Teaching: Courses Offered in 2011-2012

NRE 510: Environmental Decision-Making and Governance
(Master's core course in social science at SNRE)
Fall 2011
(taught jointly with Prof. Tom Princen)

NRE 510 is one of the three core courses at the heart of the first-year experience for master's students at SNRE. Together, the core courses aim to provide strong conceptual grounding and necessary analytical tools for understanding and participating in natural and social systems pertaining to the environment.

Whether the student intends to be a scientist, a policy-maker, an entrepreneur or a citizen activist, the three core courses seek to provide a scientific, analytic, and conceptual basis for effective intervention.

NRE 510 focuses on the social, political and economic processes that shape human interactions with natural systems, that create environmental problems, and that resolve or manage those problems. The course draws broadly on research and scholarship from economics, ethics, political science, policy analysis, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, management, and law.

The integrating theme of the course is decision-making. The course aims to identify key dynamics in environmental decisions and processes that have environmental impacts. It does so by offering specific techniques and general analytic frameworks, both quantitative and qualitative. These tools and concepts seek to:

  1. diagnose why decisions happen as they do;
  2. assess how well relevant environmental issues or resources are being managed; and
  3. identify how decisions might proceed differently.

Decision-making includes the individual and collective, the stylized and contextualized, the incremental and transformative. The context ranges from the market to the community, from formal institutions to negotiated settings, from the local to the national and international. We will not focus exclusively on any one environmental issue although most examples will come from North America and many will concern water and climate change. We will also consider other cultural, political and environmental contexts, from local to global, but a thorough comparative perspective is beyond the scope of this course.

The overarching professional objective of the course is to build effectiveness through enhanced analytic understanding. To achieve this, the course takes a synthetic perspective that integrates theory and practice: it seeks to apply insights from research and scholarship to help advance practical understanding and improve outcomes. The bridge between theory and practice will go both ways: the course will both use theoretical concepts to help understand specific processes, and use evidence from actual decisions to critique and refine theoretical claims.

Major units of the course will examine the framing, structure, and drivers of environmental issues; processes of individual and collective decision-making; the role and limits of markets in creating and managing environmental problems; the role and limits of government and public policy in responding to environmental problems; and the potential of non-governmental and hybrid institutional approaches for managing environmental and resource issues. The resulting concepts will be brought to bear on a series of practical cases, including water development and global climate change.

Thinking Analytically for Policy and Decisions (Law 796, PubPol 594, NRE 575) Fall 2011

This course develops the skills of using analytic methods and models to understand real decisions and policy issues, drawn from the realms of natural resource management, public policy, business strategy, politics, negotiations, and conflict.

The perspective is that of a decision-maker seeking better understanding of complex situations she/he faces in managerial and professional life, and practical guidance for making decisions in these situations. The course considers a variety of analytic techniques, methods, and models, particularly those emphasizing uncertainty and strategic interactions in decision-making. Some elementary concepts of modeling are also introduced, with emphasis on dynamics, uncertainty, and optimal choice under constraints.

The emphasis throughout is on fundamental concepts, insights, and intuitions, often drawing the material for discussion from current issues and controversies that we find in the newspaper. Formalism and computation are kept to the minimum necessary to convey the basic concepts. We especially practice basic skills of abstraction and formulation: recognizing situations where some simple analytic concept is potentially applicable to some messy reality; abstracting the essential characteristics of the messy reality to develop a relevant model; and critically examining the model's implications in light of our understanding and judgments about the messy reality. We often move iteratively between thinking about complex messy realities and simple models, using each perspective to probe, critique, and improve our understanding from the other perspective.

International Environmental Law and Policy (Law 682, NRE 559)
Winter 2012

This course examines how society manages (or fails to manage) environmental issues that fall beyond the authority or capability of a single national government.

Some classes will focus on specific international environmental issues. The issues considered will certainly include the following, and possibly one or two additional ones, depending on time availability and the group's interests:

  • Global climate change
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Long-range air pollution
  • Depletion of global fisheries
  • Protection of biological diversity

We will examine each issue from three perspectives. We will describe the history and present status of attempts to manage the issue, and of our knowledge about it (mostly scientific knowledge, sometimes also technological, economic, and other relevant knowledge). We will seek to explain the policy outcomes we see, asking why things are being done in this way and not some other. And we will seek to assess the effectiveness with which the issue is being managed, relative to its apparent severity and urgency.

In other classes, we will pursue more general and conceptual topics. We will examine the nature and historical development of global environmental stresses and the driving forces underlying them; systematic structural issues that obstruct effective management of environmental (or other) issues at global scale; and the general elements or tools that have been employed as components of responses to manage these issues – e.g., international negotiation of treaties or other instruments, international organizations, international legal principles, financial measures, implementation and compliance systems, and initiatives by NGOs as alternatives or supplements to government action.

Additional topics to be considered will include the use of science – scientific knowledge and uncertainty, consensus and controversy – in international policy-making; and the linkages of international environmental issues to other issues of trade, international economic policy, security, and development.

Overall, the perspective of the course will be synthetic: it will seek to apply insights from research and scholarship to help advance practical understanding of what is happening, why, and how things might be done better. The bridge between theory and practice will go both ways: we will both use theoretical concepts to help understand specific issues, and use evidence from these issues to help criticize and refine theoretical claims.

Courses Not Offered in 2011-2012

Law 885:  Mini-seminar, “Law and Governance in speculative visions of future societies”
(last offered, Fall 2009-Winter 2010)

In this 1-credit seminar, one of the Law School’s informal “mini-seminars,” we discuss the implications for law and governance of potential societal trends over periods of a few decades.  Each session will be based on some reading that provides a detailed, provocative vision of some future society – departing markedly from current conditions, based on some factors of technological change, environmental degradation, or the workings of the normal four horsemen of the apocalypse. 

Readings will include some works of speculative fiction that include unusually rich discussions of legal, institutional, and political relations (potential works to include here might include Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the Dead", or works of Neil Stephenson, William Gibson, Margaret Attwood, David Brin, or Charles Stross); and some works of non-fiction speculative futurism that posit potential changes, technological or other, that would obviously have large implications for legal, institutional, and political relations (examples here might include Ray Kurzweil's "The discontinuity is near", something by Stewart Brand or Peter Schwartz, something doing relatively well-founded speculation on potential developments in biotech or nanotech, etc.).  For the works (mostly the fictions) that do sketch a future social/legal order, we'll discuss questions such as how would this work, how might it come about, what are the obvious gaps or pitfalls in the author's sketch of social/legal order and how might they be filled, etc.  For the works that lay out scenarios or technological or environmental change only, we'll discuss what the likely implications of these developments for legal/social order would be -- in such a world, how might people think about citizenship and participation in government, about property, about state or other centralized control over individual activities, about responses to harms or wrongdoing (criminal or civil), etc?

Discussion notes for Session 1 – Bill Joy, “Why the future doesn’t need us”

Discussion notes for Session 2 -- Human-modification technologies and democracy

Discussion notes for Session 3 -- David Brin, "Kill People"

Discussion notes for Session 4 -- Charles Stross, "Accelerando"

Discussion notes for Session 5 -- Selected episodes of "Battlestar Galactica"

Discussion notes for Session 6 -- Orson Scott Card, "Speaker for the Dead"

Seminar on Climate Change: Status of the Problem and Proposed Responses
(Law 591, taught at UCLA Law School, January 2010)

This one-unit seminar, taught in eight sessions from January 4 – 15, 2010, provided an introduction to the climate-change issue, with particular emphasis on international aspects of the problem. The first three sessions review scientific and technical aspects of climate change: basic scientific knowledge of the nature of the risk and how it has advanced over the past two decades; the emissions and activities that are contributing to the problem, their trends and projections, and current knowledge of technological and policy options to reduce them; and the nature of climate-change impacts and vulnerabilities.

Throughout these sessions, we stress the role of uncertainty on these points – its magnitude and character, and the role it has played in decision-making, negotiations and argument over the issue.

The remaining five sessions examine current international actions and prominent proposals for new and additional international actions to address the issue, principally but not exclusively through international measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Topics examined include the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol, including the historical context of negotiations and decisions that produced those instruments in their current form; the Bali mandate and the major proposals and negotiations flowing from it, culminating in the Copenhagen meeting in December 2009; and the major proposals for alternative approaches to international co-operative action on climate change that have been advanced.

Although the primary focus is on international responses, potential interactions between international treaties and commitments, and US domestic laws and institutions, are also considered.

Law 712: Negotiations
(last offered, Winter 2009)

This course offers an introduction to the analysis and practice of negotiations, through a mixture of three roughly equal pedagogical components:

  1. Presentation of theoretical concepts useful for analyzing negotiation situations.
  2. Case discussion of past negotiations.
  3. Participation in, and subsequent analysis of, simulated negotiation exercises.

The course goal is to enhance your effectiveness as a negotiator, defined as your ability to identify and advance your goals – on average – across the range of negotiation situations and counterparts you are likely to encounter in life, professional and otherwise.

We pursue this goal principally through building your abilities of perception and analysis, to make you better able to recognize when you are engaged in a negotiation (it is not always obvious, and the participants do not always agree!), what the most important elements of its structure are – e.g., parties to the negotiation and issues to be decided, the configuration of parties' interests and their alternatives to a negotiated agreement, information, uncertainty, time, and ongoing relationships – and the implications of these structural elements for tactics: those likely to be employed, those likely to be effective, and associated risks.

There will be some consideration of behavioral and communicative aspects of negotiations – e.g., relevant attitudes, behavioral proclivities, skills of communication, assertiveness, building rapport and empathy – but this will be secondary to our treatment of structural and strategic aspects of negotiations and associated skills of analysis. In this domain we will seek a few "low-hanging fruit" insights: recognition of the salient dimensions relevant to negotiation behavior and outcomes on which people differ; some progress in recognizing your own dispositions; and recognizing some of the opportunities and risks, specific to particular negotiation situations or partners, that these may carry.

We will also discuss ethical issues that arise in negotiations – both in reality and in course exercises – in order to sharpen your ethical judgments about tactics, outcomes, and externalities in negotiations.

Advisees

Dana Jackman, "Modeling Behavioral and Adaptive Responses in Integrated Assessment Models of Climate Change" (PhD dissertation in Natural Resources & Environment, in progress)

Eric Kravitz, "Organizational Response to Regulatory Creation of Environmental Markets: a Case Study of Electrical Utilities" (PhD dissertation in Natural Resources & Environment, in progress)

Susan Nysingh, “Explaining and assessing the Ecuador climate-change petro-trade proposal” (MS thesis in Natural Resources and Environment, in progress)

Sharon Gourdji, "Grid-scale CO2 flux estimation: geostatistical inverse modeling and policy implications" (PhD dissertation in Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2011)

Shakuntala Makhijani, "Mixed Corporate Messages in Climate Legislation: Parallels and Divergences in Energy Company Public Statements and Political Activities" (MS thesis in Natural Resources and Environment, 2011)

Claudia Rodriguez, "Sustainability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Protected Areas" (PhD dissertation in Natural Resources & Environment, 2011)

Chris Detjen, "Situating Climate Change in the Discourse of Intergenerational Justice (BA thesis in Environment and Philosophy, 2009)

Ehab Farah, "Mandatory Arbitration of International Tax Disputes" (SJD dissertation, 2008)

Hyeran Jo, "Monitoring Compliance: the Design of Monitoring Institutions in International Cooperation" (PhD dissertation in political science, 2008)

Corrie Clark, "Energy Emissions Mitigation Using Green Roofs: Probabilistic Analysis and Integration in Market-Based Clean Air Policies" (PhD dissertation in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Natural Resources & Environment, 2007)

Theodore Lawrence, "Alternative Funding Mechanisms for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission" (MS thesis in Natural Resources and Environment, 2006)

Kurt Muehmel, "An Ethical Approach to Global Climate Change (BA thesis in Environment and Philosophy, 2006)

Kazuaki Takahashi, "Effect of environmental policies on R&D in Japan" (MS thesis in Natural Resources and Environment, 2005)

 

Contact Information

Hutchins Hall 432
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI, 48109
Phone: 734-763-6133
Fax: 734-763-9375
E-mail: parson(at)umich.edu

Assistant: Laura Harlow
Phone: 734-763-0957
E-mail: harlowl(at)umich.edu