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Topics in Sustainability

Following are previous Topics in Sustainability courses.

Topics in Sustainability: Perception, Representation, and the World

Description: We humans live in this world according to our beliefs and assumptions about the planet and all that exists on and in it. But how do we acquire those beliefs and assumptions in the first place? Where do they come from, and how are they communicated to us? Are there alternative, equally valid beliefs and assumptions we might explore? Would different assumptions and beliefs lead to different behavior, a different relationship to the planet and all that exists on it and in it?

In this topics course, a team of five faculty will work with you to discover how we humans form the perceptions we do about the physical and social world, and how those perceptions shape attitudes which translate into human behavior.We will look at the way the world has been perceived by various artists/thinkers and systems of thinking that have then represented "the world" in various ways. We will examine the language of metaphor, the philosophies of "nature" and "self" that have reared our minds, the way art and design teach us to "see" the world, the cultural reasons why "green" and "sustainability" have suddenly become front - burner issues, and how economics can help us to re - imagine and reorganize the world in sustainable terms.

The course will consist of five separate modules, each taught by a different faculty member. Below is the sequence of modules and the faculty who'll be teaching them.

  1. Introduction to Sustainability; Metaphors and the Behaviors They Induce - Prof. Jerry Blitefield/English
  2. Humanity and the Natural World - Prof. Jennifer Mulnix/Philosophy
  3. How Art and Design Change the Real World - Prof. Spencer Ladd/Design
  4. Cracking the Green Culture Code - Prof. Ron Fortier/Marketing

Topics in Sustainability: Food*

"Sustainability" has been defined in many ways, but in a nutshell sustainable thinking offers a creative perspective for balancing short-term interests and needs against long-term interests and needs, insuring that what we do today doesn't debilitate us tomorrow (or next year, or next century). In this course we will apply that kind of thinking to Food. After a brief introduction to sustainability, the semester will be divided into four, three-week modules, each approaching food from a specific disciplinary vantage: biology, anthropology, health, and business law. By semester's end, students will have an enriched understanding and appreciation for our complex relationship to food, and a starter kit for thinking sustainably about timely issues of human behavior.

Faculty:
Blitefield, English
Rajaniemi, Biology
Joseph, Sociology & Anthropology
Leffers, Nursing
Sulkowski, Business Law

Topics in Sustainability: Consumption

We hear the word "consumer" a lot and have a pretty good idea what it means: a person who consumes things. But have you ever really thought about what "consumption" means, and not just on the individual level, but societally, even globally? The purpose of this course is to probe the little seen dynamics of consumption - the historical, political, cultural, and economic causes and effects of human consumption and global resource development/depletion. Among the things we'll explore: how consumers drive consumption, and have driven consumption, historically; the impact of our current consumption patterns on the physical earth and on each other; the relationships between nation-states over issues of consumption; and more. We'll look at the large and small of consumption, from the everyday to the everlasting, from your life to life in general.

Faculty:
Blitefield/english
Walker/history
Darst/political science
Holloway/art history
White/management & marketing

Topics in Sustainability: Water

In this topics course we will bring together five faculty to look at "water" as a sustainable concern in our time and in times past. We will look at the vital role water plays in ecosystems, its relationship to agriculture and aquatic life; we will look at how water moves around the planet, and will track a water molecule as it crosses oceans and continents; we will look at the role of water, particularly fresh water, in the rise of civilization; we will look at the politics of fishing and overfishing, how diminishing stocks create situations of economic and political conflict; and we will look at the basic assumptions we have about water generally, and how those assumptions could leave us unprepared for the future.

Faculty:
Dr. Tara Rajaniemi, Biology
Dr. Jim Bisagni, Oceanography
Dr. Timothy Walker, History
Dr. Rob Darst, Political Science
Dr. Jerry Blitefield, English

Topics in Sustainability: Coastal Zones

Coastlines have long held special significance for human imagination: chances are, they have captured your imagination. Coastlines are where land meets sea, where solid footing gives way to mysterious depth, where familiar home gives way to dreams of lands far away.

Apart from humanity's romantic and symbolic relationships with coasts, coastal zones are unique ecological areas, whose interlocking systems provide functions vital for maintaining nature's balance, a balance essential to human industry, comfort, and pleasure.

This Sustainability Studies course will examine some of those interlocking systems and attempt to present the fragile complexity of coastal zones and coastal zone systems.

By presenting five perspectives from five different professors, each delivered in a discrete module, this course will offer a uniquely multi-disciplined perspective on coastal zones.

The course will begin with an overview of basic concepts needed for understanding sustainabiliy, and how one might apply sustainable thinking, generally. It will then look at some of some examples how coasts have been represented in literature, art, and music, as ways of understanding the coast's meaning for people. From there, the course will move to examine the ecology of two coastal habitats where land meets sea, coastal sand dunes and salt marshes, and study the intricate and vital behaviors of these ecosystems. In the third module, we will move off-shore slightly, and learn of innovative strategies among coordinated government, business, and civic groups to use shellfish as natural filters for reducing ecologically devastating nitrogen pollution. In the fourth module, we will examine coastlines as unique climate systems, learning (through in-class demonstrations) how air and water move and circulate, and how those movements affect the distribution of nutrients along coastal zones. Finally, we will conclude with a module that recasts the earlier modules through the lens of public policy, and how we convert the knowledge of science into regulatory coastal zone management.

The faculty for this course, in order of appearance, will be:
Jerry Blitefield, English
Tara Rajaniemi, Biology
Ric Golen, Management and Marketing
Amit Tandon, Physics/SMAST
Chad McGuire, Political Science

Topics in Sustainability: Perception, Representation, and the World

Description: We humans live in this world according to our beliefs and assumptions about the planet and all that exists on and in it. But how do we acquire those beliefs and assumptions in the first place? Where do they come from, and how are they communicated to us? Are there alternative, equally valid beliefs and assumptions we might explore? Would different assumptions and beliefs lead to different behavior, a different relationship to the planet and all that exists on it and in it?

In this topics course, a team of five faculty will work with you to discover how we humans form the perceptions we do about the physical and social world, and how those perceptions shape attitudes which translate into human behavior.We will look at the way the world has been perceived by various artists/thinkers and systems of thinking that have then represented "the world" in various ways. We will examine the language of metaphor, the philosophies of "nature" and "self" that have reared our minds, the way art and design teach us to "see" the world, the cultural reasons why "green" and "sustainability" have suddenly become front-burner issues, and how economics can help us to re-imagine and reorganize the world in sustainable terms.

The course will consist of five separate modules, each taught by a different faculty member. Below is the sequence of modules and the faculty who'll be teaching them.

Faculty:
Blitefield
Munix
Ladd
Fortier
Hall

Topics in Sustainability: Perception, Representation, and the World

We humans live in this world according to our beliefs and assumptions about the planet and all that exists on and in it. But how do we acquire those beliefs and assumptions in the first place? Where do they come from, and how are they communicated to us? Are there alternative, equally valid beliefs and assumptions we might explore? Would different assumptions and beliefs lead to different behavior, a different relationship to the planet and all that exists on it and in it?

In this topics course, a team of five faculty will work with you to discover how we humans form the perceptions we do about the physical and social world, and how those perceptions shape attitudes which translate into human behavior.We will look at the way the world has been perceived by various artists/thinkers and systems of thinking that have then represented "the world" in various ways. We will examine the language of metaphor, the philosophies of "nature" and "self" that have reared our minds, the way art and design teach us to "see" the world, the cultural reasons why "green" and "sustainability" have suddenly become front-burner issues, and how economics can help us to re-imagine and reorganize the world in sustainable terms.

The course will consist of five separate modules, each taught by a different faculty member. Below is the sequence of modules and the faculty who'll be teaching them.

  1. Introduction to Sustainability; Metaphors and the Behaviors They Induce -- Prof. Jerry Blitefield/English
  2. Humanity and the Natural World -- Prof. Jennifer Mulnix/Philosophy
  3. How Art and Design Change the Real World -- Prof. Spencer Ladd/Design
  4. Cracking the Green Culture Code -- Prof. Ron Fortier/Marketing
  5. Sustaining Our Resources vs. Sustaining Our Behavior -- Prof. Randy Hall/Economics

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