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Our program aims to give students the breadth of wisdom to be able to make a real difference in their own lives and the life of society. All students are required to take a set of core courses that cover the full range of Sustainable Living. In addition, students interested in going deeper into one area of sustainability have the option of following an educational concentration within a key area of concern to sustainable communities. Each concentration is comprised of three to four classes, designed to build on each other and give students a greater level of expertise in that particular subject. The concentrations are as follows:


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Areas of Sustainability

Our track system allows students to specialize in a particular area of sustainability.

FUNDAMENTALS OF SUSTAINABILITY

The Fundamentals of Sustainability track starts from the awareness that “sustainability” is a concept that is used differently by different people, institutions, and governments. In fact, it is a normative concept, meaning that it is based on human definitions of “norms.”

Another way of putting this is that the various definitions of sustainability come from various ways of answering, “what is it that we are choosing to sustain?” How a person, institution, or government answers this question depends upon their understanding of equity, ethics, philosophy, and spirituality.

Therefore, the Fundamentals of Sustainability track focuses on these foundational belief structures as a way of understanding the myriad conceptions of “sustainability” at work in the world today. Perhaps a more eloquent way of putting it comes from Wendell Berry:

Before going further, we had better ask what is it that we humans need to know. We need to know many things, of course, and many kinds of things. But let us be merely practical for the time being and say that we need to know who we are, where we are, and what we must do to live. These questions do not refer to discreet categories of knowledge. We are not likely to be able to answer one of them without answering the other two. And all three must be well answered before we can answer well a further practical question that is now pressing urgently upon us: How can we work without doing irreparable damage to the world and its creatures, including ourselves? Or: How can we live without destroying the sources of our life? (“The Way of Ignorance” p. 59)

Courses:

SL-F151 Deep Ecology

The main argument in environmental ethics is between anthropocentric (human centered) and non-anthropocentric ways of being in the world. For people who advocate non-anthropocentric philosophies, it is of utmost importance for the human species to begin to behave in less selfish ways. Deep Ecology is the main non-anthropocentric school of thought and though founded in the 1970s, it draws on sources as vast in time and discipline as Taoism, Native American religions, and Quantum Physics. This course will study the innovator of Deep Ecology, the late Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, and trace the movement up to its current incarnations in America and elsewhere, specifically centering on the Transpersonal Ecology of Warwick For as it pertains to Maharishi’s teachings. This course will spend time in nature with the earth as our teacher, culminating in a camping trip. Finally, the course will show the close correlation of Deep Ecology with the concept of natural law and Maharishi’s Vedic principles. Lab fee: $100. (4 credits)

SL-F305 Spirituality and Sustainability

The goal of this course is to expose students to the thinking of some of the leaders in the field of sustainability who feel that there is an important relationship between spirituality and sustainability. Some of these thinkers go so far as to say that this relationship is essential to the project of sustainability so that without understanding spirituality there is no sustainability. This course will explore the relationship of spirit and sustenance in a variety of ways, through readings, field trips and speakers. By interacting with people outside of our community, sometimes in real world situations, students will have the opportunity to see how a person’s belief system affects their idea of sustainability and in turn their actions. (4 credits)  Course Fee: $65

SL-F310 Social Justice and Sustainability

Is it possible to have a grossly inequitable society and still have it be “sustainable?” Is “sustainable development” really sustainable if it is undertaken within a context of economic injustice? Are modern western societies and globalization just a new face on an old, unsustainable theme: empire? We will attempt to answer these questions, and raise several others, in this course. This class will explore concepts like “environmental racism” and disciplines like “eco-pedagogy” as it looks at the role that social justice should play within the project of sustainability. We will read authors like Vandana Shiva, David Orr, and Paulo Freire. Also, students will conceive and direct a project that addresses social justice issues within the community of Fairfield. (4 credits)  Course Fee $65

SL-F401 Philosophies of Sustainability

Locating the Deepest Levels of Natural Law in the Foundations of Sustainable Thinking – Offered Annually

This course will break down the meta-concept of sustainability into its constituent parts: its social, environmental, and economic aspects, as well as how the concepts of democracy, technology, and spirituality relate to sustainability. This course will start out with an overview of the sustainability movement as presented in the Sustainability Revolution by Andres Edwards. Supplemental readings will address aspects of the philosophies of sustainability left out by Edwards’ summary, including anthropocentrism, capitalism, and others. Through films, reading assignments, lectures, and discussions, students will formulate their own definition of sustainability to make the abstract concept of sustainability practical to their everyday lives. (4 credits) Prerequisite: SL—G202  Course Fee:  $65

APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY

The conventional agriculture that we’re so familiar with produces high yields, but at the cost of an unsustainable impact on human health, the environment, the economy, and the social fabric.Surprisingly, even organic agriculture is usually not fully sustainable. Enter the concept of the living soil, as developed by Dr. Elaine Ingham, one of the world’s leading soil biology experts. Basically, it holds that with the proper balance of soil bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes, and microarthropods, any soil in the world can provide all the nutrition required for a healthy crop.

This track teaches students how to prepare the compost and compost tea required to restore that nutrition to soils, first through hands-on class work and then fieldwork on a practicing farm.

Courses:

SL-G195 Living Systems

How Life’s Dynamic Intelligence Applies the Principles of Biochemistry, Cell Biology, and Genetics to Uphold Self-Organization, Maintenance, and Evolution of Life – Offered Annually

Fundamental to all life are basic functions that uphold self-organization, maintenance, and evolution. This course covers aspects of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, and evolution, with emphasis on the expressions of intelligence, order, and integration found at different levels of biological organization. Course Fee: $65 (4 credits)

SL-G201 Ecology

Observe How Living Organisms Maintain Perfect Orderliness in Their Physical Environment  – Offered Annually

Ecology is often defined as the study of relationships between organisms and their living and non-living environment. The term has become more generalized in recent years to refer to a set of interacting entities in an environment. These entities could be thoughts, technologies, beliefs, organisms, pollutants, or mountains and the environment could be an individual mind, community, society, organism, planet, culture, or meadow. This more generalized notion of ecology opens us up to understand ecology as something that exists in the universe rather than just a lens or set of questions through which we gain knowledge of the world. In this course students will learn about fundamental ecological concepts, including niche, habitat, community, ecosystem, biomes, biosphere; population ecology; species interactions; energy flows; nutrient cycling; and succession. Lab fee: $65 (4 credits) Prerequisites: SL-G100 (CCTS) or consent of the instructor

SL-A301 Living Soil

Pure Consciousness Expressing Healthy Plants Through Vibrant Soil


Presenting a journey into the soil beneath our feet — the true “ Last Frontier” — so close, yet so poorly understood. Delve into the world of the below ground and learn what all those billions of creatures are doing down there. Precisely because people did not understand healthy soil, “ modern” chemical agriculture slowly but surely destroyed the very basis of healthy crop production. Learn how and why modern agriculture fell into the trap of chemical dependency, and how to grow bumper crops that contain nutrients in the forms, amounts and balances that humans require. This course will teach you which organisms are needed in soil for different plant species and in different climates, and how to see them for yourself and monitor their presence. You’ll also learn how to easily grow your own soil biota and put them back into soil to replenish and revitalize gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, vineyards or your own back yard.  (4 credits) Prerequisite: Living Systems, Ecology, Plant Biology

RENEWABLE ENERGY

The energy track is for students who want to go into greater depth about energy and sustainability.

Currently, Energy 101 is offered every year, and Energy 201-203 are offered in two year rotations. Good basic math skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, working with decimals and fractions, basic trigonometric relation of angles, areas, and volumes, basic algebra, and simple statistics like averages and mean, are needed for deep understanding and success in these courses. The suggested sequence of courses for the energy track and descriptions of each course are listed below:

Courses:

Energy 101: Energy and Sustainability: The Energy Basis of Humans and Nature

This course explores the role energy plays in sustainability and in the development of complexity and order in nature and in the human economy. Anything of economic value comes from nature or from humans, and both require energy. Therefore, energy is critical to the economy. Energy inevitably loses usefulness as it flows through human made and natural systems. Sustainability is about regeneration and renewal of opportunity for future generations. Therefore, renewable sources of energy are essential for sustainability. Students will learn basic energy concepts and their application to sustainability and renewable energy systems. The course will include lecture, readings, films, guest speakers, field trips, and hands-on work. This course is one of the six sustainable living core courses and is required for all courses in the energy track. Course fee: $65. (4 credits)

Energy 201: Renewable Energy Technology: Solar, Wind, Water Prerequisites: Energy 101, Math for Sustainable Living, Physics and Chemistry for Sustainable Living or permission of Instructor

On earth, solar energy is the only energy source available to renew and offset the inevitable decline in usefulness as energy flows through human made and natural systems. Sustainability is about regeneration and renewal of opportunity for future generation, and therefore switching from fossil fuels to solar energy is essential for sustainability. Direct solar (thermal and photovoltaics), wind, and flowing water are the core technologies necessary to power a sustainable economy. This course gives students the theoretical and practical background necessary to design and evaluate renewable energy technology that use solar energy directly (solar thermal and PV) and solar energy in the form of wind and flowing water. The course will include lecture, readings, films, guest speakers, field trips, hands-on work, and a team project. Course Fee: $65 (4 credits) Prerequisite: SL—E101, MATH 170, or consent of the instructor

Energy 301: Modeling and Monitoring Energy Flow Prerequisites: Energy 101, Math for Sustainable Living, Physics and Chemistry for Sustainable Living or permission of Instructor

This course gives practical experience in using computers to model energy flow in buildings and renewable energy systems and in systems for monitoring energy flow. Students should have a good understanding of the physics of energy flow, energy flow in building, and renewable energy systems. Software may include RESNET energy modeling software, Energy 10, and HEED. Energy monitoring systems will use Onset Computing energy monitoring hardware and Hoboware pro software. Building commissioning will be discussed. Energy modeling software is useful in the design phase of a project and is often required to establish benchmark performance for utility rebates and other incentives. Energy monitoring systems are useful for making building energy use visible to occupants, and for verifying and troubleshooting performance of energy systems. (4 credits)PrerequisitesSL—E101, MATH 170, or consent of the instructor.  Course Fee $65

Agriculture and Food

The agricultural track is for students interested in working to create food systems that nourish and sustain communities. Students learn about sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture and going beyond organic to food production that is regenerative – an agriculture that renews the land, people and communities. Students learn about the living soil, taught by world-renowned soil biologist Elaine Ingham.

Season extension is another important subject for temperate climates; students learn about greenhouses, passive solar hoop-houses, low tunnels and other ways to grow food earlier and later in the season. A farm planning course enables student to create a business plan for an economically sustainable farm. Practical hands-on courses and internships on organic farms give students real life experience.

Possible job opportunities for graduates of this track include: organic farmer, farm manager or assistant farm manager, community garden manager, Farm to School coordinator, Buy Fresh Buy Local coordinator, School Garden Program Manager.


Courses:

Organic Agriculture SL-A101

Nourishing Civilization through Production of Food Based on Features of Natural Ecosystems — Nutrient Recycling, Biodiversity, Maintenance of Healthy Soils, and Full-Cost Accounting – Offered Annually

This course covers the general principles and techniques of organic and sustainable agriculture including crop rotation, cover crops and green manures, biodiversity, organic pest and weed control, National Organic Program standards, irrigation, and soil fertility. Students spend approximately half of their time in class learning principles of vegetable production and half of the time applying their knowledge and gaining practical experience in the University’s vegetable gardens and hoop houses or other local organic farms. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)

Season Extension SL-A201

Learn how to extend the season growing, harvest produce throughout the winter and start transplants using unheated hoop houses. Topics include: choosing the hoop house location, design, layout, and costs, growing transplants, natural insect and disease control in hoop houses, nutrition, food system sustainability, and more. Class will include field trips to local hoop houses and some hands on activities. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)

Biodynamic Agriculture SL-A202

Biodynamic Agriculture is an advanced state of organic farming which lays the foundation for a new way of thinking about our relationship to earth and the environment.  It was the first ecological farming system to raise voice against the commercial fertilizers and pesticides during the early years of industrial agriculture. In Biodynamic agriculture a farm is considered as a self-sufficient organism with interactions with biotic and abiotic factors.

Planning a Sustainable Farm SL-A401

Natural Law as the Basis of Intelligent Planning – Offered Biannually 

This course provides an opportunity for students to create a business plan for a small farm or farming-related business. Students will learn the planning process from exploring their values and goals to creating a vision and mission, and on to planning strategies for the financial, human resources, marketing and production aspects of their farm/business. Topics will include annual and perennial crops, value-added enterprises, income/cash flow, risk analysis and contingency planning. We will also examine the SPIN business models for small farms. The class will include field trips to local farms and food-related businesses. Course fee: $65 (4 credits) Prerequisite: one of the following: SL—A101, SL—A201, SL—A301, or consent of the instructor

 

Sustainability and the Built Environment

Everything we humans create or affect using physical materials—buildings, roads, bridges and landscapes, from urban sprawl to industrialized agriculture—can be considered part of the built environment. Gaining a holistic view of the environmental and social impacts of our constructed world is an important part of sustainability.

The track’s primary focus is on buildings. In their constituent materials, their construction, and in the course of their useful life, buildings are responsible for a large percentage of all energy and resource use. Yet, even in the face of increasing energy costs and the depletion of global resources, most buildings built today are constructed to technological standards set fifty years ago.

The four courses in this track are designed to give students practical experience in the newest methods, materials and design philosophies of “green” construction—how to build energy efficient, healthy, affordable homes and other structures to support the vision of sustainable community living.

Courses:

SL—B101 Sustainability, Buildings and the Built Environment

The built environment consists of all the things that humans build: buildings and the rural, suburban, and urban context in which they are placed. Buildings, the cities they are placed in, and the transportation systems that connect them are the biggest things that humans build. Designing and building them sustainably is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. This course gives an overview of issues of sustainability in the built environment and the developing solutions –high performance solar powered buildings, natural building, the ecocity movement, reuse of existing structures, urban agriculture, managing water in the urban landscape, turning wastes into resources. We’ll also explore how we can use the ancient ideas about orientation and placement of buildings and the design of cities from Maharishi Sthapatya Ved in the design of the contemporary sustainable built environment. The goal is to create a built environment that, like the natural environment, is regenerative, giving back more than it takes. This course is one of six required core courses in the Sustainable Living program and is a prerequisite to other courses in the Built Environment track. Course fee: $65 (4 credits)

SL—B201 Natural Building

On earth, solar energy is the only energy source available to renew and offset the inevitable decline in usefulness as energy flows through human made and natural systems. Sustainability is about regeneration and renewal of opportunity for future generation, and therefore switching from fossil fuels to solar energy is essential for sustainability. Direct solar (thermal and photovoltaics), wind, and flowing water are the core technologies necessary to power a sustainable economy. This course gives students the theoretical and practical background necessary to design and evaluate renewable energy technology that use solar energy directly (solar thermal and PV) and solar energy in the form of wind and flowing water. The course will include lecture, readings, films, guest speakers, field trips, hands-on work, and a team project. Course Fee: $65 (4 credits) Prerequisite: SL—E101, MATH 170, or consent of the instructor

SL—B202 Eco-cities

Cities are the biggest things that humans build. The car centered urban, suburban, and rural patterns of human settlement that have developed in North America are a byproduct of the era of cheap fossil fuels, and waste resources and human energy. This course will explore the emerging principles of sustainable city design. Topic will include historic perspectives, the ecocity movement, the effect of density on sustainability, land use and zoning for sustainability, new urbanism, urban agriculture, and more. (4 credits) Prerequisite: SL—B101, or permission of instructor

SL-B301 High Performance Green Building

Shaping the Future with Regenerative Design

Fifty percent of the energy that flows through the US economy is used in buildings. Rethinking the design of buildings is a key part of sustainability. In this course, students learn the basic principles of designing and constructing climate responsive buildings that create more energy and clean water than they use. The emphasis will be on using commercially available conventional building materials, although natural building materials will be introduced (building with natural, lightly processed materials will is covered in Building 203: Natural Building) topics include the design process, building science, energy, air and moisture flow in buildings, health effects of material selection, building components (foundations, wall sections, roof systems, HVAC, siding etc), the development process, zoning, passive solar/renewable energy, and siting. (4 credits) Prerequisite: SL—G101

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