The Physics of Sustainability
The course "PHYS 105: The Physics of Sustainability" was offered by Professor of Physics, Brian Stewart and explored the physical constraints imposed upon human activity from a point of view that expanded as the semester progressed. The students first examined the determining role played by energy, exploring its various forms and working out the limits on its use imposed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The students also attempted to assess likely future availability of the resources necessary for humans in both the near and far term, developing a Web-based compendium of information. Experts from a variety of fields were brought in throughout the semester to add depth and different perspectives to the class' studies. To keep the work from being a sterile exercise, the students arrived at recommendations for change and brought their ideas to the attention of appropriate audiences. To facilitate this, Dic Wheeler, Artistic Director of ARTFARM, a local theater company, coached the students in performance skills so that they could become effective advocates of informed policies of sustainability. No particular science experience was required, but students had to be prepared for and unafraid of algebraic manipulations, large volumes of factual information, public action, and hard work in order to succeed in the course.