IGA 455M. Leadership in Environmental Conflicts

The world desperately needs public leaders who have the vision, courage and tenacity to build a sustainable future – both for human well-being and the health of the natural world.  This course is designed to help students exercise leadership in environmental conflicts whether in government, NGO or business settings.

Leadership is difficult in any enterprise, but it is especially hard when the opposition has vastly more money and power. To overcome this imbalance, environmental leaders have learned to create power through communications, advocacy, organizing and negotiation. This course helps students strengthen each of these skills, drawing on academic research, the experience of environmental leaders from around the world, and the instructor’s 26 years in environmental leadership. As president of the Land Trust Alliance, he provided leadership for 1,100 conservation organizations and worked closely with the U.S. Congress to pass environmental legislation that helped double the pace of land conservation in America. Given that experience, the instructor will focus on conflicts over land and how governments and NGOs use regulations, incentives and private market solutions to resolve conflicts and advance conservation goals. However, the diagnostic, strategy and leadership lessons can be applied to any environmental issue.

Because leadership is best learned through experience, this course will engage students in intensive simulations, small group exercises, and cases (including a hydropower dam in South America, the protection of tropical rainforests in Indonesia, the threat of sea level rise in the Maldives, the battle over the Keystone Pipeline, and the negotiation of the Paris Climate Agreement.)  This course will help students develop the core skills that environmental leaders use to build power and advance their goals:

Organizing: Since they are rarely invited to the negotiating table, environmental leaders must start by building power, and we will study how leaders develop a campaign strategy, identify allies and build coalitions to get results.

Communications: Leaders develop influence through persuasive speaking, creating a compelling message, and mobilizing both traditional and digital media.

Negotiation: We will learn how leaders map a negotiation strategy, attempt to create value for both sides, and negotiate complex multi-party agreements.

Advocacy: Leaders need the skills to lobby elected officials, recruit allies and pass legislation.

For students who have taken classes in these practices, this course will offer an opportunity to integrate, strengthen and apply them to environmental issues. 


Rand Wentworth







Course ID: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2018-2019 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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