CU students and Dr. Sergei Polozov at BIO-370 Tropical Biology Class, exploring Environmental Impact

                                                    of Maya Civilization; Tikal, Guatemala, top of Temple IV.

                                                   

 

Dear Student,

Welcome to SCI-112, Environmental Science class!

It is our goal to provide you with an interesting and meaningful experience, which you can use in your life and your work to be more productive and happy while serving your community and making this world a better place.

We strongly believe that any educational work can be productive only when professors and students work together with the understanding that everybody is equal while wrestling with intellectual challenges, and this is why we expect you to become our colleague in the teaching/learning process. Therefore, we proceed on the assumption that everybody involved in this course shares these key attitudes: total honesty, mutual respect, understanding that there are no ultimate authorities in pursuing the truth, and positive collegiality based on our willingness to assist each other while working together.

This course is unique and in some sense is different from many other courses you take throughout your student career. This is because of its comprehensive nature. You will see from the very beginning that you already know a lot about Environmental Science, and that very often your learning is about the rearrangement of some approaches and interpretations about these different things with which you are already familiar. Please use this important factor to facilitate your learning – refer to your own experience often.

It is critical to understand that nothing happens in learning until you take full ownership of it. It is a common misconception that somebody can teach you something. Actually, even the very best teacher can only assist you in your own learning, and this is a big difference. So, please take it easy; do your very best investing your efforts in academic work; be fully honest in everything you do, and enjoy learning!

This course is a science course, and by definition, it only can address some specific parts of any person’s otherwise broad life, which always includes other ways of exploration of the world such as Faith and Art. It is important to understand some fundamental differences between these three categories: Faith is based on beliefs; Art – on individual preferences; and Science – on facts, which everybody can measure, and can do so repeatedly. This last thing makes Science much more objective than any other field of human activity, and this is the reason why we can rely on it in a particular (objective, and measurable) way when searching for the truth.

It is not a stretch to say that Environmental Science is a comprehensive field of knowledge, addressing virtually every and all part of human life and activities. In some sense, it would be more correct to call it Environmental Studies because it is broader than science alone. Nevertheless, we will stick with calling it Environmental Science to emphasize a scientific approach, and using the Scientific Method in everything we do in this course.

At the same time, all students are always welcome to refer to other fields of human experience at any time on the condition that we always remember what we are dealing with falls into two categories: objective facts or subjective opinions. This understanding can assist all of us in our collaboration in learning, as well as with any practical things we do in life and work. Let’s approach any environmental issue with an open mind, in a humble and honest way, and ask questions about everything while searching for the truth.

It is important to remember that all work in this course is your individual work only (no any collaboration, nor sharing of any information on individual assignments beyond of the discussion board is permitted). All your work is fully original (no copy/paste except of references is expected/permitted in any assignments).

 

From the very beginning, we proceed with the clear understanding that the surrounding world operates based on its own laws and principles which are very often independent from what we think of them. This is why humans are so often in trouble assuming that they can change or determine, or rule everything if they have enough resources (money and power). So, it is essential to be ready to learn about the natural principles underlying our existence on planet Earth. We only can live in specific Ecosystems (natural systems combining living and non-living things), and all these different ecosystems all together represent a Biosphere as a whole realm of life on Earth.

At the same time, we as humans are unique among all forms of life on Earth, and we impact the natural world around us as nobody else can. Unfortunately, this impact is often harmful and damaging to all living things, including ourselves. In this course we will attempt to learn what should be done to minimize the damage and to promote Sustainability, or Sustainable Development – our balanced growth without compromising the foundational principles critical for all living things, and caring capacity of our planet to support Life.

           

We very much look forward to work with you this semester; let’s do it in a positive, productive, and encouraging way!

Dr. Sergei A. Polozov