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Comment on Allenby by Steven Marx

Page history last edited by Steven Marx 11 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Jim Harris for adding this valuable document to the wiki.

 

http://sbccalpoly.pbworks.com/f/brad_allenby_FSE+194+syllabus.doc

 

 It provides what looks to me like viable models for course organization and provocative ideas for what should be included.

 

The lecture/discussion section model resembles what we arrived at last week.  The weekly assignments, asking students to write a one page essay on the central theme addressed by the lecture and readings strikes me as a good idea.

 

The syllabus enjoys the advantage of being supplemented by a textbook written by the lecturer and by an integrated idea developed by him for some time.

 

The topics are strongly oriented toward engineering; environmentalists are seen as naive and out of touch.  Underlying assumption is that   technological innovation and transformation is inevitable historically and progressive and unique.  That's a likelihood; however Roman  or Egyptian or Mayan or Cambodian technologies reached levels advanced enough to make large changes in natural systems,  but as a result of political, economic and environmental dynamics outside technology, were terminated and abandoned.  Also the earths environment was transformed by previous life forms, vegetable and  animal, simple and complex—e.g. oxygen production, limestone production, etc.

 

This bias toward technology as the primary arena for sustainability efforts leaves openings for other perspectives.  Perhaps one element of the course might be opposing and complementary ideas of sustainability.  The suggestion that Rob Rutherford has made for reading a book by Wendell Berry in September might highlight that contrast.

 

Allenby's discussion of the transformations of culture brought about by the railroad is anticipated by Thoreau in chapter 4 of Walden (paragraphs 5-13), where he talks about the new concept of "railroad time."  But much of what Thoreau had to say in response to the transformations of the Industrial Revolution are still relevant today.

 

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