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PS449/549 - Comparative Environmental Policy and Politics

Professor Brent S. Steel
Department of Political Science
Oregon State University
307 Social Science Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-6206
(541) 737-6133

This is an OSU Extended Campus version of the course. For more information, go to the OSU Extended campus website:


The Comparative Environmental Policy and Politics course at Oregon State University is taught from a cross-cultural and global perspective. Particular attention will be paid to differing philosophical and religious perspectives concerning the environment and how humans should interact with the environment. For example, we will be discussing how Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Muslims, followers of Jainism, Marxists, and market capitalists view the environment. Other topics will include global environmental actors, regimes, and global environmental issues such as ozone depletion.

For the first section of the class, we will review some important political/social science concepts and then proceed to discuss differing approaches to studying the environment mentioned above. In the final weeks of the class we will discuss the possible political and policy ramifications of these different perspectives.

It will be necessary to use the World Wide Web for this course. Assignments, thinkpieces, readings, and instructor communications will be given via the web.


Alternatively, through the term, we will consider:

  • Values concerning the environment and people's interaction with the natural world.
  • Properties of policy-formulating systems--particularly concerning the environment.
  • Distinguishing characteristics of natural resource and environmental issues.

Over the term fundamental features of policy processes will be developed (e.g., incrementalism, interest groups, governmental structures, regulatory capture, symbolic politics, etc.). In addition, distinguishing characteristics of natural resource and environmental issues will be developed (e.g., common pool resource or public good features, complexity and uncertainty, long feedback loops, exponentially escalating effects, etc.). Understanding of the political and value origins of environmental problems will emerge as we try to integrate these topics; we will discover ways in which political systems are and are not suited to the requirements of natural resource and environmental issues from a national and international perspective.


This course was designed to offer students the flexibility of taking an undergraduate or graduate course via the World Wide Web.

All instruction, some readings, and assignments will be provided via the World Wide Web and email. All students enrolling in the web version of PS 449 must be self-motivated and comfortable using the electronic medium. A very flexible schedule and time-frame for completion of the course is available. If students want to access the Web and email via their own home computers, it will be necessary to acquire a commercial on-line account who can provide Netscape/Explorer versions 3.0 or later access.

There are a few general guidelines for success in this course. First, keep up with your readings and assignments. Second, ask if you do not understand something--use your email. Third, experiment with these new technologies, that is how you learn.


Available at the bookstore:

  • Coward, Harold, Population, Consumption, and the Environment (SUNY Press, 1995).
  • Gareth Porter and Janet Welsh Brown, Global Environmental Politics (Westview Press, 1996).

Available at this web site:

  • Environmental Policy in Nepal
  • Environmental Policy in Korea
  • Environmental Policy in Siberia
  • Comparative Environmental Policy: Australia and the U.S.
  1. You will be required to keep a relatively structured journal concerning your thoughts and observations of materials encountered in and outside of class. Instructions for the journal are located at this web site: Journal Assignment.
  2. In addition to the brief assignments and journal, there will be four 'think pieces' assigned which will have you discuss and analyze course materials.
  3. Graduate students (those enrolled in PS 549) will be required to do an additional book review for the course from a suggested list of books: Graduate Students.
  • Think Pieces---100 points each
  • Journal---100 points
  • Web Assignment---100 points

Grade / [% of points:]
A / [95-100%]
A- / [90-94%]
B+ / [87-89%]
B / [83-86%]
B- / [80-82%]
C+ / [77-79%]
C / [73-76%]
C- / [70-72%]
D+ / [67-69%]
D / [63-66%]
D- / [60-62%]
F / [0-59%]

  • Advanced notice is required for late assignments.
  • Extra credit will not be allowed in this course.
  • Instructions for assignments and due dates will only be given via the course web site.
  • All OSU academic regulations will be followed in the course. Academic regulations are available at: This includes the university policy concerning incompletes: "When a requirement of a course has not been completed for reasons acceptable to the instructor and the rest of the academic work is passing, a report of I may be made and additional time granted. The I is only granted at the discretion of the instructor.
  • You are expected to do all required reading.
  • Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated in this course. Engaging in such behaviors will result in a failing course grade. You are to do ALL of your own work. Plagiarism is defined as representing (and using) another person's ideas, writings, and work as one's own. Appropriate citation must be used for all materials incorporated into you work.
  • Proper spelling, grammar, and citation should be used in all assignments: Writing Assistance

The following criteria will be used for evaluating written assignments and exams:
[1=Poor; 2=Average; 3=Good; 4=Excellent]

  • COMMITMENT-did you cover all relevant materials/questions?
  • AMBITION-did you take each issue to task?
  • ENGAGEMENT-did you make connections between issues?
  • CLARITY-was the paper readable and well organized?
  • READINGS/COURSE MATERIALS-did you use appropriate reading and other course materials in your work? [note: cite everything appropriately]
  • COMPARISON-in general, how did your work compare to the rest of the class?
  • DIRECTIONS-a "no brainer" here. Did you follow directions?
Assignment: Due date:
Thinkpiece #1  
Thinkpiece #2  
Thinkpiece #3  
Thinkpiece #4  
Graduate student book review  

Topics and Readings:

  1. INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE, THE WEB, AND SOCIAL SCIENCE--The emergence of global environmental politics; paradigm shift; international regimes. Readings: Porter and Brown, chapter 1.
  2. ACTORS IN THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL ARENA--Nation states, international organizations; nongovernmental organizations; multinational corporations. Readings: Porter and Brown, chapter 2.
  3. CASE STUDIES IN GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS--ozone depletion, whaling, global warming, toxic waste, biodiversity, transboundary air pollution, desertification. Readings: Porter and Brown, chapter 3.
  4. DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS--North-South inequities; earth summit negotiations; trade and the environment; global environmental regimes. Readings: Porter and Brown, chapter 4.
    1. Introduction: Readings: Coward, chapters 1,2, & 3
    2. Aboriginal Ethics--Readings: Coward, chapter 4
    3. Judaism--Readings: Coward, chapter 5
    4. Christianity--Readings: Coward, chapter 6
    5. Islam--Readings: Coward, chapter 7
    6. Hinduism--Readings: Coward, chapter 8
    7. Buddhism--Readings: Coward,chapter 9
    8. Chinese Religions--Readings: Coward, chapter 10
    9. Secular Approaches: Markets, Marxism, and Demographic Approaches--Readings: Coward, chapters 12 & 13.
    1. Environmental Policy in Nepal
    2. Environmental Policy in Korea
    3. Environmental Policy in Siberia
    4. Comparative Environmental Policy: Australia and the U.S.
  7. THE FUTURE: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL POSSIBILITIES--Readings: Porter and Brown, chapter 5.