Living with the Land-Syllabus ICSM 10500-04

MWF 11:00 – 11:50
CNS 117        

Dr. John Hopple 
CNS 1660
Office Hours: Monday 8 - 9, Tuesday 12 – 1,  Friday 9 - 10, or by appointment

Course Description:

In this seminar we will learn how humans have come to dominate the earth’s ecosystems and the resultant risks to the biosphere. From this starting point we will explore sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions involving individual actions and lifestyle choices. From the Nearings’ Forest Farm to Harlan Hubbard’s Payne Hollow we will look at different approaches to living with the land instead of just on it. Efforts will be made to investigate local approaches to living with the land such as Ecovillage at Ithaca, the CSA movement, and green building. Students in this course will explore living with the land through readings, in-class discussions, simulations, research projects, field trips, videos, and examinations. The course culminates with students designing their own 20 acre homestead.


Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change - Elizabeth Kolbert Bloomsbury Press, New York. 2006.

The Good Life - Helen and Scott Nearing. Schocken Books, New York, 1989.

Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society - Harlan Hubbard.  Gnomen Press, Frankfort, KY, 1997.

Course Objectives:

  1. Students will develop an understanding of some fundamental principles, generalizations, and theories concerning the environment and the built world.
  2. Students will develop an appreciation for the relevance of science to society, as well as some comprehension of the interactions between humans and the natural and built world.
  3. Students will develop a clearer understanding of, and commitment to, personal values as relate to their interactions with the environment.
  4. Students will analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view.

Nature of the Seminar:

This course is a seminar. Seminars involve investigating a subject through a variety of means including (in our case) readings, in-class discussions, simulations, research projects, field trips,videos, and examinations. While this course is designed to involve students in different ways of learning, the emphasis is on individual observation followed by analysis through discussion to engender critical thinking about different topics.  As such it is important for students to have done their assignments before coming to class and then to participate in class discussions and activities to their fullest abilities (while not impeding others ability to do the same).

Grading: All work in the course should be done individually and independently unless otherwise noted (see plagiarism below).

Written Assignments = 170 pts.
Prelim I = 50 pts.
Prelim II = 100 pts.
Prelim III = 100 pts.
Design Project = 100 pts.
Student Evaluation = 50 pts.

Total = 570 pts

Written Assignments Grade
1. Ecological Footprint Assignment 20 pts.
2. Commons Game Report 20 pts.
3. Climate Change Assignment 20 pts.
4. Wedge Report 20 pts.
5. “In the Future I Will Eat/Drink . . . “ – essay  25 pts.
6. Dumpster Dive Report 25 pts.
7. Field Trip Presentation 30 pts.
8. Campus Event Summary 10 pts.

Total 170 pts.

Assignments must be turned in on time. Each will incur a 10% grade deduction for every school day they are late. Assignments more than three school days late will not be accepted and will earn a grade of 0.

There will be short reading quizzes (lowest grade dropped) to encourage students to come to class prepared. If students are not doing the readings, these quizzes will become a more regular part of the course.

There will be four short written assignments including one each on ecological footprinting, the Commons Game, climate change, and the wedge approach to dealing with climate change.  Each of these assignments is worth 20 points. 

There will be an essay on personal choices in food or water and a report on the dumpster dive we will be doing at the IC composting and recycling facility.  Each of these assignments is worth 25 points.

Students will also sign up for and go on one of six Saturday/Sunday field trips. Students on each field trip will get together to create a presentation for the rest of the class on what they learned. This project is worth 30 pts.

Ithaca College is a hotbed of sustainability and environmental thinking. To take advantage of this you will be required to attend one on-campus event (approved by me) over the course of the semester and write a summary worth 10 pts.

There will be three prelims in the course.  The first, covering the first quarter of the course, is worth 50 points. The second and third prelims, covering the second and third quarters of the course respectively, are worth 100 points each. These examinations will cover what has been done in class during that part of the course. They are not cumulative. The information you are responsible for on these exams will be drawn mainly from what occurs in class although some questions will also be drawn from the readings.

Students will do a design project worth 100 pts. in place of a final exam. This project will involve designing a 20 acre sustainable and self sufficient homestead based on what has been learned throughout the course as well as information gathered through research. The design project will be due during the time assigned for the final exam (Friday, December 17th, from

7:30 am to 10:00 am).

Students will also be evaluated on the basis of their preparation for and participation in the class. Participation comes from having read the assignments and being a part of class discussions.  Attendance makes up another part of the student evaluation grade. Grades on reading quizzes make up yet another part.

There will be no extra-credit assignments in this course.  What you earn is what you get!


Reading Assignments:

Students should keep up with the readings as listed on the schedule. Reading assignments will be taken from a number of sources including the three texts (Field Notes from a Catastrophe, The Good Life, and Payne Hollow) and various other readings and websites which can be found on the Living with the Land Schedule. Readings outside the three texts will be posted to Blackboard in a timely fashion. Reading assignments are mandatory.  For students to get the most out of the class discussions, and to be best prepared for the tests, the appropriate readings should be done before class. You do not have to agree with the viewpoints presented in the readings, but should be able to discuss the readings intelligently.  There will be reading quizzes to help motivate students to do the readings. It is in these readings that we will come to understand the sources of controversy underlying action, or inaction, in regards to the environment.


Students are expected to attend all classes with exceptions for health emergencies, religious holidays, court appearances, or college-authorized extracurricular events. If you are not in class you will be missing valuable information that cannot be attained by simply copying a friend’s notes. Class will involve discussions, simulations, handouts, presentations, videos, etc. and as such not all of the information may be easily transmitted from one student to another through notes. Additionally if you are not in class you will also lose points on reading quizzes. If a student misses more than three class periods his or her grade will be lowered.


While this is not a large class it is critically important that extraneous talk between students during class be kept to a minimum. If a student has behaved poorly in the class and their grade is borderline (for instance a high B, but not a B+), there is little chance that the student will earn a higher grade. If the student has participated in the class in a positive way, the student’s grade could be bumped to the next highest level (from a B to a B+).


As is stated in the Student Handbook “Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College. Unless it is otherwise stipulated, students may submit for evaluation only that work that is their own and that is submitted originally for a specific course.” Please make yourself familiar with plagiarism as it is defined in the Student Handbook. Academic dishonesty can result in a grade of zero on an assignment or test, academic code probation, suspension, or expulsion from the college depending on the outcome of a judicial hearing. See the Ithaca College Policy Manual section on standards of academic conduct:

Also as stated in the Handbook “In a collaborative project, all students in a group may be held responsible for academic misconduct if they engage in plagiarism or are aware of plagiarism by others in their group and fail to report it. Students who participate in a collaborative project in which plagiarism has occurred will not be held accountable if they were not knowledgeable of the plagiarism.”

Course Evaluations:

Student input is highly valued and is important to maintain high quality instruction. Biology department course evaluations are mandatory and must be completed by Wednesday, December 9th. An incomplete will appear on your transcript if it is not submitted by that time. The evaluation will be submitted to the Biology Department Assistant. She will verify that you have submitted the form. Once that has been checked, your identification will be removed and will not be printed with the comments. There will also be a separate evaluation for the Ithaca Seminar program itself.

Students with Disabilities:

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Students must register with Student Disability Services and provide appropriate documentation to the College before any academic adjustment will be provided.

Mental Health:

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance. The source of symptoms might be strictly related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with relationships, family worries, loss, or a personal struggle or crisis can also contribute to decreased academic performance.

Ithaca College provides a Counseling Center to support the academic success of students. The Counseling Center provides cost-free services to help you manage personal challenges that threaten your well-being.

In the event I suspect you need additional support, I will express my concerns and the reasons for them, and remind you of resources (e.g., Counseling Center, Health Center, chaplains, etc.) that might be helpful to you. It is not my intention to know the details of what might be bothering you, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help, if needed, is available.

Living with the Land

Each of us makes decisions every day that affect the environment. Decisions as seemingly innocuous as what kind of food to eat or what type of transportation to use to major decisions concerning where to live, what kind of home to live in, and what livelihood to pursue. This course is designed to help students develop the background to understand the impact of these decisions. The hope is that students will use their knowledge and wisdom to make intelligent decisions that will lessen their impact on the environment.

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Page maintained and updated by Nancy Pierce
Last updated 8/2010