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ENVS 149: African Environment and Development (Gray): Home

African Environment and Development

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Course Overview

ENVS 149 / POLI 146: African Environment and Development

Course Overview:

Most Americans know little about Africa.  Their knowledge is limited to the sparse coverage of American media outlets that tend to focus on catastrophic events such as famine, war and disease.  While much of the continent is in crisis, there are many areas of great hope.  Botswana, for example, had one of the world’s highest economic growth rates in the 1990s and managed its diamond industry in a way that made it a resource benefit rather than a curse.  Kenya has experienced reductions in total fertility rates while at the same time improving many of their environments.  Africa has a cultural and geographic diversity and richness that is not often presented in the mainstream media.  


This class is organized around two broad topics.  The first part will examine the geography and historical causes of sub-Saharan Africa’s political, social and economic crises and explore issues that explain sub-Saharan Africa’s relative level of underdevelopment in relation to other parts of the world.  Africa remains the poorest area of the world.  Most indicators of social and economic development have declined in the decades since independence.  At the same time, we will also look at how different African societies are successfully creating solutions to their problems. The second part of the class will focus on the themes of environment and development, addressing broad issues of food security, agriculture, urbanization, gender, conservation, and natural resource management.  

This class will present considerable background information in the form of readings, films and lecture but will also include a significant discussion component.  Students will be expected to participate in class discussion.  Active participation in class is expected and will constitute a significant part of your grade.