Reading, Writing, and Researching

The spring semester for the University of Colorado at Boulder started earlier this month. That means for the next 3 months, my life will be dominated by the three Rs of grad school: reading, writing and researching (the fact only one of them is not an ‘R’ shows how far I’ve come since grade school). Since those three Rs will be my life until May, that means they will also be the focus of this blog during that time. So I thought I would take this opportunity to lay out the bike trail map for my upcoming journey.

My three classes this semester: Theory and Methods in Environment, Problem Orientation, and Energy Science and Technology. The first is the second core course for my Environmental Studies Master’s degree program. The second fulfills one of the three policy requirements for my focus area. The third is the first class toward the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute’s (RASEI) graduate certificate. RASEI (pronounced ray-see) is a joint institute of the university and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Theory and Methods in Environment basically is a philosophy of science class. Some of the readings include book excerpts and journal articles covering themes of what is science?, population dynamics, global environmental policy, and skepticism.

The course is taught by Ben Hale. Ben has a more loosey, goosey style of teaching than my other professors. I blame his philosophy background. I like his writing though on Ebola and pollution as a trespass. The course assignments include weekly response papers to the readings and a research paper. I suspect not much, if any, of that will appear here.

Problem Orientation emphasizes how environmental problems are constructed (via trends, conditioning factors, and projections) and defined, building on the work of Harold Lasswell. The course’s readings include Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from- the Future, and Roger Pielke Jr.’s The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics and various journal and magazine articles and book excerpts that can be found on the course’s website.

The course is taught by Max Boykoff. I heard high praise for Max even before I came to the university, so I’m excited to take one of his classes. He is giving us two types of writing assignments during the semester, writing 7-9 reading responses and writing an 8,000 word research paper. You may see some of those writings here and excerpts from my paper (I’ll spare you the full 8,000 words).

Energy Science and Technology covers issues related to the full gamut of energy sources, from fossil fuels to nuclear to renewables. In addition to the grad certificate, it is also part of a professional certificate program. So the emphasis is on preparing people to work in the energy sector.

Keith Stockton, our instructor, has experience in the business world, energy industry, and academia. He promised to confront our worldviews, whether we are pro-renewables, pro-fossil fuels, or whatever. I like him. Readings are articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers and magazines. Since the focus of the course and this blog are almost identical, you will see most, if not all, of the discussion posts I write for the class.

The semester is off to a great start. The professors and readings are challenging me to think about what I believe and why I believe it. I hope you will join me on this adventure.


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