Humans+the environment 2012 syllabus


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humans+the environment course syllabus, spring 2012.

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Humans+the environment 2012 syllabus

  1. 1. CNSCI 2100 Hum ans and the Environm ent, Spring 2012Credits: 3 || Location: University Hall 3-086 || M eeting Tim es: Tu+F 11A-12:15PInstructor: Albert Liau, aliau@, office hours TBDCourse DescriptionWe are altering our planet and ourselves in more ways than ever before. Through the lenses ofsystems thinking and behavioral change, Humans and the Environment (H+E) will examine whatsome of these alterations are, why they matter and what can be done about them when theypose serious threats to ecosystem and human health. H+E will begin by first developing theselenses, getting students acquainted with systems thinking concepts, major drivers of humanbehavior and strategies for effectively communicating information and catalyzing action. H+E willthen consider what natural and human-made systems are involved in the areas of energy, water,food, waste and biodiversity/ecosystems services, how the structure of those systems orelements of them are problematic and what strategies are and could be effective at producingpositive change. In addition to in-class discussion, readings, videos and short studentpresentations, explorations of these topics will be expanded by field trips and projects.Objectives, Outcom es and ExpectationsThrough this course, students will gain familiarity with (1) a range of issues that deeply affect theworld and (2) with a variety of tools for engaging them.By the end of the course, diligent students should be able to (A) utilize a more informed andholistic perspective to understand and act upon challenges faced by communities andecosystems, (B) realize a specific instance of this by striving to produce a particular positivechange in the final project (see below) and (C) converse with a variety of people (peers, scientists,politicians, concerned citizens, etc.) about issues related to topics covered in H+E.Texts, required:Meadows, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems. White River Junction, VT, USA: Chelsea GreenPublishing.Heath, C., Health, D. (2007). Made to Stick. New York, NY, USA: Random House.Heath, C., Health, D. (2007). Switch. New York, NY, USA: Random House.Heinberg, R., Lerch, D., Eds. (2010). The Post Carbon Reader. Healdsburg, CA, USA: WatershedMedia.Chivian, E., Bernstein, A., Eds. (2008). Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends onBiodiversity. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.Texts, optional:Leonard, A. (2009). The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, OurCommunities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change. New York, NY, USA: Free Press.Berger, W. (2010). CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World ofDesign Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation. New York, NY, USA: PenguinPress.Shedroff, N. (2009). Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable. Brooklyn,NY, USA. Rosenfeld Media.Ettlinger, S. (2007). Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Foundin Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.New York, NY, USA: Penguin Press.Berners-Lee, M. (2011). How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Vancouver,BC, Canada: Greystone Books.Brown, L. (2011). World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. NewYork, NY, USA: W. W. Norton & Company.
  2. 2. Supplem ental M aterials:This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about living a CompassionateLife, by David Foster WallaceLasting Impact, by Kevin StarrAssorted NPR storiesAssorted TED talksCourse Prerequisites: an introductory science classAttendance PolicyStudents are expected to attend every class session. Students may miss classes for legitimatereasons (e.g. illness, urgent personal matters, important appointments/engagements, athleticsevents, etc.) and are responsible for learning the material covered during missed classes.M ake-up PolicyStudents may submit assignments late for a legitimate reason with permission of the instructor.Grading PolicyGrades for the semester will be determined with the Lesley University’s grading scale (see below)with the following percentage breakdown:Projects, 40: midterm, 15; final, 25Participation, 45: discussion, 10; group presentation, 20; field trips (including written reflections), 5 x 3Assignments, 15: map, 5; systems diagrams, 10The class participation will be evaluated by the quality of a student’s (1) presentation ofinformational research done on specific topics (see below) and (2) responses to questions andcontributions to in-class discussions.Evaluation of Participation and Perform anceClass time will involve (1) in-depth discussions, (2) student presentations and if schedulingpermits (3) field trips. For (1), students will be asked to bring in examples of topics covered inclass (from the readings and other sources such as news stories) as well as comment onexamples given by their fellow students; for example, following a general discussion of recyclingand downcycling, students may be asked to find out how one specific material is re/downcycled.The clarity, level of detail and ability to answer questions during these presentations willconstitute a significant part of evaluating a student’s participation.M idterm Project:Students will identify organizations or individuals striving to address issues related to H+E topicsand examine their operational structure and environmental or social impact. The informationgained and analysis performed by students will then be presented in class. Students may worktogether in groups. Grading of the midterm project will be based upon the depth of researchdone, the quality of its analysis and the clarity of their presentation to the class, which will be inpart assessed by feedback from fellow students in the class.Final Project:To apply the perspectives and knowledge gained in this course, students will formulate thenexecute a plan that produces or stimulates positive change for an issue related to the topicscovered in class. For this project, the problem, solution and impact should be carefullyconsidered and well defined. Students may work together in groups and collaborate withorganizations or other individuals. Grading of the final project will be based upon how wellstudents (1) formulate clear understanding and constructive engagement of the selectedproblem, (2) plan and execute the solution and (3) present their projects to the class.
  3. 3. Field Trips:To better understand the systems that affect us locally and globally, students are required to takepart in 3 field trips chosen from a variety of options. If scheduling permits, some field trips willoccur during class time. Past field trips have included visits to the Fresh Pond Water TreatmentFacility, the headquarters, the Casella recycling facility and a winter farmer’s market.Options will be given for independently pursued field trips (past examples include attendingcommunity events such as Fresh Pond Day and learning about the importance of that area;visiting local, innovative businesses like Clover and inquiring about their sourcing of ingredientsand handling of waste); students may also propose their own field trip options to be consideredby the instructor. Visiting locations for the purposes of the midterm or final projects may becounted as field trips with the instructor’s approval if substantial time and effort are invested insuch visits.Course ScheduleRough outline by topic and weekSystems Thinking, weeks 1-2Frameworks for Change: making ideas sticky, shifting behaviors and understanding impact,weeks 2-3Energy: basic concepts, obstacles to alternative energy; weeks 3-4Water: availability, usage, control & ownership; weeks 5-6 Presentation of midterm projects, week 6Agriculture and Food: the nature of food, the impact of industrial agriculture, local foodsheds;weeks 7-8Stuff, Waste and Toxins; weeks 9-10Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services; week 11 Presentations of final projects during finals weekStudent Course Evaluation ProcessStudents may provide feedback to the instructor at any time, and the course will follow theSTART, STOP, CONTINUE method where students are encouraged to tell the instructor and eachother what to start, stop or continue doing to improve the learning experience. Detailed feedbackwill be requested by the instructor at the middle and end of the semester.Academ ic ResponsibilityUnless prior approval is granted by the instructor, all work submitted for this course is to be yourown original work completed specifically for this course and not previously or concurrentlysubmitted to any other instructor. All infractions of this policy will be taken seriously and pursuedaccordingly. Please refer to the Student Handbook for more specific policy guidelines.Grading Scale (as per LC catalog) A = 93-100 B = 83-86 C = 73-76 D = 63-66 A- = 90-92 B- = 80-82 C- = 70-72 D- = 60-62 B+ = 87-89 C+ = 77-79 D+ = 67-69 F = 59 and belowIncom pletes (I)In exceptional cases, where an unanticipated event beyond one’s control interferes with astudent’s completion of course requirements, a letter grade of “I” (Incomplete) may be give to astudent at the instructor’s discretion. Student and instructor must complete and sign anIncomplete Contract. Responsibility for completion of work rests with the student. The deadlinefor completion is the end of the following semester. Contracted work not completed by that timeis recorded “I/F” (Failing).
  4. 4. Disability Services for StudentsLesley University is committed to ensuring that all qualified students with disabilities are affordedan equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from its programs and services. To receiveaccommodations, a student must have a documented disability as defined by Section 504 of theRehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and providedocumentation of the disability. Eligibility for reasonable accommodations will be based on thedocumentation provided.If you are a student with a documented disability, or feel that you may have a disability, pleasecontact the following.For students with learning disabilities or attention For students with physical, sensory, psychiatricdisorders: disabilities:Maureen Riley, Director of Academic LD/ADD Laura J. Patey, Coordinator of Disability ServicesServices for StudentsDoble Hall, 2nd Floor 11 Mellen St.617-349-8464 (voice) 617-349-8194 (voice); 617-349-8544 (TTY)617-349-8324 (fax) 617-349-8558 (fax) (email) (email)