Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning

A photo of a group of construction workers standing on the edge of a ditch.

Work and assessment continues on the damaged Oroville Dam main spillway in Oroville, California, March 3, 2017. The California Department of Water Resources halted flows down the flood control spillway on February 27, 2017 to begin the debris removal operation from the diversion pool below. (Courtesy of Florence Low/California Department of Water Resources.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2016



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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course focuses on national environmental and energy policy-making; environmental ethics; the techniques of environmental analysis; and strategies for collaborative environmental decision-making. The primary objective of the course is to help students formulate a personal theory of environmental planning practice. The course is taught comparatively, with constant references to examples from around the world. It is required of all graduate students pursuing an environmental policy and planning specialization in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.

This course is the first subject in the Environmental Policy and Planning sequence. It reviews philosophical debates including growth vs. deep ecology, "command-and-control" vs. market-oriented approaches to regulation, and the importance of expertise vs. indigenous knowledge. Emphasis is placed on environmental planning techniques and strategies. Related topics include the management of sustainability, the politics of ecosystem management, environmental governance and the changing role of civil society, ecological economics, integrated assessment (combining environmental impact assessment (EIA) and risk assessment), joint fact finding in science-intensive policy disputes, environmental justice in poor communities of color, and environmental dispute resolution. Environmental Problem-Solving (Susskind et. al, 2017, Anthem Press), a video-enhanced eBook, provides students with full access to all the assigned readings, faculty commentary on the readings, and examples of the best student performance on course assignments in previous years. 

Other Versions

Related Content

Lawrence Susskind. 11.601 Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning. Fall 2016. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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