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UC San Diego Offers Cutting Edge Green Courses on Environment and Sustainability

August 8, 2008

By Christine Clark

UC San Diego, one of the nation’s greenest universities, this fall will emphasize a wide range of sustainability concepts in dozens of classes and seminars ranging from global warming and consumerism to alternative energy, all taught by some of the university’s most distinguished faculty.

Among the classes is, "Global Citizens or Global Consumers? Linking your Conscience and your Wallet," taught by April Linton, Department of Sociology. The course covers the social and environmental impact of buying clothes and food, and it offers practical suggestions to students on how to be more green-conscious consumers.

UC San Diego is offering more than 80 green seminars, workshops and courses that cover sustainability issues this fall. Throughout the year nearly 200 courses are offered with sustainability related content and new green classes are being added each quarter. Students can gain hands on experience learning about the environment by interning for the Environment and Sustainability Initiative, the Green Campus program, Housing Dining Hospitality and local green businesses. Environmentally conscious students also can join one of the campus’s 83 student organizations that are organized around environmental, social justice, or sustainability issues.

"I think students want to learn about sustainability because they are eager to explore sustainable alternatives to the status quo and be a part of developing these alternatives," Linton said. An expert on fair trade, she said her goal is to build upon students’ knowledge about issues surrounding global trade, development and inequality and introduce ways students might use that knowledge in their daily life. "The course looks at where the clothes and food we consume come from, how they get to us; and how ‘voting with your wallet’ can matter," she said.

“I really enjoyed the class and was disappointed when it ended," freshman Katie Cheng said of her recent experience in Linton’s class. "For me this course helped me learn about the power I have as a consumer and it showed me ways in which I can make positive and responsible choices as a global citizen."

Other courses offered this fall include "Climate Change, Global Warming" taught by Martin Wahlen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  He said his seminar is designed to document and discuss the numerous signs of global change and global warming.

This is the sixth year Wahlen has taught the popular noon seminar, which meets one hour a week. "Students want to learn about this subject, it is a hot topic," he said. "The fact that students are willing to spend their lunch learning about climate change says something."

In addition, students can enroll in "Climate Change and Society," a Scripps Institution of Oceanography course offered by Jane Teranes. This course, will present the scientific evidence for climate change, its impacts, and consider governmental policy responses and possible adaptation strategies. “I want students to not only understand the basic science and policy concepts of climate change,” Teranes said. “But I want them to be able to explain what they have learned to others.”

Ivan Evans, Department of Sociology, is offering "Alternative Energy: Myths and Promises," a course that advocates the use of alternative energy and examines three important points: "It takes energy to make energy"; "every source of energy has its downside"; and "what works in one area may make matters worse in another."

"I am really interested to see what options there are in alternative energy resources and how we can make our world more sustainable," said Mark Galvan, a senior who will take Evans’s class. Galvan works part-time as a LEED intern at Facilities Management and will have a full class schedule this fall, but he said he would make time to take an extra course related to sustainability. "I always will make it a priority to keep in touch with what the world is currently doing to be more sustainable and how I can influence change," he said.

Jessica Wall is a senior who has taken many classes on sustainability.  Wall participates in campus green activities, including tree plantings, beach clean-ups and campus energy-conservation competitions.  Double-majoring in environmental systems and economics, she is a member of many organizations that help promote sustainability, and she says she tries to incorporate sustainability into all of her actions. "I believe that people should come out of college knowing more than just science, but hopefully living as more responsible global citizens," she said. "This means taking classes where issues like social and environmental sustainability are brought up and students can learn how they can make an impact."

Wall said she is interested in taking green courses through UC San Diego’s Extension, such as “Corporate Social Responsibility,” taught by Vicki Krantz, Extension’s director of Business and Professional programs. The course is designed to offer cutting-edge and practical instruction to prepare individuals for leadership roles and other activities to help organizations integrate green practices, community activism, employee volunteering and philanthropy into their business strategies.

Across the campus, collaborative efforts result in a multitude of research, academic and operations projects that make UC San Diego a world leader in climate change solutions. Symbolizing the university ’s status as one of the greenest universities, the campus this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Keeling Curve, the first measurement of greenhouse gas build-up, which was conducted by Charles David Keeling of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Now, the university will soon generate 7.4 megawatts of green energy, providing 10 to 15 percent of its annual electrical needs. By using green energy, UC San Diego is cutting its use of greenhouse gas-generating fossil fuels that are warming the planet and polluting the air we breathe.


Media Contact: Christine Clark, 858-534-7618

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