Friday, August 6, 2010

PS 112-152: Environmental sustainability: A science course for non-majors

Godfrey Roberts, New York University


Science courses for non-science majors are an especially important part of the general education requirement. In Paul McGhee, the Adult Degree Studies Division of New York University, most students are working adults with limited knowledge of contemporary environmental issues. The current course on environmental issues titled Global Ecology will be replaced by Environmental Sustainability. This course is based on the NSF funded Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER) model.

Environmental Sustainability (4 Credits) will review our current unsustainable path in the global environment and explore ways of shifting to a sustainable one.  The class will explore ways of shifting or redirecting the global trends towards a sustainable global society that stabilizes population, reverses problems with climate change, global warming and pollution and establishes a global society dependent on renewable energy sources such as hydrogen, solar and other sustainable energy options.  Ways of reversing the negative human ecological footprint on the earth’s precious resources such as water, air and soil will be examined. Major future challenges such as poverty, hunger, emerging and re-emerging diseases, threats to biodiversity, species extinction, domestication of food crops as well as biotechnology and genetically modified foods will be discussed.


We expect that Environmental Sustainability will be the most successful of our science course offerings that currently include: Biology of Hunger and Population, Physics for Everyday Life, Darwin to DNA: An Introduction to Evolution, Stars, Planets and Life and Fundamentals of Biology.   Environmental Sustainability will be offered for the first time in spring 2011. Two sections of Environmental Sustainability will be offered beginning spring 2011. One section will be a regular lecture/discussion course while the other section will be an asynchronous blended online course. We expect to offer a 100% online section of the course in fall 2011. A unique feature of the course will be the integration of a project at the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History. In addition to a midterm and a final examination, an annotated bibliography, research journal and class presentation on a topic related to environmental sustainability will be included. Student evaluations and feedback to our previous environmental sciences course (Global Ecology) were very positive. We expect Environmental Sustainability to be a challenging course that will be a central part of our science curriculum.