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Its Not Easy Being Green

Laura Rademacher, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of the Pacific

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Summary


This course will address the real-life challenges of environmental sustainability through examination of the scientific, socio-economic, and political factors that govern sustainability in complex systems. Students who take this course will be challenged to improve their personal capacities to influence change in pursuit of environmental sustainability at individual, community, and global scales. Thus, this course will focus on the themes of citizenship and human relations to the natural world from Pacific Seminar I.

Course Size:
15-30

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

Students at Pacific explore the nature of a good society, and how they can help create and sustain such a thing, through a series of three academic seminars (PACS). In PACS 2, students choose from over forty different seminars, each of which has its own topical focus, but all of which examine in detail some aspect or facet of a good society. This course is a seminar-style introductory level class with no prerequisites. PACS 2 also constitutes the second part of Pacific's writing requirement, and the signature assignment is a scholarly research project.

Course Content:

This course explores the challenges and rewards associated with building a sustainable society. It takes 24 acres of productive land to support the lifestyle of an average American. However, there are only 4.5 productive acres available for each person worldwide. If everyone lived like the average American, we would need more than 5 Earths to support the current world population! How can the world's population continue to grow and improve its standard of living without destroying the planet that sustains us? This course addresses the real-life challenges of environmental sustainability through examination of the scientific, socio-economic, and political factors that govern sustainability in complex systems. Students who take this course will be challenged to improve their personal capacities to influence change in pursuit of environmental sustainability at individual, community, and global scales. Thus, this course focuses on the themes of citizenship and human relations to the natural world from Pacific Seminar I.

Course Goals:

This course is designed to continue the study of the question "What is a Good Society?" that students began last semester. Through an exploration of the science, history, and challenges to living sustainably in this course, students will further develop the ability to:
- Listen and read carefully – to think critically about the Earth and the environment. You will begin developing the ability to critically and dispassionately evaluate "facts," which is the first and most important step in being able to use this information to broaden your social awareness and to become a truly engaged citizen.
- Conduct college-level research. Specifically, this course will use library resources and a series of exercises to develop your ability to find, evaluate, document, and interpret information from primary sources.
- Effectively communicate your thoughts and conclusions via oral presentations (formal and informal) and a variety of written formats.

Course Features:

The primary features of this course include readings, a lifestyle project, and a research project. Each of these series of assignments focus on geoscience themes in the context of sustainability, including resources, climate, agriculture, and the role of science and scientists. The focus readings are from a compilation of geoscience essays written by experts in their respective fields, but geared towards a general audience. The lifestyle project focuses students on how their individual choices relate to resource management and sustainability. The research project focuses on bigger picture solutions to complex problems.

Course Philosophy:

This course was designed by two geoscience faculty to serve as a PACS2 course with a focus on sustainability rooted in the geosciences. Although this course is taught by geoscience faculty and emphasizes geologic concepts, it is not a Geoscience Department course. Rather, this course is intended to encourage students to develop an answer to what is a good society (and a sustainable society) from a geoscientists perspective. The seminar style of this course is ideal for developing critical thinking skills through challenging discussions and reading assignments. In addition, this course serves as part of the university-wide writing requirement, and so offers ample opportunity to emphasize communication skills.

Assessment:

Assessment takes place in four ways.
1) Attendance & participation: Students are expected to attend class (arriving on time), participate in class discussion, and contribute to group work. This is a seminar—which is not a class in which students can just come in and listen to the professor profess! The topics covered are ones that offer many opportunities for discussion—including contributions from those of us who are by no means experts on the topic.
2) Homework & Writing Assignments: Students are graded on their completion of assignments, which include assigned readings, take-home exercises, completion of in-class work, and short wringing prompts that include two-page reflections at the conclusion of topics.
3) Lifestyle Project: This project includes a baseline exercise (20%), a series of journal assignments (20%), a four-page essay (40%), and a presentation (20%). Students present the results of their Lifestyle Projects to classmates in a short (10 minute) PowerPoint presentation.
4) Research Project: This project includes an topic proposal (10%), an annotated bibliography (10%), a rough draft of a research paper (20%), a final draft of a research paper (40%), and a presentation (20%). Students in all sections of PACS II are required to write a research paper—one that explores a topic in depth and that draws upon other scholarly work on the topic. Students present the results of their research project to classmates in a short (10 minute) PowerPoint presentation during the last days of class.

Syllabus:


Teaching Materials:

Schneiderman, Jill S. (editor), The Earth Around Us, Westview Press, ISBN 0813340918

References and Notes:




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