MAE 124/ESYS 103:   Environmental Challenges: Science and Solutions

Spring 2011 Schedule

Week 1: Introduction
Reading/class preparation (for lectures):
  1. Bradsher and Barboza, "Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow", The New York Times, June 11, 2006.
  2. EPA Press Office , "Radiation Monitors Continue to Confirm that No Radiation Levels of Concern Have Reched the United States", Environmental Protection Agency, 22 March 2011 News Release.
  3. Stokstad, "Science Meets Politics Off California's Coast", Science, 327, 1574-1575, DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5973.1574, 26 March 2010. Struggling with access to the journal Science? UCSD has a subscription, and you should be able to access it from any computer on campus, or from home if you use the UCSD proxy server or VPN. See here for details.
  4. Brown, Preface, Ch. 1 "On the Edge".
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Lowe, Alex, "Ecological Footprint 2.0", WorldChanging (Environmental Blog), 2007.
  2. Assignment: footprint exercises
March 28: Introduction to the course. Tragedy of the Commons.   Handouts: syllabus, survey
Discussion (March 28/29): Ecological footprints. Assignment due in class.
March 30: Tragedy of the Commons: Air pollution and other examples . Paper #1 topics assigned. 
April 1: Tragedies of the Commons: Climate.

Week 2.  Global Warming and Climate Change
Reading/class preparation:
  1. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009, Allison et al., 60 pp.
  2. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers, 2007.
  3. Diringer, E., 2010. Summary: Sixteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Be sure to read the full pdf.
  4. Krugman, Paul. Building a Green Economy, New York Times Magazine, 5 April 2010.
  5. Brown, Ch. 4 "Rising Temperatures, Melting Ice, and Food Security".
  6. Assignment: Draft plan for Paper 1.
April 4:  Sustainability at UCSD.   Guest lecture: Byron Washom, UCSD Sustainability 2.0
Discussion April 4/5:  Writing a paper. Assignment due as specified in Paper 1 instructions. See Paper 1 web page for further guidance. Please bring hard copy to class and submit electronically via WebCT to (see week 2 discussion folder).
April 6: Speaking Truth to Power: The Scientific Case for Urgent Action to Avoid Severe Climate Disruption. Guest Lecture : Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
April 8:  Climate and the Carbon Cycle.  Guest lecture:  Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Week 3:  Energy
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Weisz, Basic Choices and Constraints on Long-Term Energy Supplies, Physics Today, July 2004, p. 47.
  2. Gertz, Emily, 2008. Can Offshore Drilling Really Make the US Oil Independent?, Scientific American, 12 September 2008.>
  3. Reuters, 2011. Update 2: US Issues 1st Permit to Drill New Well Since Ban Ends, 24 March 2011.
  4. New York Times Opinion Page, "Room for Debate: What the Oil Spill Means for Off Shore Drilling", New York Times, 29 April 2010.
  5. Union of Concerned Scientists, The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: Executive Summary, March 2011. For further information, see the Union of Concerned Scientist web site on nuclear power.
  6. Brown, Ch. 3 "Eroding Soils and Expanding Deserts"; Ch. 5 "The Emerging Politics of Food Scarcity".
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Assignment: Nuclear energy and public perception paragraph
April 11: Energy demand. The fossil fuel economy:  oil, coal, and natural gas.
Discussion: April 11/12:  Nuclear energy and public perception. Assignment due. Submit via WebCT.
April 13:  Peak oil, energy supply
April 15: Nuclear energy to meet future energy needs. Guest lecture: Dr. Arkal Shenoy, Director of Fission Energy Programs, General Atomics.

Week 4:  Water resources.  

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Summary of the Hydrologic Cycle, US Geological Survey, 8 February 2011,
  2. "Water Resources and Population", Paul Harrison and Fred Pearce, AAAS Atlas of Population & Environment, ed. by Victoria Dompka Markham, 2000, American Association for the Advancement of Science and University of California Press.
  3. "California's water crisis", Aquafornia Californa Water News Blog, 31 December 2007:
  4. "Gray water debate in Sacramento steams up", Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog, Susan Carpenter, 17 March 2008.
  5. "Editorial: 'It just makes dollars and sense"
  6. Brown, Ch. 2 "Falling Water Tables and Shrinking Harvests".
April 18:  Peak everything (coal, natural gas, uranium, and water)
Discussion: April 18/19:   Is nuclear-powered desalination the way to supply water to San Diego? Assignment due.
April 20:  Water rights in the West and the future of water. Paper 1 due to with hardcopy submitted in class
April 22:  (Earth Day!) Environmental problems and the value systems to solve them: an ecologist's perspective. Guest lecture: Professor Paul Dayton, Biological Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Week 5: 
Population, Land Use, and the Limits to Growth.
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Campbell, M. et al., 2007. "Return of the Population Growth Factor", Science, 315, 16 March 2007, 1501-1502.
  2. Hazell, P. B. R., Green, 2002. Revolution: Curse or Blessing?, International Food Policy Research Institute.
  3. Oxford Analytica, "Food Shortage Rises with Prices",, 15 April 2008.
  4. Brown, Ch. 6 "Environmental Refugees: The Rising Tide"; Ch. 7 "Mounting Stresses, Failing States"
April 25:  Malthus and population growth.
Discussion: April 25/26:   What to expect in the mid-term AND breaking taboos on population.   Assignment due.
April 27:  Land degradation. Agricultural water rights, and conservation.
April 29:  Midterm. Summary of major course objectives Paper 2 assigned.

Week 6: Sustainability
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Sachs and Reid, 2006. "Investments Toward Sustainable Development", Science, 312(5776), p. 1002.;312/5776/1002.
  2. Myers, 1997. "Consumption: Challenge to Sustainable Development ...", Science, 276(5309), pp. 53-55. (Also look at the response by Vincent and Panayotou on the same date as the original article (and same web page) and at the follow up letters by Stern and Dietz and by Alcock dated 13 June 1997:;276/5319/1629d.)
  3. Hickman, 2006. "Is it OK ... to use an MP3 player?", Guardian (UK), October 17, 2006.,,1924202,00.html. (For the full report referred to in this article, see
  4. Guinée and Heijungs, 2005. Life Cycle Assessment, Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.
  5. One or more additional articles on life cycle assessment of your choosing. See our list.
  6. Pacala, S. and R. Socolow, 2004. Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies, Science, 305, 968-972.
  7. Brown, Preface to Part III; Ch. 8 "Building an Energy-Efficient Economy"
  8. Assignment: Mitigation wedges.
May 2:  Sustainability and the triple bottom line
Discussion: May 2/3:  Carbon mitigation wedges. Assignment due.
May 4:  Design for the environment. Life cycle assessment. LCA Handout.
May 6:  Implementing energy sustainability: Research at UCSD. Guest lecture: Professor Jan Kleissl, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Week 7:  Energy and Climate Change

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Lewis, Nate S., 2007. "Powering the Planet", Engineering & Science, No. 2, 12-23.
  2. Brown, Ch. 9 "Harnessing Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Energy".
May 9:  Alternative energy:  energy requirements and conservation. (Short presentation by Green Campus at the start of class.)
Discussion: May 9/10:  Life cycle assessment implementation. Assignment due: prelinary paper plan. Preliminary paper plan due as assignment.
May 11:  Alternative energy:  hydro, solar, wind
May 13:  Alternative energy: Difficult and impossible options (Geothermal, tidal, waves, carbon sequestration, and geoengineering)

Week 8: Land Use and Urban Planning

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Dick, Gregory, "Green Building Basics", California Integrated Waste Management Board, 2006.
  2. Appelbaum, A., "Don't LEED Us Astray", New York Times (Opinion), 19 May 2010.
  3. Wood, Daniel B, California adopts first statewide green building code, Christian Science Monitor, 15 January 2010.
  4. Ewing, R., et al., 2007.. Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change, Ch. 1, Urban Land Institute, October, 2007.
  5. Walker, A., 2008. Natural Ventilation Whole Building Design Guide, National Institute of Building Sciences, June 3, 2008.
  6. Brown, Ch. 10 "Restoring the Economy's Natural Support Systems"; Ch. 11 "Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population, and Rescuing Failing States".
May 16:  Green Design. Urban planning (Smart Growth).
Discussion: May 16/17:  Powering America. Assignment due.
May 18:  Sustainable campus planning at UCSD. Guest lecture: Brad Werdick, Director of Physical Planning, UCSD.
May 20:  Green buildings and LEED Certification.

Week 9:  Transportation

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Godoy, M., 2007., "CAFE Standards: Gas-Sipping Etiquette for Cars", NPR, 17 June 2007.
  2. Korzeniewski, J., 2010., "New Federal CAFE standards officially released, 34.1 mpg by 2016", autobloggreen, 1 April 2010.
  3. Nissan Leaf wins 2011 World Car of the Year, Kim Hartman, Digital Journal, 22 April 2011.
  4. Progressive Automotive X-Prize runner-up car gets 207.5 MPGe, Bob Yirka,, 9 May 2011.
  5. $25,000, 350-mile-per-charge electric car could be reality by 2017, DOE says, Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog, 13 May 2011.
  6. Curitiba, Brazil: Three decades of thoughtful city planning,,
  7. McKibben, Curitiba: A Global Model For Development,, 8 November 2005.
May 23:  Personal vehicles:  electric cars, natural gas, hybrids
Discussion: May 23/24: Assignment due. Transportation planning for UCSD: Trains, buses, and automobiles. Assignment due.
May 25:  Transportation planning. Paper 2 due 9:30 am to (which you should access via WebCT). Please bring a hard copy to class.
May 27:  Extending the trolley to UCSD. Guest lecture: Greg Gastelum, Project Development Program Manager, and Dave Schumacher, Principal Planner, both from SANDAG.

Week 10:  Balancing Population with Food and Water Resources
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Sachs, J. et al., 2009. Biodiversity conservations and the Millenium Development Goals, Science, 325, 1502-1503.
  2. UN Millenium Project, 2006, About MDGs, What they are, UN Millenium Project Historic Web site
  3. Addison, K., undated, Appropriate technology: Journey to Forever, web page.
  4. Ridley, K., 2006. Can soap operas save lives? Ode Magazine, April 2006.
  5. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011. What you can do about global warming.
  6. Brown, Ch. 12 "Feeding Eight Billion", Ch. 13 "Saving Civilization".
May 30:  Memorial Day.  No class. 
Discussion: May 30/31:  No discussion due to Memorial Day holiday.  Optional independent visit to Birch Aquarium: Raising awareness of environmental challenges: The role of education and public outreach.  Bonus assignment may be submitted anytime up until 10 am June 3.
June 1:  Revisiting population: Reducing poverty, improving education, feeding the world.
June 3:  Strategies for moving forward.  What to expect for the final exam.
Reminder:  Complete your CAPE evaluation to give us feedback on the course this year and help next year's faculty and TAs figure out how to improve the course.

final exam:  Monday, June 6, 8-11, WLH 2005. (Summary of major course objectives.) We will provide paper or blue books. You may bring one letter-sized sheet of paper with notes. We will collect your notes at the end of the exam. (Please do not tear your paper out of a spiral notebook and leave rough edges, as the torn spiral notebook edges tend to catch on pages from other students' exams. We do not want to misplace exams simply because they come caught on other exams.)