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 Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues  posted by  duggu   on 12/26/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Lioi, Anthony, 21W.775 Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues, Fall 2006. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Close-up of tree bark, with the forest in the background.

The bark of a tree. (Image courtesy of Aayesha Siddiqui.)

Course Highlights

This course features a detailed list of readings and a description of the assignments.

Course Description

This course focuses on traditional nature writing and the environmentalist essay. Students will keep a Web log as a journal. Writings are drawn from the tradition of nature writing and from contemporary forms of the environmentalist essay.



The course calendar is available below.

Course Goals

This course is designed to be an introduction to the related traditions of American nature writing and the environmental essay. By the end of the course your will have grasped the structure, function, and basic rules of these genres, and produced two advanced drafts suitable for submission to print or online periodicals. You will have learned professional processes of drafting, peer review, and manuscript submission . You will also have produced a blog as raw material for later writing.

Course Philosophy

The work of this course is collaborative. In the real world of writing and publishing, no one works in a vacuum. Therefore, the class is structured as a laboratory for reading, analysis, and writing in collaboration with one another. As such, the work of our class cannot be "made up" by getting someone else's notes. It requires our full participation every day. This is the reason for the strict attendance policy (see Attendance Policy).

Required Work

  • 3 essays, one of 1500 words and two of 3,000 words or more
  • Blog of no fewer than 2,500 words
  • The rough drafts of each essay
  • In-class peer review
  • Class discussion
  • Assigned reading and viewing
  • Short oral exercises, including an oral presentation
  • Short in-class writing exercises

Communication Policy

I am happy to speak with you in person, over the phone, and over email. Office hours are held for your assistance, so drop-in visits and appointments are both welcome. In general, you will only be able to reach me by phone on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Assume 24 hours are necessary for reply to email messages, or 48 hours over a weekend.

Grading Policy

Grades will be assigned to the final drafts of the essays and to the blog as a whole. The final grade for the class will be based on an average of these four grades. However, penalties will be exacted if the non-graded work remains unfinished at the end of the semester. Penalties will be determined on a case by case basis, and will affect the final grade for the class by as much as a full grade level (A to B, B to C, etc.). It is impossible to pass the class without passing all of the graded assignments. A missing final draft will automatically be assigned the grade of F, and therefore result in a grade of F for the class.

Rough drafts are an essential part of the work of the class. An essay that does not go through the full drafting process will have 1/2 a grade deducted from the final draft grade (A to B+, B+ to B, etc.).

Peer review is an essential part of the work of the class. Writers who do not participate in peer review for a given essay, or who do not complete peer review to my satisfaction, will have 1/2 a grade deducted from their own final draft of that essay.

Attendance Policy

The Writing Program's attendance policy allows for no more than 5 absences per semester. (See Course Philosophy.) The risk of failure automatically exists after the fifth absence. This includes absences for interviews and other professional activities.

By the same token, writers who are actually sick should miss class in order to recover. If you are sick, please contact me immediately and we can discuss a proper course of action.

A lateness occurs when you arrive after I take attendance, which is often the first thing I do. Two latenesses count as one full absence. Lateness is extremely irksome to writers in a collaborative classroom (see Course Philosophy).

Persistent lateness based on schedule conflict with another class is not permitted. Early departure from class is not permitted.


Plagiarism is a violation of the academic code of MIT, and may be prosecuted as such. Plagiarism occurs when the writing of others is incorporated into your own writing without sufficient attribution.


1 Introduction Blog 1 assigned

Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas

Film: Grizzly Man

Blog 1 due

Essay 1 assigned

3 Film: Grizzly Man (cont.)  

Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (cont.)

Discuss ideas of nature in Grizzly Man


5 Discuss Nature's Economy and Grizzly Man  
6 Peer review Rough draft of Essay 1 due
7 Discussion of drafts


8 Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast

Blog 2 assigned

Essay 1 due

9 Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast (cont.)

Essay 2 assigned

10 Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast (cont.) Blog 2 due

Peer review

Rough draft of Essay 2 due
12 Discussion of drafts  
13 Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants

Blog 3 assigned

14 Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants (cont.)  
15 The Biophilia Hypothesis

Essay 2 due

16 The Biophilia Hypothesis (cont.)

Blog 3 due

Essay 3 assigned


Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change

18 Filed Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (cont.)  

Film: Nausicaä

Rough draft of Essay 3 due
20 Discussion of drafts  
21 Discussion of Nausicaä Blog 4 assigned

The Book of Revelation

Discussion of environmental apocalypse

Blog 4 due

Blog 5 assigned

23 Discussion of environmental apocalypse (cont.)  
24 Oral presentations Essay 3 due
25 Oral presentations (cont.) Blog 5 due
26 Oral presentations (cont.) Final folder due
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