Ecological Policy, Action, and Education: From the New Deal to the Green New Deal and the Red Deal

Summer Open
Class Standing
Michael Bowman

On March 22, 1935, a Washington Post journalist reported an ominous scene unfurling outside the halls of Congress: “Creeping halfway across the Nation in a murky cloud extending 10,000 feet into the sky, the great dust storm of the Southwest and Midwest invaded the East yesterday, bringing grime and discomfort on the first day of spring.” In the following years, a “thousand year flood” inundated the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys; extended heat waves and droughts gripped most of North America; and centuries of resource colonialism produced a landscape of stump farms, eroding soil, and forests of oil wells. 

Does this scenario sound familiar? 

In this 4 or 8 credit, five-week offering we will ask big questions:

  • What comparisons can we make between the ecological crises of the New Deal era (1930s) and the ecological crises of today? 

  • What lessons from the New Deal era, if any, should we bring into our own political, activist, and educational efforts to confront (“deal with”) the ecological crises of today?

  • How do proponents of the Green New Deal and the Red Deal, two contemporary policy proposals that explicitly (and differently) draw on the legacies of the 1930s, envision a just, common future on this planet? 

  • How do we – individually and as members of families and communities– envision a just, common future on this planet?

Over the course of the program, we will learn from many sources. We will read and discuss a range of materials: historical monographs, archival documents, political platforms, textbooks, and contemporary commentary in the popular and educational press. We will meet archivists, activists, and educators who will help us understand the historical and contemporary ecological crises we face in the Pacific Northwest. We will watch a selection of documentary films from the 1930s and recent years that focus on the political-economic and educational responses to ecological crises. Final projects will center around at least one of the questions above, and may take shape as op-eds, short documentaries, essays, podcasts, or other expressions. 

In the 8-credit option, students will collaborate with a local archive and/or organization to research and present a place-based case of ecological crisis and a vision for a just response. 


Course Reference Numbers
First Session (8): 40030
First Session (4): 40031

Academic Details

Education, policy studies, community organizing, environmental history


$20 for museum entrance fees


In Person (Su)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 E3105 - Workshop