Week 1:

How-To Guide for Blog Post Process & Grading

Diamond – “Yalis Question”

TEST BLOG POST (Do not respond to this post, this is just an example for you)

Paragraph One:  In your own words, restate Yali’s question and explain its significance.

Paragraph Two:  Is Yali’s question the type of question that a scientist or engineer would pursue?  A historian or social scientist?  Why or why not?

Week 2:

Diamond, “Under Montana’s Big Sky”

Achenbach, “Why Do So Many Reasonable People Doubt Science”

Shermer, The Baloney Detection Kit (video)

Blog Post

Paragraph One:  What types of environmental problems does the Bitterroot Valley of Montana currently face?  Are these problems historical in nature?  Why or why not?

Paragraph Two:  Do you think the Bitterroot Valley, in particular, and Montana, in general offer good explanatory models for understanding the world’s environmental issues?  Why or why not?

Week 3:

Johnston, “TheTechnological Fix as Social Cure-All”

Douthwaite, “The Terrible Temptation of the Technological Fix”

Huesemann and Huesemann, “The Inherent Unavoidability and Unpredictability of Unintended Consequences”

Blog Post

Paragraph One:  Douthwaite states that technological fixes are necessary to solve social problems.  How would the other two authors critique his argument?

Paragraph Two: Why do technological fixes to social and environmental systems have negative repercussions?   Should unintended consequences prevent us from finding technological solutions to our problems?

Week 4:

Harari, Sapiens, pp. 1-159

Blog Post

Paragraph One:  Harari argues that the Cognitive and the Agricultural Revolutions form the basis for our modern civilization.  What are these revolutions and how did they affect the development of human civilizations?

Paragraph Two:  How does Harari explain why homo sapiens became dominant, especially in relation to imagined orders?  What do you think about his arguments?  What did you find persuasive?  What are you skeptical about?  That is, why do you think homo sapiens became dominant?

Week 5:

Harari, Sapiens, pp. 245-349

Johnson, The Invention of Air, pp. 1-117

Blog Post

Paragraph One:  According to Harari, how are science, empire and capitalism linked?  Give an example of how scientific discovery shaped, and was shaped by, political and fiscal interests.

Paragraph Two:  For Harari, the idea of “progress” plays a pivotal role in this linkage of science, empire, and capitalism.  What do you think about his argument?

Week 6:

Johnson, The Invention of Air, pp. 119-215


Blog Post

In the epigraph (a quote at the very beginning of the book), Joseph Priestly sates: “The English hierarchy (if there be anything unsound in its constitution) has equal reason to tremble at an air pump, or an electrical machine.”

Paragraph One: Why should governments or religions fear air pumps and electrical machines? Explain your response with evidence from the second half of Johnson’s book.

Paragraph Two: Does Johnson’s work shed new light on any current examples of scientific or technological research that also holds social or political consequences?

For Thursday’s class:

Be sure to come to class on Thursday.  During class, we will go over the webinar assignment and will determine groups and general topic areas.  If you know one or two classmates who you would like to work with, you will have a chance to form your group in class.  I suggest talking to those students before Thursday so you are all clear who is in your group.  If you don’t have any other students in mind for your group, don’t worry, we will figure out your groups in class as well.

Week 7:

LeCain, “Between Heavens and the Earth”

Sandos and Keeling, “Zombie Mines and the (Over)burden of History”

Blog Post

Paragraph One:  In “Between the Heavens and the Earth,” Tim LeCain explores how mining engineers developed complex technological systems to meet the challenges of mining in extreme environments.  How do technological advances allow underground mining to occur and what are the consequences of these technologies?

Paragraph Two:  The readings show that mining is an environmentally damaging process, both during a mine’s operation and long after the mine closes. How should these negative aspects of mining be addressed before, during, and after the mining process?  Can mining ever be a safe proposition to humans and the environment?  Does it need to be?

Week 8:

Jason Jones, Bad Pit (video)

John Blodgett, “Libby, Montana Tries to Shake Its ‘Superfund Stigma'”

Justin Nobel, “Postcards from the Edge”

Timothy LeCain, “When Everybody Wins Does the Environment Lose?  The Environment Techno-Fix in Twentieth-Century American Mining

Blog Post

Paragraph One: What is LeCain’s argument concerning the three types of technofixes, as described in his two case studies?

Paragraph Two:  With the knowledge that mining produces waste, do we need copper and other minerals?  If so, what do you think about LeCain’s argument?

Week 9:

Reidy, “The Strange Deaths, Varied Lives, and Ultimate Resurrection of John Tyndall”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Headline Statements”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Press Release – Summary for Policy Makers”

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 – The New York Times

Easton, “Is Anthropogenic Global Warming Real and Dangerous”

Week 10:

Steffen et al., “The Anthropocene”

Kolbert, “Enter the Anthropocene”

Malm, “The Anthropocene Myth”

Kahan, “Why We are Poles Apart on Climate Change”

Week 11:

Darwin, “Recapitulation and Conclusion”

Week 12:

Gould, “Sociobiology: The Art of Storytelling” 

Michael Specter, “How the DNA Revolution is Changing Us”

John Harris and Marcy Darnovsky, “Pro and Con”

Week 13:


Week 14:

Harari, Sapiens, pp. 350-414

Week 15: