Summer 2018: Sustainability Leadership

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Sustainability Leadership

Course: BIOL/OEAS/IDS 467, BIOL/OEAS 567 (three credits)
CRNs: 35510, 35861, 35874, 35855, 35856
Course title: Sustainability Leadership
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag, Dr. Tatyana Lobova, Dr. Eddie Hill
Term: Summer 2018 (season 1)
Time: Mondays and Wednesday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Location: BAL 2068 -- SRC 1009

Question Set 1

Answer five of the seven questions.

  1. What type of leadership do we need to make progress toward sustainability?
  2. Based on Köhler et al. (2018), discuss how modeling sustainability transitions can inform sustainability leadership.
  3. Is safeguarding the Earth's life-support system a wicked or super-wicked problem? Explain why or why not.
  4. Can capitalist, growth-focused economy be reconciled with the need to safeguard the Earth's life-support system?
  5. Based on Ward et al. (2017), does unlimited growth and sustainability fit together or contradict each other? Compare this to the approach of UNEP (2012) based on the summary.
  6. What are the main characteristics of participatory modeling?
  7. Provide a sketch for a high-level conceptual model for the interaction of humanity with the Earth's life-support system. Briefly explain your model.

Due Date: May 18, 2018, 6:00 PM

Question Set 2

Answer five of the seven questions.

  1. Is human reasoning rational? If not, explain why.
  2. After viewing Hans Rosling's TED presentation, what is Rosling's main message, in your opinion?
  3. What do you know about cognitive biases and how do you think they impact our decision making? Give examples.
  4. Give an example where some of your cognitive biases have impacted your perception of recent events.
  5. Based on the readings for class 3, respond to: How, and by whom, has in recent decades in the U.S. a form of skepticism been used to discredit and blur scientific evidence? How does this relate to cognitive biases?
  6. Considering the discussion in Lukianoff and Haidt (2015) and Jensen (2016) and comment on how cognitive biases impact the interpretation of societal developments. Give examples.
  7. From a systems theory point of view, what are the most significant trends in the Earth's life-support system that appear not to be sustainable? Describe at least four of the core trends and identify the relevant essential variables.

Due Date: May 25, 2018, 6:00 PM

Question Set 3

Answer five of the seven questions.

  1. What modeling approaches for different system classes are discussed by Köhler et al. (2018)?
  2. What are the main advantages of taking a systems theory approach to sustainability?
  3. Provide a simple sketch that explains risk assessment in a systems theory context.
  4. Why are some low risks often overemphasized and high risks almost ignored? Use Anderson (2017) as a starting point.
  5. Discuss the relevance of the “normalcy bias” for disasters and the recognition of trends that could pose threats. Use climate change, land use changes and/or extinction as examples.
  6. Why do anthropogenic landuse changes constitute a threat to the Earth's life-support system? Use Barnosky et al., 2012 as a starting point.
  7. What are the main processes that determine local sea level changes? Which are the processes that introduce the largest uncertainties for future local sea level rise? Use Plag and Jules-Plag (2013) as starting point.

Due Date: June 1, 2018, 6:00 PM

Question Set 4

Answer five of the seven questions.

  1. Jack London explores the conflict between man and nature in “To Build a Fire.” Could the ending of the story be different? Briefly explain why or why not?
  2. Capra (1996) states in Chapter 1, “The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realize that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent.” Discuss your interpretation of the statement while giving examples from the text. Can you apply Capra's point to a problem you are familiar with?
  3. Kirchhoff et al. (2013) mention “ approaches to the creation of knowledge involving both growing integration across disciplines and greater interaction with users” as part of their study. Briefly elaborate on that thought.
  4. Evidence-based decision and policy making can easily lead to decision and policy-based evidence making. Explain the difference.
  5. What is the difference between aiming to predict the future and developing foresight? Use examples to illustrate the difference.
  6. What is the main thought in Seligman and Tierney (2017) and how does this related to sustainability leadership?
  7. Use Carpenter et al. (2005) to discuss the link between scenarios and foresight.

Due Date: June 8, 2018, 6:00 PM

Question Set 5

Answer five of the seven questions.

  1. What are the main conclusions of Machlis and Jarvis (2018)?
  2. How does conservation factor into sustainability and how does it relate to technological progress replacing functions in the Earth's life-support system?
  3. How important is it for you that humanity aims for sustainability and what would you be willing to sacrifice for that?
  4. Rusbridger (2015) raises the following questions: “Even when the overwhelming majority of scientists wave a big red flag in the air, they tend to be ignored. Is this new warning too similar to the last? Is it all too frightening to contemplate? Is a collective shrug of fatalism the only rational response?” How do Rusbridger's questions relate to cognitive biases and their impacts on risk perception? Discuss your point of view with an example.
  5. To what extent have the warnings to humanity issued by scientists in 1992 (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1992) and 2017 (Ripple et al. (2017)) evolved in terms of urgency and support by scientists?
  6. What are the main conclusions of Ferry (2017) and Bernstein (2017)? Do you agree?
  7. Discuss the role of ethical and economic models for sustainability.

Due Date: June 15, 2018, 6:00 PM