A blueprint, mind you–I’m basically pointing to the resources you can use to study the concepts and ideas that I’m emphasizing in the class. Also, keep in mind, if you’re looking for something specific there is a search field at the top of the course menu (on the right side of the web page)
Some key concepts
- First and second laws of thermodynamics–why are they important to this class, to society? Know what entropy means. Related to this we discussed global warming, you should have a sense of the argument, the greenhouse effect, how the 1st and 2nd laws relate, what some of the effects might be (Parenti’s ‘Tropic of Chaos’ chapters fit in here), and humans’ roles;
- The three functions of the environment for humans–understand what they are, and how they have changed over time in different kinds of societies (we’ve talked about some of the historical tragedies in class), and the resource process (think also about the entropy at each stage of the process)
- Energy–the 1st and 2nd laws of course (sound like a recurring theme?), supply-side and demand-side energy policy/strategy, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ energy paths, energy and human societies, entropy (remember our discussion of cities, the ‘far from equilibrium’ concept), transfer or flow of energy through an ecosystem, agriculture and its relationship to energy. Remember the summary pages (how we go through these in class)
- The POET model (be able to explain it, and with an example or two show how it helps understand structure and change in a society, especially as they relate to the environment). Some major processes we’ve discussed or read about include industrial revolution, agricultural industrialization, the agricultural or neolithic revolution, natural climate change (remember Kolbert’s chapter week 1) . . . what prompts human societies to change?
- (related to the previous bullet point) Humans and their historical relationships to their environments–how have these changed over time? In which societies have things changed the most, and why? What about extensive versus intensive strategies to adaptation and change (e.g., think about using tractors, versus China developing labor-intensive paddy rice culture)? What were Harrison’s (week 1) ‘three revolutions?‘ Also, remember the summary pages
- Sustainable development–what does it mean (Schnaiberg and Gould talk about it), how is this a multi-dimensional concept?
- Biodiversity and evolution–how does one affect the other (e.g., a species’ chances for survival)? How does evolution affect ecosystems? How is evolution affected by rapid environmental changes? And what are ecosystems anyway, and how do humans fit in? You don’t have to be deeply versed in this, but you should understand how evolution operates (differential reproduction, as we’ve discussed it), and the value of biodiversity, especially in a world where climates are becoming less predictable; What are those three acts or choices we’ve discussed with respect to species’ responses to rapid environmental changes?
- Industrial revolution and industrial agriculture–what roles have these played in the current state of affairs in modern industrialized countries? How? Can you discuss what factors drove the Industrial Revolution? Why was it revolutionary anyway??
- Environmental ethics–The lecture material discusses wise use versus environmentalism, Abbey’s chapter (on industrial tourism) fits in here, Buddhist Economics, Bullard’s chapter on environmental racism (what is his argument, and where does it ‘fit’ on a continuum?)
Some key terms/concepts (obviously some of these we just used in passing to discuss other things, like ecosystems [how nature is organized] or carbon footprints [consumption] or biodiversity [what mechanisms to living systems have to adapt to changing environmental conditions?]:
- Footprint (what’s a carbon footprint?)
- Evolution (what is meant by ‘differential reproduction?’)
- Diversity (we’ve talked a bit about biodiversity, genetic diversity, even cultural diversity–what are their advantages?)
- Carrying capacity
- Greenhouse effect
- Habitat (for species)
- Entropy and the first two laws of thermodynamics
- Supply vs demand-side energy policies, energy crises
- Sustainable development
- Agricultural (or neolithic) revolution
- Peak oil (mainly understand the two curves–one for oil discovery, the second for production, and how they tend to hit a ‘peak’ after which follows relentless decline)
The test will be given Monday and Wednesday, May 6 & 8. Wednesday’s is the group exam, groups of no less than 3, no more than 5 (as we do at the end of even-numbered weeks). The individual exam is worth 75% of the points, the group exam 25%. Same exam both days, so take good notes after you leave the exam on Monday, and don’t even think about using a phone to photograph the exam. The consequences of getting caught are severe, in any case. There will be some multiple choice (20%), perhaps some matching (15% usually), short answer, short essay and long essay. You’ll always have choices on the essay questions (e.g., answer 3 of the following 5).
- Readings: everything through week 5, Abbey’s reading on ‘industrial tourism’ only as it relates to our discussion of environmental ethics.
- My advice in terms of studying. It’s a lot of material. If you try to pile fact upon fact, concept on top of concept, and memorize them, well, good luck. The more you can turn this material into some sort of structure, the greater the likelihood it will fit and make sense, and you’ll be able to show that on an exam. Some students seem to do well when they turn this into a story or narrative, sort of like Paul Harrison does with the idea of energy ‘revolutions’ (agricultural and industrial and, presumably, post-hydrocarbon). Others do well simply trying to relate content to other content, drawing out a sort of graphic or concept ‘map’ (the more places you stick this stuff in your brain, the more places you can look for it later on!). Come to class Friday prepared to discuss those concepts that you find most difficult, otherwise it’s a long slog to listen to me review five weeks in about 50 minutes (remember, we have the quiz on Friday at the beginning of class).
Here’s the lone question I received from a previous class: