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Sustainability & Public Health

Course Number
HSOC 131 900
Course Code
Course Key
Primary Program
Secondary Program
Course Description
We know that wild animal populations are only as healthy as their habitats, but what about humans?  This course explores how the health of ecosystems is intertwined with health of human populations.  It asks the question, “To what extent is sustainability the most important public health issue of our time?” We will examine issues related to climate change, environmental toxins, ecosystem destruction, species extinction, water availability, and food production through the lens of how these affect human health.  On a more positive note, we will learn about how applications of whole systems thinking are transforming our culture, creating a more sustainable and healthier society, and how these cultural trends will transform health policy in the future. Throughout the course, we will engage in contemplative and reflective practice with regard to our own beliefs and behaviors. What prevents us, collectively, from creating a more sustainable society? We will critically explore questions surrounding the concept of “sustainability.”  What makes a system sustainable, in ecological terms? Are there guiding principles that we can follow? Is a sustainable system by definition a healthy system?  In what ways do these concepts differ? Why do we create unsustainable systems, human-made processes that undermine the ecosystems we depend upon? What is the relationship between academic environmental studies and environmental activism? What is the relationship between industrial culture and indigenous culture? What are the differences, philosophically speaking? We will draw on a wide variety of sources, including medical journals such as JAMA, on-line publications, academic books, general audience books, and articles in the popular press.  We will also have the opportunity to engage in active learning experiences that ground the concepts in real world activity. 
Subject Area Vocab