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ENVS504: Society, Economy, and the Environment

Unit 10: Synthesis and Solutions   Each of the systems discussed in previous units is important in its own right.  The problems that societies must try to solve within those systems are very challenging.  However, these systems interact with each other, and the weakening or collapse of one system (e.g., loss of coastal wetlands and the flood protection they provide) can lead to a catastrophe in another system (e.g., massive flooding of New Orleans and other coastal cities by a category 3 Hurricane Katrina).

In this unit, you will read articles and watch short videos that discuss many of these issues and their interconnections.  This unit will synthesize concepts from previous units.  This final unit is meant to give you a more holistic understanding of these issues and how they influence each other and human societies.  The resources in this unit will provide examples of how these issues can be woven into a cohesive narrative of the current problems we face and how we might solve them.

Unit 10 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 23 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 10.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 10.2: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 10.3: 4 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 10.3.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 10.3.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 10.4: 5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 10.4.1: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 10.4.2: 0.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 10.4.3: 2.75 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 10.4.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 10.5: 7.25 hours

☐    Subunit 10.6: 2 hours

Unit10 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Define and discuss terminology such as payment for ecosystem services, congestion tax, and renewable energy, and identify the main social and environmental issues when presented with case studies. - Identify the connections among social and environmental issues, and examine the solutions that are presented.

10.1 Energy Solutions   - Reading: U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Anna Shipley et al.’s “Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future” Link: U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Anna Shipley et al.’s “Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read the report.
 Shipley and her coauthors describe how combined heat and power
systems (often called “cogeneration”) can greatly enhance the
efficiency of many types of energy systems, but particularly those
in power plants and industrial and commercial buildings.  This
method of energy generation also reduces the greenhouse gas
emissions by kilowatt of energy.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 2
hours.  

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  • Lecture: TED Talks: Amory Lovins’ “A 40-year Plan for Energy” Link: TED Talks: Amory Lovins’ “A 40-year Plan for Energy” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch the lecture.  Amory Lovins is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank that advocates solutions for the efficient use of energy and resources.  Here, he discusses the problems inherent to the current fossil fuel-based energy systems and describes how the US could progress to energy conservation and renewable energy sources.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Lecture: TED Talks: Justin Hall-Tipping’s “Freeing Energy from the Grid” Link: TED Talks: Justin Hall-Tipping’s “Freeing Energy from the Grid” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch the lecture.  Justin Hall-Tipping discusses one type of technological advancement that can help meet energy needs more efficiently without releasing greenhouse gases.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

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10.2 Food Solutions   - Lecture: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Michael Heller’s “A Vision for Agriculture” Link: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Michael Heller’s “A Vision for Agriculture” (MP3 and PPT)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link scroll down to
“Lecture 19: A Vision for Agriculture.”  Click on links for the
Slides and MP3 for “Part A.”  Listen to the MP3 lecture as you
follow along with the Power Point slides.  Then, click on the links
for the Slides and MP3 for Parts B and C.  Listen to these podcasts
as you read along with the slides.  C. Michael Heller describes the
farming techniques that can be used to produce more sustainable
crops and livestock products and discusses the systemic measures
that can be used to monitor the shift to more sustainable
agriculture.  He argues that agricultural production must occur at a
far more local scale than the scale at which industrial agriculture
operates.  

 Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take
approximately 45 minutes.  

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: PopTech: Will Allen’s “On Urban Farming” Link: Vimeo: PopTech: Will Allen’s “On Urban Farming” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch the lecture.  Will Allen is a founder of Growing Power, an organization that is focused on food production in urban areas for urban communities.  In this video, he discusses his approaches for teaching people in urban areas about small-scale farming and healthy foods as well as the impact these efforts have had on the social and economic conditions in these communities.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Reading: Solutions: Wes Jackson’s “The 50-Year Farm Bill” Link: Solutions: Wes Jackson’s “The 50-Year Farm Bill” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this article.  Earlier in the course (sub-subunit 4.3.3), you listened to an interview with Wes Jackson, describing The Land Institute and the agricultural practice of polyculture.  In this article, Jackson describes how to use a policy similar to the U.S. Farm Bill to gradually implement polyculture, perennial agriculture, and other sustainable agricultural methods on a large scale.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

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10.3 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation and Management Solutions   10.3.1 Biodiversity Solutions   - Reading: Solutions: Joe Roman et al.’s “Facing Extinction: Nine Steps to Save Biodiversity” Link: Solutions: Joe Roman et al.’s “Facing Extinction: Nine Steps to Save Biodiversity” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this article.
 The authors argue that biodiversity conservation must occur at
landscape or larger scales and must take an interdisciplinary
approach, including policy, ecological economics (to place a value
on what might be lows), and literacy in environmental science so
that people may better understand the problems and solutions
posed.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

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  • Web Media: YouTube: International Union for Conservation of Nature: “Biotrade Initiative” Link: YouTube: International Union for Conservation of Nature: “Biotrade Initiative” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this short video, which describes one community-scale solution to conserve biodiversity in Ecuador.  This solution focuses not only on biodiversity, but sustainable livelihoods.

    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: University of Arizona: Paul Robbins’ “Conservation as It Is: Producing Wildlife in the Contested Natural Sanctuaries of India” Link: Vimeo: University of Arizona: Paul Robbins’ “Conservation as It Is: Producing Wildlife in the Contested Natural Sanctuaries of India” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this video.  Paul Robbins uses the example of wildlife populations in a reserve in India to argue that traditional nature reserves (which isolate plant and animal populations within strictly protected areas, away from human presence) may not be the most ideal or feasible approach to biodiversity conservation.  He describes the importance of considering land use and human activities as well as the day-to-day decisions of local land managers, when identifying the more effective conservation approaches.

    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.

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10.3.2 Ecosystem Solutions   - Lecture: Vimeo: PopTech: Willie Smits’ “Saving Rainforests” Link: Vimeo: PopTech: Willie Smits’ “Saving Rainforests” (MP4)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this
lecture.  Willie Smits discusses the current risks facing
rainforests and the local communities that depend upon them as well
as the impact that deforestation in these areas has on the global
climate.  He then outlines how sustainable energy production could
improve the future outlook of rainforest ecosystems.  

 Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: Texas A&M; University: Kent Redford’s “Second Nature: The Case for Conservation after the Death of Nature” Link: Vimeo: Texas A&M University: Kent Redford’s “Second Nature: The Case for Conservation after the Death of Nature” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this video.  Kent Redford discusses what we mean by the word “nature” and how that definition affects one’s perceptions and values regarding its conservation.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: Point Reyes Bird Observatory: John Wiens’ “Conservation in a Changing World: Do We Need a New Paradigm?” Link: Vimeo: Point Reyes Bird Observatory: John Wiens’ “Conservation in a Changing World: Do We Need a New Paradigm?” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this lecture.  John Wiens is a noted ornithologist and conservation biologist.  In this video, he discusses the strengths and weaknesses of different biodiversity and ecosystem management approaches, including adaptive management and restoration.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

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10.4 Solutions Involving Spatial Flows   10.4.1 Invasive Species   - Lecture: Vimeo: Chris Costello’s “Risks of Invasive Species from International Trade” Link: Vimeo: Chris Costello’s “Risks of Invasive Species from International Trade” (MP4)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this video.
 Chris Costello discuses how better information and policy design
can reduce the risk of invasive species that spread through
international trade.  

 Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: The National Academies: Ann Bartuska’s “Control of Invasives in Forests” Link: Vimeo: The National Academies: Ann Bartuska’s “Control of Invasives in Forests” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this lecture.  Ann Bartuska describes how the methods that land managers use to control invasive species have changed over time, due to new knowledge and information about them.  She also discusses why invasive species control is so influenced by cost of control.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

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10.4.2 Air Pollution   - Web Media: Vimeo: “Campaign for New York’s Future: Congestion Pricing” Link: Vimeo: “Campaign for New York’s Future: Congestion Pricing” (MP4)

 Instructions: Please click on the link and watch the video, which
describes an initiative to adopt a congestion charge to reduce
traffic and the air pollution it generates.  

 Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 5
minutes.  

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  • Reading: On the Commons: Charles Komanoff’s “Valuing the Commons: Congestion Pricing’s Hidden Payoff” Link: On the Commons: Charles Komanoff’s “Valuing the Commons: Congestion Pricing’s Hidden Payoff” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link and read the short article.  Charles Komanoff provides support for traffic congestion fees by describing how these fees help put a price on the damage that air pollution causes to our common spaces and atmosphere.  Many economists believe that resources that are held in commons (as opposed to private property) are often overused and damaged because there is no price associated with their use.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

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10.4.3 Globalization   - Reading: Solutions: Fred Curtis and David Ehrenfeld’s “The New Geography of Trade: Globalization’s Decline May Stimulate Local Recovery” Link: Solutions: Fred Curtis and David Ehrenfeld’s “The New Geography of Trade: Globalization’s Decline May Stimulate Local Recovery” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this article.
 The authors take the interesting view that globalization has
already begun to decline due to energy costs, which makes
long-distance transportation of goods difficult.  As globalization
contracts, the authors expect local economies to strengthen.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15
minutes.  

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10.4.4 Trade Solutions   - Reading: Law, Environment, and Development Journal: Kabir Bavikatte and Daniel Robinson’s “Towards a People’s History of the Law: Biocultural Jurisprudence and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing” Link: Law, Environment, and Development Journal: Kabir Bavikatte and Daniel Robinson’s “Towards a People’s History of the Law: Biocultural Jurisprudence and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link scroll down to find
the article titled “Towards a People’s History of the Law,” click on
the “Full Text” link, and read the article.  The authors describe
the development of the Nagoya Protocol (one of the first of its
kind) to prevent rich countries and companies from using the
traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous communities for
profit (and worse, filing for patents for the knowledge).  The
Protocol protects this knowledge and indigenous communities retain
all rights to any beneficial species or properties found in their
jurisdictions.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour.  

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10.5 Resource Recycling Solutions   - Reading: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Composting Options: Lessons from 30 US Communities” Link: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Composting Options: Lessons from 30 US Communities” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and then select the
links on the webpage to access the report’s chapters as separate PDF
files.  Please read Chapter One through Chapter Eight; you can read
the Appendices as supplemental material, if you wish.  The report
describes the many different methods use to improve the amount and
kinds of resources that can be recycled from residential,
commercial, and industrial sources.  

 Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 7
hours.  

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  • Reading: Solutions: Penny Sackett’s “Endangered Elements: Conserving the Building Blocks of Life” Link: Solutions: Penny Sackett’s “Endangered Elements: Conserving the Building Blocks of Life” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this article, which describes the many different inorganic resources and elements that have dwindling reserves in nature.  The article discusses the approaches that are currently underway to substitute more common elements for rare ones and to increase the recycling rates for all resources so that mining for new resources will become less necessary.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

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10.6 Interacting Problems and Solutions (Synthesis)   - Lecture: Vimeo: PopTech: Lester Brown’s “A World in Balance” Link: Vimeo: PopTech: Lester Brown’s “A World in Balance” (MP4)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this
lecture.  Lester Brown is one of the foremost speakers on resource
depletion and sustainability issues and is the head of the World
Resources Institute.  In this lecture, he describes how
overpopulation and consumption trends interact with energy and
natural resource depletion to suggest possible catastrophic declines
in Earth’s ecosystems and national economies.  He suggests a few
policy options (like carbon emission taxes) that might help
individuals make better consumption decisions that collectively
would reduce the pressure on natural resources and the
environment.  

 Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

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  • Lecture: Vimeo: PopTech: Michael Pollan’s “Sustainable Food” Link: Vimeo: PopTech: Michael Pollan’s “Sustainable Food” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this lecture.  Michael Pollan is a prolific author focused on sustainable food systems and diets.  He discusses not only how the methods of food production, but also how the relationships of cultures to food production and consumption, dictate the sustainability of a food system.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

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  • Lecture: University of Oxford: Robert Costanza’s “Environmental Governance and Resilience: Solutions for a Sustainable and Desirable Future” Link: University of Oxford: Robert Costanza’s “Environmental Governance and Resilience: Solutions for a Sustainable and Desirable Future” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and then either press the play button, or click on “Get Audio File” to open the file using player software on your computer.  Robert Costanza is a noted expert in ecological economics and sustainability.  In this talk, he discusses what sustainability science is and how its interdisciplinary approach can be used to identify solutions to many sustainability and sustainable development problems.  In particular, he discusses ecosystem services and how payment to landowners for these services is one potential solution to solving multiple problems.

    Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

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