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ES118 Environment and Society. ES 118 Environment and Society. Setting the Context: What are the Trends?. Diminishing Availability of Water and Agricultural Land The Oil Peak Collapsing Fisheries Shrinking Forests Loss of Biodiversity Climate Change. Climate Change: The Evidence.

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ES 118 Environment and Society

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ES118 Environment and Society

ES 118

Environment and Society

setting the context what are the trends
Setting the Context:What are the Trends?
  • Diminishing Availability of Water and Agricultural Land
  • The Oil Peak
  • Collapsing Fisheries
  • Shrinking Forests
  • Loss of Biodiversity
  • Climate Change
climate change the evidence
Climate Change:The Evidence
  • Today is Colby’s “ Focus the Nation” day
  • The latest IPCC report states that the evidence is now clear that the climate is changing and humans are responsible.
  • Some evidence of warming is already evident (glaciers melting, earlier ice outs, ecosystem changes).
climate change the implications
Climate Change:the Implications
  • The fossil-fuel energy sources that currently drive our economy emit greenhouse gases (primarily carbon) when combusted.
  • The models that estimate future impacts suggest the likelihood of very large negative impacts (sea level rise, storm surges, spread of disease, ecosystem changes, etc)
  • Changing those outcomes means changing the way we have historically improved well-being.
  • This makes climate change politically very controversial.
an alternative view
An Alternative View
  • “We ought not punish ourselves in shame. We ought to be pleased that we have thrown off so many of humanity’s yokes and made possible fantastic progress in terms of prosperity. And we ought to face the facts - that on the whole we have no reason to expect that progress will not continue.
  • This is the real state of the world.”
  • Bjørn Lomberg (p. 330)
a sense of history
A Sense of History

How did we get into this predicament?

  • Hunter/Gatherers
  • The First Agricultural Revolution
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The Second Agricultural Revolution
  • The Consequences
environment and society
Environment and Society
  • Why “Environment and Society”?
  • Behavioral Sources of Degradation
  • Mark Hertsgaard’s “Earth Odyssey”
the dilemma
The Dilemma
  • Need to increase the standard of living among the poorest nations and people.
  • Yet the traditional model of development puts excessive stress on the environment, thereby undermining the process.
  • As described by Thomas Friedman in his new book

the meteoric rise of India and China are the testing

grounds for these concerns.

  • How can this dilemma be resolved?
sustainable development the origins
Sustainable Development: The Origins
  • Our Common Future (1987)
    • Nations must work together to solve global environmental problems.
    • This new approach, which involves raising living standards for the poor while protecting and enhancing the environment, is called sustainable development.
sustainable development the definition
Sustainable Development:The Definition
  • “Sustainable development seeks to meet

the aspirations and the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

overarching questions
Overarching Questions
  • Is the predominant economic system (capitalism) compatible with sustainable development?
  • Is democracy compatible with sustainable development?
  • What role does globalization play in the quest for sustainable development?
  • Elizabeth Kolbert concluded her series in the New Yorker magazine on climate change with: "It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” Is she right?
societal resilience
Societal Resilience
  • Diamond’s focal question: Why did some societies overcome resource scarcity while others succumbed?
  • His approach: case study method using historical examples
  • His findings:

(1) Information

(2) Incentives

(3) Values

overarching themes
Overarching Themes
  • Evidence over opinion.
  • Behavioral Sources of Environmental Degradation:
    • Values
    • Information
    • Incentives
the computer connection
The Computer Connection
  • ES 118 Web page
    • Download syllabus
    • Download lecture outlines
    • Announcements
    • Web sources

meet the faculty
Meet the Faculty
  • Prof. Kabiri Ngeta, Government and Environmental Studies
  • Prof. Philip Nyhus, Environmental Studies
  • Prof. Tom Tietenberg, Economics and former Director of Environmental Studies
characteristics of the course


  • Solutions Oriented
  • Multiple Perspectives
  • Survey
  • Active Learning
  • Writing and Speaking Components
Characteristics of the Course
course format
Course Format
  • Mondays and Wednesdays we will have all-course lectures in this room.
  • Thursday nights we will have presentations on research methods in this same room.
  • On Fridays in the individual section rooms we will have small group discussions. These sessions will be an opportunity for you to clarify issues, to raise alternative points of view, and to delve into some of the leading questions that the faculty will put before you.
research projects
Research Projects
  • Designed to allow you to be actively involved in learning about a specific topic.
  • Thursday night sessions will lead you step-by-step through the research process. We will discuss finding researchable topics, formulating testable hypotheses, analytical approaches, research design, how to use evidence, etc. These session are generally timed to help you with the next step in your research process.
  • Some work sessions. (Good time for group to meet.)
  • Presentations during the last week. Run like a professional conference. Four days of presentations. Your group presents on one day and you attend presentations by others on the other three days. You choose the session you want to hear.
the syllabus
The Syllabus
  • Readings
  • Grading
  • Deadlines
  • Content
  • Download it from the web

the text
The Text
  • Used for basic background
  • Note Glossary in back
the e reader
The E-Reader
  • Selected readings from the literature to enrich the text and lectures.
  • Electronically available from the web.
  • Type “ES118” into the reserves search box on
issues for discussion
Controversial issues with two opposing experts

Useful point of departure for some class discussions on Friday

Issues for Discussion
some final details
Some Final Details
  • Please make sure you have signed the attendance sheet.
  • If you would like to be placed our the weekly email list for the ES program (speakers, internships, job opportunities), please email Beth Kopp at and ask to be put on the ES Newsletter list.
  • Can get daily environmental news from around the world if interested for free from any Colby computer, for example: