LASP-417-01 Sustainable Development in Latin America
Fall for 2017-2018
What is sustainable development, and why is it such a misused word? What development models are more conducive to sustainability? How do factors such as physical geography (climate, land characteristics, topography, location), human geography (relationship between people and their natural environment), institutions, politics and policies influence sustainable development in Latin America? And what explains the divide in Latin American society along so many fault lines? Against the backdrop of historical post-colonial and settlement patterns, we will explore these questions. We will analyze the concepts of carrying capacity and sustainable development in Latin America, and uncover the nexus between poverty, natural disasters and natural resource degradation, combining theory with practice through the analyses of specific case studies, and/or assessments of relevant programs in Latin America and their effectiveness. We will also examine urbanization and migration patterns, natural resource and tourism management conflicts from a holistic and multi-disciplinary point of view, and seek to understand how growth without equity, socio-spatial polarization, and the unequal access of communities to services undermine sustainable development as well.

B. Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will become familiar with the geographical and other factors that continue to influence economic, social and human development in Latin America, and the pressing issues related to sustainability.

Students will have an overall understanding of socio-spatial inequities in Latin America, key barriers to development, natural resource management conflicts, and the current discourse on measures to address social exclusion and environmental degradation.

Students will combine theory with a review of practice, and understand the choices and constraints that Latin American policymakers, stakeholders and communities face to address sustainability and achieve sustained welfare improvements.

C. Content and Structure of Seminar:

This seminar is structured in three main segments. The first segment or block deals with conceptual and theoretical issues pertaining to sustainability and its various definitions, as well as an overview of Latin America’s geographical features and the important variables of socio-economic and environmental change. This leads into the second segment which is the main body of the course, and requires analysis of the sustainability of policies and practices in the past as well as current case studies, drawing on a wide range of examples of natural resource management conflicts. The third segment links issues of population growth, demographic change, migration, urbanization, and social exclusion to the dilemma of unsustainable development, thus integrating the human element into the overall analysis. The course content is underpinned by the structure and highly interactive nature of the seminar, with emphasis placed on individual/group presentations, discussion, critical debate, and students’ contribution to the learning of others in the class. Grading will encompass students’ attendance and participation, work on weekly written summaries, verbal presentations and responses to challenge questions posed by the instructor, as well as a final individual student research paper and a group project.

D. Textbooks and General References

Ponting, Clive, A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations, New York, Penguin Group, 2007. (Mandatory)
Sachs, Jeffrey D, Economics for a Crowded Planet, New York, The Penguin Press, 2008. (Mandatory)
Gallup, John Luke, Gaviria, Alejandro, Lora, Eduardo, Is Geography Destiny? Lessons from Latin America, Palo Alto, Stanford University Press, 2003. (Strongly Recommended)
Inter-American Development Bank, Outsiders? The Changing Patterns of Exclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.(Mandatory: can be downloaded free of charge)
Mann, Charles, 1491: New Revelations of The Americas before Columbus, New York, The Penguin Press, 2005.(Not Mandatory)
Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999. (Not mandatory)

Further readings will be assigned on BB according to specific topic and case study of the session.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
More information
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