2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Water, Microbes and Energy: Sustainable Solutions


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Robert Knapp physics, sustainable design , Clarissa Dirks biology
Fields of Study
biology, environmental studies, physics, sociology and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
biology, health, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, community service, development studies, and organizational sociology.

More than two billion people in the world lack access to clean water and sanitation, but each person in the United States uses an average of 80 gallons of clean water daily. Scientific innovations have led to the development of vaccines, yet in developing countries the lack of good refrigeration makes it difficult to deliver heat-intolerant vaccines to many of the people who need them. Clean water and electricity for refrigeration are only two examples of how our societal infrastructure provides U.S. citizens with services that are not available in many other places.

This program will examine the scientific, technical, and political issues behind these problems and explore potential avenues toward a healthier and more sustainable world. To explore these broader themes, we will focus on everyday issues such as drinking water, waste water, infectious disease and household energy. We will investigate the definition of needs, the development of techniques, and the building of effective organizations for spreading information and solutions for topics such as bioremediation, rainwater catchment, vaccine delivery and efficient stoves.

In the fall we will examine several case studies relevant both to western Washington and to other regions of the world, such as sustainable treatment of human waste at a personal level and as a problem of community infrastructure, climate impacts of household energy use for cooking, or equitable mechanisms for distributing vaccines or other measures against infectious disease. We will study techniques and behaviors that work at the individual level, and we will investigate ways that social networks, markets, and private and public organizations allow scaling up from demonstrations to widely effective programs. Students will learn concepts from molecular biology, microbiology, ecology, mechanical and civil engineering, and organizational theory, as well exploring key questions of ethics and values. In the winter, students will continue to build their background knowledge and apply their learning to develop well-researched project plans which can be executed, at least as a proof of principle, within the constraints of our program.

Students will read books and articles, write short papers that reflect on the case studies and academic topics we investigate, take active part in workshops, laboratory sessions and field trips, and acquire presentation skills. Students can expect both individual and collaborative work, including the possibility of significant interaction with local sustainability workers. The winter project will lead up to a presentation to the entire class at the end of the program.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$60 for winter site visits to examples of sustainable solutions.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 30th, 2011 This program will accept new enrollment with signature.