These readings will be focus of class discussion; DO NOT read them 'passively'.  Frame questions about what you read.  Analyze writers' arguments and your responses.  FOLLOW UP with your own research and background reading.  Plan on doing some background reading for EACH of these.  

For Thursday 22 FEB

Lewis, S. L., and M. A. Maslin. 2015. Defining the Anthropocene. Nature 519:171–180.

Ellis, E., M. Maslin, N. Boivin, and A. Bauer. 2016. Involve social scientists in defining the Anthropocene. Nature News 540:192.

Supporting reading: this is a short, more popular version of Lewis and Maslin; have a look at it and see what you think about its presentation of the original paper...

Biello, D., and D. Biello. (n.d.). Mass Deaths in Americas Start New CO2 Epoch.  Scientific American 2015 


Ellis, Erle. 2017. Nature for the People -- Toward a Democratic Vision for the Biosphere. Breakthrough Journal, No.7, 2017

McKibben, B. 1998. A special moment in history. Atlantic Monthly. (NOTE that the heading says there are three parts, but, in fact, the whole article is at this page; the links to part 2 and 3 don't go anywhere.)
    QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:  This article is 20 years old.  Does it seem current? Has anything important changed?

Also read this op-ed column from Washington Post:
Mooney, C. 2015, February 25. The troubling psychology behind how we decide who’s a scientific “expert” — and who isn’t. The Washington Post.


Human population; What's happening, what to expect, why? Is there a problem?

Dushek, J. 2014. No way to stop human population growth? Commentary in Science magazine on following article; read it, THEN go to the article itself.  It is dense and technical; don't attempt to follow all details of methods and models; look for overall logic and story-line and, particularly, see what you think abouit Dushek's essay as commentary and digest:

Bradshaw, C. J. A., and B. W. Brook. 2014. Human population reduction is not a quick fix for environmental problems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:16610–16615. [This is moderately hard-core, so plan on taking time with it...]

Ellis, E. C. 2013, September 13. Overpopulation Is Not the Problem. The New York Times.  [An op-ed by a prolific writer on Anthropocene issues (check out his website if you wish)]

For WEEK OF 12-15 MARCH:

A couple of articles from a series run in the L.A. Times ("Beyond 7 billion"):  Read at least one of these (even better, both...):
Weiss, 2012. Fertility rates fall, but global population explosion goes on.  Specifically, think about how this presentation relates to the Bradshaw and Brook paper and Dushek report read previously.
Weiss, 2012. China's population and economy are a double whammy for the world. 
(You might find other stories in this series interesting for your own reading...)

Spend some time with the 'gapminder' model (Use the 'tools' link online, or download the model to use offline). SPECIFICALLY, use the data-sets available here to explore ideas about relationships between fertility and other population properties and any other variables you think interesting (these may be direct or indirect relationships).  Try to work in a semi-scientific way -- i.e., frame ideas (hypotheses), and see whether the evidence here is consistent with them.  NOTE that this tool will only show you correlations.  Think about whether these are necessarily causal..

Krausmann, F., K.-H. Erb, S. Gingrich, H. Haberl, A. Bondeau, V. Gaube, C. Lauk, C. Plutzar, and T. D. Searchinger. 2013. Global human appropriation of net primary production doubled in the 20th century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:10324–10329.
    This is the most 'hard-core' technical thing we've read so far, but you should be able to handle it!  Focus on the underlying QUESTIONS and on authors' approaches to answering them.  If there are things that seem important that you don't understand, then bring questions to class, but it's not essential to master all the underlying technical detail.  THEN (and this is the most important), focus on what authors' see as the implications, open questions, etc., and think about these...

For WEEK of 19-22 MARCH:

Chapters from Lester Brown's (Earth Policy Institute) book, "Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization"   Lester R. Brown has been one of the most influential thingers and writers on environmental issues for nearly 50 years.  He founded the "World Watch Institute" and then the "Earth Policy Institute" as organizations focused on developing comprehensive overviews of environmental problems -- some of the first developers of  global visions based on 'big data'.  His first "Plan B" (i.e., an alternative to 'business as usual' -- Plan A) book was published in 2003 and was extremely influential; it was regularly updated and revised through 4.0 (2009) (fully available on-line here, with some supplementary updates through 2014).   The Institute discontinued its work in 2014, and PLAN B 4.0  is now almost ten years old, but it's still an extremely valuable overarching compilation.  Read these two chapters chapters on population and food for now (there's lots more you can read if you want).  These are a little longer than what we've been reading, and have high information density, so give yourself some time.  Focus on the general reasoning and where it leads and don't get bogged down in details of statistics and facts -- but DO think about whether and how you can judge the 'authenticity' of the huge body of specific information he's basing these arguments on...

For WEEK of 26-29 MARCH:

We'll be focusing on balancing sufficiency and sustainability in food production; can we produce enough, globally, in the near term without costs in terms of environmental sustainability?

1. Tilman et al. 2002. Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices. Nature  (this is a moderately technical paper; prepare to spend some time with it to grapple with approaches and findings: AS ALWAYS, FORMULATE QUESTIONS about anything you don't understand)
2. von Braun. 2010. Strategic body needed to beat food crises. Nature 465:548-549  (Much shorter, focused on policy arguments/agendas)

A transition linking food and population to other issues making up total 'human footprint'

[ NOTE, I've deferred this to later in the term] Venter, Oscar and a bunch of others. 2016. Sixteen Years of Change in the Global Terrestrial Human Footprint and Implications for Biodiversity Conservation. Nature Communications 7: 12558.  (Link above may work only on campus.)]

Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010. Untangling the Environmentalist's Paradox: Why is Human Well-Being Increasing as Ecosystem Services Degrade? Bioscience 60:675-589. (What's your conclusion regarding question in title?  Is thee a problem? Is there a solution?)

For WEEK of 2-5 APRIL:

CGIAR is a U.N. sponsored global network of agricultural/crop research organizations, including several that were the primary sources of new technologies and crops that led to the 'Green Revolution'.  Explore this website; pick a particular program/report/activity to focus on.  Think about what such organization contribute (and how and why); are they likely to be important in helping deal with the food needs of the world's population in coming decades?  Are there concerns with entrusting food security to this sort of organization?  Be prepared to raise questions/ideas in class discussion..

BEGIN READING Maslin's 'Global Warming: a very short Introduction':  Work on FIRST FOUR CHAPTERS.  In general, bring questions to class.  We will discuss Chapter 3 more explicitly; what does he mean by all of this?.

Explore the website for the U.S. National Climate Assessment -- 'Highlights' for now; I'll ask you to do a closer reading of some part of the Full Report at some point, so you might start exploring it...  This is produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Do some exploring on this website to see what you can find out about the organization.  You can download PDF versions of sections here.

For 12 APRIL:

with readings from previous week

For WEEK of 16-19 APRIL:

1.  Read the 'summary for policy makers' from the 2014 (Fifth) Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC).  The IPCC (jointly with Al Gore) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago for studies of greenhouse warming and its likely trends and effects. ALSO, investigate the nature of the organization itself (who are they? How constituted?) and think about how a report from such a body should be considered.  Why?.  (The full report -- four large volumes -- is  available at the IPCC website, along with a lot of other stuff. )

2. Read Executive Summary from the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, commissioned by the British Treasury and overseen by a long-time government advisor, economist Sir Nicholas Stern.   (The entire report is 700 pages long.)

3. Tollefson 2012. Linking farming and climate change -- very short 'News' story from Nature.  BE READY TO DISCUSS this one, too -- particularly the general 'approach' behind it.

4. START EXPLORING Hawken, Drawdown.  Read the introductory sections and scan the rest to get a sense of the range of ideas/approaches being explored.

For WEEK of 23-26 APRIL:

1. FOCUS ON: this article on 'stabilization wedges'  It has received a great deal of attention.  Do Pacala and Socolow offer a viable approach? READ FOR DISCUSSION, I'll be asking you to offer your thoughts on which of these approaches you'd prioritize and why.  We may do some break-out groups in class to talk about that.   (here's a website from Princeton that springs from this work; explore it for more background/development).

2. CHOOSE some of the specific topics in Hawken, Drawdown (at least 3 or 4) and look at them more closely/analytically.  How convincing is the argument, the background info? Do you see things that are unaccounted for in their 'cost-benefit' analysis?  How are these approaches related to the 'stabilization wedges' ideas?

3. Tollefson 2012. Linking farming and climate change -- very short 'News' story from Nature.  BE READY TO DISCUSS this one, too -- particularly the general 'approach' behind it.

For WEEK of 30 APRIL-3 MAY

1.  A short summary of a rather contrarian environmentalist position by British physicist David MacKay.  he argues that , although it's critical to address issue of sustainable energy supply, some of our standard 'wisdom' is counterproductive. Read this 10-page synopsis.  You can follow up on this by reading relevant chapters in the accompanying full text at 'without hot air'

2. We'll continue exploring Hawken's ideas from Drawdown.

For WEEK of 8-11 MAY

"The Sixth Extinction"  (Yes, the whole book; you will enjoy it anyhow...)

For WEEK of 15-18 MAY

Ehrlich and Pringle. 2008. Where does biodiversity go from here? PNAS (By one of the most prominent (and in-your-face) environmental scientists - Paul Ehrlich.  Somewhat dense; work for the outline of ALTERNATIVES offered.  They say it's parallel to approach of the Pacala and Socolow 'wedges' article.  Do you agree?
Venter, Oscar and a bunch of others. 2016. Sixteen Years of Change in the Global Terrestrial Human Footprint and Implications for Biodiversity Conservation. Nature Communications 7: 12558.  (Link above may work only on campus.)
Green et al. 2005. Farming and the fate of wild nature. Science  (This one has some pretty technical bits; it's not necessary to follow all of them.  Focus on getting the general 'storyline' clear.  What are the authors claiming and advocating?)

For WEEK of 22-25 MAY

Putting pieces together --  why aren't we more effective at dealing with this stuff?
Gertner 2009. Why isn't the brain green (NY Times magazine)
Norgaard. 2010. Cognitive and Behavioral challenges in responding to climate change World Bank Poliicy Research Working Paper (NOTE: this is pretty LONG: focus on pp 25-43.)

Many authors. 2015. An Ecomodernist Manifesto. Publlished at

For 29 MAY

Last class; we'll see.

(maybe useful for review essays...)

Ellis, Erle. 2017. Nature for the People -- Toward a Democratic Vision for the Biosphere. Breakthrough Journal, No.7, 2017

Pimm and Jenkins. 2005. Sustaining the variety of life Scientific American

Steffen, W., W. Broadgate, L. Deutsch, O. Gaffney, and C. Ludwig. 2015. The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review:2053019614564785.  FOCUS on the graphs; look for interesting/important trends, changes, comparisons, particularly in light of  'ecosystem function' concepts and population dynamics theory.  Scan the text to: a) get an idea of  authors' motivation and approach, and b) a sense of what general interpretations they offer (maybe especially regarding the 'equity' section).  HERE is an optional follow-up on this with some more interactive stuff...

Here are some journals/publications -- online and 'standard' that publish on the themes of  the class, sometimes coming from diverse perspectives:
Atlantic Monthly (many topics, but environmental ones pretty frequent; a 'popular' magazine)
Yale  Environment 360 (not all 'global systems' perspective, but much is.  From academic source but targeting general audience..)
UnDark  (Not all topical for this class at all; choose stories that are.)