Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThe goal of this course is to learn how science can influence policy initiatives in search of solutions to global climate and environmental problems. This objective is well defined by the types of materials from which the course derives meaning. Most of the readings assigned are either policy documents (memos, government regulations, etc.) or scientific articles related to the technical details and processes that influence policy. The instructor emphasizes the importance of communicating the results from scientific studies to non-scientific groups in order to effectively influence policy decisions. The course does not follow a sequential order, but rather flows from topic to topic (e.g. stratospheric ozone depletion, urban pollution, etc.). Each class session/seminar or couple of seminars is usually dedicated to studying both the scientific details and policy issues related to these topics, with some (though limited) linearity between topics. This is a very discussion-led course, which distinguishes it from most CEE courses. Thus, it is advantageous to be cognizant of this format when preparing for class sessions. A basic chemistry background is assumed, but in general there are little barriers to entry for this course. The most important attribute for this course is a willingness to engage with the reading and stimulate thoughtful discussion during class.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThis course is composed of two 80-minute lectures per week. Students were assessed in participation (attendance, discussion, Blackboard posts), homework, an in-class final, and a final paper with an associated presentation. The course is very much oriented by the discussions in class. In order to prepare for class and participate actively in discussion, it is important to not only read the material, but also engage with it through annotating and thinking of intriguing questions and relationships to other policy or environmental topics. Active engagement with the reading will assist in submitting reflections on Blackboard, as well as participating in class discussion. During class/seminar, it is useful to keep a record of the discussion through notemaking. While writing by hand may be more conducive to memory and recall, making notes on a computer might provide a more thorough record of the conversation which students can review after class and study from in preparation for the qualitative portions of the final exam.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe homework assignments varied in nature from quantitative to qualitative week to week. For quantitative methods that students might have trouble with, optional precepts were offered. These quantitative problems were related to the scientific theory behind environmental issues and were not thoroughly discussed in lecture, but were representative of the types of quantitative problems covered in the in-class final exam. As previously mentioned, the final exam has some qualitative features that require understanding of the general concepts that govern environmental processes and the factors that influence decision-making at the science/policy interface. The quantitative problems require some application of the concepts covered in the homework assignments, as well as interpretation of charts and figures discussed during class. In studying for exams, it is helpful to review the readings and understand how scientific studies influences policymaking, including the difficulties related to successful implementation. It is also important to understand the basics of the quantitative relationships, and attempt to predict how these relationships could be assessed. The final paper/presentation is disconnected from the other components of the course in that the student gets to decide the topic, and knowledge from discussion and homework assignments is not necessarily crucial to producing a good project. It may be useful to think about the different weekly topics in brainstorming paper topics, and integrate some of the student's own fields of interest. Being interested in what one is writing about is very helpful to producing both a successful and enriching assignment.
External ResourcesThe optional precepts and office hours are very helpful in understanding and completing the more quantitative assignments.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionIn comparison to most engineering courses, this course is very discussion based and qualitative. Among the students there is a broad range of academic interests, from Woody Woo students interested in international sustainable development to Chemistry students that study the scientific theory behind ozone depletion, for example. This creates a very interdisciplinary environment from which students learn not only from the instructor, but from each other. This would be an excellent course for any student considering a future path in industry, research, or government related to the science/policy interface. The most demanding aspect is devoting to time completing and understanding the reading.
Global Environmental Issues