Welcome to ENVS 350: A Course that Interrogates the Real World

This is a self contained web site. Imbecilic Blackboard only exists as a front end to this website.

For more information about the course, click on the About this Course link above.

Navigation of this web site is as follows:

  • The Syllabus Link takes you to the course syllabus that might contain some useful information. More information can also be found in the About This Course link

  • The Modules Link contains the table of contents for all of the course content. If at any time you get lost, simply click on the Modules to find your self again.

  • The Course Assignments Link will take you to where the assignments are posted. Homework assignments can be done collaboratively.

  • The Resources page has links to various products that we will use through out the term including the very important link to the Statistics tools that can be used to help with various data aspects of the class. The links under that page will be frequently updated so visit it often.

  • Grading of assignment and tests will still make use of the grade center in Blackboard

A brief course Introduction:

Currently, at the global scale, we are living in the most unstainable period in history and yet the typical consumer remains blissfully ignorant and certainly doesn't understand or care about why their individual consumption footprint might matter.

Much of the current dilemma can be traced to one root cause: in simple terms - no one cares about doing math anymore - in more precise terms: there seems to be now a total apathy regarding the importance of quantitative reasoning (after all, isn't there an APP for that anyway?) ant virtually all levels of society. One billion and one million are the same number to most, even though one of them is 1000 times greater and most people do understand the different between 1000 and 1.

The inability to quantitatively understand our consumption scale and plan for the future makes it really impossible to do anything sensible. Urban legend and other wishful myths now become our planning tool. This problem has gotten substantially worse in the last decade. Its one thing to not be able to exercise quantitative resasoning but we are beyond that - now quantitative reasoning is not even thought of as being important.

At the same time we are being told (through media and urban legend) that we are becoming greener and acheiving sustainability. This course will critically and quantitatively examing that claim. What matters is not efficiency but overall throughput that human activities impress upon the global ecosystem. The acceleration of greenhouse gas pollution clearly shows that we are the exact opposite of becoming greener.

On a final note - I recently wrote a 200 word abstract as part of a national competition regarding the notion of Discarding (our waste) and this abstract is relevant to this course"


    The concept of the "Throw Away Society" emerged in Post WWII America as new markets emerged to satisfy the consumption needs of what would become American suburbia. Homeowners were barraged with advertising that promoted a throwaway society as the key to happiness. Through television and shopping malls, the suburban American Homeown made consumption their way of life; as articulated by Victor Lebow (1955):

      "our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life; We need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an accelerating rate".

    And so, the happy American homeowner did just that, discard at accelerating rates because the discard was invisible. The discard did not pile up on the front lawn but rather an infrastructure was developed to make the discard invisible thus reinforcing that increasing consumption has no consequence. But now, after 70 years of this practice, we have created several garbage accumulation zones in the world's oceans. These sites, known as gyres, are places where various ocean currents converge and import whatever they carry to a relatively static accumulation zone. Typically it takes 10-20 years for a discarded plastic cap to end up in a gyre but only 10 minutes to acquire one from the nearest shopping mall. This is the imbalance of overconsumption and the discard is now visible.

    The following collection of widgets and graphs will serve as remainders of real global consumption.