This seems like a good opportunity to give a shout-out to Richard Alley’s book Earth: The Operator’s Manual. This book is written in a very accessible style – it was designed to accompany the PBS series of the same name. It explains the basic physics of climate change, how we know about the climate of the past, and some of the things we can do to reduce the risks that climate change may pose in the future.
Bibliographic information: Alley, Richard B. 2011. Earth: The Operators’ Manual. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Donella Meadows spent thirty years designing and refining the techniques of “system dynamics” – the style of analysis that we will demonstrate in the “Changing” section, part II of the course. She was working on this book at the time of her death in 2001, and it was finished and edited by Diana Wright.
From the publisher’s description:
Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.
While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.
Apart from the lecture notes, there is no “textbook” for this course. However, if there was a textbook, then “Environmental Issues” by McConnell and Abel would probably be it. It uses simple mathematical ideas (mostly those that we will discuss in parts I and II of our course) to study a variety of “Issues” (probably more than we will be able to mention). Among these are water supplies, turfgrass proliferation, food production and diet, and the sustainable campus. Many of these “Issues” would make great subjects for stand-alone posts in the Student Blog.
The full reference is Dan Abel and Robert McConnell, Environmental Issues: Looking Towards a Sustainable Future. 4th edition, Pearson, 2012.
Link to the book at Amazon
From the preface: “This is a straight-talking book about numbers… I’m concerned about cutting emissions of twaddle – twaddle about sustainable energy”. (This is a British book, so you will need to think about how his examples translate to the US context. The word “twaddle” means “silly, idle talk”, according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.) Many helpful calculations about energy resources, efficiencies, and the possibility of meeting our consumption from renewables.
Book reference: MacKay, David JC. 2009. Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air. 1 edition. Cambridge, England, 2009
Online: The whole book is downloadable for free from http://www.withouthotair.com/