Category Archives: students

Earth Day at 50: Pratt’s Virtual GreenWeek

GREEN-WEEK-2020Earth Day 50 is Wednesday. Adam Rome discusses the significance of Earth Day’s founding in his history The Genius of Earth Day:

In September 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin vowed to organize a nationwide environmental teach-in in spring 1970, and his call to action inspired thousands of events across the country. Roughly 1,500 colleges and 10,000 schools held teach-ins. Earth Day activities also took place in hundreds of churches and temples, in city parks, and in front of corporate and government buildings. The teach-ins collectively involved more people than the biggest civil-rights and antiwar demonstrations in the 1960s.

But the numbers do not begin to tell the story. The first Earth Day had a freshness and intensity that are difficult to imagine today. Because Earth Day 1970 was unprecedented, the organizers had to plan everything from scratch, and the effort often was life-changing. Tens of thousands of people spoke on Earth Day – and many had never spoken publicly about environmental issues before. The discussions at Earth Day teach-ins sometimes were soul-searching: Many participants truly were struggling to get to the roots of “the environmental crisis.”

That freshness and intensity gave Earth Day 1970 tremendous power. Thousands of organizers and participants decided to devote their lives to the environmental cause. Earth Day built a lasting eco-infrastructure: national and state lobbying organizations, environmental-studies programs, environmental beats at newspapers, eco sections in bookstores, community ecology centers.

Fifty years later, we observe Earth Day as climate change accelerates and a global pandemic lays bare the vast inequalities that have emerged in the abandonment of the social contract in liberal democracies since the rise of Reagan and Thatcher.

This is inescapable in Brooklyn. I live a couple blocks from a firehouse, so the abstract numbers of hospitalizations and death rates reported in each day’s news represent the series of ambulances racing down the street in front of my window each day. Neighbors have died. More will die in the days ahead. We have already lost so much, and have much unease about what is to come.

I live in Brooklyn in no small part due to the history Adam Rome writes. I moved here eight years ago to develop Pratt Institute’s Sustainability Studies minor. My work is concerned with the consequences of consumption and waste on the environment and society, including unintended consequences of the disposal of mass-produced goods, stigma associated with handing wastes, and particular attention to the ways in which attitudes concerning waste and society shape each other over time. Pratt is one of the centers of training the world’s artists and designers who will shape art, fashion, industrial design, and the built environment in ways that will affect consumption, waste streams, ecosystems, and societies long after I am gone.

Our commitment to this project includes an annual public celebration called Green Week. Normally, Green Week is a series of events, installations, and forums highlighting the ways our different disciplines engage with sustainability.

This year is different. The pandemic precludes us from gathering on campus, but thanks to the heavy lifting of Sustainability Coalition leader Tetsu Ohara, CSDS director Carolyn Shafer, and Communications Design Professor Eric O’Toole, we present Pratt Virtual GreenWeek. Beginning today, see the work our community has done, including:

Examples of faculty-directed course projects (including an online version of the presentations we usually do at the Student Union).

Examples of student work.

A timeline of the history of sustainability initiatives at Pratt, and link to Pratt’s most recent sustainability report.

• The Pratt Library’s sustainability resources, including faculty-authored books on sustainability issues held by the library.

I am thankful to be part of a community of teachers, students, and staff at Pratt who are committed to making the world a safer, healthier, more equitable world. The linked work is testament to this commitment, and includes some projects related to the pandemic developed before we had to move from in-person to virtual work in March.

Today’s Virtual GreenWeek launch aligns with larger observations of Earth Day that includes the Virtual Earth Day celebrations. May this year’s crisis renew the spirit and action of 1970’s Earth Day and lead to a safer, healthier future for Brooklyn, the US, and the world.

Sustainability Studies at Pratt: Fall 2018 Course Availability

Pratt_Willoughby_Main_GateMonday begins the new academic year at Pratt Institute, and a new schedule of courses. The spring ended with an all-time-high of sixty students registered in the minor, and we have an array of exciting courses this fall. Most sections are full, but seats are still available in a few. The following is a list of sections with available seats as of Friday afternoon, August 24.

SS201T The Sustainable Core. Our introductory course, featuring a variety of speakers giving students insight into the ways different disciplines approach sustainability on campus. This course satisfies the General Education Menu T (Ways of Thinking, Knowing, Doing) requirement. As of August 24, the Thursday morning section has ten seats available.

SSWI222G Making/Faking Nature. This course explores a wide range of philosophical conceptions of nature and examines how these theories have influenced the way we treat our environment, animals, and each other. We will consider, among other things, whether nature is dead, if there was ever such a thing as wilderness, whether we can restore or improve nature, and if so, who should have the power and authority to do so. Readings are selected from a variety of fields in the social sciences and cultural studies. As of August 24, the Friday morning section has one seat available.

MSCI 270 Ecology. This course provides a background in the fundamental principles of ecological science, including concepts of natural selection, population and community ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability. Students will acquire an “ecological literacy” about how the natural world works, and develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct ecological knowledge. This course is required of all Sustainability Studies minors. As of August 24, the Wednesday morning section has six seats available, and the Wednesday afternoon section has six seats available.

MSWI 270C Ecology, Environment, and Anthropocene. Like any other organism, humans rely on their environment-most prominently the living part of that environment-in order to survive. But unlike any other species, humans have the ability to re-shape the diverse environments they inhabit in profound, fundamental, and potentially destructive ways. This course explores how living ecosystems function and how that functioning provides the resources required by both individual humans and the societies we form. This course may be used to fulfill the MSCI 270  requirement for Sustainability Studies minors and also satisfies the General Education writing intensive requirement. As of August 24, the Monday morning section has two seats available, and the Monday early afternoon section has one seat available.

MSCI 381 Green Building Science. This course will equip students with the basic technical knowledge they will need to assess the true sustainability of design and construction options in building design. Drawing on physics, engineering, chemistry, and environmental studies, students will learn how to understand the performance of a building from the perspectives of water use and waste disposal, heat flow and energy consumption, air flow and the indoor environment, fenestration and lighting requirements. By the conclusion of the course, students will have a clear understanding of how to advance in the field of sustainable building, including familiarity with carbon footprints, the US Green Building Council’s LEED program, and the Passive House standard. As of August 24, the Wednesday evening section has eight seats available.

IND 487 Sustainability and Production. This course explores issues of sustainability and social responsibility in product design with an emphasis on materials and supply chain flows. The importance of the designer’s role in understanding the environmental and social consequences of creating and producing products will be emphasized. Intended for the advanced undergraduate, studies on the impacts of production and consumption will be covered through readings, class discussions, and lecture materials. Students will be introduced to tools to assess the environmental impacts of products and services to create baseline models; their findings will be used to develop alternative concepts that reduce environmental impacts of products. As of August 24, the Wednesday afternoon section has fourteen seats available.

INT 481 Interior Option Lab: Environmental Quality. The Interior Options Lab provides the opportunity for hands on exploration in selected areas of interest. Projects will explore detail areas of Interior Design rather that full interior Environments. As of August 24, the Monday afternoon section has ten seats available. 

SUST 430 Planet Ocean. Ocean acidification. Exterminated fish. Bleached corals. This course travels to the planet’s last frontier-the ocean-to understand the root causes of its deterioration and to connect to its force and splendor. Students explore islands and waves, empires and economies, nightmares and fantasies among sailors, surfers, scientists and slaves. Our goal is to make visible the hidden but consequential practices unfolding at sea so that we think the “planet” beyond land-based perspectives. As of August 24, the Tuesday morning section has one seat available, and the Tuesday afternoon section has one seat available.

SUST 440 Environmental Economics. This course examines theories and methods of economics relevant for understanding the environment. It combines theoretical analyses and economic history to understand the social forces relevant to sustainability and climate change with discussions on specific environmental policies related to pollution, energy, climate change, and health issues. Specific topics addressed include externalities, property rights, economies of scale, competition and concentration, distribution, growth and development, and demographic shifts. Alternative policies will be addressed including regulation, cost-benefit analysis, population controls, fines and criminal penalties, the carbon tax, cap-and trade, green technologies, campaigns to change consumer behavior, and anti-poverty programs. As of August 24, the Monday morning section has four seats available.

SUST 445 Sustainable Technology. This course considers the microeconomics and macroeconomics of technological change and what determines which technologies become widely adopted. Specific sectors which will be examined include transportation, energy production, construction, and food production. Energy-saving and resource-saving technologies in other sectors will also be considered. The role of the public sector-both on a national and international level-will be addressed. As of August 24, the Monday afternoon section has six seats available.

Seat availability is likely to change quickly, so be sure to confirm registration if any of these classes particularly appeal to you.

Pratt Sustainability Studies Minor Resources

PrattEastBuildingA new semester begins Monday, and Pratt students with questions about the Sustainability Studies minor can find some answers in the following places:

What classes count for the minor? We have a list of the permanent catalog courses that may be used for the minor on the minor’s web site.

How do I declare the minor? Check with your academic advisor to ensure you have enough time in your schedule to complete the minor as well as your major and general education requirements. If you do, download this form and arrange to see me. We’ll discuss your schedule, and once I approve you for the minor you can bring it back to your advisor [EDIT] go to Myrtle Hall and turn it in to the Registrar’s Office and be registered.

When do you have office hours? I hold regular office hours Tuesdays noon-2pm in DeKalb 108. I can also make appointments at other times pending my teaching schedule and committee obligations.

Does Pratt have sustainability resources on campus? Yes, all sorts. If you are interested in integrating sustainability into your design process, I highly recommend visiting the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies in the basement of the Engineering building for brainstorming and options on sourcing materials, evaluating material choices, and assessing design options. (CSDS just moved into a new, larger space; go down the stairs and follow the signs.)

Art students who would like to conserve supplies can check out Turn Up Art’s room to get salvaged materials. Turn Up Art is also in the basement of the Engineering building.

The library’s expert research librarians have developed a set of useful LibGuides for pursuing sustainability research. Here’s one for the Sustainable Core course. We have access to several databases relevant to sustainability, including Building Green (case studies of sustainable architecture projects around the world) and Material ConneXion (materials library in Manhattan with searchable database indexed on materiality issues such as durability, toxicity, recyclability, and just about any factor a designer would want to consider for clothing, buildings, furniture, or the range of designed goods). Access is free for Pratt students logged in through the campus network.

Does Pratt have student groups interested in environmental issues? Yes. Pratt Envirolutions meets regularly during the school year; the faculty advisor in 2015-16 is my officemate Professor Jen Telesca. Pratt’s chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) regularly undertakes political action campaigns related to the environment. Pratt students have also worked with groups such as Greenpeace, though the two organizations above have perhaps the most visible presence on campus.

What do I do if I have questions about the minor that are not answered by this page? Talk with me and I will do my best to answer them.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pratt’s Sustainability Minor (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Pratt_DeKalbAt Pratt, we are fine-tuning our social media, and one of the results of that effort is the new, updated Sustainability Studies minor page. Pratt undergraduates curious about their options in the 15-credit minor can see which courses are required, what electives are offered, and follow links to those courses’ links in the schedule.

The department is likely to expand the list of elective offerings for the minor in the future, and this page is an excellent resource for students curious about the program. If you are interested in the program or its courses, feel free to ask me questions.

Spring 2015 Sustainability Classes Begin at Pratt

Pratt_DeKalbThe Spring 2015 semester begins at Pratt today, and students in the Sustainability Studies minor have several options for classes.

Some sections (including SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit and MSCI 438-01 Chemistry of Modern Poly Materials) have filled to capacity, but other options remain for Pratt students interested in taking sustainability-related coursework from the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies. (There are also options in other departments; discuss them with your academic advisor.)

I am leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching SUST 201 The Sustainable Core, which remains open for registration.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2015: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

In addition, Assistant Professor Jennifer Telesca (Pratt’s newest Sustainability faculty member) has two new special topics courses of interest.  The first is SS 490-15 Environmental Justice, offered Thursdays from 2-4:50pm. While aspects of EJ are covered in SUST 201, SUST 401, and SUST 405, this seminar gives students the opportunity to have in-depth discussions of equity issues relating to the environment.

Jen Telesca is also teaching two sections of The Human-Animal Relationship. While the Tuesday section (SS 490-21, Tuesdays from 2-4:50pm) is filled to capacity, SS 490-22 is offered Wednesdays from 9:30am-12:30pm and has spaces available.

There are no prerequisites for any of these courses. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Pratt Spring 2015 Course Registration Update

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

An update on the two Sustainability courses I am teaching next semester.  Each of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, each may count to satisfy credits in the Sustainability Studies minor, and there are no prerequisites for either of them.  All Pratt undergraduates are eligible and encouraged to enroll.

SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit has filled to capacity, but I am also leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching SUST 201 The Sustainable Core, which remains open for registration.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2015: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Both of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and there are no prerequisites for either of them. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Pratt Spring 2015 Course Registration Update

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

An update on the two Sustainability courses I am teaching next semester.  Each of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, each may count to satisfy credits in the Sustainability Studies minor, and there are no prerequisites for either of them.  All Pratt undergraduates are eligible and encouraged to enroll.

One of these courses focuses on how we power the processes that allow us to create and distribute goods, as well as transport ourselves and enjoy the conveniences of modern life.  We will discuss global climate change, nuclear power, and fracking (among other topics) in SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit.  As of this morning, eight seats are still available in the seminar.

SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit
Modern society relies on burning fossil fuel for energy, with serious economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Learn the history of how we came to rely on unsustainable energy sources and ways In which our future use of energy may be made mode sustainable.

Spring 2015: Tuesdays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

I am also leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching SUST 201 The Sustainable Core, which remains open for registration.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2015: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Both of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and there are no prerequisites for either of them. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Register for Spring 2015 Sustainability Courses at Pratt

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

I am offering two Sustainability courses next semester.  Each of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, each may count to satisfy credits in the Sustainability Studies minor, and there are no prerequisites for either of them.  All Pratt undergraduates are eligible and encouraged to enroll.

One of these courses focuses on how we power the processes that allow us to create and distribute goods, as well as transport ourselves and enjoy the conveniences of modern life.  If you are concerned about global climate change, nuclear power, or tracking, consider registering in SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit.  The seminar examines the ways industrial society has harnessed energy, what the consequences of our past and present energy uses are, and how we might develop more sustainable practices involving energy.  Here’s a quick summary:

SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit
Modern society relies on burning fossil fuel for energy, with serious economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Learn the history of how we came to rely on unsustainable energy sources and ways In which our future use of energy may be made mode sustainable.

Spring 2015: Tuesdays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

In addition to that seminar, I am leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching SUST 201 The Sustainable Core.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2015: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Both of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and there are no prerequisites for either of them. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Sustainability Courses Back in Session As Pratt Starts Fall Semester

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

How do humans live in concert with the environment? Discuss this question in these two Fall 2014 courses.

Fall term started Monday at Pratt, officially kicking off the second year of the Sustainability Studies minor. The Sustainable Core course is offering two sections. I am leading the Monday 2-4:50pm section and Jen Telesca is leading the Wednesday 5-7:50pm section. Each section includes participation by various Pratt instructors, giving students a sense of how sustainability is approached in design, architecture, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities. This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, and it is a required course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor.

We deliberately have larger enrollment caps on the core course, so interested students can still sign up for either section. In addition, we have added more elective courses that count toward completion of the minorIf you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about either of these courses, please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Seats Available in Pratt’s Sustainable Core (Fall 2014)

As Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor gets set to celebrate its first anniversary of being in the catalog, the upper-division SUST offerings are enrolled to capacity.  Students interested in developing the environmental dimensions of their education do have options, however. In Fall 2014, for the first time, Pratt’s Sustainable Core course is offering two sections, and both sections currently have some seats available. I am leading the Monday 2-4:50pm section and Jen Telesca is leading the Wednesday 5-7:50pm section. Each section will include participation by various Pratt instructors, giving students a sense of how sustainability is approached in design, architecture, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities. This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, and it is a required course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor.

SUST 201 The Sustainable Core

This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Fall 2014: SUST 201-01 Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm; SUST 201-02 Wednesdays 5-7:50pm.  3 credit hours.

This course may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and has no prerequisites. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about either of these courses, please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.