ENSP 200 Global Environmental Issues Syllabus

Instructor Professor Daniel Soto
Office Rachel Carson Hall 12
Email sotod@sonoma.edu
Meeting Time T/Th 2:30 -- 3:45 pm
Classroom Stevenson 1002
Teaching Assistant Jesse Casas
TA Email casasr@seawolf.sonoma.edu

Course Description

Lecture/discussion, 3 hours. An introduction to environmental studies and planning, including: humans in relation to the global ecosystem; an overview of problems of energy use, pollution, resource depletion, population growth, food supply, urbanization, climate change and biodiversity; and the search for solutions and future prospects. Satisfies GE Area D5 (Contemporary International Perspectives).

Contemporary International Perspectives studies major economic and political dimensions of human activity, including consideration of differential access to natural resources, wealth, and power within and among the world’s nations.

Reading assignments

For each assigned reading, you are expected to write a short (200 word) reflection that relates at least two key concepts in the reading to something in the news or your in your experience. You will maintain these reflections in an electronic journal in a Google docs file and will place a link to that file in a spreadsheet that I will make available over Moodle. We will grade this journal periodically to check your progress.


We will frequently perform group work in class to gain practice on the concepts presented in the lecture and readings. This work will be turned in at the end of class. If you miss class due to an unexcused absence, you will receive a zero on that day's classwork grade.

Class Texts

  • Miller and Spoolman, Living in the Environment, 18th Edition
  • Environment and Society
  • Lovins, Natural Capitalism

The Miller and Spoolman text is available in the bookstore but I am making all of the readings available online through Moodle.


Midterm 1 100 points
Midterm 2 100 points
Final Exam 100 points
Writing Assignments 100 points
In-class Assignments 50 points
Total 450 points

Letter grades will be assigned using the following scale

A Total >= 90%
B 90% > Total >= 80%
C 80% > Total >= 70%
D 70% > Total >= 60%
F 60% > Total

Extra credit service opportunities will be announced during the semester. You can earn 5 points of class credit for each hour of service up to 50 points total. To get credit, turn in a paper briefly describing the activity and have it signed by the organizer of the activity.

Class Organization

The class will be broken into three sections, separated by the midterm exams.

Part one: Physical Science Fundamentals

We will learn some of the science that we use to understand how our environment behaves. The science you learn provides one way of understanding environmental issues.

Part two: Social Science Fundamentals

We will cover topics in social science that provide valuable tools for analyzing and explaining how environmental problems come to exist because of human behavior. In each of these we will show how they can be seen as the sources of problems but also as potential solutions.

Part three: Intersections

We will go in depth into a few topics and apply the fundamentals we learned in the first two sections of the course to these topics. This is where we will practice relating concepts and recognizing connections between topics.

Course Schedule

This is the schedule for the class. This schedule is subject to change during the semester. If I make a change to this schedule, I will announce it in the beginning of class.

  • Tue 20 Jan 2015 - Introduction
  • Thu 22 Jan 2015 - Fundamentals
    • Reading Due: Miller 1 Environmental Problems, Miller 2 Science, Matter, Energy, and Systems
  • Tue 27 Jan 2015 - Ecosystems
    • Reading Due: Miller 3 Ecosystems
  • Thu 29 Jan 2015 - Human Population
    • Reading Due: Miller 6 Human Population
  • Tue 03 Feb 2015 - Biodiversity
    • Reading Due: Miller 7 Climate and Biodiversity
  • Thu 05 Feb 2015 - Biodiversity
    • Reading Due: Miller 8 Aquatic Biodiversity
  • Tue 10 Feb 2015 - Pollution
    • Reading Due: Miller 18 Air Pollution
  • Thu 12 Feb 2015 - Pollution
    • Reading Due: Miller 20 and 21 Pollution
  • Tue 17 Feb 2015 - Review
  • Thu 19 Feb 2015 - Midterm 1
  • Tue 24 Feb 2015 - Markets and commodities
    • Reading Due: E&S 3 Markets and Commodities
  • Thu 26 Feb 2015 - Markets and commodities
    • Reading Due: NC 13 Making Markets Work
    • Homework Due: Markets Reading Essay
  • Tue 03 Mar 2015 - The commons
    • Reading Due: E&S 4 Institutions and the Commons
  • Thu 05 Mar 2015 - Ethics
    • Reading Due: E&S 5 Environmental Ethics
    • Homework Due: Commons and Ethics Essay
  • Tue 10 Mar 2015 - Risks and Hazards
    • Reading Due: E&S 6 Risks and Hazards
  • Thu 12 Mar 2015 - Risks and Hazards
    • Homework Due: Risk Essay
  • Tue 24 Mar 2015 - Political Economy
    • Reading Due: E&S 7 Political Economy
  • Thu 26 Mar 2015 - Political Economy
    • Homework Due: Political Economy Reading Essay
  • Thu 02 Apr 2015 - Review
  • Tue 07 Apr 2015 - Midterm 2
  • Thu 09 Apr 2015 - Consumer Production
  • Tue 14 Apr 2015 - California Drought
    • Reading Due: NC 10 Food for Life
  • Thu 16 Apr 2015 - California Drought
    • Reading Due: NC 3 Waste Not
  • Tue 21 Apr 2015 - California Drought
  • Thu 23 Apr 2015 - Climate Change
  • Tue 28 Apr 2015 - Climate Change
    • Reading Due: E&S 9 Carbon Dioxide
  • Thu 30 Apr 2015 - Climate Change
    • Reading Due: NC 12 Climate
    • Homework Due: Final Essay
  • Tue 05 May 2015 - Global Energy Access
  • Thu 07 May 2015 - Review

Final Exam

2:00 pm -- 3:50 pm, Tuesday, May 12th


Respectful tone in classroom

Civility is required from all students during discussions and interactions. In general, I expect students to be supportive of each others learning goals.

Minimize electronic distractions

Internet-connected electronic devices (phones, tablets) may be used in class for learning purposes. If these devices distract from your learning or your classmates learning I reserve the right to limit their use.

Willingness to take risks and experiment

I frequently try new approaches to teaching and learning. These are always with the intention of making this class as beneficial to you as possible.

Office Hours

Signup is online and can be accessed through my website at danielrsoto.com

University Policies

There are important University policies that you should be aware of, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement. Go to this URL to find them. http://www.sonoma.edu/uaffairs/policies/studentinfo.shtml