Global Issues and the Environment (2 credits)
"Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth and capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth." Lester Brown
Although we are constantly exposed to global and environmental issues in the media, they are often presented as isolated problems peculiar to the place and time in which they are occurring. Governments or world bodies such as the UN then propose short-term 'solutions' and these decisions are hailed or criticized by the press before they move on to the next crisis or event.
At this time when the entire planet is threatened by the effects of climate change, this class proposes that it is essential that we go beyond treating the 'symptoms' of our present growth-oriented global economic model. Instead, by making the connections and noting the systemic patterns that become evident in the process of our study, we will seek to understand the holistic root causes of the global challenges our civilization is presently facing in ever-increasing numbers.
We will attempt to do this by constantly reflecting on and critically evaluating the impact of our own consumer-driven lifestyles and considering how the decisions we make contribute to such large-scale issues as poverty, food and energy insecurity and environmental degradation. The environment - our natural support system upon which the total human infrastructure depends - will thus be the foundation upon which all our other considerations are based.
We will be aided in our exploration by our textbook, Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester Brown, articles and podcasts presented by such cutting edge groups as 'The Worldwatch Institute', 'Redefining Progress' 'New Economics Foundation' and 'International Institute for Sustainable Development' and by videos such as '11th Hour', 'The Future of Food' and 'Inconvenient Truth'.
Student involvement is essential to this course as it is your ideas, realizations and actions that may come out of this course which will help to guide the next generation towards a more sustainable paradigm.
You will be assigned weekly readings and will be asked to do a number of internet-based activities based on various aspects of our daily lifestyle. You will also be expected to reflect upon and research how a number of the issues addressed in our textbook are manifest both in the countries you have previously studied in as well as here in Japan.
This is a 2-credit class and therefore we will meet 12 times for two and a half hours each week for a total of 30 hours. Students are expected to complete 2 hours of outside study for each contact hour which translates into 5 hours a week for a total of 60 hours. This time should be spent completing the assigned textbook and supplementary readings and conducting research for your weekly response papers, which will form the basis of our classroom discussion.
You are expected to complete 20 pages of formal writing. This requirement will be met by writing ten, two page responses to the discussion and reflection questions given out in the previous week. These responses should make evident that you have critically reflected on the readings and conducted further research on key points by including quotes and statistics to support your point of view.
Since this is a course that more than most pertains to the quality of your future life, I would like to make up to 50% of class-time student-based where you are the ones who are guiding the class discussion based on your readings, research, personal experiences and observations. It is therefore essential that students attend each class and come fully prepared to share their findings. Absences consisting of 20% of the total class time will result in a complete loss of credit.
Students will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
Supplementary Readings for Lester R. Brown's Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Chapter 1. Entering a New World:
1. Visions of Green by Bryan Walsh
2. Taboo Talk in Green Business: Buy Less Stuff by Joel Makower
3. NEEDED: A COPERNICAN SHIFT by Lester R. Brown
4. Making a Life: Redefining Success and Rediscovering Joy by John Ivanko & Lisa
Chapter 2. Deteriorating Oil and Food Security
1. Why Our Food is so Dependent on Oil by Norman Church
2. Food needs 'fundamental rethink' by Mark Kinver
3. Heat may spark world food crisis by James Morgan
4. Why Global Warming Portends a Food Crisis by Bryan Walsh
Chapter 3. Rising Temperatures and Rising Seas
1. Billions Face Climate Change Risk (BBC Report)
5. Climate Change Crisis 'Catastrophic' by Hilary Whiteman
Chapter 4. Emerging Water Shortages
1. Water - another global 'crisis'? by Richard Black
2. It's raining GDP by Sunita Narain
3. Peace in the pipeline by Aaron Wolf, Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius and Geoffrey Dabelko
4. Is Water the New Oil? by Juliette Jowit
by Leo Lewis
Chapter 5. Natural Systems Under Stress
1. Nature loss 'dwarfs bank crisis' by Richard Black
2. Biodiversity 'fundamental' to economics by Sigmar Gabriel
3. Nature loss 'to hurt global poor' by Richard Black
4. Mammals facing extinction threat by Richard Black
5. Bleak forecast on fishery stocks by James Morgan
Chapter 6. Early Signs of Decline
1. The Hungry Billion by Sue Horton and Bjorn Lomborg
2. Fight against HIV/AIDS must address the vulnerability of women (UNDP Report)
3. Population: The elephant in the room by John Feeney
4. Global Crisis to Strike by 2030 by Christine McGourty
by Branko Milanovic
6. UNDP examines priority areas for tackling corruption in Asia-Pacific (UNDP Report)
Chapter 7. Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population
1. Toward Universal Education: Making a Promise and Keeping it by Gene B. Sperling
2. The Payoff From Women's Rights by Isobel Coleman
3. The Challenge of Global Health by Laurie Garrett
by Sarah Haddock, Karen Hardee, Jill Gay, Piotr Macie, J Pawlak and Christina
(Oxfam Briefing Paper)
6. Subsidies 'Harvest of Misery' By Jimmy Carter
Chapter 8. Restoring the Earth
1. Setting out Obama's green agenda by Peter Seligmann
2. Eco Tipping Points: How a Vicious Cycle can become Virtuous by Amanda Suutari
and Gerald Marten
4. Return of the Johad by Gerald Marten and Amanda Suutari
Chapter 9. Feeding Eight Billion Well
1. Eco-farming 'helps world's poor' by Mark Kinver
2. Local Produce vs. Global Trade by Adam Dean
4. Dear Mr. Next President -- Food, Food, Food by Michael Pollan
5. Table for Six Billion, Please by David Kupfer (Interview with Judy Wicks)
Chapter 10. Designing Cities for People
by Amanda Suutari
3. Ecocities of Tomorrow: An Interview with Richard Register by Jesse Fox
4. Cities and Biodiversity: Bonn Call for Action Mayor's Conference, 2008
5. How green are Japan's urbanites? by Tomoko Otake and Eriko Arita
Chapter 11. Raising Energy Efficiency
2. Japan's 'Top Runner' Program (The Energy Conservation Center, Japan Report)
3. UN: Tackling climate change will boost - not destroy - jobs by Juliette Jowit
4. UK unveils CO2 footprint standard by Mark Kinver
5. The tough problem of plastics by Dan Parkinson
Chapter 12. Turning to Renewable Energy
1. Building a Secure Energy Future (Brookings Report)
2. The 10 Big Energy Myths by Chris Goodall
4. New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States by Lester R. Brown
5. The End of an Era: Closing the Door on Building New Coal-fired Power Plants in America by Jonathan G. Dorn
6. The Flawed Economics of Nuclear Power by Lester R. Brown
Chapter 13. The Great Mobilization
1. Companies 'need green directors' by Richard Black
2. Proud, Concerned and Hopeful by Nia Robinson
3. We Can't Drill Our Way Out of Our Energy Problems by Van Jones
4. Environment: Twisted As Unnaturally as the Banks by Julio Godoy
5. The New Facts of Life by Fritjof Capra
Resources for In-Class Discussion & Papers
Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues that Affect Us All: There are over 550 articles on this site, mostly written by Anup Shah, the website founder. The issues discussed range from trade, poverty and globalization, to human rights, geopolitics, the environment, and much more. Spread over these articles, there are over 7,000 links to external articles, web sites, reports and analysis to help provide credence to the arguments made on this web site.
EarthTrends: A comprehensive online database, maintained by the World Resources Institute, that focuses on the environmental, social, and economic trends that shape our world.
Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.
Redefining Progress: The nation's leading public policy think tank dedicated to smart economics. We find solutions that ensure a sustainable and equitable world for future generations.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): The world's oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries.
The Eco-Tipping Points Project: EcoTipping Points are levers for restoring sustainability to our imperiled environment - small actions that tip the balance from decline to restoration by tapping the inborn power of nature and human societies to heal themselves. Many environmental and social problems are so complex and overwhelming it's hard to know where to begin. But pioneering communities around the world are showing what it takes to succeed. The EcoTipping Points Project is dedicated to making the stories and their lessons known through the media, workshops, and direct collaboration with community groups.
Friends of the Earth International -Publications- Reports on Agrofuels, Climate Justice and Energy, Forests and Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Economic Justice.
The New Economics Foundation: nef (the new economics foundation) is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. We aim to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues. We work in partnership and put people and the planet first.
Small Planet Institute: Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe founded the Small Planet Institute in 2001 to further an historic transition: a worldwide shift from the dominant, failing notion of democracy - as something done to us or for us - toward democracy as a rewarding way of life: a culture in which citizens infuse the values of inclusion, fairness and mutual accountability into all dimensions of public life. We call this Living Democracy.
Earth Island Institute: For more than 20 years, Earth Island Journal has provided readers with cutting-edge environmental reporting and commentary from around the world.
International Institute for Sustainable Development: IISD is in the business of promoting change towards sustainable development. As a policy research institute dedicated to effective communication of our findings, we engage decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors in the development and implementation of policies that are simultaneously beneficial to the global economy, the global environment and to social well-being.
Bioneers: Founder Kenny Ausubel coined the term Bioneers in 1990 to describe an emerging culture. Bioneers are social and scientific innovators from all walks of life and disciplines who have peered deep into the heart of living systems to understand how nature operates, and to mimic "nature's operating instructions" to serve human ends without harming the web of life. Nature's principles-kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste-can also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.
Rocky Mountain Institute For more than 25 years, RMI has been dedicated to publishing game-changing analyses of energy and resource issues. Representing critical thought leadership from Amory Lovins and other RMI practitioners, this link provides direct access to the institute's libraries, published contributions, and current work.
United Nations Environment Program: Global Environment Outlook: The fourth Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4) assessment is a comprehensive and authoritative UN report on environment, development and human well-being, providing incisive analysis and information for decision making.
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies: (IGES) is a research institute that conducts pragmatic and innovative strategic policy research to support sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.
A 2006 'Time Magazine' Special on Asia's Environment (About 10 articles, covering China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.) A good introduction to some of the key environmental /social issues facing Asia today.
JAPAN SPECIFIC: A wide array of articles and short blogs about a vast array of environmental topics: Japan for Sustainability and search under -Japan- in http:www.treehugger.com and you will know more than most about what is going on with regards to environmental policy and issues in Japan.
CHINA SPECIFIC: An award winning ten-part series from the New York Times titled 'Choking on Growth'