This master class will explore contemporary societal and scientific debates over 'environmental limits' and consider the place which the idea of limits has played in the development of modern environmental policy. The course will draw on cross disciplinary literatures from economics, political science, and ethics, as well as ecology and other natural sciences, in order to examine arguments about the character of environmental limits and their implications for human society. It will touch on the nineteenth and twentieth century origins of concern with environmental limits; dwell at greater length on the Limits to Growth report from the 1970s and the idea of a 'steady state' economy and their critics; and focus on contemporary discussions of 'Green growth', 'decoupling', 'prosperity without growth', the recognition of 'planetary boundaries', and the radical movement for 'décroisance' or 'degrowth'. It will also explore in a more practical vein the ways in which environmental limits are incorporated into policy, including through regulatory standards, and policy targets such as the 2 degree climate target.
A key objective of the course is to draw together natural and social scientific discussions of limits, as there is often a serious gulf between the ways limits are addressed by these two communities. Learning objectives: to encourage graduate students to gain an advanced understanding of contemporary societal and social scientific discussion of environmental limits and to develop student appreciation of the perspectives multiple disciplines can bring to bear on the limits issue.