Mark Stemen geog 304: Environmental Issues

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Mark Stemen GEOG 304: Environmental Issues

Butte 541/ x5428 Fall 2009 Office Hours: MWF 1-2

Course Description

This course covers environmental issues, broadly defined. We are facing an environmental crisis in large part because we have forgotten that the human economy is a subset of the environment, not the other way around. We need to learn live within limits, to be sustainable. We also must learn to be humble. Ignorance is not a solvable problem. Our "control" of the environment is illusionary.

While we must be concerned, we can also be hopeful. Trend is not destiny. This course will focus on the positive aspects of environmental awareness and the people making change. There is happiness in knowing your place in the world and joy in living a sustainable life.

Sustainability requires an educated and engaged citizenry so this course will also provide an opportunity for students to become engaged with our community sustainability efforts.

Course Readings

Miller, Sustaining the Earth, 8th edition

Quinn, Ishmael

Mr. Copy, GEOG 304 Reader

Course Objectives

Introduce students to the discipline of geography, and in particular the "human/environment relationship."

Provide students with a conceptual framework of sustainability.

Introduce students to the process of assessing campus sustainability

Provide students the opportunity to do something positive and proactive

Provide students the opportunity to improve critical thinking and writing skills.

Course Requirements

10 quizzes 200 pts

10 two-page journals 300 pts

Two-page reflection on farm activity 30 pts

Three-page essay on Ishmael 200 pts

Four-page essay on campus sustainability 240 pts

Three-page final journal 30 pts

Total 1000 pts

Grade Point Scale

1000 - 930 A 899 - 870 B+ 799 - 770 C+ 699-670 D+

929 - 900 A- 869 - 830 B 769 - 730 C 669-630 D

829 - 800 B- 729 - 700 C- 629-600 D-

Course Format

There is a quiz on the textbook almost every week of the semester. I will provide a list of terms the week before the quiz. These quizzes are designed to keep you up on the readings and help you remember the main points.

Acquiring a bunch of facts is not the major focus of this class, however. I am more concerned with how you think about environmental issues, than what you think about them. I designed the class so we can discuss and expand on the same themes and concepts throughout the semester. Since writing is thinking on paper, we will spend a majority of the class focusing on your written work.

Every week you will write a two-page journal on that week’s assignment. I comment on these journals, but I do not grade them. If it appears to me that you have done the reading, and spent some time thinking about it, you receive full credit. I assign this exercise to get you into the habit of writing about what you read. Journals are due the week they are assigned.

You will also write two more formal essays throughout the term. These essays will be graded. The first will be on the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. The second will be on campus sustainability. You complete these essays one step at a time. You can begin writing in your weekly journals. You will write a rough draft, and I and/or your peers will comment on it. (Failure to write a rough draft will result in a thirty-point deduction.) Your final draft is due the following week, allowing you ample time to revise your work before any of it is graded. Additional directions will follow.

This class is a process as much as anything so I expect you to attend every day. But, I realize things do come up. Everyone is allowed one unexcused absence. After that each subsequent absence will lower your overall total by ten points. Not missing class all semester is hard to do and an effort I wish to reward. So, if you never miss a class, you earn ten points extra credit.

As required, I will also host a culminating event.

If you have a disability of any type that makes it difficult for you to complete any of above the course work please let me know and I will work with you to resolve the difficulty.

Weekly reading assignments and course work deadlines

[Lecture topics subject to change]

August 24The 411


August 26Environmental Problems

Paragraph Due

Calculate Your Ecological Footprint []

Video: Campus Ecology

August 28Furlough Day (no class)

August 31The Triple Bottom Line

Quiz: Chapter 1

September 2Sustainability

AtKisson, Future in a Word

Journal #1

September 4Video: Phantom Hunter

September 7Labor Day (No Class)

September 9Environmental Literacy

Orr, What is Education For?

Orr, The Problem of Education

Orr, Planning to Learn

Journal #2

September 11Greening of Chico State
September 14Human Population

Quiz: Chapter 5

September 16The New Consumers

Heinberg, Peak Everything

Journal # 3

September 18Story of Stuff

September 21Water and Pollution

Quiz: Chapter 9

September 23Campus Sustainability

Uhl, Process and Practice, Creating the Sustainable University

Journal #4 Due

September 25 - Furlough Day (no class)

September 28 Energy

Quiz: Chapter 10

September 30 Getting Real About the Future

Kunstler, Making Other Arrangements (out of order in reader)

Journal # 5 Due

October 2Video: The End of Suburbia

October 5Soil and Food

Quiz: Chapter 8

October 7Industrial Agriculture

Berry, Solving for Pattern

Journal # 6

October 9The Real Dirt of Farmer John

October 12 King Corn

Daniel Quinn, Ishmeal

October 14 King Corn

Daniel Quinn, Ishmeal

October 16King Corn

Daniel Quinn, Ishmeal

October 19 Mother Culture and the Great Forgetting

No Quiz

October 21Paleolithic Culture

Sahlins, The Original Affluent Society

Eisler, “Chalice and the Blade”

October 23 Discussion

Rough Draft Due in Class
October 26Toxins and Health

Quiz: Chapter 11

October 28The New Paradigm

McDonough and Braungart, The Next Industrial Revolution

Journal # 8 Due

Journal #7

October 30 Furlough Day (no class)

November 2Furlough Day (no class)

November 4This Way Overview – Derrick Jensen

November 6Attend Conference

Essay Due Friday 5pm, Butte 507

November 5-8 This Way to Sustainability IV Bell Memorial Union 9-5

November 9Air Around Us

Quiz: Chapter 12

November 11 – Veterans Day (no class)

November 13 Video: E3 Design
November 16Hazardous Waste

Quiz: Chapter 13

November 18Hope’s Edge

Lappe & Lappe, Pushing the Edge of Hope

Lappe & Lappe, Stirring the Sleeping Giant

Journal # 9 due

November 20 Furlough Day (no class)
November 23No Class

November 25No Class

November 27 No Class

November 30Discussion

Rough Draft Due

December 2Rising to the Challenge

AtKisson, Accelerate to Survive

Reflection Essay Due

Journal #10 due

December 4Sustainability as Redesign

Video: The Next Industrial Revolution

December 7Silent Spring

Video: Rachel Carson

Extra Credit Due

December 9Tomorrow’s Child

Sustainability Essay Due

December 11Furlough Day (no class)

December 16/18– Final Culminating Event

Section 1 – Wed @ 12pm

Section 2 - Fri @ 12pm

Final Journal Due

January 8, 2006

The Greening of America's Campuses


THE largest university in Oregon is camouflaged, its many parts spread among the tight urban canyons of downtown Portland. But one building at Portland State University stands out. It has a roof of grass, plants and gravel, like a slice of the high desert on the wet side of Oregon. It is 10 stories high, and inside, all the mechanical organs work with so little waste - pumping water, air and electricity to the 400 residents of the dormitory and, on lower floors, to classrooms - that it would impress even the thrifty New Englanders who founded Portland.

If it is true, as Winston Churchill said, that "we shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us," then Portland State's new residence hall, the Broadway, may be more than environmentally virtuous. Open barely a year, it is attracting students who say they want their campus home to be a living laboratory, even if that means low-flow showers are part of a 24-hour classroom. "This building is really cool, and everybody likes being a part of it," says Micaiah Fifer, a junior who lives in the Broadway. "I appreciate the fact that this school is trying to be environmentally friendly. It's a reason to like the school."

The low water pressure, he admits, "gets to be a little annoying." Still, students are lining up to take on such challenges. More than a hundred students at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, were on the waiting list last fall for what is being promoted as the world's largest green dorm. Students had to write an essay stating why they wanted to live in the building, which opened in fall 2004.

Colleges have long marketed their campus amenities, their rosters of scholars, their selectivity and study-abroad programs. To that list, add one more thing: their green credentials.

From Berea College in Kentucky, where students designed a house that produces its own electricity, to Middlebury in Vermont, where local forests supply wood for construction, the greening of higher education is everywhere, showing signs of outlasting earlier, faddish fits and starts. Nationwide, more than 110 colleges have built or are building structures certified by the United States Green Building Council, a nonprofit group that promotes construction and designs that meet high standards of energy efficiency.

But it's one thing to put up a trophy of recycled glass and brick that relies on the sun, the wind or other renewable resources for power. It's another to build a curriculum - and to get students to look at the world differently - with green buildings as a centerpiece.

In Pittsburgh, students at Carnegie Mellon study the weave of grass, dirt and bugs atop its new "living roof" at Hamerschlag Hall. In class projects they study how the building design can reduce storm water drainage and improve water quality. Yavapai College in Arizona and Harvey Mudd College in California have built classes around new ways to use the earth's resources, with campus designs as the prime exhibits.

The students, professors and designers behind this movement say they are part of a broad push for sustainability, which has become a buzzword for new schools of thought in architecture, interior design, urban planning, culinary arts and other fields. At its simplest, sustainability means taking as little as possible from resources that cannot be renewed. A movement without real leaders, it seems to have the greatest resonance on college campuses, always a home for new thinking. Student groups and sessions dedicated to sustainability are flourishing. While some produce little but conversational - and political - gas, others are preaching practical solutions. At Drury University in Missouri, a campus conference on using natural resources ended with a posting of "10 simple ways to support sustainable living in the Ozarks." Among the suggestions: shop at local food producers.

At last year's annual conference of the Society for College and University Planning, green buildings and ideas on how to spread eco-friendly practices dominated many discussions. With studies showing that students perform better in buildings with better (natural) light and cleaner circulating air, universities are taking their campuses out of the dark ages.

"What university leaders are telling us is that they now see this as an opportunity for recruitment," says Rick Fedrizzi, president of the green building council. "It signals to the potential student that this is an organization that gets it."

Because living lighter can save money, administrators say, they can - as the old line about prosperous missionaries has it - do well while trying to do good. With energy prices at record highs, and many economists predicting the end of the oil age within a generation's time, the college sustainability movement could play a big role outside the academic bubble. For example, by using lots of windows, mirrors and a big bank of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight to electricity, the University of South Carolina has reduced heating costs in its new residence hall by 20 percent and electricity costs by 40 percent, compared with a similarly sized dorm. The system is the largest on the East Coast, university officials say, and shows that even a large apartment building can use a clean, renewable source of energy at relatively low cost.

"The sustainability movement is no longer a niche thing at most colleges," says Peggy F. Barlett, an anthropology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, who edited, with Geoffrey W. Chase, a book of essays on the subject. "There's going to be a real cultural transformation in the coming years in this area."

Ms. Barlett was behind the Piedmont Project, an effort to bring green sensibility to all parts of Emory. It started slowly, six years ago, but has lately taken off because of high energy costs and the desire of students and teachers to turn their ideas into practicality. Atlanta's environmental problems - stagnant air and poor water quality, sprawl, horrendous traffic jams - also prompted many on campus to take another look at their relationship with the natural world, she says.

The Piedmont Project involves little things (a literary class on eco-criticism, a student project on maintaining golf courses using minimal amounts of water and chemicals) and big things (two new green-certified buildings that are under construction).

The project was inspired by the pioneering Northern Arizona University, in the high pine-forested reach of Flagstaff. With its proximity to some of the world's most stunning scenery, Flagstaff, which attracts lovers of outdoor sports, has consistently been rated among the nation's most livable medium-size cities. The university has tried to match the setting.

"Kids who spend a lot of their time in national parks and outside are going to want to live in a campus that reflects their values," says Gary Paul Nabhan, director of the university's Center for Sustainable Environments. "A huge portion of our student body is motivated to be engaged in environmental issues."

Conferences, classrooms and buildings try to reflect this ethic. Administrators have declared that every new building must meet some degree of green construction and design standards, meaning that they use a high percentage of recycled building materials and incorporate low-energy-using lighting and electrical systems. Solar panels are abundant, making use of the sun at Flagstaff's altitude of 7,000 feet.

Even the janitors and land maintenance crews have been brought aboard. "Rather than a bunch of academics and student activists trying to ram some ideas down people's throats," says Dr. Nabhan, who is also a professor of environmental science, "we let the people who work on campus come up with ideas about how to use less, and we listen to them."

IT was not so long ago when what fell from the sky in Pittsburgh caused people to rush indoors or cough. Soot and ash from the mills that gave the city its nickname, Steeltown, U.S.A., could block the sun and discolor clothes. But in the nearly two decades since the mills were shuttered, Pittsburgh has remade itself, with one of the city's best-known universities, Carnegie Mellon, in the forefront.

The living roof of Hamerschlag Hall sprouted four years ago from a "why not?" idea of three students who were members of the campus Sustainable Earth Club. With an undergraduate research grant, the students studied other green roofs and drew up a general plan; students of architecture and engineering in an advanced sculpture studio class designed it last spring.

The roof, which cost $172,000, is a showpiece, with its grasses, perennials and a log drilled with holes to encourage insects to settle in. Instruments were installed to measure water runoff, water quality, and heat loss and retention in the building, with monitors installed on a traditional roof nearby so data could be compared.

Elsewhere on campus, the energy-saving gadgets and systems of New House - the first green dormitory to open in the country, according to Carnegie Mellon officials - have also become teaching tools. Now in its third year, the five-story, 260-bed residence uses 30 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size, and it came in under budget. A kiosk shows the daily energy use and compares it with previous days, making students aware of their daily impact on the resources needed to house them. Carpets are made of recycled fiber and the doors were certified by sustainable forestry groups. Campus environmental groups use New House as a home.

"This is very much a living laboratory," says Tim Michael, director of housing and dining services at Carnegie Mellon. "The building is constantly being studied by students, architects and engineers." He says Carnegie Mellon is moving toward applying the same stringent green-building standards to all its major new construction.

Beyond the well-insulated walls of New House, Carnegie Mellon has been trying to integrate sustainable theory in many aspects of campus life and curriculum. Teachers at the new Center for Sustainable Engineering, in collaboration with like-minded colleagues at the University of Texas and Arizona State University, want to revolutionize teaching at the nation's 1,500 engineering programs. Supported by a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the center holds workshops and develops educational materials meant to get students to think about energy efficiency and recycled material.

"The whole purpose of this is to take some of the ideas of sustainability out of the fringes and put them into the mainstream," says Cliff Davidson, a professor in civil and environmental engineering and a co-founder of the center.

IT helps to have a shiny new example of what all the fuss is about. That is the case with the University of South Carolina's new residence hall, West Quad, which has been certified by the environment-friendly building council. About 500 students live in the complex of three four-story buildings, which includes a learning center where classes on the environment are taught.

There is a perception that a green dorm is going to force a monastic life on students, but West Quad residents insist they are not uncomfortable. No cold showers or dimly lighted study halls, they say.

"The thing I notice most is the air quality," says Lindsey Cooper, a graduate student who lives at West Quad. "They are constantly filtering in new air. And the lighting is so reliant on natural lights that I don't even feel like I use electric lights very much."

West Quad has become the iPod of buildings. "It's clearly the most popular hall on campus," says Gene Luna, a university vice president. Plans are under way to build a green fraternity house.

As at Carnegie Mellon, the building is a learning opportunity. Biology majors have experimented with different plants, trying to create an attractive landscape that uses a minimal amount of water. Engineering students monitor the energy output provided by simple daylight to heat all those hot showers.

"This building has just exceeded our expectations in every way," Dr. Luna says. "You can't traverse across the West Quad complex without learning something."

Timothy Egan writes frequently about the environment for The New York Times (2006)

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