Course Sequence and Title: CRP 807 People, Places, and Environment
Meeting Place: 13 Gladfelter Hall
Date and Time: January 22nd to May 2nd
Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 am to 10:50 am
Professor: William J. Cohen, Ph.D., FAICP
Course Coordinator: Jonathan de Jonge, Senior Scholar
Discussion Facilitators: David R. Guinnup, AICP
Kathleen A. Lambert, MS., NCIDQ, IDSA
Matt Popek, MS.
Overview of Course
People, Places, and Environment is a US Society Gen/Ed course and as such is geared to develop your understanding of American history, society, culture and political systems. Additionally, this Gen/Ed course will enhance your critical thinking skills; information literacy; ability to examine historical events through a variety of interdisciplinary disciplines; understanding of historical and contemporary issues in context; and engagement, both locally and globally, in the issues of our day
Specifically, this course is designed to make connections—to focus on how people have adapted to their place, have modified their natural environment and created settlement patterns that form our cities, suburbs, and regions. We will review past as well as current trends and seek an understanding of future possibilities.
There are two dominant perspectives or themes that will be studied throughout the semester.
First, we will examine how communities have evolved through cultural perspectives—principally the American experience—and what that means in how people have adapted to their place, and in the process impacted the natural environment. This perspective has relevance to how we will plan, design, and build our future communities.
Second, we will expand the first perspective to explore the concept of ecology as it originated in the biological sciences and how it has profound application to the planning and designing of present and future communities. The approach known as ecological planning holds the key to creating sustainable and enduring communities of the future. So, we will push our examination to seek out new approaches, tools, and techniques that can integrate nature, technology, and humanity to better plan and build communities in the 21st Century.
The course is divided into four parts to bring these two perspectives into focus and include:
Part I Towns, Cities, and Suburbia: America’s Man-Made Landscape This will provide a critical assessment of America’s man-made landscape—our cities, towns, and suburban settlements. We want to know, how did things become the way they are? And, is the American suburb really the ideal that we are told it is supposed to be? What we will review will be hard hitting—and perhaps a little disturbing.
Part II Exploring Connections of People, Places, and Environment
In the second part of the course we will travel beyond America and look into other cultures. Through a series of videos, we will make many journeys throughout the world, searching for similarities and understanding differences. Some of the international revelations and discoveries about people, places, and environment may surprise you.
Part III Reshaping the Ethos of the 21st Century City Here we will explore some basic ethical premises, as well as attitudes, that have influenced how people relate to their environment. We will see how some of the basic “laws of ecology” can be incorporated into planning and designing cities of tomorrow. And, we will pursue a search for a Second Enlightenment highlighted by real examples of seeking “new rules” to create enduring (or sustainable) cities in the 21st Century. One of the issues we are continually facing is how American society will address an aging population. We will look at this situation from a sustainable community perspective keeping in mind that if a community is sustainable for seniors and the elderly, it will be sustainable for everyone else.
Part IV Collaborative Thinking and Research on Relevant Issues Finally, the course will allow each student to examine and research specific relevant issues that affect the lives of how people live in places and impact their environment.
The following text and readings will be used in the course:
1. James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and
Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (New York: Simon &
Schuster; Touchstone, 1994).
2. People, Places, and Environment Course Pack (accessed through Blackboard).
Format, Organization, and Course Requirements
The course will be conducted in a lively and engaging manner. I will complement the reading material with a number of visual presentations. This will include PowerPoint and videos. We will also have a guest lecturer. The information presented in these formats should inspire each person to master the content of the course and come to a new threshold of understanding about people, places, and environment.
The readings are organized in a way that will fuse perspectives from the past, present, and future. This will allow for an intermingling of ideas, concepts, and alternatives to give us a better understanding of the relationship of people to places and their environment.
The course requirements are the following: Attendance is required. There will be Two Examinations, the preparation of a People, Places, and Environment Portfolio, and a Short Essay on a selected, relevant issue. There will be no quizzes or final examination.
The formula for success in this course is quite simple: first, attend class; second, keep up with the reading material; third, think about what you are learning; and finally, enjoy the experience.
Your presence at every class is necessary in order to follow the continuity of the course and the material that we will cover.
Attendance is also important to capture the notes from my lectures. If for any reason you miss a lecture do not ask me, “What did I miss?” I do not give personal tutorials. Moreover, my lectures are not posted on Blackboard, so you will have to ask a fellow student to fill you in on what you missed.
The two examinations will be short answer and multiple choices, and possibly a drawing example. You will be allowed to bring your textbooks and lecture notes for reference. This is generally referred to as an “open book exam.” So, while you don’t have to memorize specifics in a traditional sense, your success in the examinations will be predicated on your understanding of concepts and relationships. If you do not keep up with the reading assignments or attend class on a regular basis you will be at a disadvantage when exam time comes. Cramming for the exams will also place you at a disadvantage.
Each examination will consist of twenty questions.
People, Places, and Environment Portfolio
Each person will prepare a People, Places, and Environment Portfolio, which will be your individual creation and contain a collection of clippings or copies of visual material that illustrates or describes people, places, and environment. Sources could be newspapers, magazines, your own photography, or anything else you discover. Most students access images from the Internet and incorporate them into the content of the Portfolio.
You can select any subject that you feel illustrates the relationship of people, places, and environment.
We will discuss the preparation of the Portfolio in class on February 19th .
The essay must be between 3 and 5 pages of text and double-spaced. Use
the following outline to guide you in preparing your essay.
Title Page – Same as Portfolio.
Focus of Essay – A brief statement.
Research and Analysis – The main discussion that incorporates materials used, interviews conducted, and your perspective on the topic.
Conclusion – A brief statement to answer the question, “what have I learned about my topic that relates to people, places, and environment?”
References –All references consulted should be appropriately cited and listed. Shorten your citations for electronic sources (i.e., Web sites or other information retrieved from the Internet) and give the date you accessed the information.
Attendance Requirements Participation is the key to your gaining the most from the learning experience, since the format is based on collaboration and exploration. Your facilitator will offer guidelines and provide perspectives on the Think Tank topic—you will be expected to respond.
Therefore, attendance is mandatory and will be recorded. That means you need to attend all three sessions. A single unexcused absence will result in your essay grade being reduced by ½. That means if your essay is assessed as a B, your actual grade will be B-. Two unexcused absences will result in a full grade deduction. Missing all three sessions—unexcused—will result in an F grade for the essay.
Upon successful completion of this course participants will:
Have an understanding and a critical awareness of the growth and development of American cities, towns, and suburbia.
Be aware of the multiple and inevitable connections of people, places, and their environment.
Understand the relevance of ecology as it provides a basis to plan, design, and build cities of the future.
Be cognizant of the challenges in building and maintaining communities in the 21st Century that will be predicated on understanding and respecting the limits of our natural resources.
Each person fulfilling the course requirements as described in this syllabus will achieve the above competencies.
University and Course Policies
Statement on Academic Freedom
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic
freedom. The University has adopted a policy on Student and Faculty
Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy #03.70.02) which can be
accessed through the following link:
Accessibility / Disability / Religious Observance/ Other
Any student who has a need for an accommodation based on the impact
of a disability should contact me privately to discuss the specific situation
as soon as possible, and I will make all reasonable accommodations. The
University’s Disability Resource and Services Office is reachable at
Further, students who anticipate an absence due to a scheduled religious
observance should either see me in class or contact me by e-mail if there
examinations. Arrangements can be made to accommodate your needs,
but only if you let me know in advance.
The same holds true if you have an unavoidable personal or family
commitment or situation that arises during the semester, including
participation in athletic competition.
In academia plagiarism is the worst sin anyone can commit. Plagiarism is
nothing less than cheating and taking someone else’s work and calling it
your own without citation or attribution. If there is any detection or
evidence of plagiarism during the semester I will make a judgment of the
nature of the infraction and the student will receive a failing grade in the
assignment and be subject to a failing grade in the course.
Using Electronic Devices and Equipment is Prohibited
I want to make it perfectly clear from the start that during class all electronic devices and equipment are not to be used. That means all cell phones, iPods, and lap top computers shut off and put away.
Towns, Cities, and Suburbia: America’s Man-Made Landscape
January 22nd Introduction to Course
January 24th A Cultural Perspective of People, Places, and Environment
Student Think Tank selection
Reading: Kunstler, Chapter 1.
January 29th An Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes
Reading: Kunstler, Chapters 2, 3 and 4.
January 31st “Subdivide and Conquer” – How the onslaught of suburban
sprawl is impacting community and the natural environment
Reading: Kunstler, Chapters 5 and 6.
February 5th The Geometry of Urban Form: The Grid and the Circle
Reading: Kunstler, Chapters 7, 8, and 9.
February 7th Shaping Community and Region: Sprawl, Smart Growth, and
Reading: Kunstler, Chapters 10, 11, and 12.
February 12th “Suburbs: Arcadia for Everyone”—shaping the dream, creating
the ideal video.
Reading: Kunstler, Chapter 13.
February 14thFirst Examination
To cover Kunstler, Chapters 1 through 13, videos, and class lectures
Exploring Connections of People, Places, and Environment
February 19th How to do the People, Places, and Environment Portfolio
Review of the First Examination
February 21st “The Sacred Balance: Journey Into New Worlds”
February 26th “The Sacred Balance: The Matrix of Life”
February 28th “The Sacred Balance: The Fire of Creation”
March 5th “The Sacred Balance: Coming Home”
Reshaping the Ethos of the 21st Century City
March 7th Environmental Ethics and Attitudes: The Essential Trilogy
The Land Ethic
The Tragedy of the Commons
The Tyranny of Small Decisions
Reading: Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” in A Sand Count Almanac (1949),
Due Date for People, Places, and Environment Portfolio
March 12th and 14th Spring Recess
March 19th Ecology 101: The Four Laws of Ecology
“The Ecological Footprint: Accounting for a Small Planet” video
Reading: Barry Commoner, “The Ecosphere,” in The Closing Circle (1971),
March 21st Fusing Ecology in Planning and Designing Cities, and Regions
Doing a Land Suitability Analysis
Reading: Ian L. McHarg, “Man and Environment,” in McHarg and
Steiner, eds., To Heal the Earth: Selected Writings of Ian L. McHarg
(1998), Course Pack.
March 26th The Search for the Second Enlightenment
Reading: William J. Cohen, “Envisioning a Second Enlightenment: Advancing
Ecology in Planning, Designing, and Building City21” in Cousineau
and Zelov, eds., City21: The Search for the Second Enlightenment,
March 28th Timeless Cities and Eco-Villages
Reading: Chapter 1“Timeless Cities with David Mayernik,” in Cousineau and
Zelov, eds. City21, Course Pack.
April 2nd Sustainable Cities and Healthy Cities
Reading: 1. Jan Gehl, “The Sustainable City” and “The Healthy City,” Cities for
People, excerpts from Chapter 3, Course Pack.
2. Deborah Howe, “Aging and Smart Growth,” Course Pack.
April 4th Finding Place in America: The Third Great Place