Menu Adam R Brown


Poli 325, fall 2022

Professor Adam Brown (about me)
Office phone: (801) 422-2182
Office: 772 KMBL

Current syllabus:
Syllabus version: December 1st, 2022

Office hours: starting 9/8: Th 10-11 and Fr 10:30-11:30 or email to set another time to meet in my office or over Zoom.

What's this course about?

Our food, clothing, shelter, and all essentials of life come from the earth, and all our wastes go back into it. This simple truth forces every society to decide how to balance its economic activities against the earth's natural constraints. These decisions are often among the most difficult in modern politics. They can pit health, prosperity, beauty, and survival against each other.

For Latter-day Saints, these decisions are further complicated by a moral imperative. Though Latter-day Saint scripture proclaims that "the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare," this declaration is accompanied by a stern warning: God makes everyone individually "accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings," in their management of God's "handiwork" (see DC 104:13-18).

Environmental politics has such a broad scope that no course could cover it all. We will focus on America's public lands. These include many gems—national parks, wildernesses, rangelands, forests, and some waterways—but also vast stretches of seeming wasteland. Mining, grazing, preservation, logging, recreation, drilling, and restoration clash on these lands. Competing government entities wrestle for control.

In the first half of the course, we will discuss the general philosophies and political dynamics surrounding land and wilderness, as well as concepts relevant to environmental politics more generally. In the second half of the course, we will consider several policy disputes: Hard rock mining, dam construction and removal, endangered species rehabilitation, and protection of national parks and wilderness areas. We will observe environmental conditions firsthand with several local field trips. The course culminates in an overnight trip to the Moab area that includes Arches National Park and other sights.

My purpose is not to prod you toward agreeing with my stance on the difficult issues we will discuss. Rather, it is to train you in the history and nuance of these issues so that you can engage them fairly and productively, whatever your leanings. More specifically, these are this course's learning objectives:

Field trips

This course includes several field trips. Some are local trips held (mostly) within our regularly scheduled time, though we may start early or end late. We will also have an overnight excursion to the Moab area. Check the schedule below for details, recognizing that inclement weather or other circumstances may prompt changes.

The local field trips could be thought of as lectures taught on location. They will include substantial lecture and discussion. Be prepared to take notes while standing, probably by hand. Bring pens, paper, and a hard writing surface such as a binder or clipboard.

The Moab trip will include less lecture relative to observation (though you should still be prepared to take notes). Instead, I will help you see firsthand how land management decisions have influenced conditions on the ground. Based on your observations, you will prepare a brief paper about land management strategies after the trip.

Field trips will involve walking on rough ground, ascending steep trails, and other potentially strenuous activity. Wear sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate clothing. Bring water (lots), a backpack, snacks, and sun protection as needed. My hope is that students at a variety of fitness levels can participate. Please visit with me in advance if you have an injury, disability, limited mobility, or other concern that may limit your participation or require reasonable accommodations.

Unless we use a university-owned vehicle, you will be responsible for your own transportation for field trips. I will help you organize into carpools, but recognize that you join a carpool of your own free will; the university does not assume liability for privately-owned vehicles used for student transportation. This includes vehicles that I might own myself. (For fall 2022, we will use university vans for everything except Rock Canyon.)

We will use a university-owned van for the Moab trip. The political science department generously covers all transportation and lodging costs, but you are responsible for your own food and other personal supplies.

If you are a minor, talk to me about obtaining parental consent. Otherwise, your participation implies your acknowledgement and acceptance of the risks inherent in travel, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Visit with me if you have questions.

Grades, assignments, and attendance

20%  Term paper (instructions )
2%  Term paper peer review
9%  Moab response paper (instructions )
34%  Midterm
34%  Final exam
1%  Completion of BYU's anonymous course evaluation

In-class writings and activities. We will regularly do writings or other activities in class. Some will assess your comprehension of assigned readings. You should not find these exercises difficult if you stay current. These are practice for exams and are not scored.

Attendance. I do not track attendance (except in Moab), but absences will make exams harder. If the technology cooperates, I will use Zoom to stream (and record) all classes (except field trips) to accommodate illness, disability, emergency, and similar circumstances. You don't need a doctor's note; you are adults and can decide for yourselves to stay home when sick (or exposed). That said, this is an in-person class, so do not watch via Zoom unless needed; if you participate remotely more than a couple times, please contact me to explain why. To stream, join meeting 977 3300 8082 with passcode poli325. If streaming live isn't an option, email me later for a link to the recording. I will delete recordings after a week or two, so request one promptly if needed.

Keep your peers healthy. Do not spread illness. Stay home if you have symptoms of flu, covid, norovirus, or other contagious illness, such as vomiting, nausea, coughing, chills or fever, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, and pretty much anything else other than a minor runny nose. (If you vomit overnight, it is almost certainly norovirus, often called "stomach flu," not food poisoning, and it is very contagious.) Remember that your peers or those they live with may be vulnerable or immunocompromised. Even if it's just a bad cold, nobody wants that. Stay home when sick. Wash your hands often, even when healthy. Get your flu/covid/etc vaccines. If you feel well but have been near roomates/etc who are sick, please mask up or participate remotely via Zoom. Help us all stay healthy.

Missing local field trips: Unfortunately, I cannot record field trips. If you must miss a trip, please inform me in advance if possible so we don't delay our departure waiting for you. After the trip, do what folks did in the pre-Zoom days when they missed class: Get notes from a classmate or two, review the slides I have posted, then—after doing all you can to learn what you missed—visit with me to fill in any gaps.

Missing the Moab field trip: All should plan to attend, but life happens. Do not feel pressure to attend if you wake up sick or experience some other emergency. Contact me if possible so we don't delay our departure waiting for you. I will provide you with an alternative assignment. (Unexplained or unexcused absences will cause you to forego all the points associated with the Moab response paper.)

Late assignments: Most assignments are submitted online. Submit them by 5pm. The website won't mark them late until midnight, but if any website outages or other technical difficulties occur after 5pm and you submit your work late as a result, that's on you. If you experience a family or medical emergency that causes you to submit an assignment late, contact me as soon as reasonable. Otherwise, one weekday late is a 10% penalty; two is a 20% penalty; three is a 30% penalty; later is unacceptable. Take note that you may not submit your draft term paper (the one you exchange for peer review) late; logistically, it does not work, since you bring this to class hard copy and I pass them around.

Missed exams: No makeups unless you arrange it in advance for a valid reason or have an emergency and contact me as soon as possible to work things out.

Final exam: See scheduling details at the bottom of the course schedule.

What books do we need to buy?

The BYU library has physical or electronic copies of most required books. I have placed them on course reserve, meaning you may check them out for up to three hours. BYU library course reserve link:

The books are listed in roughly the order we will read them, so if you wish to start reading before the course begins, start from the top. Unlike most upper-division political science classes, I mostly assign popular rather than scholarly books in this class. We will spend minimal time on these books in class, but you will be accountable for them on exams. The upshot is that you can safely read most of these books before the class even starts rather than syncing your reading to the course schedule. Just use the reading guides and take notes that you can review when the exam rolls around.

John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid. 245 pages. Amazon. Reading guide .

Kerry Emanuel, What We Know about Climate Change, updated (2018) edition. 65 pages. Amazon. Reading guide .

Timothy Egan, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, 324 pages. Amazon. Reading guide .

Stephen Meyer, The End of the Wild. 112 pages. Amazon. Reading guide .

Megan Kate Nelson, Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America. 195 pages. Amazon. Reading guide 

Recommended but not required:

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire. 352 pages. Amazon. Reading guide . I will assign a few chapters (as scanned PDFs), but this book has had tremendous influence on how people view southern Utah wildlands, so I will strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

Wolters and Steel, The Environmental Politics and Policy of Western Public Lands. 315 pages. Amazon. I do not assign any of this book, but several chapters align closely with lectures and will therefore be useful in preparing for exams.

Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. A Utah writer reflects on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Williams, Smart, and Smith (editors), New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community. A volume containing essays by 42 different Latter-day Saints from all parts of the political spectrum, including several essays by LDS general authorities and elected officials. Writers explain how their personal life and religious experience connect with the natural world around them.

Ken Burns, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, a 12-hour documentary. Info here, also in libraries and streaming services.

Honesty and plagiarism

Writing submitted for credit must consist of your own ideas presented in your own language. When appropriate, you may include ideas from others if clearly identified by appropriate introduction ("According to...") and citation. Direct language must additionally appear in quotation marks. Take care while gathering material for your papers to track sources and to differentiate quotations you have jotted down from paraphrases you have written. Even unintentional plagiarism has consequences. Violations may result in a failing grade on an assignment or in the course; serious violations may result in university action. Read more in the university catalog.

A thesaurus does not eliminate plagiarism. Please review this short infographic about plagiarism  by Emily Myers.

Inclusion, accessibility, and discrimination

"We strive to create a community of belonging composed of students, faculty, and staff whose hearts are knit together in love. ... We value and embrace the variety of individual characteristics, life experiences and circumstances, perspectives, talents, and gifts of each member of the community and the richness and strength they bring to our community" (BYU Statement on Belonging). "The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division" (Elder Gary Stevenson).

Mental health and stress management

Many lifelong mental illnesses emerge in adolescence and early adulthood. If you experience frequent sadness, worry, fear, inability to focus, nightmares, forgetfulness, or mood changes; if you are withdrawing socially by avoiding friends and activities; if you experience significant changes in sleeping or eating habits; if you are abusing alcohol, medications, or other substances; or if you are thinking about hurting yourself, then please talk to somebody. Mental health concerns, crime, family problems, and stressful life events can affect students' academic performance and quality of life. BYU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS, 1500 WSC, 801-422-3035, provides confidential counseling and stress management services for free to full-time students. For immediate concerns visit

Marginalized groups

President Nelson has taught, "The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God's children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent! During the Savior's earthly mission, He constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, judged, overlooked, abused, and discounted. As His followers, can we do anything less?" He also taught, "Any abuse or prejudice towards another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture or other significant identifiers is offensive to our maker."

Elder Ballard has taught, "I want anyone who is a member of the Church, who is gay or lesbian, to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do. We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing." He has also taught, "We need to ... eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. ... [T]he blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God."

People may feel vulnerable or marginalized at BYU due to their race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religious views, age, and so on. Join me in creating a compassionate learning environment where "all may be edified by all." Please visit with me if I may help you.

Accommodating disabilities

BYU is committed to providing a learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Examples include vision or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, emotional disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety), learning disorders, and attention disorders. If you have a disability that impairs your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (UAC) to request a reasonable accommodation. The UAC can also assess students for learning, attention, and emotional concerns. Going further: If you have a disability, please visit the UAC to request an accommodation letter, which will spare you from needing to explain yourself over and over to each of your instructors. The letter will not disclose your disability, and I will not ask, but it will recommend to your instructors appropriate accommodations. Even if you are still waiting on the UAC letter, please talk to me about appropriate accommodations.

Title IX and sex discimination

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, BYU prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. Dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are also prohibited forms of sexual misconduct. University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of sexual misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment, class discussion, email, or social media post. (This means I am a mandatory reporter; if you are unsure what that means, please ask.) Incidents of sexual misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at, 801-422-8692, or (24 hours) 1-888-238-1062. BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by sexual misconduct, including the university's Victim Advocate. Find further information at

Course schedule

Dates may change, of course; a syllabus is a plan, not a contract. You can also view the reading schedule in calendar format. Although my lectures may diverge considerably from the readings—more so for some topics than for others—be advised that anything from lecture or the readings is fair game for the exams.