SEM 146: The Common Good: Earth as a Shared Inheritance

Fall 2019 Collegiate Seminar Elective  

SEM 146-01

Professor Alice Baldridge 

MWF 9:15 AM - 10:20 AM

This course may substitute for SEM 103 by emailing 


Society and the environment are inherently tied together. Clearly, we depend on the environment. Our most basic needs, for food and for shelter, for clean air to breath and clean water to drink and bathe, are in turn dependent on the health of our world. The Earth is a common good, meant to support all living things. This course is meant to engage students in considering how taking care of each other requires taking care of our home.

In this course, students will dialog around a series of questions of the environment, nature, and the common good, and readings to help them to answer the questions What? So What? What Now? 

  • What is nature? What is the environment? How do we rely on the environment? How do we view the environment? How are society and the environment intertwined?
  • What are the causes of the degradation of the environment? What are the consequences of not taking care of our world? Who is affected? How do environmental justices correspond to degradation?
  • How do we still have hope? What can we do? How do we live our lives to take care of our common resources and contribute to the common good?

During each of these three modules we will exam pieces from spiritual texts, environmental creative non-fiction, and environmental non-fiction in order to examine environmental problems through different lenses. Through critical engagement with the texts, students will acknowledge what is stirred in themselves, and respond and engage in conversations around social justice and the environment, the common good, and the wonders of nature. 


Reading List:

Pope Francis – Laudato Si

Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweetgrass

Edward Abbey – Desert Solitaire

Amitav Ghosh – The Great Derangement

Jane Goodall – Reason for Hope

Richard Louv – Last Child in the Woods

John McPhee – The Control of Nature

And others...