People, Places, and Environment

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People, Places, and Environment
School of Environmental Design

Department of Community and Regional Planning

Temple University
Spring 2013

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.

Required Readings

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.

  1. Attendance

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.

  1. Examinations

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.

  1. 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 .

Organization of the Portfolio

Follow these organizational guidelines to prepare the portfolio.

  • Title page – consists of the title, your name, the course name, and the date of submission (nothing else).

  • Statement of focus – the subject or issue that the Portfolio represents (no longer that 1 page).

  • Content – the actual clippings, copies, or photographs (minimum of 6; maximum of 12).

  • Statement of relationship – of the content to people, places, and environment (no longer than 1 page).

Guidelines for Preparing the Portfolio
The Portfolio is intended to be both a creative and substantive project.

Think about it as a professional presentation.

That means no “cutesy” embellishments such as fancy binders, ribbons,

colored paper, or anything that would detract the reader from the content

and form of the Portfolio. A single staple in the upper left hand corner is

all the binding you need. Keep it straightforward, clean, and simple in

Also, some students think by “padding” the portfolio with additional

information or content will result in a better presentation. Actually, it will

detract from your presentation, and frankly, not be read. So, follow these

guidelines and do not try to do more than the requirements call for.

Captions under the content images are not required, but are helpful. If you

use captions remember—just a few key words to identify the image, not a

mini essay. A caption that exceeds one line will not impress the reader.
Sources that you may have utilized for the content (for example, images

downloaded from the World Wide Web) do not need to be cited. Most

often you will use generic or universally circulated images or pictures.
Evaluating the Portfolio
The Portfolio will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Clarity of the statement of focus.

  • Variety or visual interest of assembled content sources.

  • Relevance of statement of relationship to people, places, and environment.

  • Neatness and general appearance of presentation.

  1. Collaborative Think Tank Participation and Essay

Every student will be a member of one of five Collaborative Think

Tanks. Each Think Tank represents a specific relevant issue relative to how

people live in places and impact their environment, in conjunction with Part

IV of the course. Your participation will rely on accumulated information

and knowledge acquired from the preceding three parts of the course. You

should start by reviewing previous readings and lectures that are relevant

to your topic. A modest amount of additional research will follow. In

this sense it will offer to each student a cumulative learning experience to

bring together a full comprehension of people, places, and environment.

Organization of the Collaborative Think Tank
The purpose of the Think Tanks will be for each person to meet, discuss, and

review previously assigned reading material. A facilitator will be assigned to

each Think Tank to guide you. You should also investigate (research) outside

sources, conduct interviews, or both to incorporate new information. The

end result will be an essay (3 to 5 pages) that summarizes your findings,

analysis, and conclusions on one of the following topics to be more fully

discussed on April 16th .

  • Land and Food: Utilizing Resources for Optimal Human Use

(Land and Food Think Tank)

  • Harnessing the Energy of Nature: Themes for Future Use

(Energy Think Tank)

  • The Limits of Resources: The Next Phase in Water Use

(Water Use Think Tank)

  • Why Recycling Matters: From Temple University and Beyond

(Recycling Think Tank)

  • Moving People and Goods from Place to Place

(Transportation Think Tank)

Outline for the Think Tank Essay

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.

Course Competencies

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


  1. 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: no=03.70.02

  1. 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

(215) 204-1280.   

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

will be conflicts with meeting course requirements, especially

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.

  1. Plagiarism

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.

Part 1

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

New Urbanism
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 14th First Examination

  • To cover Kunstler, Chapters 1 through 13, videos, and class lectures

Part II

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”

Video Presentation

February 26th “The Sacred Balance: The Matrix of Life”

Video presentation

February 28th “The Sacred Balance: The Fire of Creation”

Video Presentation
March 5th “The Sacred Balance: Coming Home”

Video Presentation

Part III

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),

Course Pack.
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),

Course Pack.

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,

Course Pack.

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

Reading: Ray Oldenburg, “The Problem of Place in America,” The Great Good

Place, Course Pack.

April 9th “Ecological Design: Inventing the Future” – Integrating

Nature, Technology, and Humanity video.

April 11th Second Examination

  • To cover Parts II and III of the course including lectures, readings, and videos.

Part IV

Collaborative Thinking and Research


Relevant People, Places, and Environment Issues

April 16th Organization of the Collaborative Think Tank

  • Collaborative Think Tank assignments based on student choice

  • Review of Second Examination

April 18th Collaborative Think Tanks Meet

  • Review appropriate reading material covered during the course for

your selected Think Tank focus. Other resource material (not covered in

class) should also be used and cited.

April 23rd Collaborative Think Tanks Meet

  • Be prepared to discuss an annotated outline of your essay that includes source material and people to be interviewed (if appropriate).

April 25th Collaborative Think Tanks Meet

  • Be prepared to discuss and have completed a first draft of your essay.

April 30th Guest Lecture - Maya van Rossum

The Delaware Riverkeeper

May 2nd Conclusion and Final Wrap-up

  • Collaborative Think Tank Essay Due

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