This is a survey course in which we will discuss the science behind historical and current environmental issues. We will discuss the major threats to biodiversity and ecosystem function. We will study how human activities have affected the limited resources of our planet. We will learn how air, water and soil degradation have affected human health. Lastly, we will explore the emerging field of sustainability, what it means, and how it is being applied in todayęs world.
This course analyzes cooperative processes that shape the natural environment, now and in the geologic past. It emphasizes the development of theoretical models that relate the physical and biological worlds, the comparison of theory to observational data, and associated mathematical methods.
11.941 and 11.942 make up a one-year seminar. The goal of this seminar is to explore the role of science and scientists in ecosystems and natural resources management focusing on joint fact finding as a new approach to environmental policy-making. Increasingly scientists and science organizations are confronting a conundrum: Why is science often ignored in important societal decisions even as the call for decisions based on sound science escalates? One reason is that decision-making is often driven by a variety of nonscientific, adversarial, and stakeholder dynamics. Thus, even though science helps inform choices, it is only one of many values and interests considered by each stakeholder. In response to this emerging challenge, scientists, and science agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, are embarking upon research that explores the problems of incorporating science into value-laden societal decisions. This research includes designing experiments that will assess the appropriateness of using the new and emerging approach of Joint Fact Finding to address some of the Nation's most contentious environmental conflicts. In the first few sessions we will examine the problems of using science in environmental disputes. In following sessions, students will analyze and discuss cases that involved or that should have involved Joint Fact Finding of various kinds.
This course makes up the second half of a year-long seminar on Joint Fact Finding in Science-Intensive Disputes. In 11.941, the first half of the seminar, students analyzed and discussed cases that involved or that should have involved Joint Fact Finding of various kinds. In this portion, students concentrate on gathering information to assist in resolving the Cape Wind project, the dispute concerning the placement of wind farms in waters adjacent to Nantucket. Students will lay the groundwork for a collaborative project that includes Federal and State agencies, academic institutions and non-profits.