While there are many different approaches to understanding and managing complex environmental problems, most involve several major steps: (1) describing/understanding the nature of the problem and its causes (both biophysical and human); (2) using technical, policy, social, and other management tools/processes to help address it; while (3) recognizing/making the value judgments embedded in each (what problems/data are “important”? what solutions are “best”?).
The purpose of this course is to illustrate how one might integrate scientific understanding with management choices as part of an effort to manage any particular system over time. It focuses on how to use the broad range of scientific analyses, data, and insights and place them into the context of how they inform problem solving. The interface of science with policy, law, community empowerment, business and economics, and most importantly decision making is the theme that runs through the course.
The term-long case study that acts as the organizing framework for the course is toxic chemicals. After receiving essential fundamental facts about the current chemicals management framework, student teams prepare and present “briefing papers” on a toxic of their choosing (e.g., Atrazine in agriculture, Bisphenol A in plastics, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, etc.), including functional uses, toxicology, environmental justice, and governmental regulation, and how and why our current system to design, commercialize, and manage chemicals has failed . These briefings provide the basis of the final phase of the course, which includes the construction of formal recommendations on how to innovate a sustainable chemicals future. This course is intended for people of all backgrounds, from basic to advanced levels of scientific understanding.
Preference given to first-year M.E.M. students
F&ES 610 is a prerequisite for:
F&ES 712: Water Resource Management