Sylllabus of the American Environmental History section of HST2925: People of the Environment at Bemidji State University:

Bemidji State University

HST 2925 – 3 credits

People of the Environment

American Environmental History

Fall Semester 2019

Z-Course: Zero Textbook Cost


Professor:        Dr. Dan Allosso

Office:             Bensen 225

Office Hours:   MWF 7:30-8:55, 10:00-10:55,

MW 11:00-1:55

Tu 7:30-11:30

Walk-ins welcome, appointments available using Starfish

phone/text:     218-755-2806/218-766-1207


Class meets:    Monday 2:00 to 2:50 in BG250 (Large Group)

Wednesday & Friday 2:00 to 2:50 in BN301 (Small Group)


Course Description

People of the Environment is an interdisciplinary course that focuses on the relationship between people and environment in which we live. The course satisfies the Liberal Education requirement for Goal Area 10:

To improve students’ understanding of today’s complex environmental challenges. Students will examine the interrelatedness of human society and the natural environment. Knowledge of both bio-physical principles and socio-cultural systems is the foundation for integrative and critical thinking about environmental issues.

Goal 10 also focuses on Critical Thinking skills associated with environmental awareness, including the ability to gather and apply factual information, recognize and articulate assumptions made by ourselves and others, and identify possible bias in factual information, interpretation, and argument.

This semester we are going to address these goals of environmental awareness and critical thinking by exploring American Environmental History. The course will be broken into three weekly sessions of 50 minutes each. In Monday’s large group meeting, the entire teaching team will cover environmental topics addressing Big Ideas such as worldviews, the commons, externalities, unanticipated consequences, and the precautionary principal. In Wednesday’s and Friday’s small group meetings, Dr. Allosso will cover events in American Environmental History that illustrate these big ideas. Among the historical topics we’ll look at will be issues such as the European colonization of the Americas, population growth, industrialization, the transition from rural to urban life, industrial agriculture, pollution, resource scarcity, and climate change.


Course Objectives

Applying the Goal Area 10 requirements to Environmental History, on completing the course students will be able to:

  • explain how the physical environment of the Americas shaped the experiences and the choices of people living here.
  • explain how specific societies and cultures applied their own ideas in understanding and reacting to their environments.
  • describe both the ways people have adapted to their environments and the ways they have changed them throughout our history.
  • understand the environmental challenges posed by human actions and the effects of changes in common rights to resources, externalities, and unanticipated consequences.
  • locate the choices people have made that have impacted the environment and the range of other choices that existed and still exist.
  • understand how choices made in the past relate to challenges we face today and choices we may be called to make in the future.


Required Reading (Zero Textbook Cost)

You will not need to purchase a textbook for this course. I have written an online open educational resource (OER) textbook for the Environmental History section:

American Environmental History, Dan Allosso, Open Textbook Library (2018)

You’ll have weekly readings that will align with my lectures, and you’ll use a free online app called Hypothesis to highlight, annotate, and comment on readings; which will lead us into class discussions of the content. You’ll be expected to contribute to these Discussions both online and in class. I’ll give you more information on how to use the tools in class.


Course format

The class will meet three times per week (other sections that share the large group with us might meet for a longer session on just one day). Mondays in a lecture hall (BG250), where about fifty students from three sections will meet together. The small groups will have about 36 students and will meet in BN301. All meetings will include plenty of student interaction and active learning, so it is important to come to class prepared.

Why the unusual format? Environmental issues are best understood when they’re viewed from a variety of perspectives, using insights gained through many disciplines. When we try to understand climate change, pollution, resource depletion, destruction of habitats, or overpopulation, we use information from the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities to help us integrate data with interpretation and a sense of why it matters. Also, you’ll meet instructors from a wider range of backgrounds and we’ll share our approaches to the topics, which may help you develop your perspective and find your own voice regarding these important issues.



Half your grade will be based on large group learning and half on the small group content. Large group grades will be a Midterm (10%), a Final Exam or Project (15%), a written assignment (15%), and a description of your individual service learning project (10%). Small group grades will be based on bi-weekly quizzes (25%), participation in online and in-person discussions (25%). Regular attendance in both the large and small group sessions is expected.


Course Outline

Week 1:

8/26/19 Large Group Meeting

8/28/19 Introduction, American Prehistory Lecture

8/30/19 Discussion

Week 2:

9/4/19 Columbian Exchange

9/6/19 Discussion, Quiz 1 (online)

Week 3:

9/9/19 Large Group Meeting

9/11/19 Colonial North America

1/31/19 Discussion

Week 4:

9/16/19 Large Group Meeting

9/18/19 No Class

9/20/19 No Class

Week 5:

9/23/19 Large Group Meeting

9/25/19 Frontier & Grid

9/27/19 Discussion, Quiz 2 (online)

Week 6:

9/30/19 Large Group Meeting

10/2/19 Commons, Mills, Corporations

10/4/19 Discussion

Week 7:

10/7/19 Large Group Meeting

10/9/19 Transportation Revolution

10/11/19 Discussion, Quiz 3 (online)

Week 8:

10/14/19 Large Group Meeting

10/16/19 Centers & Peripheries

Week 9:

10/21/19 Large Group Meeting

10/23/19 Green Revolution

10/25/19 Discussion, Quiz 4 (online)

Week 10:

10/28/19 Large Group Meeting

10/30/19 City Life

11/1/19 Discussion

Week 11:

11/4/19 Large Group Meeting

11/6/19 Wilderness and Country Life

11/8/19 Discussion, Quiz 5 (online)

Week 12:

11/13/19 Large Group Meeting

11/15/19 Farmers and Agribusiness

Week 13:

11/1819 Large Group Meeting

11/20/19 Treasures Underground

11/22/19 Discussion, Quiz 6 (online)

Week 14:

11/25/19 No class

Week 15:

12/2/19 Large Group Meeting

12/4/19 Limits to Growth?

12/6/19 Discussion

Week 16:

12/9/19 Food and Choice , Wrap up


Class Policies

  • Discussion of controversial topics can be challenging, but this is a vital skill for participating in today’s society. An important goal of this class is to develop your ability to engage respectfully with people who may hold differing viewpoints, making your case while listening carefully and keeping an open mind.
  • Students are encouraged to use computers, tablets, and smartphones to facilitate learning. Please restrict non-class use during class-time. Excessive use of phones, tablets, and computers in class for purposes unrelated to the course material is considered disrespectful of the instructor and of your fellow students. Please remove headphones or earbuds before class begins and set your ringers on silent. If you must make or take a call during class-time, please leave the room (as unobtrusively as possible) to do so.
  • Audio and video recording of lectures and discussions is permitted only with the prior written consent of the instructor or an agreement with the Accessibility services Office. Videos of the lectures will be available in D2L for review or in case you miss a session.
  • If you miss class, you are responsible for acquiring materials and notes from classmates, and for turning in any assignments when due. If you must miss a large number of classes, see me (preferably beforehand) to determine how to proceed with the least adverse effect on your performance and grade.


Academic Honesty

Everyone should be aware of Bemidji State University’s policy regarding originality and plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious issue that can result in failure of the course or even suspension from BSU. The central issue is common sense: do your own work. But if you have any doubts about how (or how much) to paraphrase or quote from texts or your fellow students when developing an interpretation or arguing your points, see me and I will assist you.



We would like to make sure that all the materials, discussions, and activities that are part of the course are accessible to you.  Appropriate and reasonable accommodations will be made for students with disabilities.  If you would like to request accommodations or other services, please contact Disability Services located in Decker Hall #202 Phone: (218) 755-3883 or E-mail  Also available through the Minnesota Relay Service at 1-800-627-3529.








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