Political context of environmental management and environmental advocacy

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Course Spotlight: Political Context of Environmental Management and Defense

by Taylor Goto
|August 18, 2021

Sara Tjossem’s politics classes turn students’ environmental passions into action.

Sara Tjossem is a lecturer and associate director of the study program in the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy (AMP-ESP). His teaching and research interests focus on the intersection of science and society, agriculture, marine science, and movement development and environmental policy. This fall, Tjossem is offering two elective courses: ENVP U6320 Political context of environmental management and INAF U6087 Environmental advocacy: from interest to action.

Tjossem has long felt an emotional affinity for nature and the natural world. During his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College, Tjossem enjoyed both the humanities and the sciences. She decided to major in biology and wanted to maintain her engagement with the natural world as a scientist.

Tjossem pursued this passion at Cornell University in a graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, but decided that instead of practicing science directly, she wanted to communicate scientific enthusiasm to others. So it was during his doctoral program, also at Cornell, that Tjossem was able to examine the themes of the evolution of the world, the damage to the Earth and how to deal effectively with these issues with politics and law. communication.

Teaching at the Columbia ESP program merged Dr. Tjossem’s different interests. The MPA-ESP program is a manifestation of what she finds interesting as well as what she thinks students should learn about human responses to the natural and built worlds. She thinks the best way to do this is to adopt an environmental policy. By learning science, policy and management skills, students can better protect all parts of the Earth. Below are summaries of his two courses this fall.

ENVP U6320 Political context of environmental management

The first elective feature film taught by Tjossem focuses on the functioning of environmental management policies. Asked about the course, Tjossem said many students may find it difficult to look at the natural world and wonder how we came to such a dysfunctional relationship with the environment. There is a relatively short history of environmental policy. Some policies are great, others are problematic, and some have unintended consequences. Interest groups, stakeholders and different political contexts intermingle to see how we think the world works and how we should interact.

The class uses Deborah Stone’s book, “Policy Paradox: Art of Political Decision Making” as a backbone. The book is accessible and uses many easily understandable metaphors to help students understand why policymaking should not be seen as frustrating, but rather an engaging process of engagement. Additionally, the course helps explain why the art of compromise is essential for policy making. It goes through many different movements that shape the managed environment.

INAF U6087 Environmental advocacy: from interest to action

Tjossem takes student feedback to help shape all of his lessons. She is receptive to the passions of the students and integrates them into the subjects and assignments of the class. This particular course is shaped around the environmental interests of the students. These interests can arise from environmental justice or injustice as long as they fall within the realm of political information. The class brings environmental history to contextualize students’ contemporary interests, then complements them with ways to act on those passions.

Last year was the first year this course was taught. It incorporates a lot of information from books, treatises, journals and many other sources. One student focused on the topic of climate refugees – who recognizes them and whether there will be many in the near future. This student’s research has been used to inform the work of a leading NGO on the issue.

“I think we are on the cusp of a great awakening in society in general, and by many parts of society, that we cannot escape the biosphere,” Tjossem said. A rebirth or awareness of individuals being stewards of our Earth is of the utmost importance. She explains that concern for the well-being of the planet can be used to form a sense of stewardship which can be fostered in several ways. There are so many ways to interact with the natural world, she insists; There is something for everyone. Learning to balance a student’s interest with how to make a better world is key.

Tjossem believes that these courses can help students who want to do something satisfying in their life. When people work for the class, they can learn more about themselves, learn topics, and be part of a larger community of activists and professionals. She cares about her students, their professional trajectories and tries to help them understand how to shape their career. A better understanding of environmental management processes is useful for everyone. Today, in the face of increasingly critical challenges, we fortunately have remarkable new and old tools for approaching our relationship with the environment.

The advocacy class in general deals with the roots of environmental injustice and the climate crisis movement. While such matters may be dark and the next steps for action are uncertain, Tjossem emphasizes the hope and optimism his students give him through their passion to help the planet and its people.

Both courses are available for enrollment for all graduate students. They have historically had mixed enrollments within the university. Any questions about the courses can be sent to Professor Tjossem at [email protected]

Taylor Goto is a former Climate and Society Program, class of 2021.

If you would like to know more about the MPA-ESP program, please contact the Deputy Director, Stephanie Hoyt ([email protected]) or attend one of our next information sessions.



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