosystem function. For these and other reasons people have developed relationships with trees over the past several thousand years that are special and highly varied. At the same time, trees grow almost all over the world, and their products are pervasive in our daily lives. Therefore, understanding our relationship with trees can give us valuable insights into human-environment relationships more broadly. This course focuses on trees as an "object of concern" for environmental scientists, scholars, and everyday people. Focusing our environmental studies on objects helps us see how we can move big, complex systems toward sustainability through our own day-to-day activities. Moreover, an object-based approach allows us "to compare, address, exercise, and critique diverse theoretical ways of thinking about human-environment relationships.” With this approach, we can move beyond the persistent, unproductive myth that environmental studies is all about problems: pristine environments destroyed by people and their projects. Rather than focusing on trees as the victims of an anthropogenic environmental crisis (think deforestation”), this course will help you understand trees and people as intertwined in the co-production of the forests and other environments we share—for better and for worse.
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