POL 375

Politics of Environmental Issues

POL 375 - Spring 2020

General Information

Professor Chad Rector

Wednesdays 10:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Ballston 6094


You are welcome to drop by my office any time to talk, but in order to guarantee a meeting in my office or at Ballston I advise you to make an appointment. To see the schedule and make an appointment use this calendar. (You must be logged in to gmail or Marymount email. Scroll to the right to see future weeks.) If you do not make an appointment you are welcome to drop by but I cannot promise that I will be there. If you make an appointment but then cannot make it to that appointment, please email me to let me know.

Course Assignments and Grades

Course grades will be based on a weighted average of the following:

  • Two exams. 20% each. (40% total.) Each exam will contain two parts. The first part is a simulation exercise in which students apply basic concepts from the course to a collective problem; this will take about 1 hour. The second part is a traditional bluebook exam with four short essay questions. Details about exam #1; details about exam #2.
  • Discussion leader. 5%. Each day, about two students will be assigned to summarize the assigned readings and pose questions for class discussion.
  • Two article summaries and presentations. 15% each. (30% total). Each student will be assigned to provide a short written summary of a published social science article, edit a Wikipedia entry to include a reference to that article, and present a summary of the article to the class. These will be spread throughout the semester, between February 5 and April 1.
  • Group projects. 25%. Students will work in assigned groups of 3 to 5 members to address, in a creative but realistic way, a political coordination problem. Graded output includes a group paper and presentation. Details about this assignment will be posted after spring break.

Extra credit:

  • Class participation. Students may earn up to 10% for constructive contributions to class discussions. There is no specific grade for "attendance," as this is a seminar-style course in which I expect regular class participation (although for university administrative purposes I will occasionally record attendance anyway). Students earn participation grades for sharing ideas with the class, not simply for showing up. Since there is no such thing as an "excused" absence, so there is no reason to give me an excuse or note if you are absent.
  • DC event. 5% for a first event and 3% for a second. Attend an informative, professional lecture, seminar, or hearing in the DC area on the subject of public affairs and write a summary of your experience. Specific instructions about attending and reporting on events are here. Summaries must be well-written to receive credit; I will send back poorly-written ones for revisions before they are accepted. You will receive 5 extra credit points for one event, and 3 points for a second. These must be submitted before the last meeting of the semester.
  • Interview with alum about internship and career. 6%. Instructions here.

Assignments will be marked down for being late. Students who miss an exam will have one chance to take a makeup and will be marked down unless they have a valid medical or university business excuse. Students will not be penalized for missing a class assignment for a recognized religious holiday. Exams will be written in class without books, notes, computers, phones, audio devices, or other aids.

I may, at my discretion, check any written assignments for plagiarism at any time during or after the semester, using electronic or other means. Students found violating the Marymount principles of Academic Integrity will fail the course and be formally charged through the University’s Academic Integrity process. I have failed students in prior semesters for cheating. By enrolling in the course you acknowledge that you have reviewed the University’s standards of academic integrity.

Course Schedule and Readings

There are three assigned books for the course:


January 15

Climate change and basic concepts in governance

January 22

Thinking about climate

Read Nordhaus, Chapters 1-12

January 29

Policies to address climate change

Read Nordhaus, Chapters 13-21

Discussion leaders: Catherine, Yesica, Esmeralda

Part 1: American parties and climate

February 5

Environmentalism as an issue

Read Karol, Chapters 1-4

Discussion leaders: Kaylee

February 12

Party coalitions

Read Karol, Chapters 5-9

Discussion leaders: Gavin, Nicholas

February 19

Exam 1

Covers Introduction and Part 1, class sessions and readings

Part 2: International coordination

February 26

Meet in Ballston 4028


Read Peinhardt and Sandler, Chapters 1-3

Discussion leader: Maha, Giancarlo, Lesly

March 4


Read Peinhardt and Sandler, Chapters 5 and 12

Discussion leaders: Justin, Jonathan, Mohamed

March 18


Read (TBA)

Discussion leaders: Brian, Abdul

Part 3: State / Society relations

March 25

Meet on Main Campus - Rowley G127

Opportunity structures and civic action

Read (TBA)

Discussion leaders: James, Erin, Kanwal

April 1

Transnational coordination

Read (TBA)

Discussion leaders: Joshua, Ashley, Andrea

April 8

Exam 2

Covers Introduction and Parts 1, 2, and 3, class sessions and readings

Part 4: Group projects

April 15


April 29 and May 6 (9:00 am to 11:30 am)

Group Presentations