John Roe (co-instructor) Born in England, I’ve been a professor in Penn State’s math department since 1998. I am one of the inventors of the mathematical theory of “coarse geometry”, which uses geometric tools to study the “large scale aspects” of mathematical problems. Though this is an abstract theory, there are natural connections between it and the study of human sustainability, which involves “large scale” questions both in space and time. I have been dreaming about the MATH 033 course for years and am excited to be bringing it to you at last! Outside the classroom I am a rock-climber, a guitarist, an enthusiastic but messy cook, and a blogger on topics related to faith, mathematics and the environment. Contact: email@example.com
Russ deForest (co-instructor) I’ve long had an interest in the issues of sustainability and I’m excited about participating in this course. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I grew up in western Massachusetts in a small industrial town where the main waterway had been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in the production of electrical transformers. For a time I imagined industrial pollution as a local problem but PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants are transported to the high Arctic where they accumulate in the fatty tissue of arctic animals and become part of the diet of Arctic peoples. Although how this occurs is itself quite fascinating, it is yet another reminder of the adage of our time: ‘There is no away’.
I also take it as a reason for optimism. While PCBs will be remain with us for some time, they have not been manufactured since 1977 and are slowly declining in the environment. We have found better and safer manufacturing methods. By taking a long view and turning our attention toward the issues of sustainability we may find that we can do much better still. To understand the scope of the challenges we face and the many opportunities for improving our relationship with the ecosystems on which we depend we need skills in quantitative reasoning. I hope this course will serve to help you in developing and strengthening those skills.
When I am not in the classroom I enjoy getting outside with my family or taking advantage of the fantastic mountain biking available in Central Pennsylvania.