Science, Story, and Sustainability: The Quest for a Flourishing Earth

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Evening and Weekend
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
8 Credits per quarter
Log in to add this offering to your saved list.
Taught by

How we live in the world is affected by how we think about the world and our place in it. How we think is reflected by the stories we tell, the observations we make, and the questions we ask. Our goal in this two-quarter program is to draw upon a wide array of stories from science and other perspectives in order to work towards living sustainably. We will learn to use stories and narratives to communicate effectively and to enhance understanding for general and specialized audiences.

Over two quarters, we will study written works and philosophical traditions that investigate the relationship between science, wisdom, and the future. We will explore indigenous science and cultural movements, and ask how ancient and modern stories can cultivate values and resilience as people respond to challenges and change. We will employ the sciences and humanities — intellect and imagination — to address social, cultural, and ecological challenges that we face locally and globally. 

Energy input is required to produce ordered systems such as cells, individuals, societies, and ecosystems. Biological evolution by natural selection is the unifying theory for understanding living systems. Systems concepts and modeling provide a method for integrating our understanding and testing hypotheses. Sustainable living requires that we learn to live in dynamic equilibrium with the world, including both processes and state variables (i.e., measurable quantities such as global temperature, potable water, arable land, and species richness).

Though the complementary methods of science and story are sometimes brought into conflict, how can they deepen our understanding of complex issues at this time of social and planetary transformation? How can they empower and inspire us personally, and as members of diverse communities, as we seek to make a positive change?

Activities will include lectures, reading, seminars, writing, research, modified labs, workshops, field studies, and storytelling. We learn from, activists, community leaders, and scientists who are working to empower individuals and communities to address social and ecological change.

 Major assignments will comprise research, writing, and online presentations, and projects. The assignments will evaluate and integrate perspectives that contribute to our ability to live sustainably. There may be some quizzes and exams.

In the Fall: We focuses on current social, political, and ecological challenges, their impact, and influences past and present, as well as seeds of hope and resilience inspired by individuals and communities that are working to meet the challenges of a changing world. We explores issues of social and environmental justice, leadership, renewal, and indigenous traditions that pivot around the central themes of science, story, and sustainability as we address these challenges locally and globally.

In the Winter: We will focus on the challenges of climate change, what’s at stake, and how stories, narratives, and radical imagination shape our understanding and different world views around complex issues such as changing ecological and social systems. We will explore the science of climate change--current and historical--the consequences for ecology and evolution of life on Earth.

We will use Canvas and Zoom for collaborative online learning.  Students must have a reliable computer and internet access to participate actively in scheduled online classes and to post work online. We will meet on average for 8 online hours a week for class sessions, seminars, and workshops. In addition to scheduled online class meetings, there will be reading, writing, and other project assignments that students will work on, on their own and in small groups. These are difficult times for multiple reasons. Students who have challenges because of technology or scheduling conflicts can consult with faculty to work on ways to address their particular challenges.


Fall 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 10209
Winter 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 20074

Academic details

Preparatory For

life sciences, ecology, biology, botany and plant studies, humanities, education, writing, literature, storytelling, cultural studies, sustainability studies, community studies, environmental policy,  public policy, government, activism, research, philosophy, social entrepreneurship, human service, environmental restoration, public programs, 

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


$50 winter- for 'online' entrance fees and project supplies. 


In Person or Remote
Remote (F)
Remote (W)
Time Offered
Evening and Weekend
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting