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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robert Joseph Turner
BIS 359
Bothell Campus

Principles and Controversies of Sustainability

Focuses on the challenges, principles, and controversies of sustainability. Analyzes the sustainability issues, identifying the values underlying societal actions and conflicting perspectives, and considers the ecological, ethical, and human well-being ramifications of following different sustainability proposals and cultural trajectories.

Class description

This course provides a framework for students to learn about our future prospects and the principles and controversies of sustainability. Will our grandchildren inherit a better world, with greater opportunity for well-being than we enjoy today? How can we ensure that environmental health and social justice improve? Just what do we mean by sustainability and sustainable development and why are they seemingly so difficult to achieve? Given the focus on sustainability as a cultural ideal and point of contention, we shall wrestle with matters of ethics, culture, economics, and politics. Accordingly, the course fulfills an Individual and Society requirement. It also serves as a core course for the Sustainability and Society track of the BA Environmental Studies degree.

Student learning goals

Articulate a personal philosophy on sustainability and discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with pursing it.

Assess the ethical ramifications of sustainability issues.

Explain how current (or future) resource use and management practices threaten ecological integrity and human well-being.

Discuss how pursuing different sustainable development ideals and resilience might affect our future with regard to environmental health, ecological services, social justice, and other factors that impact human well-being.

Identify the philosophies, values, or cultural norms that underlie our reactions to the readings, and are implicit in the analyses, proposals, and actions of others, then evaluate their compatibility with sustainability ideals.

Document how they have improved in their abilities to: compare, synthesize, and assess multiple perspectives; and present, support, and evaluate positions and conclusions (their own and those of others) in their writing and debate performances.

General method of instruction

Principles and Controversies of Sustainability is a seminar-style course where student contribution in the classroom is a primary goal and lectures are rare. The learning objectives and activities of the course are facilitated by the professor. This course does not emphasize the memorization of facts and disciplinary concepts. Instead, the course focuses on analyzing and synthesizing ideas and reflecting on issues as they might impact you or others. Students are encouraged to be active learners via thoughtful reading, critical writing, class discussion, debates, and a collaborative group project.

Recommended preparation

There are no prerequisites and the course is appropriate for students of any background or major. Students should, however, be prepared to speak up in class, participate in a lively debate, and engage respectfully in discussions of diverse worldviews and ideologies embedded in course readings, presentations, and artifacts, including those that are at odds with their own personal beliefs and values. Students in this class should also be prepared to collaborate in a motivated, creative and equitable way with other students on group projects.

Class assignments and grading

Lots of juicy readings from a wide range of authors and sources. 6 Homework assignments 3 short essays 1 Debate performance 1 Group Project with 4 sub-deliverables Final exam


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Robert Joseph Turner
Date: 04/25/2013