Sunday, February 24, 2008

Examining Sustainability in the Gulf Region

So after the inability to launch 'Designing Sustainable Systems' at the start of the semester, I set about reworking the semester-long course into a half-semester 'mini' course (6 units). Re-titled 'Examining Sustainability in the Gulf Region', it will introduce the concept of sustainability, systems thinking, sustainable issues and solutions and how those solutions may be adapted or completely rethought to the unique environment and societies found in the Gulf. (Note that it's the 'Arabian Gulf', not the 'Persian Gulf'). This course will be half lecture (me rattling on) and half research/seminar. I don't know what sustainability means to this region; that's what I hope to learn along with the students.

My course already has at least 4 registered with at least 2-3 other considering it. That's not bad- it's roughly 2-4% of the student body. One has to remember the proportions and sizes are different here, changing expectations for class sizes. 2% in PGH that would mean a course of at least 100 undergrads. By comparison, my CDF course has 18 students, or roughly 11% of CMU-Q's student body. Wow.

Below is my current description for the course to be listed on the CMU Course Schedule:

"Over the last couple of decades, humanity has become increasing aware of the complexity and interconnectedness of our world. We now recognize that our actions impact the earth around us and this in turn can affect the planet's ability to support life. The challenge of our time is to balance human growth and development with planetary limits, considering how our societies and world will be sustained into the future. This minicourse examines sustainability as it applies to the Gulf Region, dividing the course into two main parts. The first half of the class will introduce students to the concepts and principles of sustainability and systems thinking, examining how ecological, economic, and social systems interactions are crucial to a sustainable world. Using readings, movies, and lectures, we will review key environmental/social issues and sustainable solutions from around the globe. In the second part of the class, we will examine and define key issues and solutions as they apply to environments and societies of Arabian Gulf region. Students will then pick a topic to investigate further, applying the design method to define, research, and develop a unique solution to a sustainability problem faced in the region. Students will refine their findings in the form of a final project to be presented at Meeting of the Minds at the end of the semester."

The class starts next week and runs for seven weeks. We meet Monday and Wednesday for an hour and half and I'm capping the class at max. 15 students (hoping for a few less- I'll be tickled with 8-10). I'm looking forward to it, as it's a new subject for many of these students and one that I enjoying discussing. I'm also extremely interested in their findings and how that information can be used in future projects. I'll keep you updated as the class develops.


  1. hi rosemary, thanks for being such a great blogger! i'd love to stay up to date with the findings in the sustainability class. could an assignment me to post their thoughts on a blog maybe so the rest of us can follow along? just a thought.

  2. Thanks for reading Diane! I like the idea of documenting their thoughts on sustainable issues throughout the next seven weeks, although I'm hesitant to require compulsory blogging or creating a new blog. Rather, I may consider having them write weekly assessments or reflections and post highlights from some of the best responses for that week. This could also culminate in a compiled reflection exhibition to be displayed along side their final projects at the end of semester's Meeting of the Minds presentation.