Envisioning a Sustainable Future:
Managing and Protecting the Environment

George Buckley & Tim Weiskel

Video Introduction to Course


Syllabus outline for ENVR E106

& Weekly Schedule of Class Sessions



It is widely recognized by the scientific community that current trends in our collective human behavior are not sustainable.  Populations are growing at rates that cannot be maintained as food supplies per capita decline and the ecological “costs” of providing energy and materials for many people exceed the regenerative capacities the ecosystems upon which they depend.  In addition, the waste products of our increasingly urbanized and consumer-oriented civilization have now reached the point of compromising the restorative functions of the biogeochemical cycling systems required for human survival.


In response to these demonstrable trends numerous outstanding thinkers and environmental leaders have begun to envisage and implement strategies for a sustainable future.  The purpose of this course will be to expose students to innovative thinkers and inspired activists over a wide range of fields engaged in the transition to sustainability.  




There are no prerequisite courses for this class.  Students will be expected to read, listen to and respond to a series of thinkers who have made significant contributions either to our thinking about management and protection strategies or to concrete action to implement their visions of a sustainable future. 


In addition to systematic contributions online within a student blog designed for public exchange about the topics of the weekly classes, students will be required to submit a research paper of not more than 5000 words demonstrating how they have investigated and engaged with a project of their own choosing in managing and protecting some aspect of their environment.


When it proves feasible, George Buckley and Tim Weiskel will arrange for occasional “guest” speakers to contribute to the topics outlined in the weekly sequence (see attached class sequence outline).  Particular attention will be given to the writings and outlook of these chosen guest speakers, with the expectation that students will be prepared to receive these guests and interact with them with questions and conversation in class.   In addition, students will be expected to view the relevant online video material for each class sessions with links provided on the weekly syllabus page. 


Whenever possible, readings for the class will be made available through the course website in HTML or PDF files.  In addition textbooks for the course include:

E. O. Wilson



Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life

Sylvia A. Earle



 The World Is Blue

Elizabeth Kolbert



The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Donella Meadows



Thinking in Systems: A Primer



Weekly Schedule of Class Sessions


The course requires students to:

  • attend lectures and study class lecture notes made available in most cases via the Internet. The includes the viewing the required weekly "section" which is scheduled from 4:30 to 5:30pm each week, the hour prior to the formal class session.  
  • complete "in-class," "take-home" or "online" short assignments & weekly quizzes that will be presented occasionally throughout the term;
  • complete assigned readings -- and suggested readings, where appropriate. Regularly consult, study and absorb the material listed under the weekly Discussions (ie. Week 1, Week 2, etc.) where appropriate. Class and online discussions will often assume you know about and are familiar with this material.

[Please Note: Beyond the works listed below, additional Assigned Reading and handouts may be distributed in class or via the World Wide Web from time to time during the semester. These materials form an integral part of the course, and they are to be read and reflected upon as well as those readings listed below].

  • complete and submit to the appropriate course "dropbox" in the CANVAS website by Thursday, 2 March 2017 a Statement of Research Intent (SORI). This should be a title and a paragraph, indicating what your research for the Prospectus and eventual paper will focus upon.
        To complete the SORI Assignment and the two subsequent writing assignments students should read and follow the guidelines discussed in the support document entitled: "Some Comments on Research and Writing about Envisioning a Sustainable Future"

  • complete and submit a Prospectus with an Annotated Bibliography for their Term Research Paper. The deadline for submitting the prospectus is Thursday, 23 March 2017 in class and online.  Suggestions  on the  prepartion of the research paper are outlined in the web document:  The Prospectus with Annotated Bibliography

  • complete and submit a Term Research Paper with supporting bibliography on a selected topic related to envisioning a sustainable future. To receive a grade in the course, all papers should be received in "hardcopy," printed format with a postmark on or before Thursday 4 May 2017.  Submission of the final paper in electronic form alone will not be accepted as valid. [Please note that the hardcopy paper need not have arrived by 4 May, but it must be submitted with a postmark of 4 May 2017 or before.]

[Please Note: It is recognized that students from different levels of educational experience may well be taking this course, ranging from undergraduates through graduate and professional school students. All students taking the course will be expected to fulfill the requirements enumerated above, but the assessment of their work will take into account their respective levels of educational experience. The subject for the term research paper should be discussed with the course instructor.

Course Grading and Late Submission of Written Work:
            Grading for the course will be derived from 5 total elements:

  1. in-class and/or online participation in the course "Chat Room" during class as well as the Harvard Canvas "Discussion Sessions." Topics and questions will be posted under the link to weekly Discussion Sessions which will be linked to the appropriate space in which you should respond on the class Canvas site.. (approximately 30%);

  2. on-time online submission by 2 March 2017 of the "Statement of Research Intent." (approximately 10%);

  3. on-time online submission by 23 March 2017 of the research Prospectus with Annotated Bibliography (approximately 20%);

  4. on-time online submission of the term research paper PLUS "hardcopy" submission by 4 May 2017; please remember, the hardcopy paper need not have arrived by 4 May, but it must be submitted with a postmark of 4 May 2017 or before.

  5. [N.B. all papers must be sent in "hardcopy," printed format with a postmark on or before 4 May 2017.   Submission in electronic form is required as well. All papers must be submitted to the Final Paper Dropbox on the Harvard CANVAS course website by 11:59pm on 4 May 2017.]

Please Note: Late submission of the course written work (specifically the Prospectus with Annotated Bibliography and the final research paper) will normally result in a loss of one third of a grade per day (not per class session, but per 24 hour delay).  Thus, for example, a student who might normally receive a B+ for the written exercise should expect to receive a B if the paper is one day late.  Similarly a student who might normally receive an A for the submitted paper can expect to receive a B+ if it is received two days late.


Weekly Schedule of Class Sessions