Society and the Environment in History

Ananda Forest

In this course, we will explore the responses to environmental challenges by various societies in history and why societies fail and perish, or succeed and thrive.  We will be focusing, ultimately, on the challenges faced by America at this unique moment in history.

We will start by taking a historical perspective, looking at previous societies that have risen and fallen in order  to understand natural cycles and how humans respond to these cycles.  In particular, we will examine how societies relate to their physical environments and how this relationship plays a determining role in each society’s fate. We will then take a closer look at our own society to see, beneath partisan hype and media froth, what we should truly be concerned about and why we should have profound hope.

This course will focus on three primary texts:  Collapse by Jared Diamond (author of the groundbreaking Guns, Germs and Steel)The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg (social and economic visionary); The Sixth Extinction, the New York Times bestseller by Elizabeth Kolbert.  No reading is required for this class, but  students are encouraged to obtain copies of these landmark works for their libraries. There will be a 40-60 page recommended reading for each class.

Wednesdays, May 9 – June 13, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m..  At Nan Bourne’s home on River St.

Ananda Forest is a graduate of Oberlin College (A.B., Anthropology/English) and Yale Law School (J.D.).  He has been a teacher for over thirty years, including 6 years in the English department at St. Anne’s School in Brooklyn Heights; 12 years teaching shamanism and shamanic techniques at Spirit Hollow, a center for shamanism and spiritual ecology in Shaftsbury, VT; and the past fourteen years teaching history and anthropology at the Community College of Vermont. Being in the classroom is one of his greatest joys!