Graduate | Undergraduate
ENV-260.01 History of Technology
RCC-100.07 Imperiled Planet
ENV-205K Environmental Literacy

Comprehensive class descriptions of selected courses.


Transformational learning


Graduate line
Charles Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution

Milestones of Modern Science

An Emerging Sense of Place
The Robie House, University of Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910

jewelCourses listed by number and title:

Common elements in all courses

My expectations in


Service learning and community engagement projects are encouraged.

Courses I offer regularly
ENV - 300 Science & Politics of Climate Change
ENV - 206 Caribbean Environmental History
ENV - 260 History of Technology
ENV - 380 Environmental History
ENV - 205 Environmental Literacy
ENV - 342 Islands in the Stream
ENV - 343 History of Science
ENV - 377 Wilderness and the American Mind
MLS - 530 An Emerging Sense of Place
MLS - 605 Milestones of Modern Science
MLS - 699 Liberal Studies, Master's Degree,Thesis advising .

MLS - 547M

Charles Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution

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Liberal Arts Course Descriptions:

Window of the seven liberal arts, Knowles Memorial Chapel.

History of Technology

Have we invested more in our symbols of technology than they can promise in satisfying our hunger for contentment? The history of tool use and technological innovation is a global enterprise reflecting an expression of everything that is human. Since the dawn of fire and art in the dusk of some previous ice age the human dream of control over the unpredictable events that torment our material lives has moved apace. Having transformed the dreams and the dreamer our inventions today surround us with a human crafted world of bewildering dimensions and subtle contrivances.

One goal of this course is to allow you to better understand how the web of tools, tool use and tool making influences your life. We analyze how technology and techniques through our continuing use of implements and utensils, machines and media profoundly alters you and the world. Another goal of the class is to engage you in an ongoing conversation with me, your fellow students, and the people beyond the class as to the proper role of technology in our lives and our larger society. And a final goal of the course is to introduce you to the means of information for determining, to your own satisfaction, the cost of, the meaning and the significance of technology in shaping our individual and collective identities as morally imaginative and spiritually diverse human citizens.

Service learning and community based projects such as job shadowing are encouraged.

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Caribbean Environmental History: Islands in Time -- People in distress.

antillesThis class is an inquiry into the extent and influence of settlements and ecological revolutions in the Caribbean region’s long history. We examine three sources of evidence to answer better how humans effectively adapt to climatic and imperial changes that alter vegetation and cultures. This analysis of biological data, slave societies and master narratives emphasizes how Europeans substantially transformed the diverse geography of the Caribbean basin, Meso and South American border lands in search of gold, timber and spices. What amounts to the most widespread and definitive "ecological invasion" is seen as a foundation stone in the emergence of modern societies in both Latin and Anglo America. These serial changes have left poor and hungry enclaves behind as remnant indigenous societies or peoples with a blended cultural identity in "modernity's" ongoing race for technological and cultural sophistication.

Set in this formative and significant portion of the neotropical region, the Caribbean basin was settled by Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, East Indians and Chinese peoples as either willing or unwilling sources of labor to capture this archipelago's wealth. These transformations became the stepping stones to European conquests in Mexico, Peru, and North America. This focus on ecological invasions enables the class to see, from a multiple cultural perspective, past threats to both natural life support and economic supply systems. Our inquiry lastly focuses on the Haitian, Colombian, earlier Mexican, Cuban, recent Mexican revolutions how these many new nation’s biological and cultural differences persist as both economic opportunities and social obstacles for development of the Antilles and wider Central American region.

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Environmental History: People on the Land.

Is humankind a parasite or a progressive agent of change on this planet? This class is an inquiry into the Headeextent and influence of ecological revolutions in our nation's history. We examine a body of written, visual, and architectural evidence to answer better how humans adapt to climatic, geographical and cultural landscape changes that alter vegetation and landscape.

This documentary analysis emphasizes how humans substantially transformed North America's diverse geography. As an oral interpretation course you are expected to read your writing aloud in class.

The writers that we read contribute their evidence to the discussion of how well we comprehend past threats to our ecological life support system. We examine our historical geography to understand the landscapes' biological diversity and the vulnerability of the Earth's most fragile human freight. Using case studies you are asked to judge how imperiled are we humans and our resources on which technology and society now depend?

Together each participant must answer how landscapes and resources are threatened. At the end of the class each student orally and in writing presents their argument for how technology and society depend on preserving the land. We do this by focusing on building a case based on evidence for what is worth preserving in our nation's natural and cultural legacy.

Service learning and community based projects such as work with wildlife protection organizations are encouraged.

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Islands in The Stream

This is a practical, interdisciplinary approach to managing limited landscape and water sources. Course work emphasizes an understanding of a) the competing demands for erosionurban growth and development and b) the need to conserve and protect the ecosystem services derived from the natural environment. The course combines, natural history, ecological design and regional planning in its approach to habitat and includes a valuable field component. Participants develop their own homes and neighborhoods, on a simulated barrier island to better examine existing environmental problems in coastal areas related to poverty, sprawl, efficient location and livability.

The course focuses on our national and regional problems that reveal both local and global disputes associated with water, energy, air and land. Policy conflicts are revealed as related to ecological science and expressed by contemporary authorities on regulations, building, infrastructure and landscape design. Our focus is to redesign affordable, healthy and satisfying communities in which to live, work, and recreate. A team design approach allows students to apply these ideas to local and regional protection arguments.

Please consider the class as a visual and analytical blend of science, local and state agency endeavors and design. This is presented in a problem solving and field oriented context. Through discussions, projects, interviews and presentations, participants will develop criteria to assess existing designs and formulate a more reliable use of appropriate materials and techniques to any setting's climatic restraints. We examine indigenous settings and expressions of vernacular design qualities concerning materials provided by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and various county codes and government agencies.

Service learning and community engagement projects, such as dune restoration, are encouraged.

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Advocating Environmental Reforms: from People's natural rights to the rights of nature.

Based on both a blend of activity and analysis, the current domestic and international political situation is critiqued as inadequate to promoting the biological existence of creatures and healthy communities on this planet. The history of political ideas about preservation and conservation from the perspective of the American political tradition.

dutch protestThrough weekly reports of pending legislative matters, participants engage in an ongoing dialogue concerning their duties to and actions toward reforming national attitudes for protecting wildlife, water, air, and our natural heritage. The course allows participants to practice research, analysis, speaking and presentation skills to better demonstrate how we must nourish one another. As the caretakers of a vast and varied landscape inhabited by a variety of wildlife and a bewildering array of wilderness diversity, new political threats made worse by population, consumption, pollution, resource scarcity, climate change, and poverty, have emerged. Students are equipped with facts and data to pressure elected representatives to protect our ecological life support system, that is so readily misunderstood in light of the protection for private property.

In this class we look at the global implications of the end of the Cold War with respect to pressing matters that environmental issues are competing with for attention from the world community. These ecological constraints are viewed in light of economic restraints on how essential resources such as water, oil, or electricity are acquired and distributed. In this context we look at the varied political structure of the Congress and the State legislature to understand the collapse of our bipartisan conservation traditions. We examine current legal arrangements over our public domain, stewardship of landscape, forests, resources, common, open spaces, wildlife, watershed, fisheries, & harbors.

The goal of this course is for participants to clearly and reasonably explain the need to change existing safeguards and present ideas for reform based on the texts. The course is about acting to protect the ecological integrity of our common cultural, biological, and physical (mineral) wealth. Participants are asked through role playing competing stakeholders, how each may actively and effectively participate in the democratic decision making process.

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History of Science: the shaping of the modern worldview

Modern science amounts to an ongoing inquiry into what we know about the universe. Seen as a journey from Darwinthe past to now, scientists’ endeavors are like a highway littered with signposts that both alert and confuse the traveler about how to solve the mysteries of physical existence. Science is a means to discover the errors in conventional Worldviews.

This class is an inquiry into the meaning of a few great contemporary ideas in the history of science in this century that alert us to our own dubious role in the origins, essence and character of experience. Our discourse is built around the great intellectual revolutions that mark the development of scientific procedure and thought, particularly the events associated with Newton, Darwin and Einstein who were the three great formulators of our current worldview.

The course explores the concept of empirical, natural knowledge as the revolutionary ingredient in modern history. By emphasizing the importance of how, when and why scientists change their ideas about existence our pursuit encourages you to reflect on how we fabricate our beliefs about the universe. The milestones we examine in some detail are revealed in the popular works of Einstein in physics and Watson in biology. These are however related to the earlier contributions of Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Darwin, and Feynman.

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Science and Policycyclotron

By the application of knowledge to human affairs, biological and physical discoveries have totally transformed our relationship to nature and one another. You and I live in a post atomic world where research findings in genetics and radiation are fundamentally altering our beliefs about climate, natural resources and the necessity of human responsibility for nourishing nature and society. As an inquiry into the quality of our knowledge, this course asks you to write about ecological questions that speak to our survival as a civilization.

This class examines the impact of natural science and human cultural values on some of these discoveries where changes in our assumptions due to radioactivity and genetic research have expanded knowledge. With the explosion of knowledge comes challenges to our traditional beliefs. My goal is for you to articulate in writing and in speaking your understanding of ecology and policy based on readings, discussions, and interviews. Your course work should demonstrate how ecology influences policy decisions that involve a deeper comprehension of scientific laws, theories and discoveries.

Focusing on national, international and local examples of science advocacy organizations, students will comparatively examine case studies and quantitative analysis of science based, global ecological problems, such as acid rain, global warming and public health. This class gives students the chance to practice analytical methods, writing skills, and oral expression through either problem oriented research or work for community based, service providers whose organizational missions involve some depth of science education. Those groups are the Chelonian Institute, Audubon of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, & Save the Manatee Club.

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An Emerging Sense of Place

"The Land was ours, before we were the lands," suggested the American poet Robert Frost.

VermontThis graduate course examines how literature and science converge upon the development, formulation and full expression of a land ethic in the American imagination. By reading a series of important writers whose sensitivity to places challenged their generation and ours to protect the varied cultural identity of places and their natural areas, participants will discover how ecology emerged as a major focus in post war America.

This concern for geographical regeneration which can be traced to the Civil War generation, so permeated national values that an expression of a moral imperative can be seen after 1850 in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Mary Austin, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Terry Tempest Williams.

The class focuses on text based conversations about problems in defining places that reveal both regional and global disputes associated with land, air and water resources. The sciences of bio ecology and biogeography, as expressed by writers such as John B. Jackson, Archie Carr, Marjorie S. Douglas, or Norris Hundley, are contrasted with the literature on landscape in order to clarify, evaluate and formulate the deeper meanings of the national preoccupation of discovering its lost identity in relationship to the landscape.

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Milestones of Modern Science

NewtonThe graduate course explores the concepts of weltanschauung and zeitgeist in the accumulation empirical knowledge about the material world as a recurring revolutionary ingredient in both natural history and natural philosophy since the Renaissance. By emphasizing the importance of how and when scientists change their ideas about existence this academic pursuit encourages participants to reflect on how we acquire, examine and substantiate our knowledge of the universe. The milestones we examine in some detail are revealed in the popular works from Galileo and Einstein in physics to Darwin and Watson in biology. These are however related to the earlier discoveries -- we refer to as milestones -- representing the contributions of Aristotle, Kepler, Newton and Von Linne.

Through the use of primary documents, commentaries, poetry, drama and allegories this inquiry into the foundations of contemporary scientific thought conveys both the complexity of scientific details and the simplicity of methods used to distinguish errors from certainties about nature. To demonstrate this dual character of science three thematic threads through the labyrinth of physical knowledge are represented by the words: Cosmos (Kosmos), Bios (BIOS), Lux (Lux) . Order, life and light, respectively, are used for the course’s organizational framework. This organization conveys the widespread importance of science’s contributions to the intellectual, political and social life of our times.

This class is an inquiry into the meaning of a few great contemporary ideas in the history of science in this century that alert us to our own dubious role in the origins, essence and character of experiences. Our discourse is built around the great intellectual revolutions that mark the development of scientific thought, particularly the events associated with Galileo's discoveries, Newton's single vision, Darwin's organic redefinition, Einstein's universe, and Bohr's atoms, because these were the five great harbingers of an empirical and quantum-relativistic worldview that dominates intellectual pursuits in technology and knowledge today.

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Last Updated on August 11, 2011.

By Joseph Siry


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