Hi, everyone. I’m John Roe, the professor who developed this course and who will be the lead instructor for it. Your first week blogging assignment is to write a post introducing yourself (please follow this link for more specific details). I thought I should start the ball rolling myself. You can find more about me on my website.
I’ve been a math professor all my life, first in England and since 1998 at Penn State. I’ve taught all kinds of students, helped invent a new field of math called coarse geometry, and been department head from 2006-2012. It’s important to me that all students, not just those who will go on to be math and science majors, get a chance to appreciate the special kind of insight that comes from mathematics. When I was head, this feeling led me to encourage the development of MATH 034 (Math of Money). This new course (Math for Sustainability) is another step along that road. The two courses complement each other: just as MATH 034 might help someone to “balance their (personal) budget”, I hope that this course helps you play your part in “balancing the budget” of the whole planet.
Because that’s one way of understanding sustainability – “balancing the budget”. Not a budget of money, but a budget of resources like water or energy or food. For instance, Southwestern desert cities like Phoenix, AZ have to manage their “water budget” as carefully as their regular budget. A “water budget deficit” can be met for a while by pumping groundwater out of aquifers (just as you can spend more than you earn – for a while – if you draw down your savings). But in neither case can you run a deficit for ever. It can’t last – or, to use another word, it is not sustainable.
I’m looking forward to working with you all on this course!