SC223--Environmental Issues--Spring 2014
Tuesday, Thursday, Period P (12:35-1:50 PM), Room 122

The Textbook

Course Description

Course Objectives

Course Policies

Grading System

Course Schedule

Prof. Thomas A. Easton

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OFFICE: Rm. 108

OFFICE HOURS: 12-3 PM MW, 11-12 AM TTh 

OFFICE PHONE: 859-1331

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Thomas A. Easton,
Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues,
McGraw Hill, 2014, 15th Edition Expanded, ISBN: 978-0-07-351454-3

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This course surveys current issues related to the environment, focusing on the debates over the issues and considering where solutions may lie.

See "Course policies" below for details on testing and grading.

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Upon completion of this course students will be able to explain how people disagree on environmental issues, to evaluate the evidence for both sides, and to summarize the opposing arguments. Issues covered include:
  1. The precautionary principle
  2. Sustainable development
  3. Pricing ecosystem services
  4. Biodiversity protection
  5. Drilling for offshore oil
  6. Global warming
  7. Energy supply
  8. Pollution control
  9. Nuclear power and waste disposal
  10. Population
  11. Food supply
  12. Toxic chemicals

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Each student may be absent twice without penalty. Each additional two absences without a medical excuse (no others are acceptable) will cost the student three points on the course grade.

Students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the issue scheduled for the day. Failure to contribute to the discussion in a way that demonstrates preparation counts as an absence. "Preparation" means at least reading the issue material; excellent preparation will include doing some additional research and reading.

Students will write nine 3-5 page papers (about 1 per week, excluding exam weeks) answering a question related to the week's issues (see below for the questions). Papers should be supported by high-quality references (e.g., those available through EBSCO HOST on the library's Web page). You may choose to place any or all of them in your E-Portfolio. There will also be four essay exams (counting the final); weekly issue questions and others may appear on the exams. Weeks with exams will NOT have papers assigned.

Papers will each be worth 5% of the course grade. Exams will each be worth 10% of the course grade. Participation will be worth 15% of the course grade.

Students who plagiarize tests and essays will receive zeros for the work in question, with no makeup opportunities.

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A (94 - 100)      A- (90 - 93)
B+ (87 - 89)     B (83 - 86)    B- (80 - 82)
C+ (77 - 79)     C (73 - 76)     C- (70 - 72)
D+ (67 - 69)     D (63 - 66)    D- (60 - 62)
F (below 60)

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Tues Jan 7 Introduction -- Environmental issues as questions of priorities; Course overview
Thurs Jan 9The Precautionary Principle--What Is It?Read Issue 1
Tues Jan 14 The Precautionary Principle--Why Do People Object to It? Weekly Paper #1: What is the "right" amount of precaution to take?
Thurs Jan 16 Sustainable Development--What Is It? Read Issue 2
Tues Jan 21 Sustainable Development--How Essential Is It? Why? Weekly Paper #2: What kind of development is least sustainable?
Thurs Jan 23 Is Commercial Fishing Unsustainable? Read Issue 14
Tues Jan 28 Pricing Ecosystem ServicesRead Issue 3
   Weekly Paper #3: How can we best motivate sustainable behavior?
Thurs Jan 30 Motivating Sustainable Behavior Discussion of conclusions in papers
Tues Feb 4 Should North America's Landscape Be Restored to Its Pre-Human State?Read Issue 4
   Weekly Paper #4: What is the proper role of restoration ecology?
Thurs Feb 6 Should the Military (or Anyone) Be Exempt from Environmental Regulations?Read Issue 5
Tues Feb 11   ESSAY EXAM #1 Issues 1-5, 14
Thurs Feb 13 Restricting Carbon Emissions vs. the Economy Read Issue 6
2/17-2/21 WINTER BREAK  
Tues Feb 25 Is Global Warming a Catastrophe that Warrants Immediate Action?Read Issue 7
   Weekly Paper #5: What consequences can we expect from global warming?
Thurs Feb 27 Drilling for Offshore Oil Read Issue 8
Tues March 4Is Shale Gas the Answer?Read Issue 9
   Weekly Paper #6: What are the risks of fracking?
Thurs March 6 Is Renewable Energy Really Green? Read Issue 10
Tues March 11 ESSAY EXAM #2 Issues 6-10
Thurs March 13 Biofuels Read Issue 11
Tues March 18 Reviving Nuclear Power--Pro Read Issue 12
Thurs March 20Reviving Nuclear Power--Con Weekly Paper #7: Many people fear that nuclear power could cause many deaths.  How many deaths could global warming cause?  Find suitable numbers and compare nuclear and fossil fuel technologies on this count.
Tues March 25 Do We Have a Population Problem? Read Issue 13
Thurs March 27 Organic Farming Read Issue 15
   Weekly Paper #8: Can Organic Farming Feed the World?
3/31-4/4 SPRING BREAK  
Tues April 8 Is "Synthetic Biology" Safe? Read Issue 16
Thurs April 10 Can "Green" Marketing Claims Be Believed? Read Issue 120
   Weekly Paper #9: What potential benefits of synthetic biology seem most significant to you?
Tues April 15 ESSAY EXAM #3  
Thurs April 17 Environmental Hormone Mimics Read Issue 17
Tues April 22 Nuclear Waste Read Issue 19
Thurs April 24 Superfund Read Issue 18

Syllabus last modified October 9, 2013.