Environmental Issues: Measuring, Analyzing, Evaluating (2nd Edition)

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9780130920416: Environmental Issues: Measuring, Analyzing, Evaluating (2nd Edition)

For courses in Environmental Studies and Environmental Science as well as Education courses focusing on Math and Science.This book takes an interdisciplinary approach combining simple math, the metric system, and critical thinking to gain insight into relevant local, regional, and global environmental issues. It presents real-world issues and examples as a means of fostering the development of the math and analytical skills necessary to truly think critically and to understand these complex issues.

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From the Back Cover:

Would you like your students to be able to critically analyze the environmental issues they hear about in the news?

This unique case study book provides the basic tools they will need to probe and examine relevant issues.

  • Features topical and timely cases rather than hypothetical situations. These include population growth, energy and natural resources, transportation, and air and water pollution.
  • Presents the tools of critical thinking and applies them throughout the book. This allows students to understand the nature of critical thinking before they are asked to think critically about an issue.
  • Includes simple math to understand environmental issues. Mathematical formulas are explained in a non-threatening, step-by-step manner that demystifies math and helps students gain confidence.
  • Suggests examples for further research while encouraging students to explore the implications, significance, and validity of their work.
  • Written in a clear and straightforward style.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

TO THE INSTRUCTOR

The idea for this book arose when we were colleagues at Mary Washington College. We grew impatient with a teaching style centered on the faculty member as "lecturer" and expert and the student as "scribe" and novice. We feel that such an approach encourages students to be passive rather than active learners and leads to an unhealthy dependency on the faculty person as "expert."

Although students generally are both capable and dedicated, many are also afraid of math, rusty in its use, or were superficially trained in arcane fields of calculus. This lack of math skills often leaves students unprepared to deal with the complexity of today's environmental issues.

Moreover, we are continually surprised to discover how many bright students can't do three things: understand and confidently manipulate the units of the metric system, use scientific notation, or critically evaluate complex environmental issues.

Most of a student's discomfort with math is generally founded in frustration. For example, making one error in a series of calculations can render the whole effort useless. We believe that, in the absence of a real learning disability, to solve most math problems requires no special aptitude, only clear sequential instructions, attention to detail, and hard work. That is why step-by-step calculations are included in your Answer Key.

One of our major objectives is thus to help develop math literacy (numeracy) among today's students. We understand that many students have some "math anxiety," so we have included in this second edition a section entitled Using Math in Environmental Issues, in which we use a step-by-step method to take students through examples of the calculations in the Issues. We even show sample keystrokes involved in using common calculators. We believe this method will gradually build the student's confidence enough to trust in his or her own efforts. Math proficiency is one of the important skills necessary for fully understanding environmental issues, and without these skills, the student's only option is to make choices on the basis of which "expert" is most "believable." Such skills involve the ability to manipulate large numbers using scientific notation and exponents, the ability to use compound growth equations containing natural logs, and so on.

It is our goal that this book be provocative, factually accurate and up-to-date. Environmental Issues: Measuring, Analyzing, and Evaluating is meant to be the basis for an issues-oriented introductory, seminar, upper-level, or laboratory course in environmental science or studies. However, it can also be used as a supplement to traditional texts in environmental science, geology, biology, and other natural sciences and in humanities courses that seek to cultivate an awareness of and knowledge about environmental issues (ecolacy). These issues may be viewed as projects that use pressing environmental issues as a means to develop students' critical thinking skills in a deliberate and structured way. By their nature, they require students to integrate topics from across subdisciplines to measure, analyze, and evaluate each issue using the discipline and method of a scientist.

But becoming educated is much more than simply acquiring skills. Therefore, we have two additional objectives: to provide students with the knowledge and intellectual standards necessary to apply critical thinking to environmental studies and to foster their ability to critically evaluate issues.

As such, Environmental Issues: Measuring, Analyzing, and Evaluating is as much an interactive workbook as a traditional textbook. We expect students to have access to standard references in environmental, physical, and natural sciences and to have access to and know how to use the World Wide Web. Indeed, every Issue contains URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) to websites for up-to-the-minute information.

We also trust that you, as an expert in your field and with your own perspectives, will supplement the information in this book with comments, introductions, and your own critical comments on the questions we ask your students to consider. The questions in each issue have been used by students in a university/college setting. The issues have undergone an exhaustive set of permutations to make them as user-friendly and comprehensible as we can make them. The issues are based on solid science, key terms are defined, and jargon is kept to a minimum. When important terms are introduced they are italicized and defined if necessary. Key mathematical formulas are introduced and painstakingly explained using a step-by-step, nonthreatening approach that we believe you will appreciate.

But we designed this book to be more than a workbook. As we mentioned, one of our major objectives is to foster numeracy among today's students—not necessarily arcane math, but the kind of math needed to properly quantify environmental issues, such as the use of key formulas, scientific notation, and the metric system. We provide detailed introductions for each of these topics, as well as a detailed Answer Key for you to use as you see fit that shows the step-by-step calculations used to determine the answers. We have purposefully not directly provided students access to the Answer Key. In addition, we provide you with suggested answers to the "Critical Thinking" questions, but we are confident that you will have your own point of view that you will wish to develop in many if not most of them.

To encourage rigorous critical thinking, each issue has a set of "Critical Thinking" questions with spaces for answers. Critical thinking involves using a set of criteria and standards by which the reasoner constantly assesses her/his thinking. At the core of critical thinking is self-assessment.

These questions are intended to serve two purposes: to allow students to practice their writing in a non-threatening journal format and to develop their critical thinking skills. In terms of critical thinking, we devote a detailed section to the aspects of this important concept in the first section of this book. It is vitally important that students read this material for content as they will be asked to apply these standards and criteria throughout the book.

We trust that this book will provide an extraordinarily stimulating experience for your students. The "Critical Thinking" questions have been designed (using principles of critical thinking) to be provocative, and you or your students may perceive a "bias" in the wording of some of the questions. Although we have made the content as factual as possible, we do have strong convictions about these issues. Convictions are not, however, biases. Based on the scientific method, our views as scientists are subject to change as evidence supporting our convictions changes. And as such, we are constantly testing the assumptions that we use when approaching complex environmental issues. Indeed, this aspect can be turned to a major advantage. Ask your students to look for examples of bias in the questions, and then discuss with them the difference in science between "bias" and "conviction." No doubt it will prove a fruitful activity and may lead students into research (perhaps to "prove us wrong"), which is the essence of progress in the search for scientific truth.

How to Use This Book Effectively

As an instructor, you are probably aware that many students will resist doing the work necessary to fully appreciate the issues. Others will wait until the last minute and then slap together something just in time to turn in. Still others will respond to critical thinking questions with only a few words containing inch-high letters.

Here's how we use Environmental Issues in our classes. First, we typically dedicate a class or a portion of a laboratory early in the semester to introducing students to the principles of critical thinking. In this period we ask students to list characteristics of critical thinking (or higher order thinking, or just plain good, effective thinking). More often than not, the class's list encompasses many of the standards of critical thinking that are contained in the section of this book entitled Basic Concepts and Tools: Using Math and Critical Thinking. As we go over these characteristics, we emphasize clarity, awareness of assumptions, and continuous self-assessment, as well as the importance of applying critical thinking to environmental (and other) issues. We then analyze passages from letters to the editor, newspaper op-eds, and popular magazine articles.

It is also worthwhile, before using this book, to confront students' math anxiety early and attempt to reassure them that they are capable of doing the math, although they may be rusty and require some practice and assistance.

We frequently assign Issues or blocks of Issues as group projects, in which students collaborate using a web page, "blackboard" or another form of electronic discussion group, and we try to ensure that every student logs on to the system. An e-mail system allows your students to communicate with each other outside of class; they can exchange information, send reports, references, and critiques to classmates, and so on. Using this format, students can also provide less-threatening critiques of each other's work and ideas. We recommend you encourage students to do this, while reminding them that few people are won over to another's argument by having their own ideas ridiculed.

For classes of more than 24 students, use of a group e-mail system offers you enormous possibilities. You can break the class into working groups of three to four members, and the group can be reorganized as the term progresses. Working groups can do the calculations independently, can check their work by e-mail, or in meetings, and can get together to hash out the answers to the For Further Study questions.

This method also allows you t...

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