We are living in the midst of a mass extinction caused by humans, the most significant loss of living species since an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act has provided a framework for efforts by the federal government to protect the most critically threatened and endangered species. Despite evidence of increased risks to a growing number of species from human activities, national officials are attempting to roll-back this law, though legislative amendments, rule and policy changes, and court decisions. Advocates for the changes cite a range of social and economic impacts, including the law’s interference with oil and gas development, agriculture, land development, hunting and fishing, and States’ rights. Opponents argue that the Endangered Species Act is already compatible with these interests as written and implemented, and is a critical bulwark against the loss of species vital to the ecological health of the planet. This module will allow students to explore the historical, economic and scientific underpinnings of this debate, and to gain an understanding of the pending policy and legal proposals through readings, classroom debate, and an exercise in drafting public comments.
(April 11, 18, 22, 25, 29, May 2)