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Environmental Problems: Tackling Sources not Symptoms

Course Stats

Instructor(s):  Norman Myers and Stuart Pimm

Units: 2

Semester Offered: Fall

Description

http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/programs/courses/environ29841.html
This is a discussion course where we get past the symptoms and examine the roots of environmental problems. 

Skills and Career Applications

(Insert comments on the intent and career applications of this class. Comments/Quotes from Nicholas Alumni are especially valued.)

Registration Advice

The time commitment of this course shifts during the semester.  The first part of the semester requires 1 hour per week with Stuart Pimm to review and discuss readings then for four weeks (roughly in the middle of the semester) we meet for 3 hours twice a week for more in-depth discussion with Norman Myers. 

Student Opinions

This course is intended to get students thinking about the roots of environmental problems.  There are no hard and fast answers here but you will surely walk away with a broader outlook on your favorite environmental problem with encouragement to explore problems not as familiar to you.  I appreciated this course because it brought together students of different tracts to complex issues from global, national, and even local scales.  The course load consisted of short readings with very short response papers expected (completed during the 1hour/week portion of the course), one group in-class presentation, and one group paper. 

The Instructor's Take...

Four-week course October 20th-November 12th, (6-9pm Tuesdays and Thursdays)                                                This course examines a series of environmental problems, asking why we allow such problems to arise in the first place.  Factors at issue include: political ignorance/ignore-ance; the media; corporate oligarchies; special interests and lobbyists; government inertia; pervers e subsidies; tramlines thinking; and establishment values. Particular topics to be addressed include eco-economics; population/consumption; environmental security; environmental surprises/ discontinuities; scientific uncertainty and public policy; the interdisciplinary animal; government and governance; and sustainable development.  There is marked emphasis on class discussion. Assignments include a lecturette, "out-of-the-box" thinking exercises, and a paper. Linkages are all, hence there will be much emphasis on lateral thinking and other perquisites of the holistic approach. If you are ready to think hard, to be challenged (by your fellow students as much as your prof.), and to provoke your grey cells, come and try it out--though if you prefer to stay in your comfort zone, don't. Should you wish to join in, leave your umbrella behind. Week 1 will focus on: Our Environmental Prospect: Time of Breakdown or Breakthrough?;  Week 2: Mass Extinction20of Species: Why We Should Care, What We Can Do About It; Week 3: New Consumers and Planetary Economics; Week 4: Institutional: How Can We Break Through The Roadblocks? Students will be asked to do some ahead-of-time homework by digesting at least two papers on the theme of the week from a list that will be distributed electronically. It will be sufficient for students to, say, rip the guts out of a paper by e.g. reading the abstract and introduction, plus conclusion, together with whatever else is necessary for the reader to become equipped to give a two-minute talk on what a paper is about, what it is not about, and whether the reader thinks it does a good job.   The course will thus relate to how one might go about having environmental science implemented in policy making. It will cover such topical issues as biodiversity hotspots, ecosystem services and their shadow-priced values, population/poverty, over- and mis-consumption, water shortages, deforestation, desertification, eco-agriculture, and the emergent middle classes in China, India and elsewhere.

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