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  • To understand the scientific underpinnings of policy issues related to soils, water, air, biomass forestry and energy, especially those involving the environment.
  • To apply this understanding to the analysis of current controversies and debates regarding these issues.


There will be four quizzes pertaining to the units with every quiz accounting for 12.5 percent of the grade. The final paper and class presentation counts for the remaining 50 percent.

Required Text Books

  • The 'course packet' supplied consists of relevant chapters from various books, newspaper articles and documents, some of which are downloadable from the web.
  • Dust Bowl, The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Donald Worster. Oxford University Press ( 25th anniversary edition, 2004).

Final Paper Assignment - Guidelines

  1. Pick a country other than the United States or Canada # Pick one of the following policy goals:
  2. Reducing soil erosion
    1. Conserving irrigation water
    2. Reducing agriculture's emissions of greenhouse gases
    3. Reducing agriculture's net consumption of fossil fuels
    4. On behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources, design a set of policies and programs to achieve your chosen policy goal

This should include background on the current situation, your policy goal(s), specific governmental actions to reach your goal(s), monitoring to assess progress towards the goal(s), a timetable for achieving the goal(s), and possible barriers that may be encountered. If there are data gaps or research that should be undertaken in pursuit of the goal(s), describe the data collection and research projects needed.

Half of you will present your report orally during the last week of class; all of you will hand in the written paper, 20-25 double spaced pages, the following week. (We are following this procedure because there isn't enough time to have everyone give an oral presentation. Those who do not do so this semester will do so for the final assignment of the spring semester.)

Notes on final assignment:

  1. Your first task should be to ascertain that adequate information is readily available about your chosen country. Choose your country early enough so that if adequate information is not available, you still have plenty of time to choose another one.
  2. While we are on the topic of information sources: do not rely exclusively on the Web. Granted, the Web is a very convenient source of excellent information, but it should not be your sole source. In particular, it does not eliminate the need for books, which often will be more suitable for supplying the broad context for the issue you have chosen. In contrast, the Web will usually be better for highly specific and very recent information, such as the latest statistics. Therefore, you should draw on a diversity of sources. Beyond Tufts' own holdings, the interlibrary loan system does a good job in getting books from other libraries, and will conveniently deliver them to the Health Sciences library. Moreover, you can search other libraries' catalogues online, as well as submit your ILL requests online. Therefore getting any books you might need is very easy and fast.
  3. Hand in the first part of the assignment: a description of the current situation, covering: 1) the seriousness of the problem; 2) the main features of agriculture in that country that contribute to that problem; and 3) current policies (if any) dealing with that problem. (suggested length: 10-15 pages). Include a list of sources used so far.
  4. Your proposed programs and policies should be realistic, i.e., feasible in light of existing infrastructure, expertise, funds, likely political constraints, etc.

Final paper - Student example

Stymieing Soil Erosion on Hillsides in Honduras A New Rural Agenda - Click here [PDF -117 KB]