Sustainability Courses


Welcome to Green NAU's Sustainability Courses Directory. This is a comprehensive listing of courses on campus focusing on or related to sustainability topics. Be sure to check back regularly, as our listing is transitioning to a new format, with enhanced search capabilities!

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BIO 299 - Global Sustainability (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Dr Stefan Sommer
Description: This course will explore the scientific understanding of global sustainability and a multidisciplinary approach to possible solutions. What can science tell us about climate change, the global extinction crisis, pollution, over consumption of resources, energy production, population growth, and our ever increasing ecological footprint. What methods do scientists use to understand these issues. How can we respond to this new understanding. We will also explore the implications of this new understanding for society. What do experts from many disciplines recommend we do to build a more sustainable society. How do we evaluate which recommendations are truly sustainable.

BIO 326 - Ecology (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Catherine Gehring
Description: Introduces ecological principles, including the distribution and abundance of organisms, population dynamics, community organization, energy flow, and nutrient cycling. Prerequisites: BIO 181 and 182. Pre-biology majors may not take this course.

BIO 571 - Soil Ecology (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Karen Haubensak
Description: This course will focus on the links between the soil and aboveground subsystems - with particular emphasis on the soil biota and its functions. The practical aspect will focus on the composting system at NAU, using compost as a testing medium to learn about the most critical chemical, biological and physical tests of soils. Some lecture, lots of discussion, lots of time with compost piles. No pre-reqs. Must be junior-level or above.

CM 403 - Sustainable Building Design and Assessment (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Susan Thomas
Description: This course takes the students through both a broad and a focused look at national and global sustainability issues and evaluation systems. It explores green building principles and practices, and the social, environmental and economic benefits of going green. We will look at the pros and cons of obtaining an objective third party certification or rating based on an in depth review of the US Green Building Councils L.E.E.D 2009 criteria for new construction.

ECO 424 - Natural Resources and Climate Change (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Xiaobing Zhao
Description: Theory and public policy of natural resource economics: techniques for measurement and valuation, cultural, social and ethical issues surrounding natural resources, regulation of economic activity regarding natural resources.

ECO 428 - Advanced Energy Economics (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Dean Smith
Description: The relationship between energy, humans, and the environment, focusing on prospects for a sustainable energy future in urban areas, emerging societies and indigenous communities.

EES 698 - Graduate Seminar (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Abe Springer and Nick McKay
Description: First 10 weeks of the semester(2 credits): Water Sustainability and Climate Understand the interactions between the Earth,s water system and climate change, land use (including agriculture, managed forest and rangeland systems), the built environment, and ecosystem function and services. (last 5 weeks of the semester 1 credit): Modes of Climate Variability 1)understand the basic mechanisms and climate dynamics that underly the primary modes of variability in the Earth,s climate system 2)investigate both the physical climatology of the modes, and how the modes may interact with and modulate future and past climate change 3)learn the basic analytical and numerical techniques used to quantify and investigate these modes.

ENV 181 - Environmental Sustainability (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Erik Nielsen, Rod Parnell, and Angie Moline
Description: An introduction to the ways in which we perceive the environment: how our environment is structured and functions, how we relate to the environment and environmental sustainability from humanistic, cultural and political perspectives, and how we resolve major issues focusing on the sustainability of our natural and cultural systems.

ENV 385 - Energy Resources and Policy (4 credits)

Instructor(s): Michael Ort and Erik Nielsen
Description: Origins and exploitation of energy and mineral resources, and the policies that control how we obtain and use them.

FOR 504 - Systematic Conservation Planning (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Paul Beier
Description: We will understand the concepts of comprehensiveness, representation, surrogates, complementarity, irreplaceability, cost-efficiency, flexibility, and vulnerability, and how they are used to prioritize lands for conservation. We will become familiar with the assumptions, algorithms, and outputs of the three most widely used spatial prioritization tools, namely MARXAN, Zonation, and C-Plan.

FOR 633 - Ecological Economics (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Yeon-Su Kim
Description: Theory of Ecological Economics, the union of ecology and economics, and its application to ecosystem management. Students will integrate the concepts and theories of economics and ecology as ecological economics and develop a view of a sustainable society.

FS 111 - Global Sustainability (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Dr. Stefan Sommer
Description: This course will allow you to explore current, cutting-edge thinking of experts across the disciplines. We will cover the fundamentals of environmental sustainability as a basis for understanding experts from the fields of ecology, hydrology, environmental sciences, economics, policy, engineering, and cultural dynamics as they describe the solutions we will need to address local, regional, and global issues. We will also hear from community and business innovators who are working to build a more sustainable future.

FYS 111 - Sustainable Landscape & Health (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Paul Gazda
Description: (Note: This class is only open to Freshmen.) What is sustainable landscaping and why is it important? How does the widespread use of toxic weed control chemicals endanger your health and the health of the ecosystem? Join us to learn about the hazards of common weed control chemicals, and more importantly, how you can create and maintain healthy and beautiful landscapes without chemicals. This seminar will include one or more hands-on research projects that will explore sustainable landscaping and help move the NAU campus toward a more sustainably landscaped campus. The lessons learned can be applied at your home, school, place of work, and community.

GLG 360 - Applied Geology (4 credits)

Instructor(s): Abe Springer and Rod Parnell
Description: An application of the theory of geologic materials, methods, and processes to understand the interactions of humans with earth systems.

HA 380 - Global Issues in Hospitality Management (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Claudia Jurowski
Description: The course provides students with an introduction to the dimensions and nature of the global environment in which hospitality properties operate. It is designed to create a sensitivity to and awareness of global issues, sustainable practices in hospitality and managing different cultures. The course is divided into three segments: globalization issues, cultural management issues and sustainable hospitality management.

HIS 468 - The Colorado River A Natural and Human History (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Childers
Description: Called, the most legislated, most debated, and most litigated river in the world by journalist Marc Reisner, the Colorado River touches the lives of millions. Through class lectures, discussions, guest talks, and a research paper this course will trace the history of the river, its role in defining the North American West, and the ecological and political struggles over who controls the river in the most arid region of the continent.

ME 435 - Winder Energy Engineering (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Tom Acker
Description: Concepts, theory, and design of wind energy conversion systems. Topics include wind energy resources, wind turbine aerodynamics, mechanics, subsystems, design, development, economics, and policies.

ME 451 - Renewable Energy Systems (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Tom Acker
Description: Fundamentals concepts of renewable energy resources, conversion technology and hybrid system design with an emphasis on solar photovoltaics and wind energy.

POS 335 - Political Economy (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Carol Thompson
Description: Political economy integrates the fields of economics and politics to increase understanding of public policy. This course covers fundamental, and conflicting, theories of economics to explain not only the goals of efficiency or profit, but especially those of sustainability and equity. What may be best for the fast movement of capital, for example, may be the worst for sustaining the environment or basic livelihoods. The course addresses how ecological economics is a fundamental challenge to neoclassical economics, in such issues as the relation of humans to nature, debates about zero growth, and in calculations of non-use value. The course also analyzes how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) informs the field of political economy. SUSTAINABILITY RELATED EXPLANATION: Because the course introduces the field of political economy, it must cover all the major theories, some of which treat sustainability only as an externality. Therefore, sustainability is a central theme, but not addressed by every theory. No prerequisite. Prior economics courses not required.

POS 345 - Environmental Law (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Jacqueline Vaughn
Description: With a focus on the development of environmental law in the US, this course covers key environmental statutes and actual court cases to clarify issues pertinent to a particular environmental problem or law. From the historical development of environmental laws in the US, students will learn how the courts address administrative procedure, environmental ethics, and environmental regulations. Topics include laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and constitutional issues such as the Commerce Clause, along with issues related to air quality regulation, water pollution, water rights, hazardous and solid waste, local environmental controls, the preservation of natural areas such as wetlands and open space, energy, endangered species, and chemical manufacture and distribution. As an upper division class, students are expected to have strong oral and written communication skills, and an interest in the law and how it affects resources. There are no prerequisites, but students are expected to have a basic familiarity with the legal system and environmental issues within the US.

POS 359 - Environmental Policy (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Jacqueline Vaughn
Description: This course builds upon the process model of public policy making, with an emphasis on contemporary environmental issues in the United States. The focus of the class is key policy controversies that continue to plague decision makers. As a Liberal Studies course in the Social and Political Worlds distribution block, POS 359 helps students understand the difference between environmental problems and environmental policy. The goal is to become familiar with key initiatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, and to see the relationship between environmental legislation and environmental regulation. By the end of the course, students will understand the complexity of environmental policymaking and will be able to place American environmental policy in historical perspective. Although there are no prerequisites, as an upper division class, students are expected to have some familiarity with the American political system and an underlying interest in environmental problem solving.

POS 581 - Water Resource Management (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Smith
Description: This course is a multidisciplinary introduction to water resources management. We will examine the major topics in water resources management including: water law, policy, hydrology, pollution and others. In addition, this course will take into special consideration the relationship(s) between the natural sciences and water policy and will explore a variety of ways in which to view and understand water policy issues. The class uses only one textbook. However a major part of the class is your researching and writing a comprehensive case study of water resources management in some area.

PRM 12964 - PRM 499: Exploring the Wilderness Within (1 credits)

Instructor(s): John Lynch
Description: Gain greater perspective of the natural world and your place in it through eco-depth psychological practices and concepts. Wander and wonder in mysterious inner landscapes of the psyche by bushwhacking through the wilderness within. Initiate your understanding of nature¿s ability to mirror your ecocentric authenticity. Use new found concepts and practices to participate in the much-needed shift towards a more sustainable mindset.

SOC 301 - Global Environmental Sustainability (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Janine Schipper
Description: In this class students will explore the possibilities of a sustainable future on a global scale. We will define sustainability and examine the crises that threaten sustainability. We will also explore cases of communities that apply sustainable practices. How might these examples offer us direction at local, national, and global levels? What will produce widespread change in our communities? Aside from examining practices that work in some communities, we will also look at the important role that shifting our very ways of thinking may play in building more sustainable communities. We end the class with a look at what some people are doing to actively address global climate change and move us toward a more sustainable future.

SOC 333 - Environment and Society (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Janine Schipper
Description: The central aim of this course is to explore the relationship between the "natural environment" and society. We will look at historical and contemporary ways of thinking about nature. We will pay particular attention to the historical and cultural factors that have led us to regard nature as separate from the self and society and the effects such perceptions may have had on the natural environment. We will also explore the possible growth of an environmental consciousness and will assess the value of both consciousness-raising and structural change as means for addressing the human-produced ecological problems that plague our planet today.

SOC 633 - Environmental Sociology (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Janine Schipper
Description: This class explores the social construction of nature drawing on social theory, cross- cultural and socio-historical perspectives to elucidate the ways in which our constructions of nature affect our sense of self and how we live. Students will work with a wide variety of themes including environmental sociology, classical and contemporary environmental literature, environmental movements, and literature that focuses on healing the human/nature split to examine the interconnections between self, culture and nature. Readings, reflecting the exciting, multidisciplinary character of environmental sociology, are taken from literature in Sociology, Geography, History, Philosophy, Economics, Ecological Science, Social Movement theory, Indigenous Studies and Engaged Buddhism. Environmental Sociology examines the various forms of interaction between the environment and human societies, focusing on the social dimensions of the surrounding natural and human-made environments. For example, Environmental Sociologists seek to understand environmentalism as a social movement, how individuals and groups perceive environmental problems, and the origins of human-induced environmental decline. The inequitable social distribution of environmental hazards is another central area of Environmental Sociological research, examining the processes by which socially disadvantaged populations come to experience greater exposures to myriad environmental hazards including natural disasters.

SSW 633 - Environmental Sociology (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Janine Schipper
Description: This class explores the social construction of nature drawing on social theory, cross cultural and sociohistorical perspectives to elucidate the ways in which our constructions of nature affect our sense of self and how we live. Students will work with a wide variety of themes including environmental sociology, classical and contemporary environmental literature, environmental movements, and literature that focuses on healing the human-nature split to examine the interconnections between self, culture and nature. Readings, reflecting the exciting, multidisciplinary character of environmental sociology, are taken from literature in Sociology, Geography, History, Philosophy, Economics, Ecological Science, Social Movement theory, and Engaged Buddhism. Environmental Sociology examines the various forms of interaction between the environment and human societies, focusing on the social dimensions of the surrounding natural and human-made environments. For example, Environmental Sociologists seek to understand environmentalism as a social movement, how individuals and groups perceive environmental problems, and the origins of human-induced environmental decline. The inequitable social distribution of environmental hazards is another central area of Environmental Sociological research, examining the processes by which socially disadvantaged populations come to experience greater exposures to myriad environmental hazards including natural disasters.

SUS 599 - Food Movements Unite! (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Kim Curtis
Description: SUS 599 - Food Movements Unite! Wed 4:00-6:30 Professor Kim Curtis “At its best, [the food] movement encourages us to “think likean ecosystem,” enabling us to see a place for ourselves connected to all others, for in ecological systems “there are no parts, only participants”. Francis Moore Lappé Thinking and seeing like an ecosystem is a beautiful and challenging aspiration, for our social and political worlds are profoundly structured by what political philosopher Jacques Rancière calls “the partition of the sensible”. He means by this that there is a clear partition of identities, activities and spaces on which dominant power depends. Social change, social movement building, and sustainable communities are possible when this partition is disturbed, when the inaudible becomes audible, when those who have been invisible parts and unauthorized speakers become participants, when new relationships are born and a creative ferment of ideas develops. In this course we will study key aspects of the partition upon which the global corporate food regime depends, and we’ll engage and debate key ideas, visions and practices of those in the sustainable food movement contesting that partition. Our study of those countermovements will move across several geographical spatialities: from transnational to regional to local, and will explore movement discourses and practices of food security, food justice and food sovereignty. The course will be divided into three primary sections as outlined below. Each will have a “laboratory” that will engage us in active, visceral and concrete ways. Students will also get an introduction to ethnographic work in the first section of the course, work we will collaboratively design and carry out together. Part I: Critical Understandings. In this part of the course we will study the global food regime, now in its neoliberal phase, including (and focusing on) the forms of social suffering and ecological devastation it exacts on land-based communities in Mexico from which comes much of our organic produce, the warm season vegetables on US supermarket shelves in winter, and nearly all of the agricultural laborers who put food on our tables. Dynamics of race, gender, class, immigration politics, corporate concentration and labor in the industrial agricultural system will be central as we seek to understand the “partition of the sensible” of the global corporate food regime. The laboratory for this section will be the vast industrial fields of Yuma, Arizona and the US-Mexico border. We will travel to Yuma, spending a day with an industrial farmer and several other workers in the industrial system. We will also travel in the early hours of the morning to the border to witness and talk with some of the thousands of Mexican day laborers who cross back and forth to work in the fields. And we will meet with several organizations of farmworker advocates as well as the US border patrol. All students will keep journals and take field notes, and it is in Yuma that we will do the ethnographic work mentioned above. Primary book texts(selections from) for this section will be: Winona Hauter, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America Angus Wright, The Death of Ramon Gonzalez: The Modern Agricultural Dilemma Deborah Barndt, Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization on the Tomato Trail Visual Media: Frank Bardache Trampling out the Vintage: Caesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farmworkers http://vimeo.com/70042530 Coalition of Immokalee Workers Assorted articles, (probably including): Samir Amin, “Food Sovereignty: A Struggle for Convergence Amidst Diversity” Eric Holt-Gimenez, “Food Security, Food Justice or Food Sovereignty: Crises, Food Movements and Regime Change” Kimberley Curtis, “Social Suffering and the Transformative Potential of the Food Movement” Sandy Brown and Christy Getz, “Farmworker Food Insecurity and the Production of Hunger” M. McDowell & N. Wonders, “Keeping Migrants in their Place: Technologies of Control and Racialized Public Spaces in Arizona” Southern Poverty Law Center, “Who Are Farmworkers?” http://www.splcenter.org/sexual-violence-against-farmworkers-a-guidebook-for-criminal-justice-professionals/who-are-farmworke Kurt Friese, Kraig Kraft, Gary Nabhan, “Finding the Wildness of Chiles in Sonora” Part II: Alternative Visions/Different Stories. Governing stories and ideas – about who we are, what the good life is, and about our relationship to the more than human world must be resisted and transformed by the sustainable food movement in order to disturb the partition of the sensible of the corporate food regime. Recovering traditional understandings and imagining new relationships characterize this critical work. In this section we will engage two different stories of economy. We’ll examine the fundamental ideas and premises of the social economy including notions of reciprocity and the commons. We’ll also encounter the essential ideas of agroecology, polycultures and biocultural diversity as we consider a second alternative story of economy: the restoration economy. The laboratory for this section will be the visionary work of Dreaming New Mexico, a state-wide community based process that aims to bring about a just and sustainable food system and restoration economy throughout the state. Asking the questions “what do we really desire? what do we need to know? and what would success look like?” DNM conducted interviews across New Mexico’s Indigenous, Hispano, and Anglo food and farming communities, creating a wealth of creative and practical knowledge represented in richly illustrated maps (a concerted visual contestation of the partition of the sensible), extensive interviews and the booklet, “Local Foodsheds and a Fair Trade State”. DMN has impacted municipal and state policies, and has designed their materials for use by others in different agroeco and sociocultural regions. Primary texts for this section will be: Karl Polanyi, “Societies and Economic Systems” John Restakis, “The Crisis of Community” and “Humanizing the Economy in an Age of Capital” Garret Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons” Miguel Altieri, “Agroecology: The Science of Natural Resource Management for Poor Farmers in Marginal Environments” Janine Benyus, “Farming to Fit the Land: Growing Food” Dreaming New Mexico http://www.dreamingnewmexico.org Visual Media: Polyface Farm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsCRDNxIH4I Part III: Organizing Like an Ecosystem: Movement Challenges & Possibilities. Food is essential to sustainable communities everywhere. Yet the sustainable food movement is not now a political force to be reckoned with despite the fact that it is responding to a great deal of social suffering, ecological destruction and animal cruelty - all of which is firing the imagination, energy and organizing skills of people across the globe. Building on the previous two sections, we will engage arguments for and ways activists are linking local to global movements, arguments for deeply place- and community-based work as the key sites of transformation, critiques of privilege and racism in the movement, and myriad efforts to attain food justice and food sovereignty – from specific community-based initiatives to global networks. And we will engage the question of why there is a near total silence on labor across all tendencies in the global food movement. Primary texts (selections) for this section will be: Eric Holt-Gimenez (ed) Food Movements Unite! Allison Alkon (ed) Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability Greg Sharfer, No Local: Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World Carlo Petrini, Terra Madre: Forging a New Global Network of Sustainable Food Communities Articles and Reports: “Diné Food Sovereignty: A Report on the Navajo Nation Food System and the Case to Rebuild a Self-Sufficient Food System for the Diné People,” Diné Policy Institute http://www.dinecollege.edu/institutes/DPI/Docs/dpi-food-sovereignty-report.pdf Gary Holthaus, “Exploring Subsistence” and “ Conclusion: Creating a Sustainable Culture” “Down on the Farm: Wallstreet: America’s New Frontier,” The Oakland Institute http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/OI_Report_Down_on_the_Farm.pdf Visual Media: Plenitude La Via Campesina The laboratory for this section will be our own foodshed. Students will choose a food movement organization, initiative or food business, and design and conduct an interview around some aspect of the food movement and social change. Part IV: Learning from Our Research. Students will undertake semester-long independent research on a topic of greatest interest to them. In the final two weeks of the course, they will share their research. These can be individual or collaborative research projects. Goals for this course: • provide students with a critical understanding of the neoliberal global corporate food regime • develop familiarity with alternative ideas of economy that animate the movement for just and sustainable food systems and sustainable communities • develop a scholarly capacity for analyzing and assessing diverse aspects and challenges of the sustainable food movement • deepen students’ knowledge of the diversity and creativity of food movement activism • develop the ability to intelligently interpret and intervene in contemporary debates regarding the transformative potential of local, national and global forms of agri-food activism • develop students’ capacity for both independent and collaborative research .

SUS 599 - Radical Environmental Thought (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Sean Parson
Description: This is a co-offered course with Politics and International Affairs. It will examine contemporary theoretical debates within Radical Ecological Political Theory.

SUS 599 - Summer Institute for Sustainability (3 credits)

Instructor(s): Various Faculty
Description: Special seminars offered for 1-3 units of credit Summer courses can help you move through the program more quickly and or they can give you more time to devote to your thesis work in the second year of your studies.