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Spring 2011 Syllabus (PDF)

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Surviving the Future:
The (Re)emergence of Sustainable Cultures

This class will not be offered Fall 2011 (and probably not Spring 2012, either) due to budget cuts. See "Why You Couldn't Get Into a Class" for more info.

Spring 2011 Syllabus:  Overview | Objectives | Outcomes | Strategies | Grading | Assignments | Books | Transfer Credit | Sustainability Considerations in this Class

I am delighted to be able to offer this class again in Spring 2011 (managed to get at least one unit this year, despite the budget cuts at Cabrillo). Join us as we explore tools and ideas for creating sustainable lifestyles, businesses, communities and cultures. Together, we move beyond doom-and-gloom to learn and create sustainability solutions that will transform the way the world works. In this fun, cooperative class, you will join a topic team and a book group that suits your interests.

Spring 2011 Schedule: Section #69744; 1.00 unit; instructor: M.Merrill; rm432
Meets 6 Mondays 6:00PM-8:35PM - 2/14, 2/28, 3/14, 3/28, 4/11, and 4/25.

The syllabus below explains most of how the class works. Note that we will again be using a class blog . New book options for this year: Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World and Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, plus Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future; Thinking in Systems: A Primer; Cradle to Cradle, and The Real Wealth of Nations.

Interested? Have more questions? Contact Me

Spring 2011 Syllabus

ANTHR19G Section #69744; 1.00 unit; instructor: M.Merrill; rm432
Meets 6 Mondays 6:00PM-8:35PM - 2/14, 2/28, 3/14, 3/28, 4/11, and 4/25
Instructor: Michelle Y. Merrill            Office: 429C
Contact Info          Printer-Friendly Spring 2011 Syllabus (PDF)


In this course, we will examine innovative sustainability solutions that are transforming the way the world works, including tools and ideas for creating sustainable lifestyles, businesses, communities and cultures. We will investigate the complex systems and networks experiencing dynamic change in our environment, our economy and our society to understand where we are now. We will explore scenario-building strategies to imagine culture changes in future decades.

Course Objectives

Like Cabrillo College itself, this course seeks to honor the core values of "academic freedom, critical and independent thinking, and respect for all people and cultures." This class provides opportunities to develop skills in all of Cabrillo's "Core Four" competencies:

I. Communication: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and/or Conversing

  • Explain sustainability concepts to peers and be able to share these concepts with the broader community.
  • Write thought questions and reflections on readings to facilitate peer discussion.

II. Critical Thinking and Information Competency: Analysis, Computation, Research, Problem Solving

  • Apply principles of complex systems and biological networks to solve problems in sustainability.

III. Global Awareness: An Appreciation of Scientific Complexities, Social Diversity and Civics, and Artistic Variety

  • Use the methods and practices of anthropology to explore local and global questions of culture change and sustainability.
  • Identify trends and innovations that contribute to sustainable culture change.

IV. Personal Responsibility and Professional Development: Self-Management and Self-Awareness, Social and Physical Wellness, Workplace Skills

  • Work productively with peers to complete assignments.
  • Use online communication tools.
  • Ask for clarification and assistance from the instructor.

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Learning Outcomes

Students completing this course will be able to solve novel problems related to individual lifestyle, business, community or global issues by applying sustainability principles from diverse frameworks.

Specifically, students will explore solutions to problems of long-term sustainability in personal, business, community and cultural change, including:

  1. Known trends and areas of uncertainty around: a) climate change; b) pollution and waste; and, c) resource limits.
  2. The global outlook on these issues, and their impact on individuals, businesses, communities and societies in the future.
  3. Principles related to natural systems and their application to human economic and social systems, including technological and organizational innovation.
  4. Issues currently of concern for the sustainability of the local community.
  5. Examples of business and community experiments in sustainability, and lessons from them applied to the local community.
  6. Strategies for generating scenarios to help understand future impacts of choices and changes.

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Learning Strategies & Class Policies

Class Discussion and Lectures

Preparing for and participating in class discussions are keys to success in this class (and in most college classes). This class will be highly interactive, meaning your level of preparation in each class will be evident to your peers. I urge you to do all your readings for the week and post your topic findings before coming to class. Ask questions in class, via email, on the course website/blog or during office hours about anything that is unclear!


This course requires active participation each class meeting, so it is essential that you attend every class session, arrive on time, and come prepared. Your participation not only enhances your own learning, it benefits other students in the class, especially when working in teams. Your level of participation is reflected in your grade, and since you can’t participate if you are not in class, absences and tardiness will also be reflected in your grade. Because there are only six class meetings, this means that missing any one meeting has a big impact and will require some make-up work. The last class meeting is particularly crucial for your grade.

Common Courtesy and Common Sense

Students frequently discover that not everyone shares their personal beliefs, experiences, and convictions. Respect for many points of view is required in this class. Disagreements are healthy and help us to learn, but students must maintain a respectful attitude and courteous conversation at all times. My goal as an instructor is not to convince you to hold a particular opinion on controversial issues, but to encourage you to think critically and with an open mind about the facts, evidence, ideas and theories presented in class.

Classroom etiquette regarding portable electronic devices is not unlike takeoff and landing on an airplane - they should be turned off and stowed away. Cell phones and pagers should be OFF at all times (an exception may be made for caretakers who can keep their phones/pagers on vibrate for emergency situations, provided the instructor is notified ahead of time) - "smart phones" may be used during team work to look up information or perform calculations, but it is not appropriate to compose/send/receive text messages in class. You should have nothing in your ears other than hearing aid devices if needed. You may use a recorder for instructor lectures, as long as it is unobtrusive (though in my experience, paying attention and taking notes during lecture is more useful). Calculators, PDAs, and laptop computers are permitted during lectures provided they aren't making much noise.

Other behavioral norms are expected to minimize classroom disruptions and avoid disturbing your fellow students. Arrive on time for class. Do not begin packing your things and preparing to leave until the instructor has indicated class is actually finished. Do not interrupt the instructor or your classmates while they are speaking, but by all means DO raise your hand when you have a question or comment. Basically, use a little common sense, try to imagine what is likely to annoy your instructor, and then avoid doing those things if you wish to remain in class.

ADA Compliance

Students needing accommodations should contact the instructor immediately. As required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accommodations are provided to insure equal opportunity for students with verified disabilities. If you need assistance with an accommodation, please contact Disabled Student Services, Room 810, (479-6379) or Learning Skills Program, Room 1073, (479-6220).

Academic Honesty

Cheating on any class work, including plagiarism, is grounds for an immediate failing grade in the class. Plagiarism is simply defined as presenting someone else's writing or ideas as if they were your own. To learn about what plagiarism means and how to avoid it, please see the description at: http://www.cabrillo.edu/~sholt/MITPlagiarism.pdf or http://www.plagiarism.org/learning_center/what_is_plagiarism.html and review the links provided by the Cabrillo College Library at http://libwww.cabrillo.edu/depts/libraryinstruction.html.

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Grading and Assignments

I believe that the grade a student receives should accurately reflect their comprehension of the material and their completion of course objectives. While I would be overjoyed if this meant that all of you would receive "A" grades, and would be happy to award them if you genuinely demonstrated you deserve them, I suspect that there will be a range of grades in this course that will reflect the efforts of each individual student. It is possible that some students may fail, but I will have given you opportunities to succeed if you are willing to take responsibility and put in genuine effort. It is your responsibility as a college student to talk with me about options or strategies for improving your performance in the course.

This is an in-person interactive course, but we will also be using online tools for assignments. This will allow you to further develop and practice your skills online (as a crucial aspect of professional development for most jobs requiring a college degree, and an essential tool for global change agents), and provide a venue for sharing learning experiences with classmates and share what you are learning with the broader world. You are expected to do the following:


  1. Weekly homework and class participation related to readings:
    a. Complete assigned book reading (about 50 pages per week, see blog for reading assignments for each book).
    b. Write the following responses on the reading before the fourth and sixth meeting of class (post on blog, 25% of course grade):

    1) Explain how one idea in the reading relates to other topics already covered in class or something you learned elsewhere (another class or life experience).
    2) List what you think are the three to five most important points made in the reading.
    3) Write a question to provoke discussion among others who read the same passage.
    4) Note any important points that connect with or inform your research topic on the research topic blog page.

    c. Discuss the first three with your book group, and decide on two to five key points from your discussion to present briefly to the entire class during the fourth meeting (5% of course grade).
    d. Evaluate your own and your book groupmates’ contributions to the discussion (5% of course grade).

  2. Select and research topics based on local issues of personal or community sustainability; prepare and present topics in teams.
    a. Find and read at least five articles on your topic (post link or citation with summary on blog before each meeting after the first, 15% of course grade).
    b. Discuss what you found in the article and relevant findings from your book reading with your topic team in weekly class meetings.
    c. Discuss plans for team topic presentation and sharing the preparation work appropriately.
    d. Present your topic during the last class session (40% of course grade).
    e. Evaluate your own and your teammates' contributions to the presentation (10% of course grade).

Note: Evaluations and presentations happen on the last day of class – these account for over half of your grade in this brief class, so you must plan to be there.

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Every student must choose one book. Specific reading assignments and due dates are listed on the blog. You will be choosing your book group during the first class meeting.

Brown L. 2009. Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. ISBN#9780393337198

Eisler R. 2007. The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Berrett-Koehler ISBN#781576753880

Meadows, D. 2008. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Chelsea Green ISBN# 9781603580557

McDonough W, Braungart M. 2002. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press ISBN#9780865475878

Nelson, M. (ed). 2008. Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future. Bear & Company ISBN# 1591430798

Weisman A. 1998. Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World. (10th Anniversary Edition, 2008) Chelsea Green ISBN#9781603580564

Transfer Credit: CSU; UC with conditions: Students must retain a copy of the course outline, the course syllabus and work completed for this course. Credit for this course is contingent upon a review of the course outline and other material, by the UC transfer campus.
Spring 2011 Syllabus (PDF)   Spring 2010 Syllabus (PDF)    Spring 2009 Syllabus (PDF)     Fall 2008 Syllabus (PDF)      Spring 2008 Syllabus (PDF)  Course Outline (PDF)

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"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
--R. Buckminster Fuller



Sustainability Considerations in this Class

I am personally very concerned about sustainability, and Cabrillo College is increasing its efforts to operate sustainably (particularly in those ways that also save the college money for operations, thereby making more money available for offering classes). I have instituted several policies and practices to make this class more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective:

  • minimal handouts and printing: most informational materials are available online and/or will be displayed onscreen during class, to reduce paper use/waste and copying costs; I will double-side any materials I do need to distribute. Assignments will be submitted online.

Please do the following to help Cabrillo College meet our sustainability goals (and save the college money so that we can direct it to classes and student services!):

  • responsible printing: If you must print or copy something, please double-side it. If not, consider printing on the blank backs of paper that has already been used once (e.g. drafts of homework or used handouts from other classes - avoid anything with personal information you do not want seen by your classmates).
  • recycle properly: Almost all Cabrillo classrooms have three waste bins:
    • bottle/can recycling - most glass, plastic and juice boxes can go in here
    • paper recycling - any clean/dry paper or cardboard (NOT coffee cups or food plates)
    • waste - this is the stuff that actually goes to the landfill (remember that Cabrillo has to pay for this, but not for the recycling, so only put it in here if you have to)
  • save energy: If you notice that the door is open and the heat is running, please close the door (let the instructor know if it gets too warm - we can contact M&O if the classroom is consistantly too warm). If you are the last person to leave the room, please turn off all lights and close the door.
  • reduce your commute impact: Bike, bus, or see if you can find classmates for carpooling. (I bike or bus nearly every day, and if I can do it, almost anyone can.) Over half of Cabrillo College's carbon footprint in 2008 was due to commuting, mostly solo trips in cars. Plus, the fewer cars coming to campus, the less we need to build, maintain and monitor parking. Learn more at GoGreen!


"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
--John Muir

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Cabrillo Sustainability Calendar

Cabrillo GreenSteps

Cabrillo College Sustainability Alliance

Cabrillo Student Clubs
* Cabrillo Sustainability Council
* Cabrillo Permaculture Club
* Cabrillo Bike CoOp
* Cabrillo CalPIRG

EcoCruz is a portal for Santa Cruz County organizations and events

My Top 7 Outside Sustainability Links:

  1. WorldChanging
  2. Grist
  3. WiserEarth
  4. Apollo Alliance
  5. Biomimicry
  6. Bioneers

See what I've found lately at:
Dr. Pongo's Sustainability bookmarks on del.icio.us

ANTHR 19G Surviving the Future: The (Re)emergence of Sustainable Cultures

Sustainable Cultures Class Blog


Last modified 20-May-2011