Introduction to RPD*6080

RPD*6080 Environment and Development explores a variety of planning problems presented by the complex and dynamic relationships that link the environment to the development process. The course is divided into three major sections.

Section One considers how we understand and analyze environment-development
relationships. How did the environment emerge as a development and planning problem? What are the environmental “services” upon which development is dependent? What are the key biophysical cycles? How does development result in the degradation (or enhancement) of the stocks and
flows of environmental resources? Is sustainable development a reasonable planning goal? If it is how can we achieve it? If it is not – what are the alternatives to it? In this section students are introduced to analysis tools including: causal mapping, systems analysis, and resource system analysis. These tools help to conceptualize the causal relationships that govern environment and development dynamics and outcomes. To conceptualize planning responses the ability to identify causal factors and multiple variables that are open to planning influences is critical.

Section Two of the course shifts attention to the future. It introduces efforts to make projections and generate scenarios of what the environmental future could be. In the field of
environmental planning this has become a central area of work. What are some of the environmental and developmental projections and scenarios that
analysts have developed? How are projections and scenarios generated? How might population dynamics, consumption patterns, technology, climate change,and other factors shape our future? In this section students are introduced to decision impact assessment used for analyzing the environmental impacts of social decisions. This tool is anticipatory – it seeks to systematically organize the construction of scenarios.

Section Three of the course looks at planning for a future we would like to achieve. Making plans implies that we are trying to change future outcomes. Students examine some environmental plans that have been proposed and some tools used in their development. The tools introduced earlier in the course are used to develop new plans. Causal mapping, systems analysis, resource system analysis, and decision impact assessment provide powerful tools for planning interventions. In this section of the course students must develop an action plan intended to achieve a specific outcome chosen as their planning focus.

The course:
  • Introduces students to a variety of environment and development problems and relationships;
  • Provides students with an understanding of some basic scientific principles and social dynamics;
  • Enhances student's ability to define problems for planning purposes by identifying problem boundaries and selecting relevant causal variables;
  • Enhances student's ability to anticipate planning problems by identifying the environmental impacts of social decisions; and
  • Provides students with an opportunity to conceptualize and produce an action plan for addressing a selected environmental problem in a specific geographic location.