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-Aug 9th (With ten day field travel component (July 22nd-31st) Course description and syllabus Course Title and Listing: Environmental Studies 095: Vermont's Sustainability Solutions (3 credits) Overall Course Description: Transitioning to the sustainable use of our natural resource is one of the most important and complex issues facing our world. Despite the threats of resource scarcity and climate change, our society remains largely dependent on fossil fuels to heat and power buildings and transport goods and services. In spite of a growing interest in local and organic agriculture, conventional means of food production remain largely the norm. While our forests have largely recovered from the ravages of the 19th century, land fragmentation and invasive species have created new challenges. And while our waters are cleaner then they were 30 years ago, non-point source pollution remains a persistent problem. The state of Vermont provides an excellent classroom to explore the challenges our society faces. With a culture that values long range thinking, the state is home to a myriad of individuals, businesses and organizations leading the nation in pioneering solutions to restore the health of our forests, farms, air and water. Following a set of introductory readings and online exercises, students will embark on a ten day bicycle tour of Vermont, a pedagogy that allows for interactions with a range of community leaders, as well as participation in hands on service learning opportunities,. This format, proven successful by the Rubenstein School’s Vermont Field Studies, (NR 385) immerses students in the topics at hand, provides ample space for engaging group discussions, builds lasting relationships between students and community members, and creates a powerful learning environment. Our primary course objective is examine the complexity of environmental issues through a systems-thinking framework. Using a problem-based approach, we will explore sustainable solutions an apply sustainability criteria to issues at hand, taking into account ethical, ecological, social, and economic considerations. We seek to engender openmindedness through interactions with community members who have diverse perspectives about sustainability, and use these conservations to better understand worldviews, value systems, social norms, and drivers of societal change.
Course Summary We plan to start the field component course section in Burlington, exploring energy efficiency solutions with experts from the Vermont Energy Efficiency Corporation (VEIC), who run the award-winning Efficiency Vermont program, as well as managers of Main Street Landing properties, who developed the first LEED-certified building in the state. We will also visit with Local Motion and Bike Recycle Vermont, learning about local efforts to encourage walking and cycling while gaining hand-on experience in bijke repair. We will then cycle south to Ferrisburg, to tour the state’s largest solar installation and the Ferrisburgh Farm Biodigester, which not only produces electricity but creates fertilizer and reduces nutrient runoff. Cycling east, we will arrive in the Mad River Valley, to spend a day at the Whole System Design studio, where staff are pioneering permculture practices and carbon-neutral building designs. We will cycle north to the Winooski River Valley, meeting with staff from the Vermont River Conservancy and the Friends of the Winooski, tour a low impact stormwater facility, assist with maintenance of a rain garden in Plainfield, and learn about efforts to restore our state’s waterways and ensure more flood resilient communities. Course Route We will then journey to the town of Hardwick, visiting with staff from the Center For A New Agricultural Economy and touring farms and businesses that showcase the agricultural renaissance happening in this valley. Heading into the Northeast Kingdom, we will learn about the controversies associated with the Kingdom Wind Farm. We will then begin our journey westward, spending a day at the University of Vermont’s Research Forest, learning about sustainable forestry and participating in a bowl turning workshop. We will complete the course in Burlington, where students will complete a final essay give a final presentation for parents and community members.
Course Academic Goals and Assessment: The academic goals for the course are to: • • • • • • • • • Develop a conceptual framework for sustainability: creating communities which are environmentally sound, economically successful, and socially just Examine sustainability from a multidisciplinary perspective Learn and apply basic systems thinking concepts. Understand the importantance of visioning and create a personal world-voew Obtain a wide breath of knowledge regarding the sustainable use of energy, food, forests, and water. Develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Obtain hands on, service-learning experiences Inspire students to become community leaders working toward a sustainable future. Become competent bicycle travelers
The central academic assignments on this course involve active engagement with experts in the field, assigned readings, group discussions, the completion of daily journal entries, a final essay, and a community presentation. Students will be evaluated on these assignments and activities by: • • • • • • Academic Participation (20%): Engage with the course material, including active participation in daily class discussions, reference to readings, and engagement with course speakers and academic activities. Journal Entries (30%): Keep a daily journal summarizing course events and reflecting on their learning. Public Interviews (10%). Complete three interviews with community members. Write a one page summary and analysis of three interviews assessing people’s perspectives on controversial issues related in sustainability in Vermont. Final reflection essay (10%) A short essay requiring students to synthesize the knowledge gained by creating a personal vision for a sustainable future Final Presentation (20%): Contribute to a group presentation sharing their experiences on the road with parents and community members. Experiential Participation (10%): Participate in the necessary practical aspects of the course: safety consciousness, following directions, proactive participation in camping, and group travel tasks.
Course Readings, Itinerary and Logistics: A reading packet will be developed for this course. Students will be required to download this packet and have it printed and bound. The readings are designed to both provide a conceptual framework in sustainability, and complement and inform presentations given by community leaders. Regular group discussions will provide a chance for students to reflect on course content and learning. Students will cycle, between 20-40 miles per day, camping or staying with community hosts along the way. All meals will be shared events, often with guests from the
community. Selected Course Readings (To be finalized spring 2013) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 (Selected excerpts). The Earth Charter Initiative (2000). "The Earth Charter." Mau, B (2006). “Imagining the Future Why the cynics are wrong” The Walrus. Holling, C. S. (2000). "Theories for Sustainable Futures"Conservation Ecology 4(2): 7. Jacobson, A. (2009, November) A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030. Scientific America. Porritt, J. (2006). Capitalism as if the world mattered. London: Earthscan. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-84407-193-7. Berry, W (1990). “The Pleasures of Eating" from What are people for?. Strassberg, Valeria, Lancaster (June 2011)."Fighting water with water: Behavioral change versus climate change". environmental issues 103 (6): 59. Mars, Ross (2005). The Basics of Permaculture Design. Chelsea Green Publishing. (p1-10) McKibben, B.( 2010, March/April) “The only way to have a cow.” Orion. Power, Tom (1996). “Thinking about the local economy,” a chapter Lost Landscape and Failed Economies: The search for a value of place (pp. 7-17) Bromage, A and Flagg, K. “Wind-Power Opponents Question Favorable Poll Numbers.” Seven Days. (January 2013). Costanza, R (2008) Some convenient truths: Scaling back our energy-hungry lifestyles means more of what matters, not less. Grist Magazine. Leopold, A (1948). The Land Ethic. Except From The Sand County Almanac. Hawken, S. (2009, April) You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. Yes! Magazine.
Enrollment: This course will be limited to twelve students. Bike riding experience is required; a good level of fitness will be needed to enjoy this course. All group equipment will be provided. Students will be required to provide their own bicycles and trailer or panniers. We also recommend that students bring a sense of adventure, active curiosity, and a true willingness to learn. Course Instructors : Noah Pollock hails from Delmar, NY, and graduated from Cornell University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources. He earned his M.S. degree from the Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, where he studied sustainable community development and ecological economics. For several years, Noah worked consultant for Spring Hill Solutions, a Burlington, VT energy, carbon management, and business sustainability firm. Today he consults independently on community energy and land conservation projects throughout the state. Noah has served as an environmental educator for the YMCA, runs the
Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s summer stewardship intern program, and co-instructs the Wild Rockies Field Institute course Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana. A passionate outdoor enthusiast and educator, he has cycled through New Zealand, the Canadian maritimes, and the Northern Rockies, and has taught college courses ranging from environmental economics to wilderness survival. Beth Norton earned a BA in Psychology from the California State University in Chico in 2007. Since earning her degree, she had worked extensively for Outward Bound at outposts in both Maine and Florida, serving as both logistics coordinators and as a Wilderness Instructor. In Burlington, Beth works with traumatized and abused children in a HowardCenter residential programs and facilitates yoga workshops in the community. Risk Management Field based courses have inherent risks. The course instructors with work closely with UVM Risk Management to craft a detailed risk management and emergency response plan to ensure the safety of students. The plan will follow the best practices established in similar field courses. Both instructors are wilderness first responder certified. Prior to embarking on their journey, students will receive instruction and practice safe riding skills. While tents will be shared, they will be segregated by gender. The chosen route will avoid, as much as possible, busy or dangerous roads. All students will be required to provide health insurance and emergency contact information, complete a health form, and receive sign-off from their physician that they are in adequate physical shape to safely participate in the course.
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