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

Spring 2009 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. Brown, Preface, Ch. 1, Ch. 5;
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Lowe, Alex, "Ecological Footprint 2.0", WorldChanging (Environmental Blog), 2007.
  2. "Virtual Water", International Year of FreshWater web site, 2003.
  3. Assignment: footprint exercises
March 31: Introduction to the course. Tragedy of the Commons.   Handouts: syllabus, survey  
April 2: Tragedies of the Commons: Air pollution and Other Examples
Discussion (April 2/3): Ecological footprints and water footprints. Assignment due in class. Paper #1 topics distributed.
Week 2.  Water resources
Reading/class preparation (for lectures):
  1. Summary of the Hydrologic Cycle, US Geological Survey, 7 November 2008,
  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: up to but not including the section titled "What are the available alternatives"
  4. "Why the Delta Matters", Aquafornia Californa Water News Blog, 3 September 2007.
  5. "Gray water debate in Sacramento steams up", Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog, Susan Carpenter, 17 March 2008.
  6. Brown, Ch. 4 "Emerging Water Shortages"
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. "Editorial: 'It just makes dollars and sense"
  2. "As supplies dry up, growers pass on farming and sell water"
April 7:  Local water history, infrastructure, and issues for the future.  Guest lecture:  Ivan Golakoff, San Diego County Water. 
April 9: Water resources and climate change.  Guest lecture:  Dan Cayan, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. .
Discussion April 9/10:  Writing the first term paper. Assignment due, as explained in Paper 1 prompt
Week 3:  Energy
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Weisz, Basic Choices and Constraints on Long-Term Energy Supplies, Physics Today, July 2004, p. 47.
  2. Brown, Ch. 2 "Deteriorating Oil and Food Security";
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Assignment: Nuclear energy and public perception paragraph
April 14: Energy demand. The fossil fuel economy:  oil, coal, and natural gas.
April 16:  Peak oil, energy supply
Discussion: April 16/17:  Nuclear energy and public perception. Assignment due.
Week 4:  Population AND Global Warming and Climate Change
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Campbell, M. et al., "Return of the Population Growth Factor", Science, 315, 16 March 2007, 1501-1502.
  2. Hazell, P. B. R., Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing?, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2002.
  3. Oxford Analytica, "Food Shortage Rises with Prices",, 15 April 2008.
  4. Brown, Ch. 6, Ch. 3.
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Assignment: Roles of developing and developed countries in addressing global warming
April 21:   Malthus and population growth. Land degradation. Paper 1 due to by 9 am. Please bring hard copy to class.
April 23:  Climate, climate change, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Guest Lecture: Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Discussion: April 23/24:   What to expect in the mid-term AND the Kyoto Protocol. Assignment due.

Week 5:  Global Warming and Climate Change (continued)

Reading/class preparation:
  1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers, 17 November 2007.
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Assignment: Mitigation wedges
April 28:  The Kyoto Protocol, future climate negotiations, and deciphering the naysayers
April 30:  Midterm. Paper 2 assigned.
Discussion: April 30/May 1:  Carbon mitigation wedges. Assignment will be completed in class. Read article in advance.
Week 6: Sustainability
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Sachs and Reid, 2006. "Investments Toward Sustainable Development", Science, 312(5776), p. 1002.;312/5776/1002. 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.
  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. The Olympic stadium analysed using the DPWS tool. Environment Australia Case Study
  5. One or more additional articles on life cycle assessment of your choosing. See our list.
  6. Brown, Ch. 7.
May 5:  Sustainability and the triple bottom line
May 7:  Life cycle assessment. LCA Handout.
Discussion: May 7/8:  Applying life cycle assessment to products: Guidelines for the second paper. Assignment due, as explained in Paper 2 prompt.

Week 7: Land Use and Urban Planning

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Dick, Gregory, "Green Building Basics", California Integrated Waste Management Board, 2006.
  2. Kamenetz, A., "The Green Standard?", magazine, issue 119, October 2007.
  3. California Performance Review, "Streamline the Environmental Review Process to Discourage Sprawl and Revitalize Older Developed Urban Areas", Volume 4, Ch. 4, Infrastructure, Recommendation 37, 2005.
  4. Ewing, R., et al., 2007.. Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change, Ch. 1, Urban Land Institute, October, 2007.
  5. Sadler, M., 2008. Height Fight on Chapala, Santa Barbara Independent, March 13, 2008.
  6. Walker, A., 2008. Natural Ventilation Whole Building Design Guide, National Institute of Building Sciences, June 3, 2008.
  7. Brown, Ch. 8, Ch. 10.
May 12:  Urban planning (Smart Growth), Green Design and LEED Certification.
May 14:  Green buildings, natural ventilation, and sustainability at UCSD. Guest lecture: Professor Paul Linden, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCSD
Discussion: May 14/15:  Visit to Birch Aquarium at Scripps: Raising Awareness of Environmental Challenges. Complete first half of assignment before getting the aquarium and finish at the aquarium. Notes: Sections will meet at the aquarium education entrance. You are responsible for getting there on your own. (See directions on the assignment web page.) The aquarium closes at 5 pm, so the Thursday 5 pm section will meet at 2 pm. Students with schedule conflicts may visit the aquarium on their own to complete the discussion section assignment. The Sun God Festival is May 15.

Week 8:  Energy and Climate Change

Reading/class preparation:
  1. Lewis, Nate S., 2007. "Powering the Planet", Engineering & Science, No. 2, 12-23.
  2. Brown, Ch. 11, Ch. 12.
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Campbell, J. E., D. B. Lobell and C. B. Field, 2009. Greater transportation energy and GHG offsets from bioelectricity than ethanol, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1168885. A commentary was also published on this article, which you may find helpful: Robert F. Service, 2009, ScienceNOW Daily News.
  2. Squatriglia, C., 2009, "Better Place unveils an electric car battery swap station", Autopia blog, Wired, 13 May 2009.
  3. Grammling, C., 2009, "As Green As It Gets: Algae Biofuels, "EARTH Magazine, 13 February 2009.
  4. Assignment: The biofuels debate: Existing infrastructure vs efficiency
May 19:  Alternative energy
May 21:  Carbon sequestration
Discussion: May 21/22: The biofuels debate 
Week 9:  Transportation
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Curitiba, Brazil: Three decades of thoughtful city planning,,
  2. McKibben, Curitiba: A Global Model For Development,, 8 November 2005.
  3. Hagerman, E., 2007, 1 Gallon of Gas, 100 Miles — $10 Million: The Race to Build the Supergreen Car Wired, 30 December 2007. (For an update, check Mack, B., 2008 Suspense Builds in the Automotive X Prize 'Green Prix', Wired, Autopia blog, 24 November 2008. And for additional reading on new cars, check our brief compilation of interesting links.)
  4. Brown, Ch. 10 (pp. 196-202), Ch. 11 (pp. 225-228), Ch. 12 (pp. 243-246).
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Super Loop Fact sheet, 2007. San Diego MTS Transit system.
  2. Mid Coast Cooridor Transit Project Fact Sheet, January 2008. San Diego MTS Transit system
  3. Assignment: Transportation planning for UC San Diego: Trains, Buses, or Automobiles. Be sure to complete this week's reading on Curitiba and from Lester Brown's book before writing up your response to the assignment and before coming to discussion.
May 26:  Transit systems, Redesigning urban transport. Guest lecture: Brian d'Autremont, UCSD Director of Parking and Transportation. Paper 2 due 9 am to Please bring a hard copy to class.
May 28:  Personal vehicles:  electric cars, natural gas, hybrids
Discussion: May 28/29:  Transportation Planning for UC San Diego. Assignment due in classs.
Week 10:  Balancing Population with Food and Water Resources
Reading/class preparation:
  1. Addison, K., undated, Appropriate technology: Journey to Forever, web page.
  2. Ridley, K., 2006. Can soap operas save lives? Ode Magazine, April 2006.
  3. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2005. What you can do about global warming.
  4. Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2002. Contacting Congress (& Other US Policymakers): Making Your Voice Heard by US Federal Legislators, the White House, State Legislators and Governors
  5. Brown, Ch. 7 (reread pp. 136-144) Ch. 9, Ch. 13 (especially pp. 285-287).
Reading/class preparation (for discussion):
  1. Berger, K., 2007, "Bjørn Lomborg feels a chill",, 29 August 2007.
  2. Sachs, J. D., 2004. Seeking a global solution, Nature, 430, 725-726.
  3. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009. Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy, Executive Summary, May 2009.
  4. Assignment: Prioritizing Actions.
June 2:  Revisiting population: Reducing poverty, improving education, feeding the world.
June 4:  Strategies for moving forward
Discussion: June 4/5:  Exam review. What to expect for the final exam. Assignment due.
final exam:  Tuesday, June 9, 8-11, Solis 104. (Study guide: weekly objectives summary.)