Nats 1840 m – Science, Technology and the Environment Summary

Download 26.53 Kb.
Size26.53 Kb.
NATS 1840 M – Science, Technology and the Environment


Our awareness of the environment and its importance has changed significantly over the years. Although there are many ways in which human activity impacts the natural world, this course will focus in on the role of science and technology in shaping the environment around us. On the one hand, the growth of scientific knowledge has been a key component in understanding the human impact on the environment, and in conjunction with technology, it has allowed us to either soften the impact of human activity or devise ways to integrate our actions with nature. On the other hand, science and technology have enabled us to significantly increase the impact of human activity on the globe, particularly in the case of industrialization. In order to unpack the complicated relationship between human activity and the environment, we will consider the development of science and technology in different parts of the world and throughout human history, but with a focus on the Early Modern Period to present day.

Course Instructor

  • Dr. Ian Slater, Rm 304 Bethune College, 416-650-8278,

Course website:
Required Texts

NATS 1840 6.0 M - Course Reader


1. Reading Summary and Critique (3-5 pages) 10%

2. Annotated Bibliography and Thesis Statement (3-5 pages) – 15%

3. Short Essay (10 pages) – 25%

5. Attendance - 10%

5. Final Examination – 40%

Notes on Evaluation

The summary and critique (about 2/3 summary and 1/3 critique) involves one of the readings from the course. The annotated bibliography is a listing of sources related to your thesis with a one to two paragraph summary of each source. Both the list of sources and the thesis will change over the term. All essay topics must include some discussion of the relationship between science and technology and the environment, other than that the topic is open and must be pre-approved.


Students who feel that there are extenuating circumstances which may interfere with the successful completion of the exam or other course requirements are encouraged to discuss the matter with the Course Director as soon as possible. Students with physical, learning or psychiatric disabilities who require reasonable accommodations in teaching style or evaluation methods should discuss this with the Course Director early in the term so that appropriate arrangements can be made.


Lectures: Monday, Wednesday 11:30-2:30, SLH F

Office Hours: By Appointment, Bethune 304
Lecture Schedule
January 4 - Introductory Lecture
January 9 – Lecture 1 – Earliest Human Impact On the Environment

- Paul S. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America, University of California Press, 2005, Prologue and Chapter 2, pp 1-3,48-57

January 11 – Lecture 2 – Early Human Civilization: Agriculture, Urbanization and Trade

- James McClellan and Harold Dorn, Science and Technology in World History, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, Chapter 6, The Middle Kingdom, pp 117-140

January 16 – Lecture 3 – Environmental Transformation in Feudal Europe

- W TeBrake, “Taming the Waterwolf: Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management in the Netherlands during the Middle Ages”, Technology and Culture, Vol 43, N 3, July 2002

January 18 – Lecture 4 – Colonial Expansion: Globalizing the Environment

- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the last 13,000 Years, Vintage Press, 1998, Chapter 3, Collision at Cajamarca, pp 67-82.

January 23 – Lecture 5 – Early Modern Science and The Appropriation of Nature

- Harold J Cook, Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age, Yale University Press, 2007, Chapter 1, Worldly Goods and the Transformation of Objectivity, pp 1-43

January 25 – Lecture 6 – A Nation Formed on Winter Hats – Global Economy and The Commodification of Nature

- Harold Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, University of Toronto Press, 1999, pp 3 - 22

January 30 – Lecture 7 – The Struggle to Control Capital – The Environment as a Pawn in A Global Game

- Ronald, Naylor, Canada in the European Age: 1453-1919, McGill-Queens University Press, 2006, Chapters 11-12, pp 147-166

February 1 – Lecture 8 – Specialization of Production: Technology Maximizes Resource Extraction

- A. R. M. Lower, The North American Assault on the Canadian Forest : a History of the Lumber Trade between Canada and the United States, Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1938, pp 1-6,43-52

February 6 – Lecture 9 – Does Ownership Matter? State versus Private Sector Resource Management

- H.V. Nelles, The Politics of Development: Forests, Mines and Hydro-Electric Power in Ontario, 1849-1941, McGill / Queens University Press, 2005, Chapter 5, Conserving the Forests, pp 182-214

February 8 – Lecture 9 – Problem Cases: The Environment Resists Commodification

- Rohan D’Souza, Drowned and Dammed, Colonial Capitalism and Flood Control in Eastern India, Oxford University Press, 2006, Chapter 4, Delta in the Commodity Form, pp 126-156.

February 13 – Lecture 10 – The Demands of Industry on Nature: Trees as a Fiscal Resource

- James C Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press, 1998, Chapter 1, Nature and Space, pp11-52.

February 15 – Lecture 11 – Science Changes the Game: Industrial Expansion Magnified

- David F. Noble, America By Design: Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism, Oxford University Press, 1977, Chapter 1, The Wedding of Science to the Useful Arts – 1 – The Rise of Science Based Industry, pp 3-19.

February 27 – Lecture 12 – The Automobile as a Technological Fix: Technological Solutions to Environmental Problems

- David A Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History, Rutgers University Press, 2000, Chapter 6, The Burden of History: Expectations Past and Imperfect, pp 195-208

February 29 – Lecture 13 – The Automobile as a Conservationists’ Tool: Preserving the Forest for Highway Viewing

- Barnett, Gabrielle, Drive-By Viewing: Visual Consciousness and Forest Preservation in the Automobile Age, Technology and Culture 45. 1 (Jan 2004): 30-54

March 5 – Lecture 14 – Nature Resists Commodification and Technology Fights Back: Aerial Surveying and Mineral Resources

- Cronin, Marionne, Northern Visions: Aerial Surveying and the Canadian Mining Industry, 1919-1928, Technology and Culture48. 2 (Apr 2007): 303-330.

March 7 – Lecture 15 – Science Replaces Nature: Synthetic Rubber in The Post-War Economy

- Matthew J Bellamy, Profiting the Crown: Canada’s Polymer Corporation, 1942-1990, McGill-Queens University Press, 2005, Chapter 3, For the Country at War and the Country at Peace, 1945-1951, pp 57-86.

March 12 – Lecture 16 – Natural Resources and the Energy Industry

- Richard Hirsch, Power Loss, The Origins of Deregulation and Restructuring in the American Electric Utility System, MIT Press, 2001, Chapter 8, The Mainstreaming of Conservation, pp 135-154

March 14 – Lecture 17 – The Environmental Impacts of Globalization: Technology Enables Industry

- Vaclav Smil, Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines, IT 2010, pp 1-20

March 19 – Lecture 18 – The Technological Fix Part 2 – The Nuclear Industry

- Robert Pool, Beyond Engineering, How Society Shapes Technology, Chapter 1, History and Momentum, Oxford University Press, 1997

March 21 – Lecture 19 – Technopolitics and The Environment: Nuclear Reactors as a Policy Tool

- Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II, MIT Press 1998, Chapter 2, Technopolitical Regimes, pp 55-90

March 26 – Lecture 20 – Green Technologies: Reevaluating Impacts of Hydroelectric Power

- Sean McCutcheon, Electric Rivers, The Story of the James Bay Project, Black Rose Books, 1991, Chapter 6, Changing Nature, pp 96-115

March 28 – Lecture 21 – The Technological Fix Part 3 – Pesticides and Crop Production

- Karen Schrader-Frechette and Laura Westra, Technology and Values, Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, Chapter 4.7, Assessment of Environmental and Economic Impacts of Pesticide Use, pp 375-414

April 2 – Scientific Evidence and Public Opinion: Global Warming and Anthropogenic Climate Change

- Spenser Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, Harvard University Press, 2003, Chapter 8, The Discovery Confirmed, pp 160-192

Exam Review
Lectures listed in italics address specifically Canadian topics

Download 26.53 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page