ESPM 290: Special Topics Offerings

Fall 2014

ESPM 290 Agroecology, biodiversity and ecosystem services

Instructor: Claire Kremen

Prerequisites: Graduate standing or consent of instructor.

Credit option: Course may be repeated for credit.

Description: In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will critically explore an intersecting literature on agroecology, biodiversity, ecosystem services, diversified farming systems, food sovereignty, food systems, and resilience covering a series of current debates. First we will ask, what is agroecology? Agroecology has been variously defined as a “science, a movement and a practice”; we will attempt to understand agroecology in all of these roles. What is the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services, and agroecology? Are concepts of agroecology compatible with recent terminologies like “sustainable intensification”, “ecological intensification” or “agro-ecological intensification”? Can agroecology “feed the world”, or is “feeding the world” even a correct framing of the problem? Can agroecology be scaled up through food sovereignty movements? (with Professor Miguel Altieri). Can agroecology help to protect biodiversity by “sharing land with nature” or should production be intensified, through any means available, to “spare land for nature”? Similarly, can ecosystem service approaches protect nature, or do they simply sell out nature? Is the land-sparing approach connected to the recent socio-political phenomenon of land-grabbing? (with Professor Kathryn De Master). Can agro-ecological approaches offer a resilient livelihood strategy for a rapidly changing climate? Participants will be expected to lead a group discussion centered on a key research paper or papers and to participate in all of the discussions.


ESPM 290: PhD as process

Instructor: Erica Bree Rosenblum
Prerequisites: Graduate standing or consent of instructor.
Credit option: Course may be repeated for credit.

Description: A PhD is not only a degree but also a process – a rich and challenging process. Most graduate students receive specific training in their subject area, research methodologies, and technical writing. But fewer PhD students receive direct input on their process. Although there is no one-size-fits-all “effectiveness training”, the goal of this seminar is to explore tools for surviving – and thriving – in the PhD process. We will address several core questions. What are strategies for efficiency and effectiveness at work? What are strategies for balancing personal and professional growth? How can we better define our goals and orient towards fulfilling them? We will address these questions with a combination of readings, activities, and discussions. Note that this is not a typical professional development course and will require a willingness to evaluate your own strengths and limitations and to engage in group work with your peers.


ESPM 290/MBA 290: Designing Sustainable Materials and Products: Problem Solving for Society and the Environment

Instructor: Alastair Iles

Course overview: Using a public ethics framework, this interdisciplinary graduate seminar explores the ways in which the materials production system can be transformed into a more sustainable and just form. We will look at how design and manufacturing can be re-thought to integrate the environmental and social effects of the materials that are used in making a wide array of products. Throughout, we will collaborate in imagining a new system and how we can make the transition to that system. Critically, the public ethics framework we will develop can be applied to many other technological systems (e.g., water, energy, transportation).
We begin the seminar with a set of classes that explore fundamental concepts that could become part of the public ethics framework. We will often use cases that have been specially written for this seminar and that assemble all the data that you need to appraise the material in terms of public ethics. Next, we will look in depth at two cases of materials to map ethical issues and agency throughout their life cycle: rare earth elements in electronics and bioplastics in drinking bottles. We will then examine the potential contributions of various processes for influencing the design of sustainable materials. These processes include supply chain pressures, litigation in the courts, regulatory reform, design tools, and social movements. We will conclude the course with a materials problem in which you will come up with a theory of change for achieving a transition. You will vote on what this problem will be.
In general, we envisage that the class will be student-led with faculty contributions and facilitation. We aim to foster a shared learning process for all of us.
Graduate students from all departments are encouraged to enroll, especially Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Haas, ESPM, CNR, Political Science, Sociology, STS, Public Health, ERG, CED, Engineering, GSPP, and Law. Qualified undergraduates are eligible but must consult with the instructors.