Dr. Stubberfield’s COVID-19 Quarantine Environmental Issues Course

This site and its posts contain videos, images and recordings to further illustrate points often left unsaid. Students are free to interpret the artwork and presentations as they will and it is hoped that this will support student development.

Welcome to Brain Clutter’s COVID-19 Quarantine Course page for PSCI/UAP 3344: Global Environmental Issues. This page displays information relevant to enrolled students in Dr. Alex Stubberfield’s Global Environmental Issues section offered through Virginia Tech. Students should refer to the course syllabus provided on Canvas for an orientation to the course assignments, dates, readings and aims.

This page contains links to blog posts that help elucidate the readings for the week. As a reminder, this course is reading and writing intensive and students are expected to keep up with their assignments independent of course publications on this page. Additionally, students will post to the course page in teams, every week beginning the week of 9/28-10/4. The Professor will organize teams the week of 9/7-9/13 and it is expected that these teams will not change further. Yours is the only course posting to this site and, in that sense, this site is yours. Please treat it and others respectfully as you navigate its content and formulate your opinions concerning some of the most pressing issues of our age.

Take a look at the picture featured on our page and reflect. This was a photo taken by me, Dr. Alex Stubberfield, at the $1,500,000,000+ Gardens by the Bay exhibition in Singapore. We will reflect on what it means to live within the Anthropocene throughout this course and it’s aim is to equip you, the student, with innovative tools for formulating and writing your own perspectives concerning our global environment. As such, this course already assumes that we inhabit a planet in which segments of humanity have intervened in the organic economies of planet Earth. I will not argue further that we do indeed inhabit times and spaces characterized by accelerated global change and it is expected that enrolled students will have an interest in those processes by the end of the course.

We will explore human-nature entanglements throughout this course as a method of political ecology. Political ecology studies, for the purposes of this course, how politics is enmeshed in the construction and administration of ecosystems.
Gardens by the Bay, in the video above is a depiction of human-nature relationships and, as such, is a part of a representational politics that can be explored throughout the course.

This course, however, does not directly explore examples or the results of global change, but instead questions and theorizes the foundations of the issues it presents. Where do we – this class – fit into the picture of global change? Is global change a global responsibility? Will more science and technology solve the problems presented by global change? What of industry, economy, culture, politics; will these have to change as our environment does? Do we all inhabit the same “environment,” or even “environments,” and what political, and moral implications does this have? Students may expect readings attempting to answer the questions above, and more but we, in this course and in our lives, ought to cultivate a critical sensibility to what we read, how we write, and how our answers are formulated to these questions. As this class argues, the answers to the above will have real and material effects that may leave indelible evidence of human history within the lifeforms of Earth and possibly beyond Terra.

The Offspring’s “Not the One” provocatively explores the notion of global inheritance and intergenerational responsibility. It is we the living who must deal with the actions of the dead with an eye to the future. But is what does this mean politically?

My goal is to equip students with the critical tools to do their own research and argue their positions. As such, this course is writing and research intensive with students selecting a topic related to the politics of global change and pursuing a guided research project throughout the course. This assignment aims at inculcating a sense of scholarly discipline in reviewing empirical studies and the careful selection of data to support the student’s argument. I, the Professor, am available for consultation in the selection of a research project and the course is designed to support this centerpiece project. It is hoped that interested students will use the research executed in this course as a foundation for a paper, a capstone project, or a space to investigate interests otherwise frustrated in other courses. Students are free to customize their projects within the confines of the syllabus and this project presents the opportunity for students to make their research their own.

The course and its readings are divided into modules each with a question formulated to guide students through the readings. The succession of the modules also presents an argument made by the Professor and students are invited to be critical of that argument. I will, however, leave it unsaid for the time being. Module questions and more information regarding the course readings can be gleaned from the Reading Schedule found on the syllabus posted to Canvas and by actually reading the assigned documents. In order, the module questions are: What is an ecocritique and how do they operate; What are the effects of an environmentality and where can we find them in evidence; and, What is technonature, and how can it be characterized? Students should never feel compelled to agree with any of our authors or the Professor himself, but they must have good reasons for rejecting those positions and a firm understanding of the author’s position. Disagreements with our selected readings, if done as the above suggests, can be the basis of a student’s research project.

This is a “Supertree” from Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and illustrates the entanglement of “technological” and “natural” systems.

As a final remark: please remember to read the syllabus and keep in contact with me, and each other. We have a cross-disciplinary class composition with majors drawn from across colleges at Virginia Tech. The Anthropocene and global change must be confronted from all sides and it is exciting that we have a multiplicity of perspectives to draw from and welcome. I hope that we can learn from each other and work in an interdisciplinary fashion that reiterates the urgency of our changing environments. It is exciting that we get to do this and I hope that all of you will bring your best to the table.