World Sustainability Syllabus, Fall 2014 | ENST20903

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Course information: Your instructor is Professor Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. Our class number is ENST20903, CRN40710. We meet in ASB-136 on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:15 P.M. My contact information is listed at the end of this syllabus. An essential course resource is our schedule. Please consult the course Bulletin Board in advance of each class.

Catalog Description and Curricular Role

The Ramapo College Catalog describes World Sustainability ENST209:

World Sustainability examines three interacting destructive tendencies of the modern period, all exacerbated by exponential population growth and rampant over-consumption: the catastrophic degradation and contamination of our planet home (i.e., the ecological crisis); the exploitation of resources and the extreme polarization between rich and poor (i.e., the economic crisis); and the eclipse of community (i.e., the social crisis). The course explores the emerging global Civil Society that everywhere attempts to establish legitimate democratic discourse and accountability. The course moves beyond an understanding of the problems, offering a social ecological framework for damage repair and transition to a new sustainable world that will change the way students think about their lives and motivate them to become part of the solution.

The course counts for the General Education International Studies requirement, and also the SSHS requirement in Sustainability. This is the gateway core course in Environmental Studies. For Environmental Studies majors, it is recommended that, prior to or concurrently with the core, you complete the three science foundations prerequisites to the program: biology, geology or geography and environmental science.

Mission of World Sustainability

World Sustainability provides an analysis of the contemporary global crisis within a framework for restoration and for transition to a sustainable world. World Sustainability will challenge us and our children for decades to come. The course examines three interacting destructive tendencies of the modern period, all exacerbated by exponential population growth:

  1. The ecological crisis: The potentially catastrophic degradation and contamination of our planetary home
  2. The social crisis:The polarization between globalized rich and localized poor; the exclusion of most of the world's inhabitants; the eclipse of community; and increasing violence and misery
  3. The economic crisis: The systemic imperative of economic globalization to ceaselessly grow despite overshooting the limits to endure exponential demands on resources and on vulnerable and vital ecosystems and the decoupling of economic growth from human well-being and security.

The axial concept of the course is sustainability, an alternative societal path poised to replace economic growth as the fundamental organizing principle. To see the need for switching paths, we require the critical abilities to see past dominant sources of information that actively distort the facts and obstruct sustainability. Sustainability means learning to live well within our means rather than depriving future generations. Our future depends on grasping the need for a transition toward a sustainable society and forging this new direction. To do so, we require both the knowledge and the wisdom to live sustainably in the future. Establishing this "global ecological literacy" is the primary function of this course. Ramapo's Professor Emeritus Trent Schroyer says it well:

When we talk about 'world sustainability' we are concerned not only with getting our metabolism with nature right and creating an equitable world but also with maintaining an ethos of evidence and truthfulness, of public accountability and transparency in which legitimate democratic discourse and political action can change the rules and establish human rights.

World Sustainability examines the ecological, social, and economic crises of our time, relates these to the emerging critique of the dominant strategy for economic globalization (called the Washington Consensus in other parts of the planet) that grew out of the 1980s, and then contrasts it to the counter-views and interests of the excluded "Others" -- poor, Third World, and traditional peoples.

Learning Goals

The learning goals of World Sustainability are:

  1. A thorough understanding of the concept of sustainability: The student will explain sustainability in the global context and provide examples.
  2. An empirical grasp of the nature and extent of the current global crisis: The student will define timely and comprehensive aspects that indicate the extent of the unsustainability of our current civilization and anthropogenic systems. This includes a critical interpretation of how modern civilization resists, even obstructs, sustainability.
  3. An appreciation of how people and organizations take actions toward sustainability: Students in Part II, the enabling analysis, will discover how citizens and organizations make decisions and gain skills helpful in making their lives sustainable, promoting sustainable communities, and achieving a sustainable world. In particular, we will explore the potential of citizenship and civil society responses.

To achieve these goals, the following skills must be attained or refined:

  • to think critically
  • to present information effectively.
  • to read and analyze complex writings
  • to find and evaluate information from multiple sources
  • to integrate information coming from multiple and diverse sources
  • to work effectively in groups
  • to understand the process of democratic action

From Economic Globalization To World Sustainability

ENST209 contains two major sections, each of which ends in an exam that demonstrates the student's learning in that part of the course.

Part I: Introduction to World Sustainability

The accelerating planetary crisis invokes our theme of world sustainability, a potential turning point in world civilization. The nature of that crisis will be explored in Part I, but a groundwork that introduces sustainability must first be laid. The abstract concept of sustainability invites confusion but the concrete recognition for the call for world sustainability opens up a path for a promising future for our children. An exploration of the theme of world sustainability is our first task. Two related and essential oppositions will frame Part I:

  1. Economic globalization versus world sustainability: economic growth encounters the limits to growth.
  2. The origins and significance of World Sustainability.

Part II: The Global Ecological, Economic, and Social Crisis

We must explain the nature and extent of the current global crisis. We will examine timely and comprehensive data that indicate the extent of the unsustainability of our current civilization. The student will be asked to apprehend a world in constant whirl, changing rapidly while becoming more integrated. The problems of unsustainability will be divided into these categories:

  1. The ecological crisis of resource depletion, exhausted waste disposal sinks, overshoot of carrying capacity, and climate change.
  2. The social crisis of unmet human needs, growing inequality, the plight of women and children, desperately poor regions, failed states, the AIDS pandemic, wasted potential, and exclusion.
  3. The economic crisis of ideological hegemony of the Washington Consensus and accelerating corporate domination of the international order.

The global crisis extends to the major planetary transformations that have created these contemporary crises. We examine the dynamics through which this process occurs, explaining how people worldwide are dis-abled and disempowered as a result. How does domination distort reality via the production of disinformation and propaganda? Are global institutions eroding sovereignty? Is economic ideology obscuring democracy and human well-being and security?

Part III: Creating World Sustainability

We turn next to sustainability solutions: People around the world have responded to the disabling characteristics of economic globalization by engaging in grass roots civic activism. The solutions part of the course focuses on the innovative learning that is emerging from awakening civil societies around the world. The study of grass roots activism and movements as forces for social learning will allow for an evaluation of such social innovations, offering hope of resolving the contemporary crises and avoiding future ones. Public policies that promote sustainability will be explored. Business models providing innovation for sustainability will be assessed.

Resources, Grading, Attendance, and Assignments

The extensive on-line format allows the incorporation of Internet material, including multi-media and a dedicated World Sustainability Bulletin Board site is maintained by your professor. Resources and books for the course are:

  1. Lester Brown. World on the Edge. New York: Norton, 2011.
  2. Bill McKibben. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. New York: Times Books, 2007.
  3. A World Sustainability Bulletin Board provides announcements and reminders to support the flow of our course.
  4. All assignments are displayed on the course schedule.


Attendance, of course, is mandatory and essential to your participation. Perfect attendance earns a bonus of two points. Missing a single session will be held as neutral. After that, each missed session will lead to a deduction of four points. Missing a significant portion of the class session, such as arriving late or leaving early, will lead to a prorated deduction at the discretion of the professor. Absence for four classes can result in failure and requires that the student initiates a consultation with the professor. Excused absences, counting as half an absence, may be granted for good cause, but may require documentation and should be arranged in advance whenever feasible. Holy days will be respected. Absence for an exam must be explained in writing and must include documentation.

Civil behavior will be enforced within our classroom. Students will always be respectful. Cell phones will not sound or be used in class. If you must be late, arrive quietly. If you must leave early, please inform the instructor. Your deportment will be incluced in the participation grade, below.

Course Enrichment Component

The Course Enrichment Component for ENST20903 is integral to the substance of World Sustainability and is explained in a separate document. The Course Enrichment Component is required and counts eight points toward the final grade. The definition of the assignment is encapsulated by this statement:

How might you adapt your lifestyle and career in light of what you are learning in World Sustainability? Ponder the trends and perspectives revealed in World Sustainability. Take inventory of your current lif estyle, reflect, and project into your future lifestyle and career. How will you adapt to the future revealed in World Sustainability?

Grading Policy

The final grades will be evaluated on the instruments below. The dates are specified in the course schedule.

  1. A mid-term exam on the global crisis will be conducted in class. The format is multiple-choice and essay using blue books. The mid-term counts 40 points.
  2. The Course Enrichment Component experiential learning assignment counts 8 points.
  3. A final exam on the global crisis will be conducted in class as multiple-choice and as a take-home essay, each counting 20 points. The final thus counts 40 points.
  4. Participation and contribution to the flow of the course, adjusted for attendance, counts 12 points.

To be fair to the entire class, if you miss an exam or quiz, you may not re-take the assignment until documentation of illness, family emergency, or other extenuating circumstances has been provided and approved by the instructor. Failure to provide such documentation will discount the grade for the assignment.

Grades will be rounded off and scaled as follows: A = 93 and above; A- = 90 to 92; B+ = 87 to 89; B = 83 to 86; B- = 80 to 82; C+ = 77 to 79; C = 73 to 76; C- = 70 to 72; D+ = 69 to 67; D = 66 to 60; and F < 60. Notice that there are no in-class exams. Please see the Ramapo College Catalog grading policy.

The rules of academic integrity set forth in the Student Handbook will be enforced. Plagiarism policy: Members of the Ramapo college community are expected to be honest and forthright in their academic endeavors. In compliance with the college policy on academic integrity, suspected evidence of plagiarism shall be reported to the Provost Office and may result in failure of the course. The instructor reserves the right to use electronic aids to confirm that work is original.

Students having special needs are invited to discuss these with the instructor. Reasonable accomodations will be made.

Contact Information

Your teacher is Professor Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. My office is T-022 and my hours are: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 4:00-5:30 P.M. and other times by appointment. My email address is My office phone is 201-684-7751.

The World Sustainability Web Site | ©Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. | Page:
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