Sustainability Science

Tun Myint
Carleton College

Summary


The continual existence and betterment of humankind depends on the ability and intellect of human beings to make educated choices (rightly understood) in living with nature and to govern themselves. At the center of this challenge for human beings in the age of Anthropocene is the need for systematic and scientific understanding of how the dynamic relationship between societal changes and environmental changes influence change, adaptation, and evolution of coupled human-environment systems. This seminar will introduce students to theories, concepts, analytical frameworks, and research designs that will help us advance in understanding the dynamic relationship between societal changes and environmental changes.

Course Size:
15-30

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution

Course Context:

This course is senior seminar but it is open to all levels of students based on the instructor's judgment for first year students.

Course Content:

In order to achieve the course goals, we will actively read and engage our class discussions on the literature on sustainability science from multiple academic disciplines; study cases that illustrate the dual challenge of understanding and developing theories in the field of sustainability science; and conduct team projects that will allow students to analyze, challenge, and develop theories and research methods by linking theories to practices. There are four designated projects. A team of six students will select one of these four projects. Teams are established based on diverse backgrounds and interests in the second week of the term.

Course Goals:

There are three learning goals in this seminar. First, students will learn key trends of literature that address the challenge of the field, amplifying the pivotal role of social dimensions in sustainable societies. Second, students will gain knowledge of key concepts and theories in sustainability science that are developed and redeveloped by scholars from multiple academic disciplines. Third, students will gain practical experience and skills of linking theories to practices of sustainability challenges by conducting team projects.

Course Features:

This is ten-week term course. Students have to complete four assignments: (1) quantitative critical review of an article or chapter selected by students after consultation with instructor; (2) a review of a documentary or movie designated for the course; (3) livelihood system analysis of student's freshmen year based on two personal items they used for their livelihood activities during freshman year; and (4) a team project. A team of six students conduct research and writes a term paper based on project findings and presents their paper to entire class at the end of the term.

Course Philosophy:

The continual existence and betterment of humankind depends on the ability and intellect of human beings to make educated choices (rightly understood) in living with nature and to govern themselves. At the center of this challenge for human beings in the age of Anthropocene is the need for systematic and scientific understanding of how the dynamic relationship between societal changes and environmental changes influence change, adaptation, and evolution of coupled human-environment systems. This seminar will introduce students to theories, concepts, analytical frameworks, and research designs that will help them advance their understanding of the dynamic relationship between societal changes and environmental changes. In so doing, we will study empirical cases and experimental results of real world sustainability problems.

Assessment:

Performances in their assignments: (1) 20% on classroom participation in discussion and interactive lectures; (2) 10% on documentary/movie review; (3) 15% on quantitative and critical review of a selected article; (4) 25% on individual livelihood system analysis; and (5) 30% on team project.

Syllabus:

Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 82kB Apr28 09)

Teaching Materials:

Team Project Descriptions (Acrobat (PDF) 120kB Apr28 09)

References and Notes:

Required Texts:
  • Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connection: A Science for Sustainability Living, Anchor Books, 2002. ISBN 0-385-49472-6 (paperback)
  • Simon Levin, Fragile Dominion: Complexity and Commons, Perseus Publishing, 1999. ISBN: 0-7382-0319-X (paperback)
  • Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in Chaining World, Island Press, 2006, ISBN: 1-59726-093-2 (paperback)
  • Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, Island Press, 2002, ISBN: 1-55963-857-5 (paperback)
  • Donald Kennedy (ed), State of the Planet 2006-2007, Island Press, 2006.
In addition to reading chapters from these texts, we will also read articles from various peer-reviewed academic journals and watch documentaries and videos illustrating the concepts we struggle to understand in this course. In addition to readings listed in this syllabus, additional relevant readings are on reserve at the Library. Team project related readings will be provided for the teams separately.