AM6005 - Red, White and Green: The American Environment Through Time

What will I learn on this module?

The US is a paradox when it comes to nature: it is both the country that invented the national park concept and the biggest carbon dioxide emitter historically; it was the first country to celebrate Earth Day in 1970, but it is also where the hyper consumerist lifestyle first emerged; it is the birthplace of some of the oldest and most important environmental NGOs and of climate denial. How can we make sense of the US and its relationship to nature? Are Americans doomed to destroy the natural wonders of their nation? Can we envision a red, white and green nation that would put science and technology at the service of sustainability and environmental justice?

The module will answer these questions by examining the US’ complicated relationship to nature chronologically. In doing so, we will re-examine and challenge conventional narratives of US history by integrating the role of nature as a historical actor in its own right. Examples of themes covered include: nature and conquest; Native American environments; nature and technology; the wilderness myth; animals in US history; environmental disasters; urban nature; the rise of environmentalism; environmental justice and environmental racism; waste and pollution; toxicities, etc.

The module will approach these themes using the tools of the environmental humanities. Combining historical, visual and literary analysis with insights from ecology and other ‘hard’ sciences, we will achieve a thorough understanding of environmental phenomena in their full complexity.

How will I learn on this module?

Weekly lectures will familiarise you with core concepts in the environmental humanities and US environmental history. Your weekly seminars will deepen your understanding of the key issues. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading, and will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. All learning materials, tasks and readings will be posted on the eLearning Portal (Blackboard) to enable participation within the seminar programme. You will participate in formative assessment activities and receive feedback, and will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning. Summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through engagement with your academic tutors, your peers and programme leaders. Academic support is provided through group/individual tutorials which allow specific issues to be addressed and to promote progress in academic development. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised feedback and consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures and resources available on the eLearning Portal. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts in environmental history and the environmental humanities.
• Display an understanding of ways in which humans in the US have interacted with their environment.
• Acquire knowledge of key texts and scholarly contexts in American environmental history and the environmental humanities.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• Develop skills such as the ability to summarise other people’s research, to analyse and interpret historical evidence and to communicate ideas in writing.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• Display an awareness of humans’ impact on the environment.

How will I be assessed?

There are three assessments for this module:
• A place-based case study, 2,500 words, weighted 30% [MLO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
• In-class presentation, weighted 20% [MLO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
• an essay of 3,000 words, weighted 50% [MLO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
This essay will be based on the content of the entire module and written in response to one question chosen from a list provided by the module tutor.

You will have the opportunity to present your ideas in the seminars and will receive formative feedback from your lecturer in classroom discussions, debates, and tutorial sessions. Formative assessment through your lecturer will be written and verbal. Feedback on your first summative assessment will allow you to improve on subsequent coursework.





Module abstract

From Jamestown to Central Park, from Yellowstone to Hollywood, from Walden Pond to Disneyworld, Americans have profoundly changed their environments while investing nature with powerful, and at times contradictory, values and ideas. How can we make sense of the US and its relationship to nature? Are Americans doomed to destroy the natural wonders of their nation? Can we envision a red, white and green nation that would put science and technology at the service of sustainability and environmental justice? To answer these questions, this module goes back in time to the period of European colonization before tackling the 19th century Westward expansion, the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the East, and the rise of new ideas towards nature in relation to these changes. Finally, it explores the emergence of modern environmentalism in the 20th and 21st centuries and the role of the US in the climate emergency.

Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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