Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

FND 170

Forests, Wood and Culture

Forests are the most extensive biomes on earth and have shaped human cultures worldwide.  Although forests affect our lives in many ways, the most powerful impacts of trees have been through the remarkable properties of wood.  No other natural material compares to wood in the variety of physical and chemical qualities and versatility of users.  In this course, we will examine human attitudes toward nature through the lens of natural resource use.  We will explore how humans depend upon, value, exploit, and manage natural resources, using wood and the forests they come from as an extended case study.  We will learn how trees grow, why wood characteristics differ among species and forest types, how trees are harvested and processed, and how wood is used in diverse ways, from lumber to paper to pianos.  We will consider how the biogeography of forest types, demands for wood, differential access to forested lands, competition for wood resources, and forest depletion have altered landscapes and the fates of cultures and nations from ancient times to the present, and we will examine the consequences of sustainable forest management or lack thereof.  Field trips and other activities will complement readings, lectures, and class discussions.