We live in a unique time. Cheap energy and technological innovation have transformed the way we live. We can travel vast distances in a few hours. Products of every shape and size fill our homes. Every food imaginable can be bought at any time we wish. While these advances have certainly enriched our lives in many ways they have also come at a cost. The consumption-based lifestyle that we have embraced is not only altering the climate and degrading ecosystems, but it is increasing jeopardizing human health. Encouraging people to adopt more environmentally sustainable lifestyles, however, has proven to be challenging. If people believe this coming transition will involve sacrifice and a more difficult way of life they will be unlikely to get involved. Fortunately, an alternative perspective is possible. What if we could create an environmentally sustainable future that is better equipped to support human health and well-being than our current lifestyle? Would people be more willing to participate and try out new ways of doing things? The purpose of this course is to explore this idea by considering how the environment influences our health and well-being. In order to tackle this complex topic we will begin by identifying the physical, psychological, and social dimensions of human health. We then explore how climate change could negatively impact human health and consider the ways in which our modern lifestyle makes it difficult for us achieve and maintain good health. Finally, we will think about how the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle could positively impact our health and well-being.
Topics will likely include:
- The connections between environmental health and human health
- How to assess health and well-being
- The impact our current lifestyle has on a broad range of health outcomes
- Diseases of affluence and their consequences, such as obesity
- Health impacts of climate change
- Comparing various countries/societies in terms of health and sustainability outcomes
- The connection between health, social capital, and community capacity
- Green Care and the benefits of spending time in nature
- Health impacts associated with simplicity and localization
Multiple project-based writing assignments will be used to evaluate student performance. The first involves adopting several conservation behaviors for a limited period of time and tracking how these behaviors impact well-being and quality of life. Students will then be asked to write a paper about this experience (20%). Students in the course will also work in 2-3 person teams to selecting a topic related to sustainability and write an in-depth research report exploring how the selected issue relates to physiological, psychological, and social aspects of human health (40%). Each student will then use this report as a basis for a shorter “magazine style” popular press article (20%). Active participation in the course and will be expected and will account for 20% of the students final grade. Students will be asked to contribute to class discussions, ask questions about course readings/topics, and participate in class activities.
Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.
Seminar format which meets two times a week for 90 minutes.