[Last Updated: June 27, 2008]
URBS 400: Planning for the Built and Natural Environment
Th 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM – Room SH 286
Instructor: Ashwani Vasishth
Office: ST 206
Office Hours: Th 5:00 – 6:30 PM
Telephone: x-6137 [office]
Course website: http://www.csun.edu/~vasishth/URBS-400.html
COURSE READER: Available at Northridge Copy Center, 9130B Reseda Blvd.
COURSE TEXT: Wheeler, Stephen M. & Timothy Beatley (eds.). 2004. The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge. [Available at the Matador Book Store.]
The basic intention of this course is to explore the constructedness of our conceptions of nature and environment. This is not at all to suggest that environmental issues are not real. As we shall find, they are very real indeed. But not always in ways we would expect. In this sense, description is a world-maker and asking the right question counts more than the rightness of any answer. Many of our mis-steps in environmental planning derive from these sorts of misconceptions.
Our notions of rationality, objectivity, and science are valuable because they are social constructs rather than things apart. And they have served us well mainly because they have changed with time and circumstance. Then what it means to us to "be scientific" becomes the core about which our understandings of the world are layered. How we see determines not merely what we see, but also what we do not. For the history of environmental planning shows clearly that what we see is never all we get. Unintended consequences, surprise, side effects, these are some of the labels we use to signify the failure of our descriptions, and as often as not, it is our solutions that are the bigger problem--or rather, our belief in the singular truths on which we premise our solutions.
Everything is most certainly not connected to everything else. We would not be, if this were truly the case. However, everything most certainly is connected to a few other things in such a way that everything can at the least be shown to be connectable to any other thing. Then, intelligent abstraction--the art of taking a bit of the world out of our world, moving it this way and that, and then seeking to re-insert it into our world--requires a humility that marks an awareness of our necessarily incomplete perceptions of what we call reality.
Open systems, as opposed to closed systems, show certain properties. Properties that make them problematic to planning--and disastrous if we refuse to acknowledge them. Situations of the open sort are evolutionary--in the sense of being responsive to their world, not in the sense of any drive to perfection. There are no singular, definitive formulations of these situations, and nor do they carry within them any basis for a stopping rule, a point at which we can call closure to our enterprise, claim success, and head home to bed. Its not just that what we see of such systems is always incomplete, but rather that what we see depends on where we position ourselves, and our purpose in looking.
So the plurality we find in the world about us is neither arbitrary not capricious, but rather contingent and conditional. This is the inherent problematic of environmental planning. The temporal, spatial, and organizational scales we use to make our descriptions, the boundaries we construct to make our world more manageable, the evolutionary responsiveness that confounds our efforts to learn by doing, to rely on trial and error, these are the attributes of our reality--and attentiveness, an ability to respond in turn to the moves of our world, to engage it in conversation, are the skills we need to develop to live intelligently within our world. And histories, boundaries and scale become the devices we use to get a handle on this thing we call our environment.
Very broadly, the course sorts into three parts. In the first we will explore how we think about thinking about nature, how metaphor and analogy become Swiss Army knives in our effort to come to know what it is we do not know. We shall test the territories staked out for us by social theory and by psychology, and recognize the limits of conventional accounts of reality and rationality. In the second part, we shall take up specific issues--air quality, water, deforestation, biodiversity and habitat loss, atmospheric change and climate effects, toxins and bio-engineering, and population growth. And in the third part of our course, we shall synthesize our explorations to give us an understanding of what it means to take an ecosystem approach to nature management. Here we shall explore some of the state-of-the-art techniques in environmental planning, such as adaptive management and ecological footprint analysis.
The texture of the course is a synthesis of lecture, seminar and laboratory. There will be lots of interesting readings, and we will make extensive use of videos and the internet.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING:
There will be two major assignments, one in the form of a mid-term essay based on the course text (at least 7 pages, @ 20% of the total grade, seven sources) and one as a final research paper (at least 10 pages, @ 30% of the total grade, 10 sources).
The mid-term review essay will be based on Part One of the course text, and any one section of Part Two. You will be required to find and use at least four additional scholarly sources (peer reviewed journal articles), to support your essay.
The subject matter of the final paper is open to negotiation, but you will find and use at least 10 scholarly sources on which to base your paper. For each of these essays, you will develop and submit a) an annotated bibliography, as will be specified in class, and then submit a draft of the essay, which will also be specified in class.
You will prepare study guides for each week of readings (30% of the total grade). Informed participation and attendance (that is to say, doing your readings, coming to class, engaging in discussion) are worth 20% of the grade.
All assignments (other than in-class work) are required to be typed, double-spaced, and in a standard font. Do not use colored inks. You are required to leave a 1.25 inch left and right margin. You are required to leave two spaces after every period. You are required to use informative sub-headings to structure your papers. Bibliographies, with appropriate in-text citations, are required, for the two major assignments. Each submission will carry your name, e-mail address, course number and the date at the top right-hand corner of the first page. Your submission will be stapled, once, at the top left-hand corner. Do not use any sort of binder strips or covers or decorative embellishment. Proof-read your work for typographical errors and spelling mistakes. This is not optional. Which means it is compulsory. Points will be deducted if all of these requirements are not met.
In general, you are strongly urged to make use of the course web-site, library and scholarly internet resources, in-class discussion, as well as office-hour meetings to further your interests. I have a vast storehouse of articles and reports, and really do enjoy helping you get better at doing research, so please feel free to come chat with me, explore ideas, discuss options and obstacles.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. I will unhesitatingly fail you and put the case on record with the University in all cases. If you take three or more consecutive words from any other source (article, book, web site), you MUST put them in quotation marks, and provide a clear citation. You are required to familiarize yourselves with the University regulations at:
Annotated Bibliography for Mid-term:
October 9, 2008
October 23, 2008
Annotated Bibliography for Final:
November 13, 2008
December 11, 2008
Course Readings - Bibliography & Schedule
Rowe, J. Stan. 1989. "What on Earth is Environment?" Trumpeter, v6n4 (Fall, 1989). [That "environment" is not what is "around us," its the level of integration beyond that of the individual. "Life is a property (as in attribute) of the skin of the planet..." (126).]
Leopold, Aldo. 1949 (2004). “The Land Ethic,” from The Sand County Almanac, 20-29, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
Oelschlaeger, Max. 1991. "Aldo Leopold and the Age of Ecology," 205-242 in Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Gomez-Pompa, Arturo & Andrea Kaus. 1992. "Taming the Wilderness Myth," Bioscience, v42n4 (Apr 1992): 271-279.
Turner, Frederick. 1985. "Cultivating the American Garden: Toward a Secular View of Nature," Harper's, v271n1623 (Aug 1985):45-52.
Pollan, Michael. 1991. "The Idea of a Garden," 209-238 in Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education. New York: Dell Publishing.
Hardin, Garrett 1968 (1994) "The Tragedy of the Commons," and "Second Thoughts on the Tragedy of the Commons," 126-151 in Herman E. Daly & Kenneth N. Townsend (eds.), Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Boulding, Kenneth E. 1966 (1994). "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth," and "Spaceship Earth Revisited," 297-313 in Herman E. Daly & Kenneth N. Townsend (eds.), Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Daly, Herman E. 1991a. "From Empty-World To Full-World Economics: Recognizing An Historical Turning Point In Economic Development." in Robert Goodman, Herman Daly & Salah El Serafy, eds., 1991, Environmentally Sustainable Development: Building on Brundtland. World Bank Working Paper No. 46. (July 1991). p18-26.
Daly, Herman E. 1973 (2004). “The Steady State Economy,” from Toward A Steady State Economy, 47-52, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
For discussion on Thursday, October 2, 2008
Holling, Crawford S. & Michael A. Goldberg. 1971. "Ecology and Planning," AIP Journal [now JAPA] (July 1971):221-230. [Boundary-oriented and equilibrium-centered views. The positive feedback of freeways generates traffic. Sprawl forces an increase in the productivity-area relationship in agricultural production, reducing resilience in the land. Many small (diverse) interventions probably better than few big ones. Complexity is a planning goal in and of itself. And, we ought not design for success, but rather to avoid failure. "We should be much more wary of success than of failure." (229), and the need for a boundary-oriented view in planning. (In a sense, IMO, like the statistical turn. The type, the ideal, the equilibrium position is best seen as a construct (like a landmark, always "out there," And the variations about the norm, the boundaries, the "elbow room," become actual.]
Rittel, Horst W.J. & Melvin M. Webber. 1973. "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning," Policy Sciences, v4n2 (June 1973):155-169. [Somewhat reworked version of Rittel’s original (1972) essay. Wicked prblems and tame problems.]
For discussion on Thursday, October 9, 2008
Allen, Timothy F.H. & Bruce L. Bandurski & Anthony W. King. 1993. The Ecosystem Approach: Theory and Ecosystem Integrity. Initial Report to the Ecological Committee, Great Lakes Science Advisory Board, International Joint Commission, US & Canada.
For discussion on Thursday, October 16, 2008
McKibben, Bill. 1998. "A Special Moment in History," The Atlantic Monthly, v281n5 (May 1998): 55 - 78. <http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98jan/climate.htm>
Vitousek, Peter M. & P.R. Ehrlich & A.H. Ehrlich & P.A. Matson. 1986. "Human Appropriation of the Produce of Photosynthesis," BioScience, v36 (1986):368-373.
Postel, Sandra L. & Gretchen C. Daily & Paul R. Ehrlich. 1996. “Human Appropriation of Renewable Fresh Water,” Science, v271n5250 (9 February 1996): 785 – 788. [Humanity now uses 26 percent of total terrestrial evapotranspiration and 54 percent of runoff that is geographically and temporally accessible. Increased use of evapotranspiration will confer minimal benefits globally because most land suitable for rain-fed agriculture is already in production. New dam construction could increase accessible runoff by about 10 percent over the next 30 years, whereas population is projected to increase by more than 45 percent during that period.]
Myers, Norman. 1995. "Environmental Services of Biodiversity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v93 (April 1996): 2764–2769. [Biota and ecosystems provide many services to humans, This is often a prime argument to support conservation of biodiversity. There is much to be said for this viewpoint, as is documented in this paper through a summary assessment of several categories of environmental services, including regulation of climate and biogeochemical cycles, hydrological functions, soil protection, crop pollination, pest control, recreation and ecotourism, and a number of miscellaneous services. It is shown that the services are indeed significant, whether in ecological or economic senses. Particularly important is the factor of ecosystem resilience, which appears to underpin many of the services. It should not be supposed, however, that environmental services stem necessarily and exclusively from biodiversity. While biodiversity often plays a key role, the services can also derive from biomass and other attributes of biotas. The paper concludes with a brief overview assessment of economic values at issue and an appraisal of the implications for conservation planning.]
Kates, Robert W. 1996. "Population, Technology, and the Human Environment: A Thread Through Time," Daedalus, v125n3 (Summer 1996): 43-71. [Employs a sequence of four temporal frames--ages, millennia, centuries and decades--to examine the dynamics of population, resources and technology. It appears that the Earth is about halfway in numbers into the third great population surge.]
Daily, Gretchen C.; Ehrlich, Paul R. 1992. "Population, Sustainability, and Earth’s Carrying Capacity," Bioscience, v42n10 (Nov 1992): 761-771. [Nuclear weapons and the unrestrained runaway growth of the human population threaten to impair human life-support systems. A framework for estimating the population sizes and lifestyles that could be sustained without undermining future generations is provided, and various biophysical and social dimensions of Earth’s carrying capacity are examined.]
Goodland, Robert. 1991. "The Case That the World Has Reached Limits," in Robert Goodman, Herman Daly & Salah El Serafy, eds., 1991, Environmentally Sustainable Development: Building on Brundtland. World Bank Working Paper No. 46. (July 1991).5-17.
Waggoner, Paul E. 1996. "How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare For Nature?" Daedalus, v125n3 (Summer 1996): 73-93. [Waggoner discusses how much land ten billion people can spare for nature. If people keep eating and multiplying and farmers keep tilling and harvesting as they do now, the imperative of food will take another tenth of the land away from nature.]
World Commission On Environment and Development. 1987 (2004). “Towards Sustainable Development,” from Our Common Future, 53-57, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
United Nations. 1992 (2004). “The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development”, “Introduction to Chapter 7” from Agenda 21 (1992), and the “Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements”,” 58-65, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
Part 3: Tools for Sustainability Planning, 199-232, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
Part 6: Case Studies of Urban Sustainability, 293-316, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
Part 7: Sustainability Planning Exercises, 317-334, in Wheeler & Beatley (eds.), The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.
[Last Update: June 27, 2008]