Environmental Systems Theory

Lynn Fichter,
Geology and Environmental Science


Course begins with an exploration of chaos and complex systems theory as an antidote to the equilibrium thinking most students have been taught. This includes the logistic model as a basic definition of chaos theory, and complex systems models self-organized criticality, Bak-Sneppen ecosystem, network theory, attractors, hysteresis, and bistable systems (many accompanied by computer-based experiments). The remaining two third of the semester is devoted to understanding and explaining the behavior of Earth systems and human societies in terms of the non-equilibrium universality properties of chaos/complex systems.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

Environmental Systems Theory is an introductory course to the Environmental Science/Studies minors. Course is open to any student who signs up, and includes more than half non-science majors. Course is a mixture of lecture, demonstration, Socratic seminar, and laboratory experiments.

Course Content:

See attached syllabus

Course Goals:

See attached syllabus

Course Features:

See attached syllabus

Course Philosophy:

See attached syllabus


See attached results of course assessment


Environmental Systems Theory (Acrobat (PDF) 150kB Mar26 10)

Teaching Materials:

Course Assessment for Fall 2009 (Acrobat (PDF) 194kB Mar26 10)

References and Notes: