Environment & Sustainability

Bridging Disciplines Programs allow you to earn an interdisciplinary certificate that integrates area requirements, electives, courses for your major, internships, and research experiences.

The Environment & Sustainability BDP gives you the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplinary approaches to environmental processes and contemporary environmental issues. By bringing together courses in natural sciences, social sciences, design disciplines, and the humanities, this program affords a complex understanding of how the diverse parts of the earth’s environment and society interact. Designed to complement a range of majors, the Environment & Sustainability BDP prepares you to address environmental issues in careers as researchers, writers, policy makers, sustainable business leaders, and educators. Through the Connecting Experiences component of the BDP, you will have the opportunity to participate in an array of internship and research experiences related to the environment and sustainability.

Upon completion of 20 credit hours from the options listed below, you will earn a certificate in Environment & Sustainability.

Note: Course descriptions available here are from a recent offering of the course, and they may not reflect the description for the next offering of the course.

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Forum Seminar Courses   (2 credit hours)

Foundation Courses introduce key methodologies and issues related to Environment & Sustainability. All students in the Environment & Sustainability BDP are required to take the Forum Seminar.

ENV Forum
BDP 201 Envir Change & Sustainability
In this forum seminar, students will explore the range of environmental challenges that our society faces, including those involving water resources, global change issues, and global and local prospects in Energy technologies and solid waste management. The roles of science, policy-making, economic interests, and sustainability will be examined in the context of these issues. This course will meet for 2 hours per week for the full semester.

Connecting Experiences   (6 - 9 credit hours)

Your BDP advisor can help you find internships and research opportunities that connect the Environment & Sustainability to your major. We call these opportunities “Connecting Experiences” because they play such an important role in integrating your studies. Each Connecting Experience counts for 3 credit hours. You will need to complete at least two Connecting Experiences.

For more information and for examples of past Connecting Experiences, visit the BDP website and consult your BDP advisor. BDP students must propose Connecting Experiences to the BDP office. Current BDP students should view the BDP Advising Canvas site for Connecting Experience resources and proposal instructions.

Strand Courses   (9 - 12 credit hours)

In addition to your Foundation Course and Connecting Experiences, you must complete 9-12 credit hours of Strand Courses, to bring your total credit hours toward the BDP certificate to 20 hours. You should work with your BDP advisor to choose Strand Courses that will focus your BDP on your specific interests, and that will provide you with an interdisciplinary perspective on your BDP topic.

In order to create an interdisciplinary experience, you must choose courses from a variety of disciplines. Only one of your Strand Courses may come from your major department(s), or from courses cross-listed with your major department(s). You may petition for environment-related courses not appearing on this list to be counted toward the Strand Course requirement; please consult your BDP advisor if you are interested in submitting a petition.

Natural Science & Engineering
ARE 346N Building Environmental Systems
Analysis and design of building air conditioning systems; heating and cooling load calculations, air side systems analysis, air distribution, building electrical requirements, electrical and lighting systems.
BIO 208L Field Biology
Lab Studies in Population and Environmental Biology
BIO 301L Molecules to Organisms
Introduction to the structure and function of organisms from the molecular to the organ system level; an integrated approach to cell and molecular biology, genetics, development, and physiology of organisms.
BIO 301M Ecology, Evolution, & Society
Introduction to environmental adaptations, diversity of organisms, species interactions, organization and processes of communities, population growth and limitations, evolution and population genetics, origin of life, and human impact on the environment.
Science literacy and numeracy are essential in our largely science and technology-driven modern world. Rapid developments in biology affect us all as citizens, consumers or business professionals who need to make science-informed decisions in order to participate fully in civic society and economic productivity. Headlines about genetically-engineered food, DNA evidence, global warming, new drugs, evolving diseases, exotic materials or environmental debates appear in the news frequently. Readings and lectures in BIO 302D will guide students to learn fundamental biology concepts and gain knowledge and understanding of the process of scientific inquiry.
BIO 311C Introductory Biology I
Introduction to biological energy transformation, cell structure and physiology, and gene expression.
BIO 311D Introductory Biology II
Introduction to mechanisms of inheritance, evolution, physiology, and species interactions.
BIO 337 Renewable Rsrcs: Envir/Future
This class looks at where things are going in terms of population growth, the demand on resources, pollution and climate change. We also look at how we might turn the tide on the problems with new approaches to doing things. This includes different sources of energy and different approaches to manufacturing materials. The course is divided into 3 sections, first energy and climate, second biomaterials, and thirdly green chemistry. Biomaterials deals with making things we need such as plastics using renewable resources. Green chemistry deals with new ways of manufacturing that does not generate tons of pollutants.
BIO 351 Economic Botany
Economic Botany provides an analysis of the origin of domesticated plant species, the role and nature of plant products, and the ways natural products have been altered through artificial selection. Economic Botany is an exciting interdisciplinary field that explores the rich relationships between people and plants, describes the cultural use of plants in past and present, explains the origins of useful plants, and develops strategies for the sustainable use of plant resources in the future. The aim of this course is to discuss specific plants used for food, medicine, fiber, oil, fuel, and recreational purposes, while giving the students a thorough understanding of plant morphology, anatomy, physiology, evolution and classification. Prerequisite: Biology 325 or 325H with a grade of at least C-.
BIO 373 Ecology
An introduction to ecology, the study of relationships among organisms and between organisms and their environment; adaptations, population, communities, and ecosystems. Includes both plants and animals and both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
BIO 375 Conservation Biology
Application of principles of ecology to the preservation of wild plant and animal species and to the preservation, management, and restoration of natural and seminatural ecosystems. Emphasis on scientific, biological aspects of issues such as endangered species protection, preserve design, and forest management.
C E 341 Intro to Environmental Engr
Quantitative evaluation of the environmental, economic, and technical problems involved in control of pollutants of the air, water, and land.
C E 342 Water & Wastewtr Treatmt Engr
Course Objectives: Application of chemical, physical, biological, and hydraulic principles to the analysis, evaluation of performance, and design of unit processes for the treatment of water and wastewater. Focus primarily on municipal water treatment and wastewater treatment engineering. ACADEMIC/LEARNING GOALS Academic/learning goals for the course include fundamental understanding and application of chemical, physical, biological, and hydraulic principles to the analysis of the characteristics of water and municipal wastewater, the evaluation of the mechanisms and reactions involved in the performance of unit processes used for the treatment of surface and groundwater sources that are used for municipal drinking water supplies and the treatment of municipal wastewater and sludge and biosolids that meet design criteria established by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and produce treated effluents that meet effluent quality characteristics that satisfy discharge permit requirements and protect the health and safety of the public. The overall education objective is preparation for professional practice and the application of knowledge and quantitative skills to design and implement creative and sustainable solutions to safe drinking water supplies and wastewater treatment required to maintain the quality of the water resources. This preparation involves engineering problem solving; use of computers and spreadsheet for calculations, engineering ethics and technical communication.
Climate change is one of the defining environmental challenges of the 21st century. This course explores the technical options and social-economic context for engineering a large-scale response to climate change. We aim to explore critical questions in three key areas. First, we consider the scale of response required to substantially mitigate the threat of climate change. To do so, we undertake an overview of climate-change science, emphasizing the sources, sinks, and atmospheric dynamics of greenhouse gases. Second, we explore the technical basis of a large-scale decarbonization of energy supply and end-use, especially for the two “elephants in the room”: electricity supply, especially for use in buildings; and liquid fuel supply, primarily petroleum for use in transportation. Equal emphasis is given to energy supply and transformation (e.g., renewable and nuclear electricity, lower carbon fossil fuels) and to technical opportunities for energy end-use efficiency in buildings and transportation. Third, we explore non-energy approaches to climate change mitigation, including recovery, sequestration, and disposal of greenhouse gases; and management of planetary-scale energy flows through geo-engineering. Cross-cutting themes throughout the course include the societal and economic context for implementing engineered responses, and skills for developing intuition over the vast range of scales considered.
This graduate course will explore sustainable building design from 4 perspectives Human: Thermal comfort Architectural: Passive solar design Energy: Renewable energy integration Technology: Radiant Heating & Cooling Approximately half of the course will be lectures, and short homework problems. The other half will be a design project, together with a similar course in the School of Architecture.
CH301N will cover the following subjects which will be divided into four units or modules. Each unit of coverage will have a corresponding exam to go with it. Each exam will correspond to one or two chapters from the chembook website (eBook). Unit 1 1 - Chemistry Fundamentals 2 - Atmosphere, Air, and Gases Unit 2 3 - Radiation & Atomic Theory Unit 3 4 - Bonding & Energy Transfer Unit 4 5 - Thermodynamics & Fossil Fuels Please know that the information in Chapters 0 and 1 are "always in play" for the rest of the exams as well. NOTE: The final exam will be a comprehensive exam that is an overview of all the material that was covered in units 1-4 (chapters 1-5 on chembook). Technically, the final exam is optional because you only need 4 exam scores for your average. The final exam is a safety net exam to allow you to drop one of the first four exams and count the final exam in its place.
Designed for non-science and Textiles and Apparel majors. Examine water chemistry, acids and bases, electrochemistry, elementary organic chemistry, polymers, and nutrition. Discuss how these fundamentals of chemistry relate to real-world applications.
CH 304K Chemistry in Context I
Issues of contemporary interest and importance, such as ozone depletion and global warming, motivate the discussion; the underlying chemistry is developed as needed. Social, political, economic, and ethical implications of scientific developments and science policy are considered. Chemistry 304K addresses the nature of matter, energy, chemical reactions, and chemical thermodynamics.
CH 305 Chemistry in Context II
Chemistry 305 addresses water chemistry, acids and bases, elementary organic chemistry, polymers, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, and genetics.
CHE 341 Design for Environment

*Instructor Approval Required

Overview of environmental assessment tools for chemical processes and products, including life cycle and risk assessments. Overview of design tools for improving environmental performance of chemical processes, including unit operations and flowsheet analysis methods.
CHE 379 Greenhouse Gas Control Technol

*Instructor Approval Required

The objective of this course is the development of unique, high tech solar cars for the American Solar Challenge (ASC) and the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP). Our latest car is called TexSun. It represents about a 4 year effort, and first competed in FSGP 2013. Improvements to TexSun and modifications required for ASC 2017 and design work on our new car dominated our work over the past year. FSGP is a track race and has been held in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas four times (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017). We also raced TexSun in the cross-country ASC race in July 2014. This course is unique in a number of ways. It is interdisciplinary, with students from ECE, ME, ASE, and other engineering and non-engineering departments. This is how real engineering gets done. You are encouraged to be involved with work outside of your major. This is both interesting and good preparation for your engineering career. We also have a mix of students from freshman through seniors, with a wide range of abilities. What you get out of this course is primarily determined by the time and effort you put into it. In addition, freshman (for example) are not expected to undertake projects as sophisticated as seniors can undertake. We have a wide range of projects available. As part of this work, each of you will develop an overall understanding of the theory, design, operation, and construction of a solar electric vehicle. Although we will focus on a solar car, much of what we discuss is relevant to electric and electric/hybrid vehicles (battery systems, motors, for example) and terrestrial solar power (solar arrays, power trackers, for example). These should be an important part of your future, and many of you here have strong interest in these topics. In addition, you will develop in-depth knowledge in a particular focused area. The solar car is an interdisciplinary project, involving electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering, as well as business, strategy, and other skills. A number of topics will be covered in the course lectures. We will begin with an introduction to our solar cars. We will discuss solar car raycing and the American Solar Challenge and Formula Sun Grand Prix. We will discuss raycing history, and UT raycing. Next we will discuss the overall modeling of a solar car. This will include topics such as aerodynamics, rolling resistance and losses, and the main electrical system (array, battery, motor, computers). We will then look at several systems in detail. We will investigate car aerodynamics, including body shape effects, Reynolds number, drag calculations, and air flow. We will look at chassis design, covering topics such as the suspension, drive train, and steering.
E E 362S Devel of Solar-Powered Vehicle
The objective of this course is the development of unique, high tech solar cars for the American Solar Challenge (ASC) and the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP). Our latest car is called TexSun. It represents about a 4 year effort, and was completed just in time for FSGP 2013. Improvements to TexSun and modifications required for ASC 2014 dominated our work over the past year. FSGP is a track race and has been held in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track the past 2 years. We also raced TexSun in the cross-country ASC race this past July. ... This course is unique in many ways. It is interdisciplinary, with students from ECE, ME, ASE, and other engineering and non-engineering departments. This is how real engineering gets one. You are encouraged to be involved with work outside of your major. This is both interesting and good preparation for your engineering career. We also have a mix of students from freshman through seniors, with a wide range of abilities. What you get out of this course is primarily determined by the time and effort you put into it. In addition, freshman (for example) are not expected to undertake projects as sophisticated as seniors can undertake. We have a wide range of projects available. Our course is coupled with the solar car student organization (UTSVT). Experienced team members will lead or provide guidance on projects.
Students will be introduced to sustainable energy, which is defined as energy that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Bruntland, 1987); and the various methods and technologies that are being currently used and proposed in the future to achieve a sustainable energy supply. These methods and technologies include carbon capture and sequestration; geothermal energy; hydrogen storage and distribution; emissions mitigation in the natural gas supply chain; solar, wind, and biomass power generation; and batteries and distribution networks. The course will consist of a mixture of traditional lectures, some with guest speakers from UT and industry, and small group projects and student presentations.
EVE 302 Foundations of Environmental Engineering
This course will introduce you to various areas of environmental engineering and their associated principles. Topics include environmental chemistry, environmental microbiology, environmental risk assessment, air quality, water quality, sustainability and environmental ethics. The course includes a laboratory component that will emphasize the application of these environmental principles and a hands-on project that allows you to apply your laboratory and analysis skills.
This course intends to introduce the student to a variety of subjects in systems-thinking, computing, data, and technology components of systems to better prepare the students for their future professional careers. These subjects will give the students a breadth of skills that will improve their under- standing of complex environmental systems as well as the limitations and the opportunities when designing engineered systems. The objective of this course is to develop systems-thinking skills through problem-based learning, combining hands-on activities, computational labs, and data collection with traditional lectures. The course is intended to be a introductory course and should prepare the student for more advanced courses on each of the topics.
GEO 302C Climate: Past, Present, Future
Designed for non-geological sciences majors. Principal factors that determine Earth's climate, evidence of climate change, causes of climate change, natural climatic variations and human-induced changes, prediction of climate in the next one hundred years, and uncertainties in climate prediction.
This course is an introduction to Earth and environmental sciences for non-geoscience majors, focusing on topics relevant to society including natural hazards, anthropogenic climate change, biological evolution, and Earth resources that we all consume. I think of it as geosciences literacy— what every educated person should understand about the functioning of Earth and human environments. This is NOT an intro-to-geology class that primarily focuses on rocks.
GEO 302G Earth Science/Sustainability
Goals of this course: Students explore the diversity of earth sciences research through hands-on classroom exercises. Identify major research challenges in earth system science Communicate ideas effectively in written and oral form Develop awareness of diversity of research methods and goals in earth science Gain appreciation for the connections among geoscience research, social issues and sustainability Identify, analyze and apply earth science data to societal problems
GEO 302M The Age of Mammals
Introductory-level course on paleontology and natural history for nonscience majors. Basic geological processes, fossilization, and the fossil record. Overview of the "tree of life." Summary of the evolution and diversification of mammals, an introduction to interactions between physical and biological processes, and the impact of climate change and human activities on mammalian communities. Laboratory component focuses on the mammalian skeleton and common Texas mammals.
GEO 303 Introduction to Geology
Mineral and rock composition of the earth; measurement of geologic time; origin and evolution of life; earth's interior; plate tectonics; depositional environments and processes; ancient climates; humans, earth resources, and the environment.
GEO 303E EARTH IN 2100
Our world has a singular challenge in the coming decades – controlling the limits of human-induced climate change. This requires a balance between economic growth of populations with responsible energy production. The search for affordable, low-carbon, and renewable energy is now a local, national, and international priority. This interdisciplinary course provides an overview of the scientific consensus on climate change and an overview of the latest advances in energy science and climate change mitigation. Throughout the term you will participate in a group project to create an online map of a topic related to the course. Visually appealing maps will tell a story to the wider world about the concepts you've learned in class and will serve as teaching tools in subsequent years. In this way, you are building a living, breathing document that will be used by many.
GEO 341 Mineral Resources/Socty/Envir
Geologic, economic, societal, and environmental issues related to the production and consumption of mineral resources. The geologic and economic nature of commercial concentrations of metals and industrial minerals will be the focus of the course. Probable topics include natural controls on mineral resource localization, modern resource-forming systems, economic evaluation, resource extraction, environmental issues, mineral exploration, etc. Lab exercises typically involve studies of selected mineral deposit types, including representative sample suites and economic evaluation.
GEO 347G Climate System Modeling
In this course you will study the basic theory of climate system modeling using state-of-the-art WRF regional climate model in a variety of applications. This includes learning how to set-up, run on high-performance computing platforms, and analyze output from the regional climate model to address relevant scientific questions. Students will develop computing and data analysis skills to conduct scientific research and address important scientific questions in the climate science field. In addition students will learn how to present their work in oral and written in written form. These skills will be assessed through class presentation of results and the submission of a final report due on the last day of class.
GEO 371T The Science of Environmental Justice
Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, in the development of environmental policies and regulations. Central to advancing EJ is understanding the physical, chemical, biological, and other environmental processes that lead to the inequitable impacts of environmental degradation. This course explores the scientific basis for understanding these inequitable impacts through lectures and case studies, including field-based investigations focused on water quality in Austin-area communities.
Human health is intertwined with the health of our surrounding environment. As our climate changes or our environment deteriorate, and traditional health trends may become altered. From the increased range of infectious diseases and pandemics, or the threats of vector borne diseases to an increase in heat related mortality, to increases in cancer due to chemical exposure, there is a close relationship between the environment and the health of individuals around the world. This course aims to examine the health impacts that result from climate change and environmental degradation and how the health world has aimed to respond to these changes. The course will examine both historical and contemporary health issues related to environmental changes or degradation. This course, originally developed by Dr. Dev Niyogi in the Jackson School of Geosciences, is interdisciplinary as it not only looks at the “hard science” that results in these changing health outcomes but also examines these issues through lenses of policy, economics, social science, and engineering. This course will arm the student with the ability to critically analyze complex climate, health, and wellbeing and conduct that analysis with data so that they can become literate in the geohealth discipline. It will not only allow students to examine and analyze climate data for application to health studies, but also communicate the intricacies of contemporary and historical literature.
GEO 371T Decision Pathways
Not available 1/2015
GEO 476M Aqueous Geochemistry
This course is an introduction to theoretical and practical aspects of aqueous geochemistry, including chemical thermodynamics and kinetics, acid-base chemistry, mineral dissolution and precipitation, redox reactions in natural waters, coordination chemistry, and surface chemistry. Case examples of natural and contaminated ground waters from the literature will be reviewed, and the data will be examined in class using computer mass-balance and equilibrium modeling techniques. There are two lectures and one laboratory each week, and at least one field trip.
M E 363M Energy, Technology & Policy
Technology and policy related to energy supply and demand, oil and gas production, coal utilization, hydrogen production, fuel cells, transportation, nuclear power, solar and wind energy, biomass utilization, energy conservation, and climate change. Only one of the following may be counted: Chemical Engineering 359, 379 (Topic: Energy Technology and Policy), 384 (Topic: Energy Technology and Policy). Prerequisite: Upper-division standing, and admission to an appropriate major sequence in engineering or consent of the department.
MNS 307 Introduction to Oceanography
Introduction to the sciences of oceanography: geological, physical, and biological.
MNS 308 Humans and a Changing Ocean
The MNS308: Humans and a Changing Ocean is a followup course for MNS307 Introduction to Oceanography and it's designed primarily for the non-science major students so they can fulfill their science and technology course requirement within the same discipl
MNS 320 Marine Ecology
Study of ecological processes at different levels of integration in marine ecosystems.
The objective of this course is to provide an overview of the biological, environmental, and human drivers of biodiversity and organism assemblages in marine ecosystems; it will provide an in-depth understanding of how biotic and abiotic processes affect species interactions and ultimately shape the structure of marine ecosystems.
This class will focus on microplastics in coastal environments through lectures and field work. We will cover basic knowledge of plastics, such as composition and production of plastic plymers and additives, as well as environmental processes that will affect the fates of platics in waters, such as biodegradation and photooxidation. In addition to the lectures, field work is a key component of this course, where students will participate in cruise sampling and microplastic analysis and identification in estuaries and bays near Port Aransas. The equivalent of three lecture hours a week for one semester; additional lecture and field/laboratory hours may be required. May be repeated for credit when the topics vary. Prerequisite: The following with a grade of at least C- in each: Biology 311D or 315H, and Chemistry 302 or 302H. Taught in Port Aransas at the Marine Science Institute.
MNS 354Q Marine Environmental Science
The purpose of this class for students is to improve their scientific understanding and awareness of marine environmental science issues. In this era of rapid change of climate and environmental conditions, it is important for students to learn the fundamental principles, impacts and potential consequences, and develop keen sense of the roles and responsibilities of human-beings for maintaining sustainable marine environments. This course is designed primarily for upper-level undergraduate students.
MNS 367K Human Explor/Exploitatn of Sea
Review of the history of ocean exploration including major oceanographicexpeditions. Discussion of current topics in ocean exploration and exploitation of marine resources, the impact of resource exploitation onbiological systems, and the development of marine policy. An oral presentation is required.
NSC 325 Inventors Program Practicum (When Topic Is Appropriate)
Topics vary.
PBH 338 Environmental Health
ntroduction to the major areas of environmental health, including hazards in the environment, the effects of environmental contaminants, and various approaches to addressing major environmental health problems. Subjects include water and air quality, solid and liquid waste, hazardous chemicals, radiation, infectious agents, food safety, and occupational health. Contemporary case studies are used to address environmental policy and regulation and environmental justice.
PGE 301 Engineering, Energy, the Envir
 Introduction to the field of petroleum engineering. Overview of energy supply and demand. Studies subsurface engineering and engineering problem-solving methods, with an emphasis on fossil energy exploitation and geologic CO2 storage. Includes aspects of basic petroleum geology. Two lecture hours and three laboratory hours a week for one semester
This course provides an overview of sustainability within the fashion industry, addressing topics from slow and fast fashion to the supply chain, new design processes and material selection. Course Objectives: Upon completion of the course, students will be able to: -Understand the key sustainability challenges and opportunities during garment production, apparel use and end-of-use. -Identify the components of a Circular Supply Chain. -Identify how to contribute to improved sustainability performance with new business models and design processes. -Explore innovative fashion ideas with an environmental and humanitarian focus. -Understand and utilize sustainable design terminology, concepts and theories
From Sustainability Course Development Award submission: I propose a new course for Sustainable Textiles and Flexible Materials open to all non-textile majors in the University. This course will be focused on guiding the students through the complete life cycle of materials and all the current alternatives to reduce energy usage, non-renewable resource consumption and end of product life. Through lecture and experiential learning students will interact, create and modify raw materials for fibers, attend demonstrations of nanotechnology for yarn spinning and design their own approach for material fabrication. I'm estimated a class size of 20 students for a first group given there will be lab demonstrations. The experiential component will be very important for this class and will include lab experimentation and demonstrations of different processes used for sustainable alternative materials. For the raw materials waste we will take a look at how protein is synthesized and create an alternative leather by growing films out of bacteria and fruit waste. Following the raw materials phase, we will create yarns by using plant fibers with nanotechnology electro-spinning (we currently have this equipment waiting to be used). For the last phase, we will use our currently available 3d scanning technology to create a custom zero waste material for a product. The School of Architecture Materials Library will support each phase of the class for referencing current sustainable alternatives like recycled products denim insulation, and byproducts of the food industry like fish leather and more.
In this class, students will learn and experiment with prototyping techniques and laboratory-made materials to identify the ecological footprint of making a product and propose new alternatives. Students will need to learn proper laboratory protocol and safety to maintain their experiments during the semester.
Social Science
What is the relationship between culture and ecology? How can environments produce inequalities? Is there such a thing as wilderness? Where is the boundary between the human and the non-human? How is “nature” understood in different communities? And how do people around the world live with toxicity, climate change, and other forms environmental degradation? Environmental Anthropology explores the answers to these questions and more.The course is designed around a set of key questions and challenges in the anthropological study of the environment. Its purpose is not to provide a survey of the history of the field, but rather to introduce students to a set of questions and analytic tools and invite them to quickly move towards applying them to real-world cases
What is the relationship between culture and ecology? How can environments produce inequalities? Is there such a thing as wilderness? Where is the boundary between the human and the non-human? How is “nature” understood in different communities? How do people around the world live with toxicity, climate change, and other forms environmental degradation? And how what are the possible meanings of “environmental justice”? Environmental Anthropology explores the answers to these questions and more. The course is designed around a set of key questions and challenges in the anthropological study of the environment. Its purpose is not to provide a survey of the field, but rather to introduce students to a set of questions and analytic tools and invite them to quickly move towards applying them to real-world cases.
ANT 324L Archaeology of Climate Change
Examines why climate changes, the methods for recording climate change, and includes case studies of the varied responses of past human societies to climate change in different geographic regions and time periods with varying socio-political and economic systems.
“Sensing: Elemental media as an anthropology for change” will use the cities of Austin and Manchester as sites for sensory ethnographic investigations of urban ecology. The course is organized around air, water, earth, and fire as themes for engaging with the city through media and the senses. These elemental themes will also be addressed in terms of how various forms of media provide means of moving through and sensing the city. In this way, the course foregrounds an ecological, ethical approach that both acts on the city and reflects on its tools and methods of engagement. Students will learn methods of field recording, sound walking, sound mapping, documentary photography, photo-elicitation, interviews, and acoustic archaeology. As a Global Virtual Exchange course, students in Austin and Manchester will exchange material and collaborate on a project, thus gaining knowledge and understanding of global urban processes and ecological concerns.
ANT 324L Political Ecology
Over the past three decades, Political Ecology has emerged as a powerful interdisciplinary critique of ecological change. Simply put, Political Ecology is a strategy for mapping political, economic, and social factors onto questions of environmental degradation and transformation. Political Ecology has been a powerful strategy for reinserting politics into apolitical discussions of ecology and the environment; writing disposed groups—human and non-human—back into discussions about conservation; and unsettling common sense understandings of “the environment” as separate from “the social.” This course will provide an introduction to core tenets of political ecology. Particularly focusing on ethnographic approaches, this course will introduce students to key debates in the field—such as the relationship between environment and violence, the critique of Malthusian and neo-Malthusian notions of scarcity and limits, the links between conservation and dispossession, and more. It will further explore the uses of political ecology in key contemporary debates over social and environmental change—from food production to water management.
ANT 325C Cultures of Sustainability
There is a surging interest in sustainability but this concept is difficult to define. Its scope encompasses environmental, economic, social, and philosophical criteria that are often divergent and irreconcilable. This course surveys sustainability from a variety of cultural perspective before turning to inquiry-based projects featuring ethnographic methods.
ANT 325R Cultures and Ecologies
This seminar examines the anthropology of “nature” and “natural resources,” with particular attention to the communities in the arctic and subarctic regions. We will use ethnographies to learn about the cultures of peoples who inhabit northern latitudes (e.g. Russia, Alaska, Canada), especially their cosmological modes of belief and their ecological ways of life. We will explore the complexities of culture change through the lens of colonialism and question the popular misconceptions that these peoples are out-of-time with the ‘modern’ world. Climate change is disproportionately affecting northern peoples, and the imperiled arctic has been caught in the global politics of energy. We will engage in a nuanced exploration of human experience framed against industrialism and extractive economies in the North, along the way considering controversial topics such as energy futures and the ends of history.
ECO 321 Public Economics
Study of appropriate allocations of economic activity between government (federal, state, and local) and the private sector. The workings of social security, welfare, education, pollution control, deregulation, taxation; and proposals for reform.
Data is an increasingly common part of environmental policy discussions and debates. How much has the planet warmed over the past century? How do increases in air pollution impact the health of children and the elderly? Do regulations on carbon emission increase household energy bills? If cars become more fuel efficient do individuals choose to drive more? Can public utilities reduce energy usage by providing households with better information? These are all critical questions for policymakers, regulators, organizations, and businesses that aim to achieve environmental and economic objectives. This course will introduce students to methods from econometrics and statistics for answering these questions. You will learn how to use data for prediction—how to specify prediction methods and measure their accuracy—as well as how to use data to estimate causal effects. Along the way, you will hear again, and again that correlation is not causation. But you will also learn that measuring correlations can be valuable, too.
This course will investigate energy and environmental issues from an economic perspective using a quantitative approach. In the first part of the course, students will learn how to think about energy markets using tools from economics. The remainder of the course will focus on specific energy market issues such as market failures, regulation of pollution, electricity markets, markets for oil and gas, electric vehicles, and the economics of renewable energy.
ECO 359M Envir & Natural Resource Economics
Optimal use of exhaustible and renewable resources, including fuels, minerals, fisheries, forests, and water; resource scarcity and economic growth; valuation of nonmarketed environmental amenities; the economics of pollution control instruments, including taxes, permits, direct regulation, and negotiation; environmental quality and international trade; the economics of global climate change; pollution control policy in practice.
GOV 347P The Politics of Protecting the Great Barrier Reef
Maymester course. Comprised of 900 islands that stretch over 1,600 miles, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is roughly half the size of Texas. It is the only living organism that is visible from space. Despite its status as an Australian icon and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the GBR’s very existence is under threat. In 2016, it experienced the worst episode of coral bleaching in recorded history—around 90 percent of corals in Far North Queensland died. This led Outside magazine to publish an obituary for the GBR. As with Mark Twain, reports of the GBR’s death were an exaggeration, but, it is true that the Reef faces numerous and formidable challenges—coastal development, agricultural run-off, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, damage from shipping traffic, overfishing, and global warming, among others. How could such a beloved environmental treasure be in such a beleaguered state? This course takes students to Townsville, Australia— home to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority—to unravel that puzzle. Doing so requires a level of engagement that transcends glossy tourist brochures and sensationalist news headlines. Students will learn firsthand the complex political, economic, and societal contexts within which the GBR exists. The Reef is located in Queensland, a state that is roughly two-and-a-half-times the size of Texas. Like Texas, Queensland is known for having a conservative political culture, and agricultural and energy industries play important roles in its economy. The GBR lies in close proximity to important farming and mining regions. Large ports, like the one in Townsville, enable Australia’s agricultural and mineral commodities to enter the stream of global commerce. Bound for mainly for Asia, large container ships ferry their cargos through the GBR’s fragile ecosystems. And, of course, the GBR is, itself, a touristmagnet— more than two million visitors each year inject roughly AU$6 billion into Queensland’s economy. In addition, over 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner groups maintain longstanding and continuing relationships with the GBR region. These various interests complicate policymaking processes with respect to protecting the Reef. In examining those processes, this course addresses the following questions: What, according to the most rigorous scientific studies, is the current state of the GBR’s ecosystems? What policies are in place to manage and protect the GBR, and what levels of government are responsible for implementing those policies? What explains the adoption of those policies—in other words, what 2 are their political and economic foundations? How well are existing policies working? Are there better policy options? And, if so, what are the political prospects for their adoption? In answering these questions, the course considers the role of political institutions, party politics, economic interests, societal values, activists, and experts in shaping policy outcomes. It does so through a combination of classroom learning and on-site investigation at the GBR, itself. The latter entails visiting the GBR and seeing firsthand the difference between healthy and unhealthy coral reefs; learning from leading GBR researchers about the threats to the GBR; and, meeting with representatives from various political, economic, and societal sectors with interests in the GBR. The course will combine regular classroom meetings with group-based active learning. Individually, students will assume the role of researchers charged with ascertaining the state of the GBR, evaluating the effectiveness of current policies, and assessing the GBR’s future prospects. Within those parameters, they will be free to focus on a specific issue of their choice. The course will have a regular classroom schedule, but its defining feature will be its access to the GBR and various persons with special knowledge and interests in the GBR. Small groups of roughly five students each will be assembled based student responses to a pre-trip survey. During their four weeks in the field, students will engage with one another in their groups as they pursue their individual research projects. Group work will consist of preparing for their meetings and excursions, which will entail: (1) researching the people with whom they will meet and the places they will visit; (2) identifying what they wish to learn from their meetings and excursions; and, (3) drafting specific questions to ask in their meetings and excursions. Air travel to Australia has a significant carbon footprint. As a means of offsetting some of that, students will assist traditional landowners owners at Mungalla Station in restoration activities, and they will assist with reef restoration on Magnetic Island through a program operated by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef Headquarters. Additional opportunities will be identified for those students who wish to do more.
GOV 355M Environmental Politics
This course examines U.S. environmental policies. Students will learn the basic tools of policy analysis and will apply them to a variety of issues and proposed policy solutions. Some of the topics we will cover include air quality, water quality, oil drilling, and U.S. energy policy. We will cover the incentives and behaviors of relevant policy actors such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Congress, and the courts. While this course focuses on U.S. politics, we will discuss the international logic of environmental policy. This course will also address health issues that may arise because of environmental factors.
This course will examine the history of environmental politics in both the member states of the European Union and the EU itself.
This course offers an introduction to environmental justice, the premise that all people have a right to an environment free from hazardous contamination as well as access to resources that sustain health and livelihood. Throughout the semester, we will examine the meaning of environmental justice as a spatial and land-based—that is, a geographical—project. We will also examine the definition and significance of its inverse: environmental racism, meaning unequal access to life-sustaining environment resources along racial lines. We will engage in an ethnic studies approach to together explore the geographies of indigeneity, race, and environmental justice. We will also highlight the relationship between environmental racism to capitalism and ongoing processes of colonialism and exploitation. Last, and importantly, this course highlights the role and importance of local and global movements for environmental justice.
GRG 322D Human Health & the Environment
Each year, hundreds of chemicals are found in Americans of all ages, including lead, mercury, dioxins and PCBs. Studies have detected antibacterial agents from liquid soaps in infants' cord blood, breast milk, and children’s urine. PBDEs, or flame retardants, which can have negative impacts on learning and memory, show up in fabrics, upholstery, mattresses, and electronics, and leach out into household air and dust. News magazines call autism an ‘epidemic.’ Pollution is an affliction of the industrial age, and remains one of the most vexing unintended consequences of economic growth. This course discusses these contemporary, and often controversial, issues in environmental health, focusing on how today's environmental issues directly affect our health. Of particular interest in environmental morbidity is the unequal distribution of exposures among people of different socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Poor people are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, in the home, in school and workplace, and outdoors. Toxic environmental exposures typically cannot be easily controlled individually, and therefore are heavily determined by our larger community and political decisions. Accordingly, this course focuses on the decision-making process and the larger concept of environmental ethics. Because toxic exposures from manufactured chemicals could potentially be avoided by not using the chemicals in the first place, many ethical questions, dilemmas, and controversies arise in this course. For example, fossil fuels and human health – how should the short-term gains of using fossil fuels be weighed against the longer-term health consequences of respiratory and cardiopulmonary disease? Or obesity, under-nutrition, and starvation - the simultaneous existence of these conditions, particularly in one country, reveals a problem in environmental justice. Accordingly, we examine the relationship between humans and nature, and discuss the concepts of sustainability and resilience, and global health.
Issues concerning the built environment and urban infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and the public policy framework designed to manage the challenges presented by these issues.
GRG 331K Nature, Society, and Adaptation
Long term trajectories of change in human environment relationships, including issues of human evolution and human nature, violence, population, food, agriculture, urbanization, globalizing modernization, and environmental impacts; issues of sustainability, cultural survival, human rights, and environmental protection.
GRG 333K Climate Change

*GRG 333K OR ANT 324L may be counted, not both.

This course will survey the causes of changes in climatic systems over both short and long time periods and their consequences for landscape dynamics, biogeography, land use, sustainability, and vulnerability. The first part of the course will introduce t
GRG 334E Children's Environmental Health
This course discusses these contemporary, and often controversial, issues in environmental health, focusing on how today's environmental issues directly affect children. Environmental contaminants often affect children differently, and more intensely, than they do adults. Pound-for-pound, children eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air than do adults, which exposes them to higher levels of toxicants. Children engage in activities differently than do adults, such as putting their hands in their mouths, playing on the ground, and putting objects in their mouths, which can result in more intense exposures to contaminants. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because children are not fully developed - environmental contaminants can interfere with critical pathways of development, their immune systems are not fully functioning, and their ability to remove toxins is less effective. The thousands of chemicals children are exposed to have undergone little to no toxicity testing and their potential health dangers to children are generally unknown. These exposures, in conjunction with the public health achievements of vaccines and antibiotics, have shifted the nature of childhood illness in developed countries from communicable disease to one of chronic illness. The childhood face of toxic environmental exposures is both chronic and acute – from asthma exacerbated by air pollution to delayed development from lead in paint to the complex, chronic conditions of multiple origins, like autism. These are known as the “new pediatric morbidity.” Of particular interest in this new pediatric morbidity is the unequal distribution of exposures among children of different socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Poor children are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, in the home, in school, and outdoors.
Earth’s physical landscape is still being continually reshaped by natural processes that have acted over geologic time scales. When these processes threaten life and property, we call them natural hazards. Recent worldwide increases in the human and economic toll associated to natural disasters are presumed to be associated to population growth, socioeconomic factors, and climate change. This course relies on an interdisciplinary approach to study the types of natural disasters that occur throughout Earth with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. Understanding a region’s susceptibility to natural disasters requires learning about the physical phenomena that incites specific hazards so that their spatial distribution can be outlined. However, understanding its susceptibility also requires theoretical frameworks that can expose the social causes of human vulnerability, the political repercussions of disasters, and how disaster response varies from country to country depending on varying political stances and economic conditions. The focal point of this course is set right at the nexus of both physical and human geography.
This course is designed to evaluate the cumulative effects of humans on Earth. It will use readings, lectures, and class exercises to examine the kinds of evidence used 1) to reconstruct past environments, 2) to decipher the ecological and biogeographical consequences of land use, 3) to measure altered surface processes, 4) to distinguish the anthropogenic contribution to climate change, and 5) to predict likely future scenarios. The course will explore the interaction of human history with altered biophysical patterns and processes. Finally, the class will collectively and critically assess the recognition of the Anthropocene as a potential new epoch in Earth history, including the implications of that recognition for environmental stewardship.
GRG 336C National Parks/Protected Areas
The history, purpose, and meaning of national parks (and preserves, refuges, and other publicly protected natural areas), from their inception at Yellowstone in 1872 to their present global distribution. Emphasis is on key management issues and dilemmas in the parks today; and the adoption and modification of Western notions of nature preservation within non-Western cultural settings.
GRG 339K Envir, Development & Food Production
This course focuses on "indigenously developed" and what used to be call "traditional" farming methods and techniques. Such practices are those not dependent on either fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, or other external inputs, and hence have been called "Low extenal-input techonolgies" (LEIT). Based on "indigenous technical knowledge" (ITK), they are typically small in scale, involving for the most part the labor of individuals, families, and communities. Emphasis is placed on those systems most commonly used in various parts of the world today and in times past Agriculture is treated here as the transformation of biophysical, sometimes referred to inappropriately as "natural," environments, into "cultural" environments. It is assessed in regard to both the plants cultivated (crops), and the soil, slope, moisture, and temperature conditions that exist and those that are either modified or created by farmers. The processes involved in the domestication of both crops and landscapes are discussed. Ecological and systematic approaches are taken in order to understand how different agricultural strategies insure continual long-term productivity and stability similar to that characteristic of environments that are not cultivated. Microeconomics is all-important. The various "agro-ecosystems" are also discussed as economic activities that have highly visible spatial manifestations that result in distinctive "landscapes," and as activities that are dynamic, changing continuously. Development is treated conceptually as a specific type of change, not necessarily as a goal. It is envisaged as improvement in land productivity. It is the opposite of land degradation. Agricultural features such as terraces and canals are considered "landesque capital." Social, political, and cultural aspects of agriculture and development are not topics dealt with here. This is not a "how to" course for tree-hugging, granola-eating acolytes of John Muir who wish to remold the world into some unrealistic utopia. This course is not about developing "sustainable agriculture," per se. It does, however, deal with issues of concern in the field of sustainability science. This course is intended for students who wish to gain a better understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions, particularly as they pertain to people feeding themselves.
Study of current environmental problems from the perspective of political ecology, which critically examines political, economic, and social relations between humans and the natural world. Uses case studiesfrom Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East to address climate change, deforestation, desertification, biodiversity, and environmental justice.
GRG 342C Sustainable Development
Environmental law and its affects are far reaching. Its impact can be felt on a local, state, federal and global level. Environmental law plays a critical role in the protection and preservation of our natural resources and wildlife; safeguarding our personal health and well being; and regulating economic and business activities. Environmental problems often present legal issues that offer students many opportunities to develop critical legal skills, including statutory interpretation, constitutional analysis and application of administrative law doctrines. The class will review existing law, and explore the legal mechanisms available on how to make it more efficient and effective. This course will holistically examine what environmental law is, and its impact on all life. We will analyze key federal environmental statutes, and leading cases in which these statutes have been interpreted by courts. We will study these laws in the context of the events and/or litigation that led to the passage of these laws, and a variety of legal mechanisms we use to address environmental harms, including statutes (legislative), case law or common law (body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts), and regulations. We will also examine: (a) the political economy of environmental regulation, including the role played by interest groups (both industry and environmental Spring 2021 Syllabus 2 organizations) in shaping policy in the area of environmental law and (b) the role of costbenefit analysis in environmental regulation. Statutes that we will examine during the course of the semester include, the National Environmental Policy Act (the “NEPA”), the Clean Air Act (the “CAA”), the Clean Water Act (the “CWA”), the Endangered Species Act (the “ESA”), The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (the “RCRA”), The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (the “CERCLA”), The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (the “EPCRA”), and the Safe Drinking Water Act (the “SDWA”). Students will be expected to participate in class discussions, and complete writing assignments. The writing assignments are to encourage students to analyze and write like a lawyer/advocate, which requires carefully constructing a legal argument through the persuasive application of relevant laws and policies. During the semester, along with the assigned readings, there will be supplemental materials that will follow current cases, events, or topics in the news that are relevant to environmental law, and possible audio/video links to oral arguments that students would be encouraged to listen to, or watch.
GRG 344K Global Food, Farming, & Hunger
Examination of contemporary transformations in global agro-food systems, with emphasis on the current paradox of epidemic obesity in some parts of the world and enduring hunger in others.
GRG 356 Global Sustainability/Soil
Honors course; restricted to students participating in an honors program. Soil is our least understood but greatest natural resource and our most biodiverse ecosystem. Despite its importance, soil is being degraded at high rates around the world, which leads to hundreds of billions of dollars of economic and ecosystem service losses. This course considers soils in the critical zone, including how they form, provide fertility to ecosystems and crops, how their ecosystems function, their distinguishing characteristics in Nature, their taxonomy, and their spatial variability around the globe. The course also considers how soils change both in negative and positive terms over time, such as carbon and other elemental fluxes, soil erosion, desertification, and soil pollution. The course then considers how we manage soils for a sustainable planet by sequestering carbon to counter climate change, treat soil and water pollution, conserve soil ecosystems, build soil fertility, and grow more crops with minimal environmental impacts. Specific topics will include biochar, terra preta, organic agriculture, the soil science in World Food Prizes (i.e., development), and agroecosystems. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. Prerequisite: Upper-division standing; and three semester hours of coursework in physical geography or one or more of the geological or natural sciences, or the equivalent. BASIC OBJECTIVES: LEARNING GOALS *introduce soils and sustainability *introduce soils in agricultural systems from indigenous to industrial *understand soils from perspectives of global change *recognize the parameters of soil formation * recognize the major global soils and their ecosystems *comprehend the major mechanisms of the soils at multiple places and time scales *recognize the parameters of human-induced and natural soil changes *judge cases of soil and humans interactions around the world *develop essential tools for analyzing soils and erosion in the lab and field *understand USDA, FAO, and Folk taxonomies
GRG 356 Water Res: Lat Amer/Caribbean
Water is a vital asset in the natural resource arsenal of any country as abundant clean water is essential for ecosystem sustenance, agricultural and industrial production, sustainable fisheries, the generation of electricity, transportation, adequate sanitation, tourism, and to fulfill many other human needs. However, the distribution of an adequate and clean water supply is very variable in place and time as it not only depends on climatic conditions, geologic substrate, land cover, and topographic controls, but also on human uses and demands. The variability of landscapes, climatic regions, and anthropogenic activities found throughout Latin America and the Insular Caribbean provide an adequate platform to explore the complex issues related to water resource accessibility and protection in light of the undeniable challenges to be faced in the upcoming decades due to continued population growth and climate change. Some of the topics to be discussed during this course will include issues related to freshwater abundance such as desertification, incidence of drought, deglaciation, and saline intrusions into groundwater resources resulting from sea level rise. The course will also cover topics associated to contamination of both fresh and ocean waters by agricultural practices, cattle ranching, mining, urban expansion, industrialization, and deforestation. Special attention will be given to the proliferation of dams and their physical, ecological, and human impacts. Case studies from various countries will be studied through mostly qualitative approaches with particular emphasis on water governance and adaptation measures at the national and community levels.
GRG 356 When Topic is Appropriate
GRG 360G Envir Geographic Info Systems
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been used in a multitude of environmental applications because it aids in the collection, storage, analysis, and visualization of spatial information and it helps users to make informed decisions regarding the use, management, and protection of the environment. This course will cover the theory of GIS with hands-on experience in a multitude of environmental applications including: geographical data entry and acquisition, data conversion, database query and site selection, vector and raster modeling, and integration with global positioning system (GPS).
GRG 401C The Natural Environment
This course is called The Natural Environment, and focuses on the study of the general structure and functioning of Earth with emphasis on the physical processes that create and modify landscapes of continental areas. First, we will briefly examine Earth as a system and the interactions between lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Secondly, we will concentrate on the Endogenic processes that trigger mineral and rock formation, volcanoes, rock deformation and plate tectonics. Thirdly, we will discuss the Exogenic processes that shape Earth surface such as weathering, soil formation and mass wasting as well as the generation and evolution of landforms at a variety of environments such as fluvial, glacial, periglacial, coastal and aeolian. Students will be exposed to fundamental concepts in physical geography as well as to basic analytical skills for conducting landscape analysis. Particular attention is given to understanding the variability of geologic and geomorphic process. A major goal of the course is for students to understand the practical value of possessing knowledge of physical processes especially for understanding environmental change.
GRG 460G Envir Geographic Info Systems
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been used in a multitude of environmental applications because it aids in the collection, storage, analysis, and visualization of spatial information and it helps users to make informed decisions regarding the use, management, and protection of the environment. This course will cover the theory of GIS with hands-on experience in a multitude of environmental applications including: geographical data entry and acquisition, data conversion, database query and site selection, vector and raster modeling, and integration with global positioning system (GPS).
Global Warming – or “Climate Change” to sound less threatening – is already affecting our health by changing the environments we live in. However, the projected effects of global warming will cause much greater harm to humans than most people know, and cause death and disease in ways our present global society is ill prepared to deal with. We are rapidly creating an unsustainable planet for many. As with so many other problems caused by a rapidly warming planet, the negative effects on human health will be wide spread, but will fall most harshly on poorer countries and poorer people in first world countries who have fewer resources to adapt or move. Humans have been changing their environments for centuries, and those changes have caused many of the health problems we have today. Global warming is the latest such change, but the effects will be harsher – and quicker. The course takes us through the basic science of climate change, including a look at historical changes in the past and how they have led to health problems and wars. We then focus on global warming today and how it will cause health problems in the coming decades. The course then looks at solutions to both the cause of our changing climate – global warming – and one of the effects – human health.
NTR 331 Intl Ntr: Socl/Envir Policies
Identifying, reading, analyzing, writing, and presenting scientific research on selected topics in nutrition and human health (Focus: Nutrition-related diseases).
SOC 307Q Envrnmntl Inequality/Health
This course examines the social roots and impacts of environmental contamination and natural disasters. It will emphasize how environmental health inequalities are linked to social inequalities (race, class, gender, and nation) and how people respond to environmental risks. Drawing from academic texts, documentary films, and photo essays, we will explore how urban planning and economic development policies create environmental inequalities, both in the United States and globally, and how social movements define and address environmental health hazards. We will analyze case studies to illustrate key theoretical concepts in the environmental health field, including: hazardous materials siting in the U.S., the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, nuclear testing in the Western U.S., pesticide use in industrial agriculture, the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, the Bhopal chemical disaster in India, mining and oil exploitation, and the global toxic waste trade.
This course will examine the social roots and impacts of environmental contamination and natural disasters, with particular focus on how environmental health inequalities are linked to race, class, gender, and nation, and how residents of areas prone to environmental risks respond to hazards. Throughout the semester, we will explore the interactions between humans and the environment, and discuss factors of human-built systems that create environmental inequalities, and therefore health disparities. We will analyze global and local case studies to examine key areas of environmental inequality, including toxic waste, natural and industrial disasters, food systems, and water and land access. By the end of the semester, students will have a broad understanding of: the social nature of environmental inequalities, the history of the concept of environmental justice, how environmental risks are distributed globally, the role of the state in producing and mitigating environmental health risks, and how social movements frame environmental health issues and environmental inequality.
SOC 309C Creating Sustainable Socty
The course will offer students an overview of sustainability as something human beings must strive to create in an era of global warming and ever greater social inequalities; both between countries and within countries. The focus of the course will revolve around the core issues of sustainability: what does sustainability mean? Why do we need to remake human societies in more sustainable ways? And what does social equity have to do with sustainability? One of the problems we have in teaching about sustainability today is our focus on two of the "E's" without much attention to the third. We talk mostly about Environment, secondly about Economy, and then tend to pay short shrift to Equity. This course will address all three, but put a greater focus on Equity than is usual. The course will be taught from a social sciences perspective, which approaches human relationships with the natural world (Environment) in the context of their relationships with each other (Environment and Equity). Global warming (environment) is main reason we are talking about Sustainability today, but global warming is both cause and effect of our economies and inequalities.
SOC 323S Building the Sustainable City
Building the Sustainable City is an interdisciplinary course that examines why we have to create more sustainable living environments, what we are presently doing to rebuild American cities in more sustainable ways, and where we need to go in the future. The course adopts the strong definition of sustainability to include the connections between economy, equity, and environment. 80% of the population lives in urban areas today, the vast majority of economic activity occurs in them, and most environmental problems are related to urbanization and industrialization. Understanding how to build a sustainable city, then, is the key to building a sustainable society. This course will focus on energy use, transportation policy, housing, and food production/distribution in the city. Social equity issues will be integrated into all four themes, as all four are both cause and effect of social inequalities. The course links our academic understanding of sustainability with “real world”, on-the-ground people doing sustainability today. It will feature several people working in city government, the non-profit sector, and academic positions as guest speakers. These speakers will discuss their organizations as examples of how to build a sustainable city, and show students how they are building a more sustainable future here in Austin.
Introduction to basic concepts in sustainability, including the varied disciplinary approaches used to theorize and practice sustainability. Explore these concepts through foundational sustainability scholarship, place-based experiential learning opportunities, and team-based projects.
SUS 379L is designed to give you a competitive edge in the job market and position you for professional success. During the semester, you will work in a business, non-profit organization, government agency, or institution that connects directly to sustainability. Take this course if you want to... -Know where and how to look for a job/internship in sustainability -Create a compelling online professional identity and in a resume -Bridge academic sustainability concepts to the workplace -Develop professional confidence by deepening communication, leadership, teamwork, and ethics-based knowledge and skills -Communicate the value of a sustainability education
This course offers an introduction to environmental politics through the fields of political ecology, critical race studies and eco-feminism. We will examine environmental contestations to understand how humans relate to nature in the context of global racial capitalism and the possibilities for creating a more sustainable world. We will explore how racism is foundational to environmental exploitation and consider why global struggles for racial justice are crucial for protecting both people and the earth. Reflecting principles of environmental justice, Image courtesy of North Caroline Environmental Justice Network the course material respects the lived experiences, leadership and intellectual insights of racialized peoples as a vital source of knowledge
AMS 311S Environ Justice/Culture/Soc
This course explores the historical and contemporary processes of climate change and its impact on agriculture and food availability in the city. Students will learn about agricultural production and the politics of food, including rural development policies in the U.S. and globally, good food procurement policies in local cities, and community-based food justice and food sovereignty initiatives. Drawing on local case studies, students will learn about the environmental health impacts of importing food and the frontline communities exposed to toxic air pollutants. Students will also discuss topics such as climate-related migration and food insecurity, community gardens as reclaiming space and community resistance, the policing of food vending, and the conflicting relationship between ethnic food and gentrification. Students will engage in these topics through photo essays, film reviews, archival research, and digital storytelling.
AMS 370 Environment/Justice/Media
This course offers an interdisciplinary approach to environmentalism and the environmental justice (EJ) movement with a focus on media. In addition to considering the history of EJ activism, we will look at art, literature, and media created at the intersection of environmental ethics and social justice. The “environment” of environmental justice encompasses not only traditional ideas of nature but also the places where people live and work. As a class, we will assess the advantages and drawbacks of our current systems of production and consumption, consider the people who bear the burdens and enjoy the benefits of these systems, and survey a range of alternatives. EJ themes have contemporary relevance in both urban and rural landscapes: in the redlined communities where heavy industry is disproportionately located in communities of color; in the Dakotas, where Native American groups work to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline; in towns along the U.S.-Mexico border where manufacturing labor is exploited in maquiladoras. This course will track the work of EJ activists, artists, and scholars on issues ranging from toxic colonialism and e-waste to labor and energy justice. Ultimately, this course asks: What is the role of media (art, literature, photography, film, social media, etc.) in the struggle for environmental justice? Students will have the opportunity not only to analyze EJ media but to create EJ media on environmental justice issues in Texas.
Drawing from a comparative framework of the literature, film, and media of East Asia, this course takes a humanities-based approach to examine the relationship between humans and the environment. In examining works of fiction, documentary, and testimony from East Asia (including but not limited to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the larger Pacific region), this course considers legacies of industry and war, environmental degradation and recovery, and disasters both natural and human-made. In doing so, this course places a particular emphasis on works from 1945 to the present, the relationship between humans, the economy, and the environment, and what kinds of futures can be imagined within our current moment.
Explore a sensory ethnographic investigation of urban ecology, organized around air, water, earth, and fire as themes for engaging with the city through media and the senses. “Sensing: Elemental media as an anthropology for change” will use the cities of Austin and Manchester as sites for sensory ethnographic investigations of urban ecology. The course is organized around air, water, earth, and fire as themes for engaging with the city through media and the senses. These elemental themes will also be addressed in terms of how various forms of media provide means of moving through and sensing the city. In this way, the course foregrounds an ecological, ethical approach that both acts on the city and reflects on its tools and methods of engagement. Students will learn methods of field recording, sound walking, sound mapping, documentary photography, photo-elicitation, interviews, and acoustic archaeology. Students will exchange material and collaborate on a project, thus gaining knowledge and understanding of global urban processes and ecological concerns.
CRP 383 Resource Management and Recycling: Toward Zero Waste and Beyond

*Instructor Approval Required

*Instructor permission required.

Resource Management and Recycling: Toward zero waste and beyond is a course which will provide students with a working knowledge of the history, trends, conflicts, and opportunities presented by the growing resource and solid waste crises. The class will focus on achieving zero waste solutions through ecological design and recycling strategies. Resource Management and Recycling will combine lectures, field trips, visiting experts, and discussion to explore paths beyond "the disposal society" to the emerging new era of resource management. Areas of consideration will include a review of the history of consumerism, solid waste and recycling legislation, waste minimization and recycling programs. Cultural, political, and institutional obstacles to transforming society from solid waste/disposal to zero waste/regenerative design and management practices will be examined. In addition, opportunities created by this shift, such as market and community economic development will be studied. Field trips and guest lectures will augment lectures and discussion. Students will be provided with the opportunity to visit operating recycling and resource management facilities and have the chance to hear and network with leading experts in the field of recycling and zero waste management.
DES 322 Design and Social Environment
Nothing happens in a vacuum. This course approaches design as a political and socio-cultural practice - as a toolkit for activism by publicly questioning, critiquing, and generating new ways of thinking about the most pressing issues of our day. Through a series of research-driven projects, students will explore the possibilities and the limitations of art and design in addressing complex political and socio-cultural realities. Themes may include but are not limited to race, decolonization, labor laws, surveillance and data-driven systems, incarceration, immigration, climate, conspiracy, health, equality, human rights, socioeconomic equity, education, gender, and other topics of interest to students in this class. The course will introduce students to different possibilities of socially engaged practices, such as making invisible systems legible, translating complex issues to new audiences, and putting theory and critique into practice.
E 343G Global Environmental Literature and Film
Environmental change is everyone's concern, but populations in different parts of the world—and, indeed, within the U.S.—bear different burdens associated with it. This course has two main premises. First, that we cannot understand the despoliation of the planet within a purely nationalist framework. Second, that we cannot understand environmental threats through facts and data alone. We will approach the environmental issues facing nations, communities, and individuals through novels, memoirs, and film from North America, the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. We will examine fiction as a unique form of environmental inquiry that: ? addresses large-scale ethical challenges through individual experiences; ? introduces multiple, sometimes unresolved, perspectives on environmental threats; ? uses the representational conventions of fantasy, realism, documentary, memoir, the coming-of-age story, and science fiction to stage environmental and social dilemmas.
E 343S Sustainablty & Representatn
In recent years, the concept of “sustainability” has become central to our understanding of the human impact upon the environment. The word has been used to describe everything from fresh water to deep-sea fish populations to atmospheric CO2 levels. But coming to grips with the “unsustainable” pace of modern consumption patterns is difficult, in part because the scale is so large, the numbers so vast, and the consequences (seemingly) so distant and abstract. So how can artists, activists, journalists, and scholars represent issues of sustainability – including, and especially, climate change – in vivid, memorable, and affecting ways? In this course, we’ll consider that question by investigating a diverse array of texts and considering the various strategies employed to represent environmental crisis. We will look at a number of genres and modes – from theoretical texts, to novels, to documentary reporting – and pay special attention to the role speculative fiction plays in imagining the possible futures brought about by an unsustainable present. We will also consider how the consequences of environmental destruction are borne disproportionally by so-called third-world countries.
E 345F Matters of Taste: Literature, Culture, Environment
This course will examine novels by authors of color in the United States from the 1970s onward, with a particular focus on the ways in which these authors imagine and represent the environment as a site of pleasure, labor, struggle, community, and dwelling. We will think about how environmentalism figures across a broad range of texts and touches issues including colonialism, racism, gender, sexuality, and disability. Some of the guiding questions we will ask throughout the semester include: How do contemporary authors of color represent the environment as a site of social justice? How do these representations transform our understanding of the environment? In addition to a range of Anglophone novels, we will contextualize our readings through supplementary texts that draw on theories of environmental justice, critical race studies, and interdisciplinary cultural studies. This course is designed to help you learn key ideas and skills in literary analysis (and cultural studies more broadly), and to facilitate your understanding of the connections between literature, colonialism, race, ethnicity, environment, and justice.
HIS 346V 20th-Cen Rural Latin America
Examines causes of some of the unresolved conflicts affecting Latin America today, including the social-agrarian relationships linking landlords and campesinos; the role of the state and the impact of official ideologies involving indigenous people; religion and the Catholic Church; the history of rural institutions; and the success or failure of land reforms. Only one of the following may be counted: History 346V, 363K (Topic: Twentieth-Century Rural Latin America), Latin American Studies 366 (Topic 19).
HIS 350L Global Environmental History
Global Environmental History explores how human societies and natural environments have shaped each other through world history. In order to tackle this formidable subject, the course is divided into three thematic units. We will begin by critically examining “bird’s eye views” of deep human and natural history, discussing historiographic controversies over the role of humans in the ancient extinctions; the origins of agriculture; the Columbian Exchange; and relationships among climate, society, and disease. Next, we delve into a series of comparative and transnational histories of societies’ ways of knowing and making a living in nature. We will survey cultural and economic encounters of colonialism and capitalism in the 19th the 20th centuries, tracing the global flows of commodities,“invasive species,” human migrations, and waste. Finally, we will take a closer look at the ideas that have historically shaped how we think about “the environment,” considering the emergence of ecology, climate science, environmentalist movements around the world. This course is an upper-division, reading- and writing-intensive seminar. It acts as an introduction to the growing field of environmental history, as well as to a variety of approaches to understanding history at a scale beyond the nation-state. It carries Independent Inquiry and Writing Flag designations.
This is a Global Classroom course, meaning we will meet with students in Queens University in Belfast for at least 1 hour every other week. The idea for this course grew out of the Radical Hope Syllabus project, which Dr. Barry (Queens University) and Dr. Erika Bsumek, who is teaching this course, spearheaded. This course will address the history of global environmental issues by using a customized version of the syllabus to introduce students to a cross-disciplinary study of global environmental issues ranging the polluted air that hinders healthy living to the construction of mega-dams in the American Southwest to meditations on poetry and contemporary governance to efforts to rebuild communities in Nepal after the devasting earthquake that hit there in 2015.
This course explores the idea of “radical hope” and how is it related to the environment, climate change, or the anthropocene? In this course, students will be introduced to the term as a variety of scholars conceptualize of it. They will examine perspectives from variety of continents and disciplines to explore and exchange ideas on that renewable and essential resource: hope. It’s a resource that is often sadly and noticeably lacking in academic and popular conversations on the dominant framing of the Anthropocene in terms of overwhelming ecological crises, pragmatic pessimism, cognitive dissonance, climate denialism and scientific realism on the one hand. And, on the other, soothing narratives of “techno-optimism” and an idea that a slight “greening” of “business as usual” -- overseen by various experts and elites -- will somehow see us through. Optimism is not the same as hope after all. In early July 2017, the Rachel Carson Center, together with University of Austin, Texas hosted a two-day workshop on “Radical Hope.” It brought together 21 scholars and activists from a variety of continents and disciplinary perspectives to explore and exchange ideas on that renewable and essential resource: hope. A resource that is often sadly and noticeably lacking in academic and popular conversations on the dominant framing of the Anthropocene in terms of ecological “crisis,” pragmatic pessimism, and scientific “realism. 2 This class draws on the work of the scholars who came together. It builds on the idea of what if we are the people we are waiting for? We have all the technology, policies, and resources we need to create a more hopeful, sustainable future. Our history shows us to be a resilient, innovative species—capable of great harm, certainly, but also with the capacity for great and positive evolution and achievements. Perhaps it is in activism, in political, local, or pragmatic everyday and unnoticed forms of making peace with people, place, and planet that the realization and creation of an infrastructure of hope begins. Heads, hands, and hearts are the elements—each as important as the other—we need to create the infrastructures of radical hope in these turbulent yet also exciting times. After all, “Better to light a candle than curse the dark.”
HIS 350R Envir History of North America
The history of humanity's influence on the plants, animals, microlife, soils, water, and air of North America, and vice versa, from the arrival of the proto-Indians to the contemporary environmental crisis. American Studies 329 and History 350L (Topic 4: Environmental History of North America) may not both be counted. Partially fulfills legislative requirement for American history.
HIS 366N TRASH TREAS EUR 1400-1800
Which commodities matter and why? What can we learn about the past by studying things? This course examines Europe in the period that witnessed that the “birth” of a consumer society, the transition to fossil fuel as an energy source during the Little Ice Age, the Protestant Reformation that trashed formerly treasured relics, the rise of imperial networks of global trade, and much more. How did the meaning of things and people’s relationships to them change over these centuries? From 1400 to 1800, Europeans reevaluated what was trash and what was treasure – and how to get rid of as well as obtain different resources. A variety of objects—coal, cotton textiles, the printed book, saints’ relics, teapots, sewage, and sugar, to name a few—will guide our exploration of early modern Europe in an increasingly interconnected world. Bringing together exciting new scholarly work on material culture, environmental history, and economic history, we will trace the circulation, use, and consumption of things from the Renaissance to the consumer revolution. The class will work with early modern European objects in collections on UT’s campus, in particular the Harry Ransom Center and Blanton Museum, in order to write our own material histories.
In this course, students will explore the origins of contemporary issues related to environmental justice, both a form of academic scholarship as well as a social justice movement. The experiential learning component of the class involves a well-researched essay on a topic related to the environment as well as a digital project that documents either a local area of concern related to environmental justice or an area defined by interaction with students from an international university with whom students will partner.
This course will discuss literary and artistic works that engage in questions of environmental care and justice in the context of twentieth- and twentieth-first century Latin America. Environmental issues have been critical through the disparate processes of "modernization" that have shaped Latin American societies, in the early twentieth-century scenarios of primary agro-export economies, the import-substituting industrialization model of the post-1930s, as well as in the contemporary setting of extractive and outward-oriented market societies. Literatures and the arts have actively engaged in these processes, offering not only critiques but alternative currents in regard to the relationships to human and non-human animal lives and the natural, material and symbolic environments. In this course, we will examine works of literature, film, music and sound arts, visual and audiovisual arts in conjunction with environmental questions and the ways they interweave with the continuity of colonial regimes of oppression and dispossession; imperialist histories; and the "development” crisis of global capitalism; social justice, community activism and environmental movements; the responses of Indigenous, Afro, and local communities; racial, ethnic, cultural and territorial issues; and the technological and cultural logics underlying the long "modernizing" era of Latin America.
MAS 350E The Environment and Mexican America
P A 159R UT Energy Symposium
The UT Energy Symposium (UTES) is a weekly speaker series that seeks to provide a common platform for students from all disciplines across the campus to interact on the most pressing energy issues facing our globe. The series will introduce students to a wide range to energy topics including: low-carbon energy technologies (solar, wind, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, etc.); energy infrastructure (smart grids, transmission networks, maritime transport, etc.); innovation and diffusion of energy technologies; climate change and other environmental issues; behavioral aspects of energy consumption; policymaking and regulation in energy; and energy markets and finance. Every week an expert from the industry, government, or academia will talk about the key technological, policy, regulatory, and market aspects of the week’s topic and how that relates to the future of the global energy system. Each talk will be 1 hour in length, with about 40 minutes for the talk followed by 20 minutes of discussion.
This course explores the relationship between religions and the environment from multidisciplinary perspectives. We will pay particular attention to the role of religions in the construction of “nature” and ethical imperatives in relation to the environment. We will also examine questions of humans as geological actors in the age of the Anthropocene and religious stances toward extractive economies. Readings: Climate Politics and the Power of Religion, Evan Berry, ed.; Devoted to Nature by Evan Berry; Religion in the Anthropocene, Celia Deane-Drummond et al., eds; Reinventing the Sacred, by Stuart A. Kauffman; Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “Four Theses” Edited by Robert Emmett and Thomas Lekan; The Black Shoals by Tiffany Lethabo King. Grading: Plus/Minus Grading on the basis of reading quizzes, presentations, final project, and field study.
In this course we will explore a wide array of relationships religious practices and the environment. The Ethical Position Papers and in-class debates associated with those assignments will encourage students to respectfully form their own opinions on these varying approaches, using close attention to class readings and critical thinking skills.
RHE 309J When Topic is Appropriate
For topics courses labeled as “When Topic is Appropriate” on a BDP curriculum sheet, please note that all topics for this course number are not automatically approved to count toward your BDP. In advance of registration for a particular semester (and as part of the BDP seat request process), the BDP office will inform current BDP students of the topics for the course number that are approved for their BDP.
Business, Communication, and Education
Science has always played an essential role in the development of the human condition. Presently, however, the growth of technological and scientific innovation is increasing at what feels like an exponential rate. Emerging fields like genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology are poised to alter the very definition of what it means to be “human.” Concurrently, issues like climate change are changing the condition of our planet and how our species relates to it. Media have traditionally provided the information link between the public and the experts working on the cutting edge of science and technology. But scientists themselves are key communication sources for information about their research, and their efforts to communicate shape how non-scientists (for example, average citizens, policy makers, business leaders, etc.) think about and behave relative to science and its role in society. This course will introduce students to the complicated intersection of science, media, and society. Our exploration will be driven by three overarching questions and the interplay among them: (1) How do individuals come to understand and perceive science? (2) How do media and communication tools influence the spread of information about science? and (3) How do scientists themselves contribute to the process of communicating science? We will consider the foundations of the field of “science communication” and how communication and media influence debates and science and technology. We will also spend time grappling with the scientist communicators themselves; reflecting on how they communicate and what drives them to do so. Along the way we’ll consider some examples of science in popular culture (including television, films, podcasts, etc.) as well as some specific scientist celebrities. We’ll also explore a handful of case studies to connect our work to current scientific issues.
ADV 324 Communicating Sustainability
Despite environmentally friendly attitudes, there remains a profound attitude-behavior gap, often called the green gap, between what Americans say they value and how they actually behave. Mass communication, both informative and persuasive, can play a vital role in closing this gap. This course will look closely at the ways mass media can foster, challenge and change attitudes and behaviors as they relate to sustainability. A central premise of the course is that without effective communication campaigns, even the most promising sustainable initiatives will not succeed. In the course of the semester, students will gain the theoretical and practical foundation necessary to understand, evaluate and craft successful media messages to communicate issues of sustainability.
This course combines discussions of environmental current events with hands-on agency/client experience to help students understand how to develop authentic communication strategies and tactics that can protect the environment and advance cutting-edge sustainability technologies. This fall, Environmental Communication will include a semester-long collaboration with UT’s Eyes on the Sky mixed reality project focusing on “space environmentalism.” Environmental Communication students will work directly with Eyes on the Sky team members from Moody College and Aerospace Engineering as clients (Prof. Erin Reilly of Moody’s newly announced “Texas Immersive Institute,” Prof. Moriba Jah, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; and environmental communication research expert Dr. Lucy Atkinson, Moody School of Advertising and Public Relations). We will operate as an advertising and public relations agency to develop the strategy and tools Eyes on the Sky needs to promote the idea of space environmentalism to the general public and global stakeholders in 2022. In particular, we will develop a communication strategy, tactics and tools that will enhance awareness of the problem of “space junk” and the threat of the 500,000 unregulated objects hurling around near-Earth space. The Earth’s “cosmic junkyard” threatens not just the satellite communication we all rely on for our everyday electronic devices, but also the health and safety of astronauts and life on Earth now and in the future. The tools we develop in Fall 2021 will be used by the Eyes on the Sky team in 2022 to: 1. Enhance awareness of space environmentalism as the Eyes on the Sky team continues plans for the development of a “SkyDome” traveling immersive exhibition, and 2. Conduct global outreach efforts to add space environmentalism as a new United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. This course is ideal for students of all disciplines who may be interested in focusing on sustainability and the environment in their careers–no matter if they’re in communication, the arts, sciences, business, engineering, liberal arts and more.
This course will examine how communities and their partners use advertising and public relations to influence decisions about geohealth in their communities for equitable solutions to the impact of climate change, natural hazards, and natural resource management on the health of their communities. Class members will work in groups to develop alternative advertising and public relations solutions for the communities to tell their stories to influence local, state, and national climate and geohealth policymakers.
BGS 370 Energy Technology and Policy
Designed to give students an understanding of the broad context of energy production and consumption in the U.S. and the world. Discusses past energy trends and fundamentals of energy and power, including fossil fuels and renewable energy sources and technologies. Explores different energy resources, environmental impacts, and societal uses of energy, and concludes with an evaluation of future energy technology options.
This course is designed to explore various environmental theories as they relate to communication contexts. We will examine how communication plays a role in environmental issues such as journalism and news reporting, sustainability, consumerism, politics, environmental organizations, and tourism. We will also examine how environmental theories and communication contexts play out in local, national, and international debates and contexts, particularly as related to race, ethnicity, social justice, and globalization. This course is also designed to connect theories to environmental experiences in the world, through self and practical observations as well as intersections of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class.
J 346F Reporting on the Environment
From "Reporting on the Environment": Syllabus Global Climate Change represents just one topic in one of the “hottest” fields in journalism--reporting on the environment. Add in Austin and Texas’ intricate environmental challenges--from water supply and quality, to infamous traffic and smog and their related health impacts, to controversy over land use to name a few--and you’ve got a journalism beat that is interesting, demanding and very important to the community. The way media report about these issues influences both short-term and long-term decisions made by individuals, corporations and governments. Some of the topics to be discussed include: Journalistic interviewing (especially working with scientists) Understanding basic elements and structures to good environment writing Using all your senses to write Understanding the concepts of scientific certainty and uncertainty Understanding the challenges faced by both scientists and journalists Communicating complex science to lay audiences Environmental topics, such as climate change, energy, air and water quality and sustainability will be discussed in depth in conjunction with how these topics can be communicated effectively
Architecture & Fine Arts
ARC 327G Regenerative Architecture
The course content will: survey the principles of environmentally sensitive design and planning, review case studies of "green building" applications and explore various concepts for integrating sustainable planning and building principles into the form making process of architectural design. The process includes: an analysis of bioclimatic comfort and building metabolism; design with climate; integration of passive heating and cooling systems; water conservation planning; waste systems; and the basis for specifying sustainable building materials. The focus of the course investigation for the fall semester of 2020 will be to develop the design and the sustainable architecture principles for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory sponsored design competition; “Race to Zero”.
ARC 327R Energy Modeling & Design Proc
Energy simulation is frequently touted as a necessity for the design of energy efficient buildings, however simulation alone will not result in an optimal solution. For energy modeling to be useful, the designer must have the skills to apply the art as well as the science of energy modeling to guide design decisions when they matter most: early in the design process. This requires knowledge of the specific simulation tool, as well as knowledge of building physics, what to edit, how to make assumptions about unknowns, how to interpret results, and a good strategy. Without these skills, energy modeling is at best a waste of time. At worst, poor modeling decisions can mislead the designer. The potential for energy and other simulations to influence the built environment, however, is much greater than simply validating energy efficiency strategies. These tools have the potential to help the architect design the sensory experience of the building as well. In the same way that renderings help us visualize the appearance of a design, thermal, light, fluid dynamic, and acoustic simulations allow us to understand and manipulate the experience of other senses in space and time. While the data is relatively easy to produce, moving from reams of quantitative data to a qualitative understanding of experience over time is a significant challenge. Energy Modeling and the Design Process explores how energy simulation can be applied in the design process to develop buildings that are energy and resource efficient, and investigates how these tools might be used to generate design at a deeper experiential level. Students will leave the course with familiarity with several specific computer programs and with a set of skills that will be applicable regardless of the specific simulation tool being used.
ARC 327R Light and Sustainable Design
The interdisciplinary seminar on ‘Light and Sustainable Design’ aims to explore the full spectrum of light as it relates to architecture and design in general, from physical properties such as its effect on the thermal performance of buildings as well as the resultant impact upon comfort, and ultimately the way we perceive space, color, and form. The seminar provides insight into the integrated balance of natural daylighting and artificial lighting in habitable spaces. This balance will be examined from the larger scale of full building facades and urban environments to the micro scale of nanotechnology in smart materials, which allow for alterations in embedded light and color properties. The design of technology, building forms, glazing forms, as well as the forms of shading devices will be studied as integral media to channel daylight and artificial light. Discussions will aim to draw parallels between the sustainable use of light in engineering-based technology and the fine arts, in addition to the applied arts such as architecture. The seminar will also address the consideration of light as a preliminary factor in design processes, as well approaches to retrofit existing spaces with applications which enhance its sustainable performance as well as its phenomenological aspects relating to spatial perception. Students from various departments work in interdisciplinary groups (consisting of a balance between architecture students and non-architecture students) to produce research or design projects, investigating the properties and potential of light in sustainable design. The seminar ultimately strives to achieve interdisciplinary collaboration and system integration to the benefit of multi-faceted design approaches and proposals.
In 2008, California introduced the first-in-the-nation Green Building Standards Code to encourage sustainable construction practices. While the adoption of this set of rules (and other similar provisions across the country) marked a significant moment in the process of the greening of building regulations, it represents only one moment in the nation's history of environmental action, and in that of code-making. Two parallel narratives, and their eventual mergence will be the subject of this seminar and will serve as a springboard for a critical discussion about sustainability. The first is an account of the rise of environmental awareness and of how it was gradually standardized by law-makers, interpreted through technology, and shaped by the market. The second is a story of the agendas that shaped the American house (we will focus on the single-family house as an example), and the regulations that govern it. The goal will be to expose the wide-ranging consequences of their convergence; the combined influence of building regulations and financial incentives on environmental awareness and environmentally-driven design as practiced today.
Solar Geometry and Energy Flow in Buildings examines the relationship between buildings and the energy that flows around and through them. Developing a strong understanding of the principles that govern this interaction is important for anyone involved with the built environment. The class begins by looking at the source of all Earth’s renewable energy—the sun. Students learn about its apparent motion, how its energy strikes and interacts with our buildings, and how we may exploit these principles in our building practice. Students demonstrate their mastery of the topic by designing and building a solar oven, then using it to cook something for the class to share. From there, the class proceeds to an examination of the concept of human comfort and various models for assessing whether an environment is “comfortable.” The final segment of the course focuses on the transfer of heat, solar radiation, and moisture through the building envelope and how these flows affect comfort and energy use. The relationship of these fundamentals to the methodology of the Passive House certification system will be a theme throughout the semester. Students analyze these phenomena through exercises and experiments that involve drawings, hand calculations, physical models, and computer simulations. The exercises form a “tool box” of methods that may be applied to future projects. The course provides a good foundation for students to understand and apply principles of building performance, and for those who plan to move on to the study of whole-building energy simulation.
Buildings are responsible for one-third of the worldwide energy demand as well as anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions from cities vary widely depending on their density, location, and building culture. Tall buildings offer one possible solution for densifying urban areas, by possibly reducing transportation times and emissions, but they require exponentially more material than medium and low-rise buildings during construction. A balance may be reached as their operational energy demand per capita is reduced. Therefore, a holistic approach considering the larger future urban implications is necessary to determine what makes an architectural design truly sustainable. In this course, we explore the interaction of urban planning, site conditions, orientation, structural form and logic, spatial quality, and climatic performance. Special attention is placed on the role of the city and how the built environment affects and is impacted by transportation planning, public space and carbon emissions. Case studies and historical references will provide the backbone of the course, followed by exercises in exploring the combination of practical strategies for the design of buildings and sites with larger scale implications to the climate as a focus. The course will cover topics such as efficient use of materials and land, renewable energy, radiant heating and cooling, natural ventilation, and community building through design. This will benefit from the combined knowledge provided by architects, planners, landscape architects, structural, environmental and energy engineers through interdisciplinary collaboration.
ARC 334L Environmental Controls II
A survey of heating, ventilating, air conditioning, vertical transportation, and wiring and plumbing systems in buildings, including techniques of documentation.
ARC 350R Environmental Readings
A long, deep green thread exists in American literature from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman through Herman Melville and William Carlos Williams on to Terry Tempest Williams and Wendell Berry. This literature has influenced how we perceive our environments and, in the process, many planners, designers, and conservationists such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Jane Addams, Aldo Leopold, Lewis Mumford, Ian McHarg, and Anne Whiston Spirn. In this seminar, we will explore this green thread and analyze its influence on how we shape our environments through design and planning. The course has three parts. Throughout, the influence of literature on design and planning theory will be explored. The first part will focus on the three most important theorists in environmental planning and landscape architecture: Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., Charles Eliot, and Ian McHarg. The senior Olmsted pretty much created the field of landscape architecture, adapting the English landscape aesthetic for the rapidly urbanizing North American continent to address pressing urban issues. Arguably, the planning profession in the United States also began with the senior Olmsted. Charles Eliot was a protégé of Olmsted’s. Eliot pioneered the use of comprehensive, scientific landscape inventories; originated the concept of land trusts; and designed the first metropolitan regional open-space plan. Educated in landscape architecture and city planning, Ian McHarg influenced both fields in the late twentieth century. He urged us to better understand natural processes and how people use space. The second part of the course will critically explore current theories in environmental planning and landscape architecture. The topics will include: frameworks for cultural landscape studies, the future of the vernacular, ecological design and planning, sustainable and regenerative design, the languages of landscapes, and evolving views of landscape aesthetics and ethics. In the third part of the course, students will build on the readings to develop their own theory for ecological planning or, alternatively, landscape architecture. While literacy and critical inquiry are addressed throughout the course, critical thinking is especially important for this final section.
ARC 350R Smart, Green and Just-ENG
The following are main seminar topics: Utopian ideas versus the erosion of environments A history of smart, green, and just principles and projects Social responsibilities to social networks Theories of street and city place Mobility, safety, cost, and energy; new movement in cities, transformative projects Amenity, culture, and accessibility Green infrastructure to city agriculture Designing the resilient city Smart buildings Indigenous energy infrastructures, waste as resource Each area of investigation will be demonstrated through designed case studies both built and unbuilt.
These two inte­grated semi­nars on sus­tain­able archi­tec­ture and design (with Modern History of Sustainable Architecture) are designed to give stu­dents a deep insight into the cultural history of sustainable design in Germany and its direct application at a variety of scales. Due to the unique loca­tion of the sum­mer ses­sion, the stu­dents will expe­ri­ence alter­na­tive mod­els of urban plan­ning and mixed-use devel­op­ments. They will expe­ri­ence various forms of pub­lic space, pri­vate and pub­lic trans­port, and sus­tain­able plan­ning and design in one of the most beautiful cit­ies in Europe. While most of the time during the week the program will be located in Munich, but the group will also travel to places such as Stuttgart, Freiburg, Regensburg, and to the Alps with Mittenwald, Garmisch Partenkirchen, and Innsbruck, Austria. Typically, most weekends are free for individual or small group student travel.
This course develops practices and strategies that decenter the human being in a world of ecological uncertainty and recalibration. We will explore eco-centric design, earth-centered design, and design for non-humans such as animals, plants, robots. We will discuss Descartes' view of animals, animals in indigenous cultures, ecofeminism, posthumanism, AI and animals, and animal ethics. Through collaborative and creative activities and assignments, we will research and question ideas of co-creating with another species and how to give them agency. We will have field trips and lab visits to observe, document, design for, and hence co-create with the non-human species. We will dedicate ourselves to creating actions, habits, products, practices, and artworks—in many mediums—that work to disrupt unthinking ego-centric and replace it with eco-centric consciousness.
Zero Waste Design and Fabrication for Entertainment. Student teams will research challenges related to sustainable design including materials, techniques, and systems, seek solutions, and fabricate a fully realized, zero waste set for a live theatre performance of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn. Students may receive training in fabrication methods such as carpentry, welding, mold making, and machining, and surface finish as well as digital technologies including 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machining.
GRG 323K South Amer: Nat/Socty/Sust-ECU

*This course is a Maymester study abroad in Ecuador.

This course examines issues of cultural landscapes, human-environment relations, and sustainable development in South America, taking full advantage of its location in Ecuador. Ecuador is one of the most bio diverse nations in the world, with rain forests, high mountains, mangrove estuaries, and a tropical coastline. It is also ethnically diverse, with over 40 indigenous nations, a large Afro-Ecuadorian population, and mestizos, as well as European, Middle Eastern, and Asian immigrants. The country’s three largest cities (Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca) display a range of issues involving housing, employment, water and food provision, poverty and gentrification, and preservation of historical districts. The nation is rich in agricultural and aquaculural products, including flowers, bananas, shrimp, cacao, as well as more traditional subsistence crops such as manioc, potatoes, quinoa, and corn. There is a large system of national parks and preserves spanning landscapes from high grasslands (paramos) to tropical forests; the interaction between the goals of conservation, indigenous territoriality, and the (growing) mineral and hydrocarbon extractive industries spurs ongoing debate. The 2008 Ecuadorian constitution enshrined the protection of mother earth (pacha mama) and cultural diversity while pursuing the culturally appropriate good life (buen vivir, sumaq kawsay). This course will examine ongoing issues in sustainable development in these local contexts, which provide an excellent sample of similar issues in the rest of Latin America. Field trips and site visits will include coastal, highland, and Amazonian destinations illustrative of Ecuador’s natural and cultural diversity. Students will examine selected issues through readings, discussions, site visits and field trips. There will be an extended amount of time in and near Cuenca, Ecuador’s third-largest city (population 300,000). Cuenca was a Cañari indigenous settlement before it became first an Inca, and then a Spanish colonial city. Indigenous and colonial monuments explain its listing on the UNESCO world heritage list, while its highland setting (8200 feet above sea level) provides for a diverse hinterland with small farms, national parks, and villages noted for artisanal crafts. It has also become an important destination for tourism and residential migration.
GRG 356T Envir-Cul Dynamics-BWA
Understanding the pressures on the world's environments AND populations is of paramount importance for sustaining global resources for future generations. Many of the most challenging environmental conflicts today present transboundary problems, where either the source of environmental bad or impacted peoples straddle administrative and political boundaries. Meanwhile, the world's population and consumption continue to increase, thought the disparity of living quality among people and countries also increases. This dilemma only heightens the importance and urgency of addressing coupled environmental issues such as global warming and industrialization, agricultural production and water quantity/quality shortages, and ecosystem quality and human health. Understanding global environmental problems can be contextualized as issues that have both local impacts as well as opportunities for local solutions. This course will tackle the science and technology of understanding the reciprocal impacts between humans and the environment using current examples from Botswana, home to part of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta, and high cultural- and bio-diversity. This peaceful country, founded just over 40 years ago, is held up as a one of the few shining examples of peace, democracy, and prosperity in Africa. Yet Botswana is also home to one of the world's highest income gaps as well as HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Additionally, recent upstream developments along the Okavango River threaten its wetland ecosystems and the hundreds of thousands of wild animals that rely on this system for survival. This seemingly disparate conditions can be illuminated through the lens of human-environment interactions, emphasizing the local-to-global and transboundary issues needed to address environmental quality AND quality of life issues. The framework used will be extensible to industrialized countries as well, and we will use the US and Texas as comparisons for what we learn from Botswana.

Integration Essay

A 3-4 page essay in which you reflect on what you learned and accomplished through your BDP experience.

Important Notes on Fulfilling Your BDP Requirements

For more information on courses, please consult your BDP advisor (bdp@austin.utexas.edu) or the course schedule.