360°: Perspectives on Sustainability

SPeAR™ (Sustainability Project Appraisal Routine)Today we are facing numerous and interrelated challenges to the urban and natural environment, including rapid climate change, rising population numbers, and the extreme socio-economic differences that go hand in hand with them. Initiatives from green building to education for sustainability are aimed at reconsidering what is needed to adapt cities to current challenges and requirements.

To assess how planning and design interventions, changes in governance or education in the broadest sense can be most successful, and to provide students with concrete tools to assess the impact of the choices human beings make, our 360° offers a multi-disciplinary investigation of urban and educational policies and implementation issues that are crucial to issues of urban sustainability, while mathematical modeling provides frameworks to examine the evolution and current state of cities in terms of their built environments, their ecological footprints, and their educational systems.

We envision that such a multi-perspectival analysis—as well as the tools and methods of urban studies, mathematics, and education—understood broadly to include the ways ideas are framed, conveyed, taken up, and acted upon (or not)—will open the way for fresh insights into current and possible activism and help par ticipants frame their thinking and actions aimed at improving sustainability within and beyond urban spaces.

Perspectives on Sustainability Courses:

Growth and Structure of Cities 241: Building Green: Sustainable Design Past and Present

Taught by Carola Hein. At a time when more than half of the human population lives in cities, the design of the urban environment is a key aspect of environmental studies. Students investigate issues of sustainable architecture and urban design in past and present. The course has a Praxis component allowing students to put their research on historic and contemporary topics into the context of daily life.

Education 268: Educating for Ecological Literacy

Taught by Jody Cohen. This course examines how education can help people deeply understand and constructively respond to real, complex challenges such as managing shared resources. We consider policies and practices that can empower educators, students, and communities to become “ecologically literate” agents of change for a more sustainable and socially equitable world.

Mathematics 295: Introduction to Math and Sustainability

Taught by Victor Donnay. Using techniques of mathematical modeling including dynamical systems and bifurcation theory (tipping points), students will study quantitative aspects of sustainability problems. Students can take the course either at the 100-level (no advanced mathematics beyond high school mathematics) or, by doing additional work, at the 200-level (pre-requisite is calculus).