ETHS 304

Environmental Justice and Public Policy

4 Undergraduate credits
Effective August 24, 2002 – Present

Graduation requirements this course fulfills

This class focuses on the history and background of the social and environmental issues confronting racial and ethnic communities in the United States. Students learn about the practice and politics of ecological inequality, community initiatives which have developed to combat such inequality, and how environmental justice has emerged as a viable and powerful political movement. This course is useful to students interested in environment and public policy as well as racial and ethnic studies.

Learning outcomes


  • Determine how intersectionalities of socially-constructed identities impact exposure and protective factors to environmental injustice and capabilities to mobilize against environmental inequality.
  • Explain the origins, influences, and strategies on worldwide environmental justice movements through comparative and interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Integrate and apply environmental justice frameworks into the wide variety of issues and environmental struggles impacting contemporary and historical communities of color, poor communities, and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Question the efficacy, efficiency, and equity within current public policy directions in achieving environmental justice goals.
  • Understand the multidimensional characteristics of key terms such as but not limited to environmental racism, environment, nature, wilderness, public policy, food security, xenobiotic, the north/south divide, the Columbian Exchange, ecological citizenship, and the many types of justice.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 5: History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
  • Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
  • Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
  • Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.

Goal 10: People and the Environment

  • Explain the basic structure and function of various natural ecosystems and of human adaptive strategies within those systems.
  • Discern patterns and interrelationships of bio-physical and socio-cultural systems.
  • Describe the basic institutional arrangements (social, legal, political, economic, religious) that are evolving to deal with environmental and natural resource challenges.
  • Evaluate critically environmental and natural resource issues in light of understandings about interrelationships, ecosystems, and institutions.
  • Propose and assess alternative solutions to environmental problems.
  • Articulate and defend the actions they would take on various environmental issues.