This course introduces students to the scope of environmental studies (so it’s more about breadth than depth) and is a key foundation for the higher-level, specially-designed ENV courses that form the Bachelor in Environmental Studies (BES) programme. The course is divided into four blocks that essentially examine environmental issues using the analogy of our planet as an ill patient and humanity as both the disease and the caregiver. Section 1 (Patient Earth with a Disease: Humanity) looks at the the rise of our species, focusing on the evolution of the traits that facilitated human takeover of Planet Earth, the Late Quaternary extinctions of megafauna, the three Revolutions (Agricultural, Industrial, Green), overpopulation, overconsumption and the Anthropocene (current epoch). Section 2 (The Symptoms – Environmental Impacts of Humans) covers the effects of our activities on the land, air, water, biodiversity and, ultimately, on us. In section 3 (The Treatment – Solving Environmental Problems), we study mindset- and practice-based solutions to these issues. Finally, we wrap it up with a class on Singapore and the Environment.
The format and schedule were specifically conceived to mirror the progression of ideas throughout the BES programme, namely of those above-mentioned ENV-coded courses. Thus, ENV 1101 is a good initiation to BES. Students begin to understand the environmental crisis and why it just might be the wickedest of all wicked problems. Meaning, they are uber complex (given all the causes, stakeholders, moving targets and dire consequences of getting the solutions wrong). And so, they also start to see why they can only be solved via an inclusive and interdisciplinary approach. Plus, in tutorials and learning journeys (sadly, no learning journeys in AY2020-21 due to the pandemic), ENV 1101 incorporates individual and group activities that revolve around the theme of sustainability, so students come away with a spirit of belonging to a group of people all dedicated to a common cause – caring for Earth.
AY 2016/2017 marked a transition point, because the course was totally revamped by the coordinator. The goal was to for ENV1101 to serve as a smooth transition to university, with a new, more independent, critical and creative way of thinking and learning. Our students will have to deal with global environmental problems, and we want to equip them with strong senses of stewardship and solidarity and the ability to think outside the box, all of which are required for us to attack the crisis – arguably the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.