Today, it is clear that the environment matters. In activism and scholarship and public policy, the environment has become a potent (if sometimes obligatory) point of reference. Less attention, however, has focused on the emergence of the environment itself as a converging field of action for advocacy, science, and statecraft. In this seminar, we will reflect not only on what we know of the environment but also on how we came to know the environment. We will examine how problems like nuclear fallout and hydrocarbon pollution sparked both new understandings of and new responsibilities to vulnerable life; how clean air and clean water came into the domain of governance; and how new kinds of expertise have taken shape around the environment. Throughout, we will ask questions not only of what key actions brought the environment into forceful being, but also how the presence of the environment continues to shape public action today. We will familiarize ourselves with: the politics of thresholds; environmental racism; slow violence; the meanings of sustainability; environmentalism of the poor; and corporate science. Lastly, we will turn to the looming problem of climate change, asking if our current structure of managing the environment is up to the task of confronting climate change or if we require new forms of understanding and action.