SOS321 - Policy and Governance of Sustainable Systems


Sustainability or Business Sustainability major: SOS 110 and SOS 111 (or PUP 190), with a grade of C or better; OR Non-sustainability major with 2 of the following courses: SOS 100, SOS 110, SOS 111 (or PUP 190), SOS 300 with C or better

Course overview

When we view the Earth’s environment as an integrated, global system, we cannot avoid dealing with a wide array of the political questions associated with it. Environmental issues often transcend national boundaries, but the rules and regimes that govern them are still dependent on national policies, resulting in either cooperation or conflict among different nations and stakeholders of these issues. Therefore, any solution to the major global environmental and sustainability problems (e.g., climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss) must consider both the scientific understanding of these environmental problems as well as the politics and policies governing them. Solutions to these problems also require integration of theory and practice, as well as micro-level program analysis and macro-level policy analysis.

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of public policy, decision-making, and the key elements of the policy process associated with environmental policies and governance. It exposes students to the US and international sustainability issues and policy processes. There is a balance of theory and application throughout the course, since the two cannot be separated in the real world. This class has three major parts: 1) fundamental concepts of governance and collection actions; 2) stakeholders and environmental policies in the US; and 3) international politics and environmental regimes. Students will have opportunities to advance their knowledge in environmental policy and governance as well as to sharpen their critical thinking, oral persuasion, and written communication.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will: 1) understand the key concepts of public policy and governance; 2) build knowledge of systems, processes, and institutions involved in significant environmental policies in the US and at the global scale; 3) advance their knowledge of the public policy process and effective communication strategies; and (3) develop skills in strategic and critical thinking and policy analysis and developing appropriate sustainable policies. In the process, students are also expected to become more familiar the history and critical case studies on environmental policies in the US and globally, which can help them develop to be independent and critical thinker on the trade-offs involved in environmental policy-making at all levels.

Required textbooks

  • Bickers, Kenneth and John T. Williams. (2001). Public Policy Analysis: A Political Economy Approach. Houghton-Mifflin
  • Layzer, Judith A. (2012). The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy. Third Edition. Washington, DC: CQ Press