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Complex Problems Courses | Environmental Issues

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Cities: Destroyed & Reinvented

GNED 120
Andrew Demshuk
W 2:30 – 5:20 PM 

The turmoil and traumas of modernity have transformed urban spaces into architectural and commemorative battlegrounds. Revolutions, riots, racial conflict, ethnic cleansing, wars, and regime changes have led power elites to erase poignant structures, monuments, decorations, and even cemeteries, and then “set in stone” the history that suits their own politics of memory. Utopian visions of building a modern future have imposed cement wastelands to serve diverse ideological platforms, prompting grassroots preservation protest movements. This seminar introduces theories of memory and nationalism alongside controversies over architecture and planning with special case examples from twentieth-century European urban transformations. Our dynamic environment in the US capital also informs the course. Critical thinking, reading, and writing are encouraged through intense discussion of weekly readings, the composition of short response essays, and a terse essay/presentation assessing the intersection between urban change and the politics of memory in a context of the student’s choice. 

Confronting Climate Change

GNED 250
Christine Pondell
MTh 4:05 - 5:20pm 

The issue of climate change is a dividing topic in America, and the demand for action regarding climate is a hotly debated topic in political, economic, and social discussions. However, the effects of climate change are seen worldwide, and dialogue surrounding this issue must take into account perspectives from the global community. Throughout the course, we will focus on analyzing the impact of climate change on people of developing and industrialized nations, and evaluate the influence of potential mitigation strategies on the economic, political, and social structure of cultures from around the world.

Food Justice Matters

GNED 250
Stacey Snelling
MTh 9:45 - 11:00am 

Should food marketing to children be restricted? Should agricultural subsidies be eliminated? How are stakeholders incorporating healthful eating practices into health policies? These are some of the questions we will explore as we critically think about food justice issues in the 21st century. Using local farms, local non-profit agencies, the department of health, and other related organizations, we will explore what DC and other states are doing to address food justice in their communities.

The Food Water Energy Nexus

GNED 250
Douglas Fox
TF 9:45 - 11:00am

Food, energy, and water resources are interconnected, so addressing one resource will cause scarcities in others. This complex problem requires innovative, cooperative, and interdisciplinary solutions utilizing the skills from multiple disciplines. Our next generation must be equipped with sustainability and resilience strategies for the Food Energy Water Nexus, requiring interdisciplinary approaches. Natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, economists, policy makers, and diplomats must work together to form an international collaboration for addressing these resource scarcities simultaneously.

Harsh Justice

GNED 140
Robert Johnson
M 5:30 – 8:00pm

America leads the western world in the use of harsh punishments: life sentences, death sentences, and extended solitary confinement. Each of these punishments is a type of death penalty: life sentence prisoners are sentenced to die in prison, death sentence prisoners are sentenced to be killed in prison, and prisoners sentenced to extended terms in solitary confinement (often in notorious “Supermax” prisons) are sentenced to what has been described as a “living death.” As a general matter, conditions in American prisons are uniquely painful and degrading, and have been described by researchers as “dehumanizing” and “hellish,” and ultimately “un-survivable” in the face of widespread violations of human dignity. We will consider harsh sanctions, and the prison experience in general, from different points of view, drawing on the arts (primarily poetry) and the social sciences (primarily criminology).

Imagining the Future

GNED 140
Despina Kakoudaki
TF 11:20 - 12:35 (Class) | R 5:30 - 8:00pm (Film Screening) 

How do we imagine the political structures, landscapes, challenges, and bodies of the future? This interdisciplinary course traces the visual, literary, and political implications of the way we have imagined the future through the 20th and 21st centuries. Exciting and revealing, our visions of the future reflect both our dreams and our biases, and express our desire for global collaboration, our fears of nuclear or environmental disaster, and our cultural and political aspirations and limits. Starting from science fictional dreams of the future in literature and film, our class will interrogate concepts of utopian and dystopian futurity, collective action, danger and heroism, community, nationalism, and globalization.

The Politics of Place

GNED 140
Sarah Houser
TF 12:55- 2:10pm 

The Politics of Place course will explore the question of how the built environment can shape human behavior in ways which are relevant to democratic politics. For example, the architecture of a building can be inspiring or intimidating; the layout of streets can encourage segregation or interaction among diverse people. In this course students will learn how our physical environment can encourage and facilitate the spread of problems such as poverty, crime and societal fragmentation and how it can help to alleviate those problems through fostering of community. Activities will include architectural and planning tours of D.C. 

Preventing Pollution

GNED 250
Jesse Meiller
W 8:10 – 11:00am

Today, contaminants enter our water, air, and land through many routes. This course will be broken into these three sections (water, air, and land) as we pursue issues surrounding pollution in our environment including how and why pollution occurs. We will investigate the sources of various pollutants snd the environmental and health effects of exposure to these contaminants. We will investigate potential solutions to pollution including prevention and mitigation. Students will participate in and benefit from diverse assignments including case studies, debates/ role-playing, peer-teaching, and facilitated discussions on assigned readings from written texts, documentaries, and topic-specific exhibits.