The flow of the course is defined by the three writing assignments. The writing process is focused on through multiple drafts and peer review.
The semester starts with students creating a statement of personal philosophy and goals. Defining terms like sustainability, resilience, and stewardship gives a foundation to the discussion of how our views are shaped by our social identities and experiences. Influences such as religion and schooling are reflected on.
The course progresses from personal beliefs to more concrete concepts through the Ideal Society Project/Paper. Looking from a solutions perspective, many ways of meeting modern human needs including food, clean water, housing, transportation, recreation, community, and earning money are examined. Practices ranging from simple living to high-tech ways of reducing detrimental social and environmental impacts are examined. Tools like Ecological Footprinting, life-cycle analysis, and spreadsheets are used to compare options. Community cooperation and social empowerment theories are explored as well as specific technologies. Successful policies, practices and inspiring people from around the world are highlighted as good examples. Acknowledging barriers to the adoption of these ideas and practices is unfortunately necessary. Meanwhile, class generated action projects, campus maintenance, a building project, and a couple field trips provide experiential involvement. Finally, an issue letter to government representatives focuses on solutions at the national policy level. Fundamental scientific principles from ecology and chemistry are used to understand world and regional environmental problems. Topics could come from students’ previous knowledge or from those covered in this class: acid deposition, mercury bioaccumulation, and air quality.