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Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 12-Dec-22

Spring 2023 | ENV-2010-VO01 - Moving Toward Sustainability

Online Class

Online courses take place 100% online via Canvas, without required in-person or Zoom meetings.

Location: Online
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Day/Times: Meets online
Semester Dates: 01-24-2023 to 05-08-2023
Last day to drop without a grade: 02-12-2023 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 03-26-2023 - Refund Policy
This course has started, please contact the offering academic center about registration


Heather Fitzgerald
View Faculty Credentials
View Faculty Statement
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Catherine Garland

General Education Requirements

This section meets the following VSC General Education Requirement(s) for Catalog Year 21-22 and later:
Natural Science
  1. Many degree programs have specific general education recommendations. In order to avoid taking unnecessary classes, please consult with additional resources like your program evaluation, your academic program catalog year page, and your academic advisor.
  2. Courses may only be used to meet one General Education Requirement.

Course Description

This course introduces students to the concept of sustainability and systems theory – that various systems influence one another within a larger system. Students utilize methods and analytical tools to explore complexity from a systems perspective. Students explore ecological systems at various scales and develop an understanding and appreciation for their inter-connectedness. Emphasis on a vision for the future with practical applications for today is emphasized. Field trips may be required.

Essential Objectives

1. Use the scientific method to gain an understanding of the basic concepts of ecology, including the major earth systems.
2. Discuss the concept of sustainability from a systems perspective.
3. Explore the impacts of social justice problems on environmental issues such as global energy use, climate change, mining, and water resources.
4. Apply case studies to discuss the application of systems thinking to a variety of social, ecological, and organizational contexts.
5. Apply systems thinking methodologies and tools to describe and analyze complex problems.
6. Analyze the influence of resources, ethics, culture, politics, and economics in the promotion and support of sustainable practices on global, national, local and personal levels.
7. Discuss laws and politics related to sustainability that influence how we manage the complexities of our natural systems.
8. Demonstrate proficiency in understanding, interpreting, applying, and evaluating the accuracy of data and information sources.
9. Explain how knowledge created in the natural sciences has contributed to the creation, maintenance and dismantling of social inequalities and discuss the impacts of diversity and inclusion on scientific research and practice.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

This course uses one or more textbooks/books/simulations, along with free Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials.

Spring 2023 textbook/book details will be available on 2022-11-14. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be specific to this class. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks/books.

For Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials details, see the Canvas Site for this class.

The last day to use a Financial Aid Advance to purchase textbooks/books is the 3rd Tuesday of the semester. See your financial aid counselor at your academic center if you have any questions.


  • Small-group and whole-class discussion
  • Student-led discussions
  • Mini-lectures
  • Brief reading and writing assignments
  • Research project
  • Final quiz if necessary

Evaluation Criteria

Here are our major assignments:

  • Weekly readings
  • Wholehearted participation in student-led discussions and activities
  • Dialogue assignment
  • Joyfully subversive project

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


Class orientation (to each other, assignments, expectations, etc.). Discover what you already know!


LISTEN/READ the this podcast with Jelani Cobb about police violence OR Tufekci,this synopsis of the seminal work Limits to Growth, this lifeclub.org summary of Meadows' Thinking in Systems, and Zencey,Just Sustainabilities.


Discussion 1, Journal Submission 1.



Systems thinking and limits.


READ in Wessels (The Myth of Progress) intro, ch. 1, 2; Wicker, “Conscious Consumerism Is a Lie” OR Lowrey, “ OR Higgs, " USE the Hartness Library (2022 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan OR the Thermal Energy Task Force Report for 10 minutes.


Discussions 1 and 2, Journal Submission 2, energy fast.



Energy, entropy, and the global economy.


READ Wessels ch. 3, 4; READ/LISTEN to ONE of these NENC stories on energy in New England OR Trickey, Energy Justice.... OR Roberts, 3DFSOR one of these Net Zero Energy podcast episodes OR Brasch,Infrastructure law set to boost Colorado's work tackling poverty and climate change. USE the Hartness Library (hartness.vsc.edu ) to FIND and SKIM a case study about climate change or mining.


Discussions 2 and 3, Journal Submission 3, CALCULATE your carbon footprint using this tool.



Fossil fuels and climate change.


READ Wessels ch. 5 and epilogue AND Austin, Enemies of Progress Milanovic/Raworth debate; CHOOSE ONE of these filmsto watch; FIND and SKIM a case study about food or water; SKIM the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Plan 2020 , especially the Issue Briefs.


Discussions 3 and 4, Journal Submission 4, choose potentially life-changing book.



Food and water.


READ ” OR Hozumi, “Constant Anxiety Won't Save the World” and this article from the newsletter Anti-Racism Daily or CLICK on the eyeglass icon and search for another article that interests you.


Discussions 4 and 5, Journal Submission 5.



Take stock.


READ and ; SKIM Livingstone, "There's No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping ."


Discussions 5 and 6, Journal Submission 6.





READ the first 3rd of your potentially life-changing book.


Discussions 6 and 7, Journal Submission 7.



Potentially life-changing books.


READ 2nd 1/3 of your potentially life-changing book.


Discussions 7 and 8, Journal Submission 8.



What have we figured out?


READ the last 1/3 of your potentially life-changing book.


Discussions 8 and 9, Journal Submission 9.



Check in about projects.


LISTEN to john powell interview, “Opening to the Question of Belonging”; READ Williams, "Your Liberation Is on the Line "; Peterson, "Garrett Bucks on Community Building"; and Kimmerer, this excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass . WATCH one Haidt TED talk: http://www.ted.com/speakers/jonathan_haidt .


Discussions 9 and 10, Journal Submission 10, do a part of your Joyfully Subversive Project, and find a dialogue partner.



Sustainability for whom?


READ Rosenberg, “Introduction(Links to an external site.)” and “The 4 Part Process ”; Nijhuis, "The Miracle of the Commons ". LISTEN to a Civil Conversations Project Conversation of your choice and this Brene Brown interview ORthis Brene Brown interview.


Discussions 10 and 11, Journal Submission 11, and set up a time to talk with your dialogue partner.





Optional articles.


Talk with your dialogue partner.





READ Jensen, “How to Prepare..” OR Solnit, " " OR " ” OR Bregman, "The Search for a New Humility O'Shaughnessy and Huddart


Discussions 11 and 13, finish Joyfully Subversive Project documentation and video.



Looking back and ahead. Projects due.


READ Kemp, "How Western Civilization Could Collapse " OR Lent, "Invevitable Planetary Doom Has Been Exaggerated " OR Marris, "Got Climate Doom? Here's What You Can Do to Actually Make a Difference O". READ Heller, “What Calling Congress Achieves”AND the early-pandemic-era Penny, "This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking for "" "" Links to an external site. Links to an external site.What Happened After Civilization Collapsed."


Discussions 13 and 14, Journal Submission 14, respond to others' videos.



Wrapping up.


Discussion 15. Listen to visioning activity while not doing anything else. (See this week's announcement if you would like to do this in real time with others from this class.) Go forth with true hope, and put in the hard work for the future you want to see!


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations

I'll record attendance in Aviso each week based on whether or not you have shown up to at least one of our weekly activities, but when considering your rubric grade I will also consider your contributions to the quality of the discussions, your record of journal submissions, and the timeliness of your other assignments.

In general I have observed the following pattern:

  • Students who miss one entire class (or, online, timely completion of an entire week's activities) usually earn a grade no better than a B;
  • Students who miss more than one class (or, online, timely completion of more than one week's activities) usually earn a grade no better than a C;
  • Students who miss more than three classes (or, online, timely completion of three or more entire weeks' activities) usually earn a failing grade.

This course is online and asynchronous. I will expect you to spend 3-5 hours total completing the readings/podcasts and posting a journal submission about these readings each week. There will also be a project to complete. (Think of these activities as the homework.) You'll also be watching a few videos and posting and commenting in weekly online discussions. (Think of this as the “classwork,” and plan to spend around 3 hours a week on these tasks as well.) The weekly rhythm will be as follows: The new week begins on Tuesday. Post to this week's discussion about last week's readings and tasks and comment on the previous week's discussion by Thursday; post journal submissions (responses to the new readings listed on this week's Canvas page) by the next Tuesday. (If you find it difficult to keep track of the various due dates, feel free to submit everything for the upcoming week on the Tuesday beginning the week; I just might not get to it immediately.) Many students find it works best for them to make a daily schedule for themselves and plan to spend around an hour a day on the course. For example: Read on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays; post journal submissions on Mondays; post to discussions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Missing & Late Work Policy

This pandemic has been a weird and difficult time for most of us and I've been generous with accepting late assignments. However, please note the following:

  • Discussions happen in real time, and therefore can't be made up later. Nobody can participate with you after it's over!
  • Because they will impact your ability to fully participate in activities, the difficulty keeping track of late assignments causes me, and the importance of meeting deadlines in the real world, I may mark other late assignments 10% off.
  • I often give specific and actionable feedback, and students who submit assignments on time have the opportunity to respond to my feedback and resubmit the assignments for higher grades. I call it (drumroll)...learning! If you turn something in late, I will not have the time ( or organizational skills!) to give you feedback and look at a resubmission.
  • Sometimes students work incredibly hard and manage to get back on the horse after falling off, but it is easier to keep up than to catch up. My advice is always to turn in a highly imperfect version of the assignment rather than waiting to turn it in till you get it perfect.
  • If you get sick, please take care of yourself first and then manage your responsibilities as proactively as you are able, and keep me in the loop.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.