This post is the first in a seven part series on the state of introductory environmental politics literature. 

Photo credit to the Center for Environmental Politics, University of Washington

Within an Introduction to Environmental Politics syllabus, one is likely to find a series of books and articles addressing the development of environmental policy and challenges over time, usually from the surge of activism in the 1960s to the present. Yet while these readings do an excellent job recapping the development of the field and drawing from a wide array of topics, they oftentimes lack an evaluation on their content. While informing, they fall short of an analysis of assumptions and development of specific themes as we move both chronologically though the environmental politics field and cross-cut through subfields.

With this in mind, I ask the reader to consider this review a ‘state of the field’ report on environmental politics. There are traditional ways scholars tend to look at ecology and the environment. In addition to addressing the features of each subfield of environmental politics, I place importance on the way the readings are organized. Given how we conceive the field and the assumptions we hold, how do we organize our thoughts at this time? Ultimately, how, where, and why are we experiencing an environmental crisis? Furthermore, how does the environmental politics field at this time organize our pathways of success in this crisis?

I believe the readings from this evaluation connect and converge on five main themes, each holding its own assumptions, strengths, and gaps.  These are Man’s Relationship with Nature, The Politicization of the Environment, International Environmental Politics, Sustainability through Eco-Capitalism, and the Future of the Environment. Some of the literature has cross-cutting themes, responding too and addressing other writings. Through this series, I will move through the major themes, showing the evolution of environmental political thought through major global events and the passage of time, providing an overview of the state of environmental politics as a field, the shared assumptions and changing mindsets. In particular, I focus on two general questions that address assumptions and mindsets: First, what is lacking from this particular subfield at the time in the way we consider our global environmental challenges? Second, who is moving to fulfill this gap, or who is framing a pathway of success?

The readings that will be addressed through this series are as follows:


  • Carothers, C. 2011. “Equity and Access to Fishing Rights: Exploring the Community Quota Program in the Gulf of Alaska.” Human Organization 70(3): 213-223.
  • Chaturvedi, Sanjay. 2000. “Arctic Geopolitics Then and Now.” In The Arctic: Environment, people, policies. M. Nuttall & T. Callaghan, Eds. Pp. 441-458.
  • Chouinard, Yvon, and Stanley, Vincent. 2012. The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years. Colombia: Deckle Edge.
  • Dauvergene, Peter. 1997. Shadows in the Forest: Japan and the Politics of Timber in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Dauvergne, Peter, and Lister, Jane. 2013. Econbusiness: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Dove, Michael R. 2006. “Indigenous People and Environmental Politics.” Annual Review of Anthropology 35:191-208.
  • Downs, George W, David M. Rocke, and Peter N. Barsoom. 1998. “Managing the Evolution of Multilateralism.” International Organization 52(2): 397-419.
  • Elgin, Duane. 2010. Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. 2nd ed. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Guha, Ramachandra. 2000. Environmentalism: A Global History. New York: Longman.
  • Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science (162):1243-124.
  • Heininen, Lassi., and Southcott, Chris. 2010. Globalization and the Circumpolar North. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.
  • Holden, Andrew. 2016. Environment and Tourism. 3rd Edition. New York: Routledge.
  • Humes, Edward. 2010. Eco Barons: The New Heroes of Environmental Activism. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Jasanoff, S. “Is Science Socially Constructed – And Can It Still Inform Public Policy?” Science and Engineering Ethics 2(3):263-276 (1996).
  • Lovins, Hunter, and Cohen, Boyd. 2011. Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change. New York City: Hill and Wang.
  • Nadelmann, Ethan A. 1990. “Global Prohibition Regimes: the Evolution of Norms in International Society.” International Organization 44(4): 479-526.
  • Nuttall, Mark. 2000. “Indigenous Peoples, Self-determination and the Arctic Environment.” In The Arctic: Environment, people, policies. M. Nuttall & T. Callaghan, Eds. Pp. 377-409.
  • Mies, Maria, and Shiva, Vandana. 1993. Ecofeminism. New Jersey: Zed Books.
  • O’Riordan T, and Jordan, A. 1995. “The Precautionary Principle in Contemporary Environmental Politics.” Environmental Values (4):191-212.
  • Porter, Garth, Janet Welsh Brown, and Pamela S. Chasek. 2000. Global Environmental Politics. Boulder: Westview Press.
  • Rabe, Barry. 2000. “Power to the States: The Promise and Pitfalls of Decentralization,” in Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century. 34-56.
  • Raustiala, Kal and David G. Victor. 1996. “Biodiversity Since Rio: The Future of the Convention on Biological Diversity.” Environment 38(4): 16-20.
  • Rosenbaum, Walter. 2000. “Improving Environmental Regulation at the EPA: The Challenge in Balancing Politics, Policy, and Science,” in Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century. 169-192.
  • Steinberg, Richard H. 1997. “Trade-Environment Negotiations in the EU, NAFTA, and WTO: Regional Trajectories of Rule Development.” The American Journal of International Law, Vol 91, 2: 231-267.
  • Sand, Peter. 2001. “A Century of Green Lessons: The Contribution of Nature Conservation Regimes to Global Governance.” International Environmental Agreements 1: 33-72
  • Schor, Juliet. 1999. “What’s Wrong with Consumer Society?: Competitive spending and the ‘New Consumerism,” in Consuming Desires: Consumption, Culture, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington: Island Press.
  • Shellenberger, M. and Nordhaus, T. 2004. “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World.”
  • Vogel, David. 2000. “International Trade and Environmental Regulation,” in Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century. 354-373.
  • Wackernagel, Mathis, and Rees, Williams. 1996. Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.
  • Young, Oran. 1998. Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance. Ithica: Cornell University Press.


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