Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation
Tom Theis, University of Illinois, Chicago
Jonathan Tomkin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Copyright Year: 2015
Publisher: OpenStax CNX
Conditions of Use
The book is fairly light on much of the science science side of sustainability. The book could have more on agriculture, disease (wow even more relevant now), population dynamics, forestry, fisheries, conservation, and climate change (updates). read more
The book is fairly light on much of the science science side of sustainability. The book could have more on agriculture, disease (wow even more relevant now), population dynamics, forestry, fisheries, conservation, and climate change (updates).
I have not encountered any errors, biases, or inaccuracies.
The content could use updating regarding food systems, disease, climate change, and some other recent topics (even systemic racism), but the text provides a good basis for discussion and bringing in these topics to delve further.
The writing is a tad wordy, but clear enough. The author uses vague nouns (it, this, there) often, so sometimes clarity is lost and overuses concluding terms, such as hence, therefore, and thus. The terminology is explained, but often could use more examples, especially recent examples.
Yes, the terminology and framework is consistent throughout this text.
I like the chapter divisions and the subdivisions within chapters. Each chapter stands alone pretty well. I have typically used 4-5 chapters in a one quarter term and jumping from chapter to chapter has not caused comprehension confusion for my students.
The organization is different from my logic, but I do like ending with sustainable infrastructure. For me having the economics and policy together would make more sense. Two science chapters are together, but I would put the action chapters (problem solving and metrics and sustainable infrastructure) together. The history chapter seems out of place to me and could be placed earlier in the text.
Many of the graphs are very difficult to figure out, such as Figure 11.18 and many are blurry. One of my frustrations was trying to find OER figures and graphs to fill in some of these gaps. Many of the photographs seem irrelevant (cherry blossoms are pretty, but not so necessary and a CFL?), yet the photos are very clear compared to the mostly pixelated figures and graphs.
I did not find grammatical errors.
The text largely ignores systemic racism and environmental justice, which are very important parts of triple bottom line that continue to be ignored. The richer countries are compared to less economically developed countries, but even those comparisons could be improved.
This textbook has nice questions embedded into each chapter to help guide students learning. With such a long textbook, the table of contents could use hyperlinking to each chapter. The online text includes the forward and preface as numbered chapters, which caused problems for my students accessing the text with their phones, using the chapter numbers only (not matching the assigned chapter titles) to guide their reading. The online text and downloaded pdfs should match seamlessly.
There are many impressive qualities of this text in terms of its comprehensiveness (discussed below). However, I have one over-riding suggestion that I think would greatly increase the impact of this text on college students. My suggestion has... read more
There are many impressive qualities of this text in terms of its comprehensiveness (discussed below). However, I have one over-riding suggestion that I think would greatly increase the impact of this text on college students. My suggestion has to do with inverting the order in which information is presented within each section in each chapter. Sustainability is so important to human civilization that I think a journalistic approach (headline news first) rather than a scientific approach (methods and results followed by conclusion) would help students focus on the big idea. For example, the big idea of Section 3.4 is that even when technology improves our efficiency at using resources we just end up consuming more of those goods or services. It is not until the very end of this section that we learn “in a world of finite resources such consumption patterns cannot continue indefinitely.” By the time a college student gets to that sentence, it has no more power than the preceding sentences. Imagine instead a chapter section that began with the startling fact that our consumption patterns can’t continue because our resources are finite. This “headline news” approach is actually what engages most people in reading a news article. It’s especially fitting for college students who get so much of their knowledge of the world through social media.
Now on to other points. As the editors point out, the text can used for a broad introductory course on sustainability or as a supplement to specific disciplinary courses needing a sustainability lens. There are 11 content chapters, yet these are not chapters in a traditional textbook sense. The chapters consist of well-sequenced, interesting, and relevant sections, usually between four and eight sections per chapter. However, sections are often only 4-5 paragraphs long (about 800-1000 words) and so are much shorter than a section in a traditional textbook. Thus, while the topics covered in this text are comprehensive, their exploration is relatively short. For the most part, though, the individual chapter authors have done an excellent job in distilling their topics down to the most essential core ideas. However, the brevity of these sections does lead to a lack of students being able to practice using concepts as illustrated in multiple examples. Conceivably, students could believe themselves to be proficient in understanding concepts without any evidence of doing so by using that knowledge in applied problems.
This minimalist approach is which students learn by reading but not doing is mirrored in the objectives and review questions of most, but not all, chapters (see Section 3.6 for a good example of review questions that address the big ideas of the section.) Many chapter objectives are for students to learn or understand. Neither of these verbs imply that students will do something with the knowledge gained in the chapter. Best practices in the assessment of learning involve performance expectations in which students will be able to apply knowledge, whether in making predictions, solving problems, or designing new solutions. All of the chapters could easily have deeper-level objectives (think Bloom’s taxonomy) that are assessed through application-type review questions
Section 4.5 on Public Health and Sustainability focuses mostly on the impacts of global warming, but it never explains the causal connection of burning fuels to global warming. Perhaps this section would fit better in the following section (Climate and Global Change)
Almost without exception, the text is accurate and complete. This is no easy feat for a text that covers such a wide range of topics in an equally wide range of disciplines. For the most part, even the choice of language used to convey concepts accurately is well done. The authors seemed to have taken care to phrase their thoughts in such a way that it's hard to quibble with their word choices. This is actually very important because it allows the reader to focus on the main point being communicated.
One section, however, does contain an error that is definitely worth fixing, not just for the sake of clarity but for an accurate understanding of a foundational core idea. Section 5.4 - Modern Climate Change - contains an error in this sentence. “There are two primary mechanisms for sequestering carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere: it can be captured by the respiration of plants, or dissolved in the ocean.” The underlined phrase should read “captured by the photosynthesis of plants”. While the mistake here may have just been a word error, it does bring to light a misconception that many people, including scientists, have. Respiration is merely the burning (or combustion) of food molecules (mainly, sugar) inside all cells of living things. As is true with the burning of any fuel, the fuel molecule and oxygen molecules change into carbon dioxide and water molecules. Thus, respiration of plants adds carbon dioxide to the air. The sequestering of carbon dioxide in plants occurs when leaf cells take in carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil and change these substances (using light energy from the sun) into sugar molecules with a lot of stored chemical energy (thus making sugar a fuel) and oxygen molecules.
There can hardly be a topic more relevant to college students than the future livability of the planet. Thus, the topic necessarily lends relevance to the writing of each chapter. However, it is difficult to rate this text high in relevance because the authors and editors have missed an incredible opportunity to make their topic relevant to the day-to-day decision-making of college students. Almost every topic relates to a person's daily activities, yet reading this text for the most part only lends itself to knowledge, not to doing something with that knowledge. For example, the chapter on Climate and Global Change explains climate processes and cycles as well as modern climate change and climate projections. Even though the topic is complex and can appear to be overwhelmingly complicated to students, the explanation is clear, simple, and compelling. Yet, by the end of the chapter, I didn't feel a deep concern about the impacts of climate change nor did have a sense of urgency that I need to do things differently. I know this is a college textbook and many authors may feel the need to constrain themselves to the usual ways of communicating with students. Yet these are not usual times. As Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage leader of the global climate change strikes, says, "Our house is on fire." It doesn't seem prudent to me that we spend our time not loudly advocating personal and societal change for a sustainable future.
Even though the text has multiple authors contributing various chapters, the text as a whole reads with remarkable clarity. For the most part, the authors did an impressive job in communicating concepts clearly and in simple terms. Simplicity is important in a text such as this because it allows the reader to build a conceptual understanding without getting lost in terminology or quantitative manipulations. The one exception to this clarity of communication is Section 9.5 on Risk Assessment. Perhaps there is no other way to communicate the basic concepts of risk assessment, but I fear most students will not gain a conceptual understanding of this concept from reading this section. Some other sections are dense, but not because of the writing. Rather, the concepts are complex and take careful thought to follow. Yet, even here, the authors carefully walk the reader through a step-by-step development of understanding.
The editors warn in the preface that the text is not a “self-consistent set of ideas”. Yet, this does not seem to pose a problem, even for a person who reads the text from the beginning straight through to the end. Each author is very careful to document the evidence for statements made. Additionally, several authors present evidence and reasoning for two sides of an argument. Any inconsistency in the text is actually a reflection of the real world in which we live and the limits of human knowledge in trying to unravel complex issues such as climate change and economic development. Much better to present this accurate portrayal of the changing environment in which we live than to present a falsely secure picture. Only with accurate information and knowledge of the limits of our certainty can students be empowered to make well-informed decisions about actions that affect the environment.
The chapter-and-section organization of the text lends itself very easily to using selected modules for instruction. Sections are so short that the use of sub-headings is not even needed. A section only takes a few minutes to read and, for the most part, not much more time to comprehend to the level set by the chapter objectives. While content chapters occasionally refer to previous chapters in the text, embedded links direct the reader to the exact location of a clear, simple explanation of the concept referenced. Since chapters and sections are really quite short, it would be essential for an instructor to fully flesh-out the ideas covered in a chapter with the use of examples, application questions, and integrated assessments.
Following a brief forward and preface there are 11 content chapters, each of which is sub-divided into sections. The sequence of chapters follows a logical, orderly progression of concepts, generally using science concepts for a broad foundation for understanding economic, social, and political issues. The glossary is user-friendly, both in terms of embedded links, but also for its simplicity of definitions.
There are no interface issues other than navigation problems with external links. For example, these external links no longer work:
Section 4.2 Emerson’s Nature essay
Section 4.3 Hull House
Section 4.3 Chlorination
Section 4.3 National Environmental Policy Act (link works, but isn’t specifically relevant to the text
Section 4.5 National Resource Defense Council
Section 5.4 The Cryosphere Today
In Section 3.4 there seems to be an important word (rebound) missing in the glossary. This causes a problem in that the word “overconsumption” is linked to its glossary definition, but the word “rebound” is not in the glossary. It’s not clear to the reader what the difference is between “increased consumption” (rebound) and “overconsumption”.
There are no grammatical errors that I found other than one. Section 3.4 contains this text which seems to be a mishmash of two sentences. “Whether or not gains in eco-efficiency yield genuine savings in resources and lower environmental impacts depends on how much, over time, society consumes of a given product or service (i.e. the relative efficiency gain, Δee) must outpace the quantity of goods and services delivered ΔQQ.”
I didn't come across any culturally insensitive or offensive comments in any of the text's chapters. On the other hand, I didn't find very many examples of inclusion of diverse cultural viewpoints or practices. For example, there is a reference to per capita carbon footprint in different countries; yet there is no discussion of the different lifestyle choices that lead to vastly different impacts on the environment. Even an easy comparison between the U.S. and the U.K. or the Netherlands (two countries with similar lifestyles in similar climates) would show that there are cultural differences in daily decision-making that leads to the U.S. having twice the per capita carbon footprint. This, of course, is just the beginning of including cultural differences. There is so much that could be gained by an exploration of the ways of life of people from vastly different cultures, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
Well done! Definitely a text worth continual quality improvement.
This critique goes to both comprehensiveness and organization (see below). I think there is slightly more from the "human dimensions" of sustainability presented in this text, and while I am a social scientist by training, I am teaching an... read more
This critique goes to both comprehensiveness and organization (see below). I think there is slightly more from the "human dimensions" of sustainability presented in this text, and while I am a social scientist by training, I am teaching an ecological dimensions course, and as a result, I had hoped to have a much more substantial and comprehensive perspective on sustainability from the natural sciences represented in this text. There are basics in ecosystem services and function that I think are missing, and that need more explanation, particularly for students who are not strong in the natural sciences of sustainability.
The content is unbiased, and presents students with accurate information about a range of topics in sustainability.
The content of this book reflects both historic as well as current data, which is very important in sustainability (and most disciplines). The ability to understand, for example, how our understanding of climate change has improved over time is very helpful.
The text is well-written, but there are times where terms are not adequately explained and defined, and more importantly, there are places where the language may be slightly too advanced for and introductory course. This happens relatively rarely, but when it does happen, it's certainly noticeable.
As with my comment about clarity, I think there are times when it is clear that multiple authors contributed to the writing of this book. Overall, it is very consistent, and authors did a good job using language consistent with each other, and consistent with the overall goals and tone of the text. There are some times, however, where it does seem very obvious that a different author has taken over the writing.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating pieces of this books is the tremendous difference in chapter length. Some chapters are incredibly long, and some are quite short. While one might expect that the Introductory chapter, for example, might be shorter, one would expect the other chapters to be of a similar length, which is not the case here. It makes it more difficult when figuring out how to assign crucial sections for the length to be variable (on the order of 20 pages!).
From my perspective, and the way I like to structure my Introductory course, the organization of this book doesn't necessarily make sense. There are separate chapters on the "human" and "ecological" dimensions of sustainability, which could work fine, but the separation of them doesn't necessarily follow a reasonable order. For a "comprehensive foundation," it seems that the human and ecological dimensions should either be completely split out, or more properly integrated.
I also feel that the organization often differs between chapters, and even between sections. Some sections are very good at presenting additional references, or providing discussion questions, but others are not. From an internal consistency perspective, this seemed odd.
The book is well-formatted, and is easy to follow along.
The book's grammar is consistent and easy to understand. I found very few issues.
This book seems to primarily focus on sustainability issues in the U.S. While this is not necessarily a flaw, I do find it disappointing that it doesn't provide insight into how, for example, colonization and globalization are profoundly effecting the sustainability outcomes of other countries. I do think students often relate best to understanding sustainability issues from the U.S., but to not dedicate more time to global sustainability surprised me.
I really wanted to be able to use this whole book for my course, but ultimately found that it is not a good fit for a class that focuses on the ecological dimensions, or natural science dimensions, of sustainability. It may work very well for course that is designed more around the social dimensions of sustainability, as it does provide a much more comprehensive foundation of those topics. Additionally, the ecological dimensions it *does* cover creates good scaffolding for the social dimensions; it's just not comprehensive enough for the class I had hoped to use it for.
In my opinion, this book does a great job in providing a thorough framework for the topic of sustainability. In discussing the subject with my students, I’ve realized that they often have an extremely narrow understanding of what that term... read more
In my opinion, this book does a great job in providing a thorough framework for the topic of sustainability. In discussing the subject with my students, I’ve realized that they often have an extremely narrow understanding of what that term encompasses. The holistic view taken by the authors in explaining sustainability make this book a great starting point for students who are new to the topic.
The content appears to be accurate.
Very relevant, but as other reviewers have pointed out, the technology around sustainability is moving swiftly. This will need semi-regular revisions if it is to remain up-to-date.
The authors make each of the topics extremely clear and accessible, even for students who are new to sustainability.
The text is consistent throughout.
Very easy to separate into sections. As my students would likely only be engaging with specific chapters of this book, this feature is critical to my choosing to include it as a supplemental text.
Well organized with a clear logical flow.
I found the interface very easy to navigate.
No grammatical errors found.
My only real complaint is that I wish that this had more of a global perspective. The coverage of sustainability in the U.S. is thorough, but it would be helpful to supplement with information about how this topic is being approached by other countries.
This is a great resource.
This is a very rich book that tackles the many aspects of sustainability. Everything is written in an easy to understand language and the inclusion of some case studies (for example Chicago's climate action plan) makes things more relatable.... read more
This is a very rich book that tackles the many aspects of sustainability. Everything is written in an easy to understand language and the inclusion of some case studies (for example Chicago's climate action plan) makes things more relatable. Chapter summaries and glossaries are also very well thought out and overall make for an interesting read.
I find the content very accurate, at least for the parts that i am involved in. I cannot comment on US environmental policy for example but given the quality of my topics, i would assume that the whole book follows the same level of accuracy.
The content is fairly recent, but in a rapidly changing field such as energy, references from 2010 (specifically talking about chapter 10 might become a bit more irrelevant. Having said that, for an introductory book it is more than adequate.
Going hand in hand with the comprehensiveness of this book, clarity is also a high point. Language is appropriate for the undergraduate level that is is intended and there is enough here to make students want to know more.
Nothing to mention here, everything is consistent and explanation is given beforehand for units used - Celsius instead of Fahrenheit is one example that comes to mind.
I feel that almost every part of the book can be read separately, hence the modularity is excellent. This is also helped by the well integrated reader provided by openstax cnx
The topic of sustainability is very vast hence a good flow is needed. This books succeeds mostly in that aspect although there is some room for improvement. A specific example that comes into mind is the chapter about US environmental policy, which although well written - given my comments on the accuracy of the content- could fit better at the end of the book.
No comments on this, as all links seem to work perfectly and i didn't come across any issues regarding display etc.
Grammar is on point, no comments here.
Although the book treats sustainability on a global scale, there is a greater focus on the US market/approach.
I felt that the sustainable energy systems chapter could be a bit longer with perhaps more relevant case studies. The case study regarding a net zero energy home (13.7) might be better suited in the above chapter as well and could be a bit more thorough. But other than that, the book is a very good read and introduces the concept of sustainability very well to undergraduate students. I also feel that it can cater to technical and non technical courses alike.
The book provides a comprehensive introduction to sustainability that incorporates engineering, economics, history, and ethics, and it will be of interest to students in all of these fields. Each chapter has an effective glossary. read more
The book provides a comprehensive introduction to sustainability that incorporates engineering, economics, history, and ethics, and it will be of interest to students in all of these fields. Each chapter has an effective glossary.
The content is written by experts in the field and is accurate.
The book has longevity in terms of its descriptions of quantitative models for environmental impact, economics, and externalities; these models will remain relevant. The book will likely need to be updated regularly for new developments in energy policy as well as new data on climate change, as well as new case studies. However, the text is arranged in such a way that updates can be straightforward.
The book is written in a clear manner that is engaging and easy to read. The book is interesting and provides definitions and background for new concepts.
The book is relatively consistent. Some chapters use a more quantitative approach while others use a more descriptive approach. It would be great to see quantitative data and/or models throughout the book rather than in just a few chapters. Some chapters use case studies whereas others do not; it would be great to have case studies throughout the book.
The book is highly modular. An instructor can choose which chapters or subchapters are relevant for the course, and can easily select these sections for reading and distribution to students.
This is a well organized book and the chapter titles are appropriate. The writing flows well together.
I very much enjoyed the textbook interface. Rather than being presented as one long PDF, it is presented as a clickable table of contents which can be maximized or minimized. If a chapter or subchapter is of interest, it can be read online in HTML format or downloaded as a PDF for distribution to students. The images and charts are all clear.
There are no grammatical or spelling errors that this reviewer detected. The book is very well written.
There is no more relevant issue of our time than sustainability and climate change. The book is relevant to all cultures and inclusive of the concerns of all.
Overall this is an excellent book and a useful resource. I will certainly make use of this book in my classes on Grand Challenges for Engineering, as well as my classes on innovation.
It was relatively complete. read more
It was relatively complete.
Since each chapter was written by corresponding author, content was relatively accurate.
Although the content appears to be up-to-date, sustainability needs to be updated as time goes.
The text was relatively clear.
Since the book was written by several authors, it was not totally consistent but relatively consistent.
The text was easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections because each chapter was written by different authors.
Each chapters are relatively presented in a logical, clear fashion.
There was a little interface issue because each chapter was written by different authors.
The text contains relatively no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.
Over all a good introductory open book.
The textbook provides a comprehensive study of sustainability. The book includes chapters on history, policy, energy, and sustainable infrastructure that would be well suited in an engineering technology undergraduate class in sustainability. ... read more
The textbook provides a comprehensive study of sustainability. The book includes chapters on history, policy, energy, and sustainable infrastructure that would be well suited in an engineering technology undergraduate class in sustainability. The end of chapter and end of book glossaries provide comprehensive technical terminology related to sustainability. Cost and economic issues could have been addressed more. However, supplemental resources could be used in the classroom to make up for this.
At the time of publishing this book is accurate. Sustainability is an every changing field and several topics should be updated to reflect these changes. More research has been published on climate change and policy has been revised since the publication date. The authors write from an unbiased tone throughout the textbook.
At the time of publishing this textbook was up to date. If the text is not updated to reflect population, policy, and climate science changes it is possible that the text could be outdated in the next few years.
The text is well-written and all technical terminology is well defined. The end of chapter glossary reviews is an excellent resource for students. Given the number of authors of the text, it is surprising how cohesive the text is from chapter to chapter.
The terminology and framework are consistent from chapter to chapter. The authors and editors did a great job in maintaining consistency based on the number of authors in this textbook.
The ability to use a modular approach with this textbook is one of the most defining features of the text. It would be easy for the instructor to limit the course to certain chapters of the book. Given the breadth of the text, this is an attractive feature of the book.
The book is well structured and organized. Starting with the definition of sustainability, to the history, and then sustainable infrastructure the flow of the book is well thought out and easy to follow.
The text and figures are easy to read and have little to no interface issues. Some of the text on graphs and charts is slightly distorted but are legible.
I found no grammatical errors in the textbook.
The text and examples given are US centric but are not culturally insensitive or offensive. Since sustainability is a global issue, it would be nice if more global examples or prospectives were given.
This is a great option for an undergraduate course in sustainability. The chapters could easily be used as modules and supplemental resources could be used to bring the text up to date.
The text holds true to its title, "....Comprehensive Foundation." Sustainability is a broad topic that applies to a wide range of fields. However, the authors discuss the foundation concepts of sustainability. read more
The text holds true to its title, "....Comprehensive Foundation." Sustainability is a broad topic that applies to a wide range of fields. However, the authors discuss the foundation concepts of sustainability.
The text was found to be accurate through the use scientific based information throughout.
The text is mostly relevant since it presents foundation concepts in sustainability. However, the last chapter on Sustainable Infrastructure includes explanations and demonstrations of technologies that are constantly advancing.
This text can reach a wide audience due to the clarity and conciseness of the language.
This text is consistent.
The text is broken down into well defined sections. Also, images help to add context and meaning to the text.
The topics follow a logical fashion.
Images are generally clear.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive.
I do not teach a course specifically called Sustainability; rather I teach and Introductory Environmental Science course. With this disclaimer in mind, I found this text to provide a thorough overview an in-depth coverage of the topics contained... read more
I do not teach a course specifically called Sustainability; rather I teach and Introductory Environmental Science course. With this disclaimer in mind, I found this text to provide a thorough overview an in-depth coverage of the topics contained therein. The index is very effective and the glossary seems like it would be useful to students.
Textbook seems to be accurate (again, disclaimer that I do not teach in the areas of policy or environmental economics in ayn depth). I did not find any factual or conceptual errors.
I believe the content is up-to-date, but the nature of this topics demands that it be revisited and revised substantially every 3-5 years. I’m not sure how an environmentally-oriented textbook can be organized such that updates are easy and straightforward to implement, since so much of this content is being updated with new research and governments reports published annually.
The language used in the text is clear, but not overly simplistic. It seems similar to that used / reviewed for in my current Environmental Science course, although the Sustainability text goes into greater depth and technical detail than my current texts.
The textbook is consistent in its terminology, structure, and organization.
While presented as a cohesive unit, I think the textbook demonstrates excellent modularity. I can imagine using one of the chapters in one of my courses (I do not teach an entire Sustainability course), since they easily stand alone.
The outline of title and subtitle structure may be useful in orienting students within the chapters. However, the structure may be getting carried away with the many, many numbered sublevels (for example, 126.96.36.199.4). I don’t think anyone will be able to keep track of how point 188.8.131.52.4 nests under whatever topic was 184.108.40.206. Perhaps some formatting distinctions (fonts, underlines, bolds, boxes) can be used to subdivide the text, rather than using the elaborate numbering system?
I like the inclusion of review questions throughout the text, although they might more accurately be described as “Review & Application Questions.”
I looked at some of the textbook online, then downloaded it as a PDF. When viewed as a PDF in Acrobat, the serif font (and maybe the resolution of the main body text?) made for difficult reading.
Chapter 2 would benefit from a timeline with dates of important historical events and passage of major pieces of environmental legislation.
Some figures seem unnecessarily large (for example, Figure 3.41 & 5.26), whereas others are much too small to read easily (for example, Figure 3.44 & 5.28 text at bottom & Fig 11.16).
Smaller, specific notes:
Figure 3.1 is unnecessary to illustrate the simple point.
Figure 3.22 would be better if represented / drawn from some of the major studies of surveys of American citizens, scientists, and climate scientists (rather than just a group of students).
The legend in Figure 3.29 has some overlapping/jumbled text lines when I viewed it as a PDF in Acrobat.
In Figure 3.39, I cannot read the x- or y-axes without zooming in many times over.
Table 7.2 has some overlapping, unreadable text as viewed in PDF form in Acrobat.
Figure 8.47 is difficult to read (because of resolution?)
Figure 9.11 seems to be distorted (the height-width ratio is off).
Figure 9.12 seems to have a large unnecessary block of black in the background.
Figure 9.15 has a distorted (or just difficult to read) set of labels on the x-axis.
There is a weird formatting issue on pp. 535-537 and pp. 545-549. I’m not sure if these are supposed to be tables (?), but in my reader they just looks like a list with lots of odd spaces and blank lines.
There is an unnecessary line break at the top of p. 531 (between lines 3 and 4).
The text is composed of elegant yet straightforward writing appropriate to a collegiate resource. I did not find grammatical errors or rhetorical weaknesses.
I did not notice anything that would be deemed culturally insensitive or offensive in this text.
This is an outstanding book on Sustainability. It is discussed in a detailed way under the title "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation". However, this textbook is aimed at students pursuing undergraduate degrees, in particular those who... read more
This is an outstanding book on Sustainability. It is discussed in a detailed way under the title "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation". However, this textbook is aimed at students pursuing undergraduate degrees, in particular those who are in their first and second year of their degree program. These students may have had prior lessons on civic education, geography (exploring the biospheres) and perhaps some aspects of the hydrological cycle as discussed in textbook under the theme of water pollution: sources etc. From my own experience, it can be difficult, at this level, for students to think very critically and infiltrate into the minds concepts such as externality (environmental economics – pp239-241) in a detailed way as the authors have presented it in the textbook. For this audience, this part and others should be explained in as simplistic manner as possible (and suggested that additional case studies –common goods – be presented). The textbook is comprehensive in a sense that for each of the 11 chapters, the authors have presented the main objectives to be accomplished upon completion of each chapter, and at times, these are also included in the sub-chapters of the book. The textbook is well equipped with the review questions, which in my opinion, are helpful to students; however, the authors needed to come up with some hints to help students answer these questions or possibly provide comprehensive solutions to these questions.
Sub-title: 2:3.5: Risk Management as a Basis for Environmental Policy: the authors should consider giving an introductory remark to the risk assessment process; and its genesis and application to various agencies. I believe that a genesis of this framework and a statement to that effect, that this framework was conceived in the early 1980s is necessary. Specifically, the authors have missed an opportunity to discuss how the risk assessment framework is being used as the basis for making regulations (both occupational and non-occupational) and also for making policy in the US.; what additional items, other than the risk assessment elements, needs to be considered for policy making are as important for discussion. For example, at some point in time in the past, it was a norm to use the concept of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) as the basis for making rules, regulations and standards at the EPA and other federal agencies. It was also a part of the NEPA’s policy statement on environmental important statements (EIS) that the CBA be part of these EIS or environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports. This view of CBA should have come out clearly in this section. In my opinion, I am guessing that the authors have concentrated too many issues in one chapter - thus making it difficult for potential young readers to capture all in one lesson or in one semester. The authors could have given one of the two examples which, again in my opinion, would have sufficed. For example when the authors addressed the question of energy: multiple examples are given taking too much time, and space in the textbook. It would have been more appropriate cite these examples, or to use them as case studies for students to work and solve them. Another example is that of the dust pollution in the Philadelphia area. I would suggest that instead of presenting all those figures, only one figure with a, b, and c would have been appropriate in that case. As a result, this would not only have reduced the more than 600 page-volume textbook, but it would also have made it easier for students to read as well. Another example is that of the CFLs presented on pp 557-558 - Fig 11:20 and SSL – on Fig 11:21 (the authors could have combined both of these figures into one figure i.e. 11:20a/11:20b which would then appear on one Fig. Again, this would have significantly reduced the number of pages. Contemporary issues, such as the extraction of shale gas to meet the growing energy demand – and which obviously affect sustainability and development – availability of drinking water or water for irrigation - are covered with some specific examples: hydraulic fracking (pp320). Issues related to the BP oil spill – resulting from our quest for energy sources in the Gulf of Mexico area also have shown in some parts of the textbook (pp497-498)
According to the authors, or at least the author of chapter1: at the intersections of the three themes of sustainability: economic, social and environment – lies the following three: bearable, equitable and viable (pp7). It is gratifying to note that these terms, which form the backbone of the term “sustainability”, have been used throughout the textbook by all the authors – regardless – e.g. equitable: pp7; 260; 485; 512; 515. Viability: pp519; 553; 565.
Finally, it is of my opinion that the glossary, as written in the document, is complete and thorough. However, it could be beneficial to change the order of some of the chapter headings. For example, instead of assigning the chapter titled “Sustainability: Ethics, Culture, and History” to be read as chapter 10, it may make more sense to assign it to a chapter at the beginning. This way the history and culture behind sustainability can be understood before diving into a chapter about modern day environmental management.
The introduction lays out clear expectations for the document which is helpful to the reader, but the title page should have a stand-alone title. The authors have attempted to balance their textbook with some science-based facts. It is gratifying to note how each of the individual authors’ chapters have avoided to use any of the jargons or the doctrines of the extreme left or right or any visible inclination to that effect to communicate their researched subject matter with the reader. The Climate Change topic, which is vulnerable to this challenge, has kept away of this and used the data and science generated by agencies, such as NASA, to support their observations, and in some cases, the authors have encouraged reliance on using “proxy data” pp64.
A few noted exceptions however: the unnecessary blank page on page two and other interruptions such as random blank pages found throughout the textbook. It has incorrect spacing on page four. Furthermore, the textbook contains page numbers that are inconsistent throughout its entirety. Some page numbers can be found in the upper left corner while others are found centered on the bottom of the page. The present title is ambiguous as to what type of sustainability the document is referring to and what the text will contain, and surprisingly all sub-topics and sub-titles that make up sustainability appear in the textbook.
The text is up to date, but also provides information regarding previous times in history i.e. the evolution of the various environmental policies in the U.S.. It appears that the textbook would be easy to update with a newer edition as time evolves. I am concerned, however that the chapters are just too long – but the relevance, as far as the content is concerned, is just fine (with a few exceptions as pointed out earlier) for the audience (undergraduate) that is intended
The text is clearly written and does not use such accelerated terminology that an average person would not be able to understand the text. In fact, most readers regardless of their level of education would be able to read the document and take valuable information away from it. When jargons or initials were used, and explanation was given so that it would be easy to do further research on the word. A few exceptions though: It seems the clarity is lost where too many examples, and too many figures are being introduced in the text as a way to clarify a specific point e.g. a section on air pollution or energy efficiency e.g. the solid state lighting (SSL) and the compact-fluorescent light bulbs [CFL] (pp 557-558). The clarity, especially noting this book is intended for young audience is lost in the process and may lead into losing focus of the objectives and sub-objectives of each section and chapter.
The choice of words used to communicate points throughout the document are consistent throughout its entirety. Thus, there seems to be consistency throughout the textbook. For examples: (there is a preamble in a form of the objectives to be met once a chapter is completed, followed questions for review). A section to point out to the direction of the potentially the right answers or the solutions to these problem questions as expected of the reader, guidelines on how to answer these questions will make this textbook an easy to ready and ready-to-use textbook for undergraduate students. A few notable exceptions are minor as stated elsewhere, issues with spacing, the fonts and format of the paper are consistent.
The textbook’s strongest area is the appropriate use of section divisions. This has made the book easy to focus on specific sections of subject matter of sustainability. It also allows the reader, at least upper graduate level to make clear distinctions between new points of reference. When one section closes, it is made obvious so that the reader can then focus attention to the next section, allowing for convenient reading. In a summary, the chapters are well separated and independent from one another – they are all inter-linked to the larger subject matter of sustainability. For undergraduate readers though, I look at the entire textbook as being too much of information to read and too many topics spread out for this audience to comprehend all at once, and perhaps in one semester. This may be the main objective of the authors, but the information is way too much for this audience. As a recommendation, perhaps it would be wise to use this textbook as supplemental material for some selected topics e.g. energy or population growth or policy making and introduction to the concepts of climate change.
The 11 chapters of the textbook are independent of one another but all addressing the larger picture of sustainability. Although the presentation, structure and the flow are clear, too much emphasis has been placed on giving too many examples, either in the form of figures or sub-sections that its “taste of sustainability” all of a sudden disappears as one navigates through the textbook. However, a minor suggestion would be to consider rearranging the order of the chapters so that they flow in a more chronological order i.e. some chapters may need to precede others (e.g. chapter 4 should perhaps be used to build upon background information that leads to the understanding of what is in chapter3)
The PDF version of the textbook is easy to read offline. However, upon sharing this information with myself (through email), I found it was difficult to access – the share access portal was a requirement in order to download the file. Perhaps the size of the file was a limiting factor in this respect. I did not download the book in any other version, but the PDF is easily readable. In addition, on pages seven and eight there are display interferences in the text. It appears that two separate texts are overlapping one another causing it to be illegible. The remainder of the textbook is just fine. All of the tables and illustrations are appropriately labeled and explained. The pictures presented in the text are of good quality allowing the reader of the viewer to clearly see without confusion.
Only minor small typos: for example line7, Foreword section, pp#1 (know # known). Perhaps the only other errors that I noticed is the lack of the full meaning of an acronyms: For example, the acronym, which appears at section 1.3 pp8, IPAT in the 1.3 The IPAT Equation is not defined in this section. The glossary of the terms used in the textbook are appropriately described. There are also some noticeable mistakes in the references by adding unnecessary spacing between words.
The textbook has taken bold steps to address all stakeholders in the society, including the academia (for example the use of the equations related to sustainability, and the trends of the climate changes and data). The textbook has little inclination to the local politics and therefore, I see little or no evidence at all of confinement or boundaries for not being able to use this textbook in other cultures. The textbook does discuss the social aspect to sustainability and dives into more specific factors such as ethical, background, and human values. The authors state very strongly that sustainability is based upon a series of social movements. The authors go on to list movements such as human rights, racial equality, gender equality, labor relations, and conservation. By pointing out these topics it can be concluded that the authors are inclusive of race, ethnicity, and background since a portion of their text is based on this theory. Although a larger number of the illustrative examples in the textbook appear to have been drawn from the U.S. (dust explosion in Philadelphia, the Love Canal in NY – pp209-211, the hydraulic fracking or the extraction of shale gas; Exxon Valdez Oil Spill – in Alaska – 00287; BP Oil spill---pp200&pp288 etc.), these are typical examples that also affect sustainable development around the world. An equally large number of illustrative examples are also drawn from other countries and cultures as well: – e.g. algal bloom in China - pp. 196; Hg-mercury poisoning – Minamata-Japan (pp201), hydraulic gold mining in New Zealand (pp229); the largest cyanide leaching in Romania – pp229-230 and the open pit mining in Russia –218 among others. One point, which seems, at least from my point of view, to be controversial however is that of bottled water: the author of this topic seems to be addressing the U.S. readers ignoring the fact that millions around the world cannot afford clean potable water-pp207! It is interesting to see that the authors have incorporated a section that compares the carbon footprint (pp446-447) and the water footprint (pp447-448) of various countries.
This book is worth reading. I am impressed how the authors have been able to come together to produce such a great textbook. It is an impressive work. Although the textbook has covered, so far, a great deal of issues of sustainability, it still would be a nightmare to ask the authors to include all of the aspects of sustainability in this one textbook because it would include too many concepts and perhaps too many volumes to cover them all. It would great if a list of the issues affecting sustainability are presented in the introductory chapters; then focus on a few of them and refer the reader of the other topics to other relevant textbooks.
The word "comprehensive" is in the title of this open textbook, and the editors and authors have made an effort to include numerous aspects of the topic without leaving anything out. read more
The word "comprehensive" is in the title of this open textbook, and the editors and authors have made an effort to include numerous aspects of the topic without leaving anything out.
I was impressed that the authors were consistent throughout the book in documenting their sources. At the same time, the field of sustainability science is clearly in a state of rapid evolution. So in addition to documenting the accuracy of the information, and its sources, the book provides a healthy appreciation of how knowledge in the field is continuing to be refined.
Because the field of sustainability science is in rapid development, I would expect either one or both of the following to happen within about 4 to 8 years: (a) Another groups of editors and authors will compile a "successor" or "competitor" book, or (b) the present editors and authors will revised the chapters within such a time frame. I expect that interest in this field of study will grow briskly within the next decade.
The book has different styles, as you would except in the case of a collection from different contributors. Some of the chapters are more blunt, others more descriptive. Overall, the level of clarity is very high throughout the text.
• The Forword to the book mentions that, according to some of the contributing authors, “the text does not necessarily present a self-consistent set of ideas.” The discipline of sustainability is still in a state of rapid evolution and internal debate.
Yes. In fact, the book is set up such that one could easily assign individual chapters to students. They would not have had to read other chapters. Each one can stand on its own.
For such a broad-ranging topic, the editors have done a really good job in arranging these chapters and prescribing their content so that the open textbook works as a unit.
The interface worked great! No problems. Maybe the interface needs to be better known to the public.
The grammar was great. Kudos to the editing team!
The topic did not have much to do with aspects of human culture, other than environmental aspects of it. An exception was that there was good discussion about environmental harm tending to occur in the "back-yard" of low-income people.
What a wonderful resource for teaching! If I were teaching a course related to sustainability, I would be very tempted to assign readings from this book to my students. Since the students can view it or download it for free, I would feel no regret in assigning just a few pages. Alternatively, I could assign a series of essay questions, asking students to use the open textbook as their main resource. I could ask different teams of students to consider a specific issue, such as paper recycling, from the perspective of different chapters in the book, e.g. chapters on environmental policy, sustainable energy, ethics, and sustainable infrastructure. It would be fun to have such teams give back-to-back 20-minute presentations. I imagine that each team could become intrigued at how one set of processes can be perceived quite differently by people focusing on different aspects.
This book "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" contains a vast amount of matter on sustainability and it does cover the entire range as it claims. However, some chapters and contents are very specific and may not be suitable for... read more
This book "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" contains a vast amount of matter on sustainability and it does cover the entire range as it claims. However, some chapters and contents are very specific and may not be suitable for freshman/sophomore lever college students, specifically as a text for engineering technology or technology students. In the context of the course that I teach (Lean and Sustainable Operations), several chapters will be effective for the sustainability aspect of the course and so I would go with a modular approach, adopting specific chapters that are relevant.
The book as a whole is very accurate on the content. Each chapter has been written by subject-matter experts with good research. However, Wikipedia, as has been used as reference in some cases, is not a reliable source and could have been avoided.
The content is very relevant and up-to-date at the point time when the chapters were written but this is an evolving subject and would need periodic updates, including updating case studies and/or adding new case studies, to keep it relevant.
The book is quite straightforward in terms of presenting the technical matter and overall writing/presentation style is very good.
Although the book is a collection of chapters written by different authors, and as such, there is bound to be some difference is presentation style but surprisingly, overall it is very consistent in its presentation of the matter.
The book is modular and I think each chapter stands on its own as a module. As I mentioned in the Comprehensiveness section, I am planning to use select chapters to serve as modules in my course and it would fit nicely.
The sequence of the chapters is consistent and follows more or less a natural order although some might like to re-arrange some chapters without affecting overall flow of the book, particularly since chapters are modular.
The pdf format was good for ease of readability and also for creating modules from individual chapters. However, couple of items in my wish-list: a) It would be nice to add names of the authors for each chapter at the beginning of each chapter so that when the chapters are used as individual modules, they still get the authorship cited. b) Clickable link for index items page numbers.
I didn’t notice any.
The book is written with the US in the perspective; it could add more global flavor by including relevant work being done in other parts of the world. However, as a technical person, I do not see much cultural conflicts in the book.
This is a nice book and although it would be too much to use the whole book as a text for a semester course, I would use the modular approach to adopt relevant chapters for my teaching and also use the book as a good reference.
The book is relatively comprehensive, especially considering the breadth of the topic. However, as some have noted, the book gives short shrift to some issues, such as agriculture, that are important facets of sustainability discussions. Given... read more
The book is relatively comprehensive, especially considering the breadth of the topic. However, as some have noted, the book gives short shrift to some issues, such as agriculture, that are important facets of sustainability discussions. Given that the book covers a wide (very wide) range of topics, it provides an initial overview of the field, and thus the book might be more useful for a survey course than for a specialized higher-level class, and I think a professor might want to supplement the text with additional resources to fill some of these gaps. The book does provide a nice glossary and large index, although I found the index confusingly organized in the PDF version of the book and unhelpfully broad in the ePub version of the book. The PDF version is unlinked to anything and creates a confusing system of "keywords" and "terms" that I did not quite understand, which the ePub index links would only go to the start of the section that contained the word. Finally, although I applaud the use of Learning Objectives throughout the book, some were too broad to be useful for a student.
The content is very accurate for when it was written, but this is a fast-moving field and some of the content seems to be in need of updating (for instance, the figures on global population are already 600 million people to small). Additionally, in some chapters the references are from more general sources (Science, Nature, National Geographic) rather than from more specialized sources, reinforcing the fact that this is more suited for a survey course than a specialist course.
Most of the content is up-to-date, but some things could probably already be updated. However, the book is written in such a way that it should be relatively straightforward to update the facts and figures. Given how fast Climate Science and Climate Policy changes, though, if parts of this book do not get revised at some point in the next few years, the book itself will not be as useful.
The book is very clear, especially given the number of authors. Technical terminology is explained well; there are glossaries in each section as well as at the end of the book. Although the prose would be accessible to students, it does tend to be rather dry, though.
This book is very consistent; the framework from chapter to chapter remains the same, as does the terminology. This is particularly impressive given how many authors were involved in the creation of this book.
The modularity of this book is one of its strongest features. Each chapter could stand alone, and in fact each one has its own URL, glossary, and reference list, making it very easy for a professor to fit the book to their class.
The book is well organized. The organization builds towards a policy focus, rather than a science focus, but given the modularity this could be changed on a class to class basis.
Both the PDF and the ePub look nice, as things are generally nicely laid out in both formats. However, I had problems with each format. The PDF has no internal links, so the index entries and table of contents provide page numbers that can not be clicked on and do not correspond to the PDF number, so they are practically useless. Similarly, I could not get the links in the ePub table of contents to go anywhere; clicking a chapter or section heading would just return me to the top of the table of contents. The index entries, as mentioned above, would just take me to the start of the section where the word is found, which was not particularly useful.
I found no errors.
This book is not offensive, but it is very America-centric, as the case studies and example tended to be American. This is particularly odd given the inherent global nature of sustainability; given that this is an issue that effects everyone, it would be nice if the examples provided illustrated this fact.
This text is nothing if not comprehensive. It is so comprehensive, in fact, that one wonders about whether there exists an upper threshold after which it is simply too much. One student could not really consume this much in one semester. That... read more
This text is nothing if not comprehensive. It is so comprehensive, in fact, that one wonders about whether there exists an upper threshold after which it is simply too much. One student could not really consume this much in one semester. That probably is not the authors' intent either; it is intended to be incorporated chapter by chapter, section by section. Chapters 5 (physical resources) and 8 (renewable energy) themselves are a little longer than they need to be, at the risk of turning off students. However, the other chapters are consumable individually.
The only topic that is not covered, and that really should be, is environmental justice. It is mentioned twice in the book but never covered thoroughly.
The book is so vast there are bound to be disputable points. I will first stick to what are a few blatant inaccuracies. In chapter 6 the idea of Tragedy of the Commons is explained but misrepresented. It mentions that Elinor Ostrom found counter examples, but then is dismissive of them. It uses North Atlantic fisheries as an example of the Tragedy of the Commons, when Ostrom and her team helped disprove that. Those fisheries were fished sustainable for at least 300 years before they were overfished, starting in the 1950s. What that shows is that it was technology and the market that did it - social forces quite different from whether property is owned privately or publicly (which is what Garret Hardin was getting at with his thesis).
The Tragedy of the Commons surfaces again in chapter 10. I liked a lot of this chapter, but again the authors seem oblivious to critiques of the idea. Figure 10.3 is a cartoon suggest that the Tragedy of the Commons "lacks dialogue." Unfortunately it seems the authors did not get the joke. The long standing and various criticisms of the Tragedy thesis are that it assumes actors who do not communicate with each other, and that in real world examples of common pool resources they typically do. That was how Ostrom showed the flaw in the theory. The authors seemed to interpret the cartoon as saying that the Tragedy of the Commons thesis argues that people don't communicate enough. The issue is that ignores their actual communication.
Chapter 6 refers to the idea that consumers behave rationally and balance costs/benefits as an "uncontroversial axiom." That is controversial to say the least. Plenty of dispute about that.
Love Canal is discussed without ever mentioning Lois Gibbs or environmental justice. That seems like a huge omission.
Chapter 7 refers to the Clean Air Act of 1955. At that time it was the Air Pollution Act, and was renamed the CAA in 1963. But the components of it recognizable as what we call the CAA were added in 1970, so it seems questionable to refer to it as a 1955 act.
The use of graphs, charts and maps are generally a strength of the book, except that some of them are outdated, at least as of this review. Worldmapper was once great, but reflects 2002 data. There charts in chapter 5 for example that have data from 2000.
The book is so long I doubt it will be easy to update in any way. I didn't see much that was outdated except for the graphics. They also rely on the Brundtland report for virtually all definitions of sustainability which can be problematic.
The writing is clear overall. The only exception is the first chapter, which starts off invoking ideas that introductory students will not be familiar with. It is not well situated in the literature. The chapters following are all much better about that. The entire thing is fairly dry though, and is not inquiry-focused (meaning it provides information but doesn't bring the readers' direction back to a central question).
The book is consistent overall.
With the exception of chapter 1, the book is very modular. Chapters 5 and 8 are on the long side, but otherwise any chapter can work on its own.
I don't see any problem with the structure of the book.
No significant problems in terms of interface, except the minor exception that the way inset charts and figures are referenced in text is a little odd and clunky. The only major exception is that the whole thing is a single PDF on white background, and can be tiresome and dull reading. I doubt the authors could do much about that though.
There are a few grammatical errors, but the frequency of them is somewhat chapter specific. Most chapters are pretty clean.
I'm not sure this is about "cultural relevance," but those considering the adoption of this book should be aware of a couple things. First, chapter 6, on resource and environmental economics, takes an orthodox neo-classical approach, seemingly without being aware there are other approaches. Hence the authors take rational behavioralism as an "uncontroversial axiom." As another example, the authors mention the Coase theorem and all the ways it becomes obsolete in the real world, but then goes on to suggest that it should be the guiding principle of policy, before rapidly changing subjects. In short, the authors of that chapter are clearly economists of a neo-classical stripe. And second, I liked a lot about chapter 10, sustainability and society, and in fact would've preferred it if this was a bigger focus of the entire text. The chapter's case study on Colony Collapse Disorder was excellent. However, it takes a long term evolutionary approach to the issue, which notoriously obscures an incredible amount of geographic and historical specificity. This really comes through when it mentions the J-curve without qualifying it. The J-curve is actually very misleading, because a more historically specific understand of it shows that population growth is leveling off. In fact it didn't grow in the first place because humans are hard wired for that, as an evolutionary approach would assume. Population in general is not discussed adequately in the text.
It has its strengths and weaknesses. In general though, it trends on the technical and policy-wonk side. The discussion of transcendentalism in chapter 2 and some of the case studies in chapter 10 were exceptions to this, but overall it reads like an Encyclopedia of the Environment. Like a massive information dump without much focus or punch. The authors were going for comprehensiveness, which they achieved, but which ultimately created something that feels like a basic reference text for an undergraduate environmental course.
As a foundational resource on the field of sustainability, I find this book to be reasonably comprehensive. I think that certain chapters provide more detail and depth than others – and in a magnitude that’s necessarily consistent with the amount... read more
As a foundational resource on the field of sustainability, I find this book to be reasonably comprehensive. I think that certain chapters provide more detail and depth than others – and in a magnitude that’s necessarily consistent with the amount of information available. In particular, I think that the chapter on Environmental and Resource Economics could have provided more insight into the concept and application of ecosystem services in conservation, as well as some discussion about alternative methods for quantifying economic health and wellbeing (e.g. inclusive wealth). I would certainly, however, find that this resource is comprehensive enough to be used as the primary resource for a course – as it would be easy to cover certain topics in greater depth during lecture or with ancillary reading materials.
The textbook seems remarkably accurate with respect to factual content. In particular, I think the credibility and expertise of each chapter is strengthened by that fact that it was written by an expert or leader in the given corner of the discipline. In addition, each chapter provides several citations for data and references to research – which adds another layer of transparency and opportunity for students to dive further into various topics. The only exception is that I think Wikipedia is referenced a bit too much – I most cases I think better sources could be identified. I didn’t find any evidence of bias in the text.
necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
The case studies provide a nice context for the information in the chapters – and I think these will be easy to update with newer or more relevant examples in future editions. Overall, the field of sustainability is advancing quite quickly in comparison to other fields (e.g. anatomy), so I think it’s safe to assume that this book will need frequent revisions and updates to maintain consistency. The use of different authors/experts for various chapters will undoubtedly make the process of maintaining relevance and longevity much more feasible than if the text were written by only one or two.
Infographics, data, and other images are sparse in some chapters. On one hand, this will may provide more “longevity” in the book as these items don’t exist to be updated, but it think that more graphics would be useful to the student.
Overall, most chapters are written very clearly – although the style in prose does vary a bit from chapter to chapter (to be expected with so many authors). Unlike traditional textbooks, I think readability, in general, was not a priority in making the textbook as some pages feature many, many long paragraphs and very little white space. The text can be a little dull – which for the typical scientist is perfectly fine, but may be especially dry to the student who is reading textbooks from some of the major publishers – who seem to be favoring a more engaging journalistic style in many texts.
There are few infographics that seek to elucidate complicated topics, ideas, timelines, processes, etc – but I think that can be filed under “you get what you pay for.” I still find that the content is clearly articulated in most passages, and although some students may struggle with the text, I think the average upper level college student will have no problems.
The book seems fairly consistent in that each chapter provides learning objectives and review questions. Most chapters feature case studies, although not all of them. And some chapters have multiple case studies whereas others may only have one. The placement of the case study(ies) is not always the same – but I don’t think that this matters much.
The text varies in breadth and depth, and in prose/style, from chapter to chapter. I didn’t find it to be super obvious – and it probably won’t be a distraction to students. Such is the nature of having multiple authors. Also, the use of infographics varied among chapters – on the whole, I would find it beneficial to have more.
I think the modularity is a strength of this textbook. I can definitely see using this textbook in such a way that I might only assign certain chapters or sections of chapters – or perhaps I might assign them in a completely different order. Overall, the content seems as if it would be easy to reorganize and realigned, or used in conjunction with other ancillary course materials.
The nature of the discipline as well as the style of the book with distinct authors for each chapter makes for a disrupted flow, to some extent. I think the book may benefit from a bit of reorganization – but with regard to my comments for #6, I think the modularity of if it is a benefit – even if it may not be flow in a 100% sensible way.
Also, there is some inconsistency with the placement of the case studies within chapters, and in certain chapters, I think the placement could be modified. But overall, the organization/structure/flow is suitable for an open source textbook of this nature.
I viewed the book as a PDF in preview, and some of the text was a little distorted. The images and infographics were all nicely colored and in the proper proportion to the text. As a plain-Jane textbook, I think it is suitable – there are certainly not the interactive bells and whistles that you’d find in a more “modern” ebook from a major publisher. If I were to use this textbook, I would recommend that students download and print the book – as it cannot be annotated electronically. (Although the new generation of learners are perhaps better able to read, absorb, and retain material from such a plain, non-interactive PDF format much better than I).
I found no grammatical errors.
Perhaps this is the nature of the field or a reflection of the authors, but the book is indeed very US-centric in how it describes the background and application of sustainability as a scientific discipline. It would be nice to see more references to the international case studies, policy, research, etc. As the field develops and expands, I think there will be broader ability to explore many of these issues in a more culturally inclusive or expansive way.
This book has "comprehensive" in the title, and it delivers on that promise. The book covers a full range of topics relating to the multi-disciplinary nature of sustainability. On a chapter level, I found the book covered most if not all of the... read more
This book has "comprehensive" in the title, and it delivers on that promise. The book covers a full range of topics relating to the multi-disciplinary nature of sustainability. On a chapter level, I found the book covered most if not all of the concepts I would consider relevant. The book also provides an effective table of contents, index and glossary. This book would be appropriate for an introductory-level, multi-disciplinary course on sustainability or environmental studies.
The content in this book seems accurate to me. The chapters that I have the most expertise in (climate science and physical resources) are accurately written and well documented. The graphics that are used come from reliable sources and are appropriate for the text.
The content is up-to-date at this time. However, due to the rapidly evolving nature of many of the topics covered, e.g. global change and environmental policy, the text will need updating every few years or risk becoming obsolete. Updates to the text should be relatively straightforward for the authors.
The most of the text is written in an easy to understand, clear prose. It can be dry at times. The use of jargon is moderate and in most cases, jargon is defined in the text. The use of acronyms is excessive in some chapters. Acronyms are pervasive in environmental policy; however, their use in an introductory level text makes reading the text slow and disjointed. One needs to go back and find out what the acronym stands for each time they come across it until that acronym is memorized. This process uses unnecessary mental energy, which should be spent on understanding important concepts.
I found the consistency of this book fairly good. As noted below, the book is highly modular. Sometimes a modular book can suffer in consistency in tone and formatting from chapter to chapter. This is noticeable to a small extent in this book. In particular, you can tell that each chapter was written by different authors. There are some differences in the tone, level of jargon used from chapter to chapter. However, the editors did a good job maintaining consistency in the formatting and structure of the book from chapter to chapter.
The book is written in a very modular way. Individual chapters could easily be extracted and used on their own or in association with other resources.
The book is highly structured with many subsections. Each subsection has a title. Some of the headings could be more descriptive, but overall, the organization is clear. Because of the shallow and broad nature of the book, topics do not generally build upon each other, but they are broken up in logical ways.
I used the pdf file of the book. I had no issues downloading and reading the file. There were a few issues where the formatting is off; i.e. unnecessary spacing or tables that extend off the page.
No noticeable grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. It does have a U.S. centric focus, which may or may not be appropriate based on the goals of the course in which it is being used.
I like that the authors are including learning objectives and review questions in each module. However, many of the the learning objectives are very broad and vague, using terms like "understand." It would be helpful for the student to have more specific learning objectives. The review questions should also relate back to the learning objectives. In some cases, they do; however, often the connections are not obvious. I like the use of case studies in many of the chapters; these could be effectively used as jumping off points for classroom investigations. Overall, this seems like a good, comprehensive, introductory-level book.
As the title portrays, this is a very comprehensive collection of subjects and topics related to sustainability. Sustainability is a large topic though. As a professor of landscape architecture, there are many more topics, lessons, sustainable... read more
As the title portrays, this is a very comprehensive collection of subjects and topics related to sustainability. Sustainability is a large topic though. As a professor of landscape architecture, there are many more topics, lessons, sustainable systems, both rural and urban that we discuss that go beyond this book. I do enjoy the case studies as excellent precedence for specific topics.
The topics are accurate. However, for some subjects, I believe that further descriptions and in depth research on advanced topics would give the reader a deeper connection to the content.
Our world and research is continually changing. With the subject of sustainability, I would imagine that there would need to be constant edits and update to chapter contents and relationships between chapters.
It is a very simple writing style for most parts which reads clear in content. I would be looking for a bit more discussion on further relationships between topics overall. I wish that beyond the text, there were more visual imagery to set the visual framework for the topics being discussed.
It is not as consistent in the writing as expected. With the amount of various authors, it is very hard to have it be the same through this lengthy book.
The topics/subjects are largely covered by each chapter. Because of the range of topics, each chapter could be broken out quite easily. I do not favor this and would rather a greater connect between each topic.
The think the structure of the book is okay. Again, sustainability covers such a broad range of topics. But as a landscape architect, I would have preferred a layout that maybe ranges in scale and scope. Chapter 11 covers some of what I teach, and it took a long time to get there.
I originally tried to open the PDF and depending what server or online system I was on, it was often too large to download. I ultimately was able to open it and use it as the resource for this review. I wish the original website topics listings would show all books under each subject. Until you click into each do you then get to scroll and find the subjects with the title.
I think this was fine. However, the formatting of some of the pages on the PDF had streaming sentences that were not graphically laid out properly.
I believe this text is more about domestic issues than global problems. I would expand with more global case studies and the connections of topics at a larger scale.
There are so many overall generalities on this topics within the book. For landscape architecture students, sustainability is deeply rooted into all aspects of our designs from the over planning of cities, the layouts of conservations developments, ecological planning, and urban agriculture. We design at varying scales and detailed descriptions were missing on subjects like extensive versus intensive greenroofs, designing healthy landscapes and sustainable cities through park design, vegetated streetscapes, permeable paving, and new inventing engineered hydrological systems that support a native plant palette.
Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation excels in some facets of comprehensiveness but is lacking in others. I am impressed by their inclusion of social and policy details that are missing in many environmental science and sustainability... read more
Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation excels in some facets of comprehensiveness but is lacking in others. I am impressed by their inclusion of social and policy details that are missing in many environmental science and sustainability texts. This is probably the result of having a separate “expert” author for each chapter which is different from most texts on this subject which are authored by natural scientists that are less well versed in social and policy issues. I was especially impressed with their coverage of Climate Change as many texts I’ve reviewed do not contain sufficient detail. This text is lacking in comprehensiveness in that it does not adequately cover some topics, most notably for me, agriculture. This topic is so intimately tied to habitat loss, water management, the carrying capacity of humans and numerous other issues that it deserves more attention than it was given. Also of note is a lack of figures in some chapters that are pervasive through some published texts. This does not necessarily devalue the text but will require an adjustment for some students.
I found no information that was inaccurate for the time that this text was published. This is the benefit of having separate authors for each chapter. However, some of the data are already outdated simply based on publication date. For example the reported distribution of crude oil reserves has changed recently with the advent of hydraulic fracturing. This text will need to be updated regularly to maximize effectiveness.
The text is notably out of date in a few spots (e.g. it reports the current human population of 6.8 billion, pg. 14). This is a nagging issue for Environmental Science texts because the data are constantly changing and they matter to the debate. For instance the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from renewables is quickly changing and the data matter to the debate. The text appears to be written in a way that it could be updated by the authors if they are motivated to do so.
The text is very clearly written. Students should not struggle to understand the contents, however it is not terribly engaging. Classes that require students to rely heavily on the text may not find it a suitable resource simply because it fails to draw in all but the very dedicated students.
The nature of this text with its unique authors for each section results in an inconsistent voice that occasionally appears contradictory. However, the editors realize this and acknowledge it in the introduction. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the text and may help students to understand the difficulty of solving environmental problems. As long as the format for the text is clearly explained at the start of a class it should not cause problems.
This editors and authors of this text did an excellent job of arranging the chapters into digestible and well labeled sections. It would be very simple to specify which sections should be read and which should not. Very well done.
I found the organization of topics to be odd. However I hesitate to be overly critical because there is no universal view on how these diverse topics should be ordered and associated. Chapter 7 was especially confusing. Its title is “Modern Environmental Management” which is too vague. I thought it might include sections on management of wildlife and habitats but instead it was about waste management, government policy, and environmental risk assessment which seems like a strange marriage of topics.
I reviewed the book as a .pdf and found no issues. While it is utilitarian, I can’t imagine adopting this text without a paper copy for myself. I am happy to read off a screen but for a 600+ page text, the luddite in me wants a hard copy. Of course this can be achieved so we can all have our cake and eat it too.
I did not find any errors in the text. It is very well written and edited.
This subject requires a genuine world view but most of the chapters are written with a North American bias. Cultural sensitivity was probably not a high priority for the authors and edits of this text. However, there was nothing notably insensitive and this is a common problem for books on the topic. Inclusion of case studies from other regions would help as would more discussion of environmental policy around the world.
I am searching for an open source text for my environmental science course and while this one is not perfect, the authors have done a very good job and I think I could make it work. Well done.
The textbook follows an issue-based structure, which accurately reflects way sustainability problems are addressed across disciplines, or “metadisciplinary” as the authors describe it. In this sense, it is very comprehensive, covering both... read more
The textbook follows an issue-based structure, which accurately reflects way sustainability problems are addressed across disciplines, or “metadisciplinary” as the authors describe it. In this sense, it is very comprehensive, covering both breadth and depth more than most textbooks would attempt. Yet it remains difficult to be comprehensive regarding all relevant issues and disciplinary perspectives while also giving each one the depth it requires (even in a 600+ page textbook). Hence some topics receive more focused coverage than others (climate change, energy, sustainable infrastructure), but those that received this focused coverage are also charged with achieving substantial depth in a very short span (such as the resource and environmental economics chapter, which attempts to squeeze pieces of a microeconomics and an environmental economics course into 33 pages). Furthermore, specific issues are often covered using specific disciplinary perspectives and are not always integrated across modules. For instance, the climate change chapter is strictly climate science, while the social science and climate policy pieces are sporadically spread throughout other chapters. Still, the scope of this text is very ambitious and provides a nice basis upon which additional modules can be supplemented.
The modules appear well researched and accurate (although there are unfortunately many references to Wikipedia articles).
It will be difficult for this textbook to retain its longevity since sustainability encompasses a diverse set of fast developing “metadisciplines”. But its relevance will only increase and again hopefully modular structure is conducive to future updates and supplementation in the coming years.
The authors write clearly, but again, the multi-disciplinarily approach of the text will make technical jargon stand out for those modules outside a given student’s background. The extensive glossary is useful in this regard.
The layout and presentation is very consistent, although them modular approach means that the conceptual framing of each chapter can vary dramatically. But this variability is in fact ideal for a sustainability perspective, for students will find that addressing sustainability problems requires remaining open to different framings of research and policy solutions.
The modularity is probably the best feature of this textbook.
Again, due to the diverse nature of this field, creating a nice flow to the book is extremely difficult, and in this case in inversely related to its modularity. Many of the topics are interwoven throughout the book (for instance, climate change is introduced in Environmental Risk Management and later expanded upon in Chapter 3), but others are relegated to minor roles when if fact they may be more broadly relevant (such as Industrial Ecology being mentioned in the context of life-cycle assessment in Chapter 9 but entirely absent from the waste sections in Chapter 7). The placement of many of the chapters seems very arbitrary. It is probably best to simply ignore the chapter numbers and reorganize the text to fit the flow of the particular course one is teaching.
The formatting is a bit clunky at times with empty space on some pages because of photos on the next, only a space between section breaks, and some tables that don’t translate well to PDF. But overall, the numbering of sections and subsections is consistent and useful.
Didn’t see any problems.
Very relevant to our place and time, both for a global community that will need to address all these issues and for the sustainability community that is quickly developing an interdisciplinary field across natural sciences, social science, and humanities. The choice to use the U.S. perspective as the main historical basis for the emergence of environmentalism and sustainable development is arguably regionally limiting, but again, it provides a good basis for discussing the development of the same or similar ideas in other cultural contexts.
Nice to see an open source book on this important subject, sets a much needed standard!
For an evolve subject matter area the book covers most of the important areas which ought to be considered, an area omitted is that related to the traditional engineering design paradigm which was a response to a compact with the owner/manager to... read more
For an evolve subject matter area the book covers most of the important areas which ought to be considered, an area omitted is that related to the traditional engineering design paradigm which was a response to a compact with the owner/manager to remove the engineering structure or system from service after the expiration of the design life.
Within the knowledge based of this reviewer the topics covered are factually error free.
In that the concept of "sustainability" is a contemporary hot topic, and the nature of this compilation might make subsequent comprehensive revision problematic I suspect the longevity will be short.
The sections of the book vary a bit but not to the point where this is a distraction.
As compilation this is inherently a weak spot, but on the important concepts there is consistency
Apart from the area, in the opinion of this reviewer, which is quite important being omitted the topics seem to be organized in a logical fashion.
The document can be navigated without aggravation within Adobe Reader.
This is outside my expertise.
I was not offended, but cannot comment on whether others might be offended.
It is quite a challenge to develop a comprehensive document for an area of subject matter which is under formulation. This document does a commendable job regarding the topics it addresses. An important omission is the part played by the classical engineering design paradigm developed in response to the inherent owner/manager and engineering designer compact. This compact implicitly suggests that a system or structure will be removed from service after the design service life has expired. The engineering design paradigm which has resulted is to develop designs which avoid fundamental problems during the service life and as such any “maintenance” is minor where expendable elements are routinely replaced, eg., motor oil, tires, light bulbs, paint, etc. While failing to honor such compacts might be suggested to align with sustainable drivers it is based on the false premise that failing to recognize the design approach might afford a basis for “extending the life” of these engineered systems. Because the engineering designer has generally honor the compact, no serious consideration was given during design to any efforts to “preserve” the system… to monitor the inevitable deterioration of the system or structure and repair or replace the necessary elements to sustain it. Clearly the compact was born in an age when sustainability was not considered, but ignoring the fact that the products of this compact are all about us because the manner in which we design is not being deliberately altered to a sustainable design paradigm is an oversight which should be corrected in this comprehensive foundation.
This text covers a broad range of social and physical science principles that underpin sustainability and illustrates them well using relevant historic examples and case studies. It is broad in its scope and covers most topics included in many... read more
This text covers a broad range of social and physical science principles that underpin sustainability and illustrates them well using relevant historic examples and case studies. It is broad in its scope and covers most topics included in many Sustainability and Environmental Studies textbooks.
I would have liked to see a more thorough section on Agriculture. The impacts of agriculture are mentioned briefly in the Soil and Sustainability section, but I believe merit greater discussion - particularly in the Modern Environmental Management or Environmental and Resource Economics chapters.
The content was accurate, error-free, and was appropriately cited throughout. I did, however, find it bothersome that Wikipedia topic pages were cited as content references (e.g. Chapters 7, 9).
The case studies, graphics, and figures included recent data that have several years left in their relevancy.
For a book aimed at first and second year students, I found the first two chapters (Introduction, Evolution of Environmental policy in the US) to be well articulated and effective at providing an introductory framework for a new student to the field. The history of the sustainability movement would be attractive to a reader new to the field by giving a better sense of the historical and social context under which Sustainability science operates. The use of images of artistic and historical relevance in Chapters 1, 2, and 10 was a good way to draw in the reader, particularly those new to Sustainability studies.
For a reading audience with a deeper background in Sustainability, I found the chapters to be clear and comprehensive and this book could be used as a helpful reference for scientific and social principles instruction. The glossary was very thorough and a welcome supplement.
The layout of the text is consistent, opening each module with a set of learning objectives, and following up with review questions.
The modularity of this textbook is its greatest strength. The modular nature of this book lends itself to opportunities for supplementing and/or updating with more current case studies and examles. Each module's framework also lends itself to a logical progression of classroom discussion (e.g. introduction to basic principles, illustrative examples, "Sustainable Solutions", and case studies). It is both comprehensive and flexible.
Chapters 1 and 2 do a thorough job of introducing the first or second year student to the overall Sustainabiltiy context and set the stage for further exploration into the scientific principles and concepts covered in later chapters. Chapter 10 could easily be moved to the beginning (between Chapters 2 and 3) by engaging the new Sustainability student to where humanity fits in.
I read this book through a .pdf viewer (Preview on a Mac), an eBook application on an iPad and desktop computer. When reading on a desktop computer through the eBook application, I found the format to be more streamlined and easy to follow. The visual layout is much less clunky (e.g. the extensive 220.127.116.11. subsection notations do not appear) in the eBook application on a desktop/laptop than it is on a mobile device.
Some images used throughout were of lower quality, and showed up poorly resolved on my pdf viewer. In addition, some image and table captions were unclear or obscured by figure or table content in the pdf viewer.
The grammar was consistent and accurate throughout.
The text is very US-centric, which may exempt its use for courses geared more towards global scale issues. However, the modular nature of this text lends itself to integrating more international or global case studies and examples. Aside from the US focus, the text does not communicate any insensitive or offensive messages.
I would incorporate several modules into my own teaching, the authors did an admirable job of including substantial information for such a broad and comprehensive topic.
The text is billed as an introduction to the essential elements of sustainability suitable for first or second year college students. Some topics are remedial in light of current standards in K-12 curriculum; however, this is necessary to account... read more
The text is billed as an introduction to the essential elements of sustainability suitable for first or second year college students. Some topics are remedial in light of current standards in K-12 curriculum; however, this is necessary to account for the variety of backgrounds of incoming college students. Any text using the term "comprehensive" is suspect, but as an introductory text that balances social, economic and environmental underpinnings this one does a good job. As others have noted, there are elements missing that bear direct relation to equity issues such as agriculture and water rights in light of corporate sovereignty, but as a holistic introduction to primary issues this text is well thought out.
As far as the science and economics are presented in an elementary fashion, there is little to be disputed in its accuracy. At times the text displays a tendency to preach, but this presents the opportunity for further discussion.
As a primer and introduction to current approaches and issues the text serves admirably. But, as I have mentioned earlier, timely discussions of agriculture, GMOs, water rights and the entire economic interdependency with Corporate sovereignty is missing from the discussion. Chapter 8. Sustainable Energy Systems is focused on alternative biofuel and PCM systems, which I suspect are in the author's research areas, with limited review in others. The built environment's use of alternative energies is lightly touched on but lacking in passive systems and review of current technological advances. These areas could use an updating to keep the text current.
The book is quite lucid, and accessible. Jargon is inherent to the topic, but definitions and interrelated descriptions are well managed and coordinated.
The "voice" of the book is very consistent. However, from the standpoint of providing a holistic interrelation of topics as well as content, the book is best used in a modular form.
This is where I believe the text shines. Each chapter can stand alone and the learning objectives, coupled with well-considered illustrations and chapter review questions, makes for an easy transition to classroom presentation and discussion. For example, the chapters on 3: Climate and Global Change and 6: Environmental and Resource Economics are valuable introductions to topics that are not the focus of many courses but are necessary to any discussion on sustainability.
If the text is regarded from a modular perspective, it is well organized. As an overall treatment of the subject of Sustainability some chapters would be well served by reorganizing and put into more immediate context.
The ePub version was slow and did not link quickly via its table of contents using Internet Explorer 11. The PDF version needs to have the table of contents and index linked.
Text and captions were well written and used language suitable for College courses. Captions to figures suffered from some overlay issues with the footer in the PDF version.
Individual chapter discussions should address economics in light of multi-national corporations and governmental policy influences highlighting their impacts on equity issues including food and water. This will add to the discussion and broaden the readers understanding of their individual role within the framework of civic responsibility.
I will be using some of the chapters from this book to augment my courses.
As its subtitle indicates, "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" aims for comprehensiveness. The book description claims that the text allows first and second-year college students to begin "comprehensively exploring the essential concepts... read more
As its subtitle indicates, "Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation" aims for comprehensiveness. The book description claims that the text allows first and second-year college students to begin "comprehensively exploring the essential concepts from every branch of knowledge--including engineering and the applied arts, natural and social sciences, and the humanities." This is a huge book--almost 600 pages of text in the PDF version--collectively written by a team of faculty members from the University of Illinois. The book features 11 chapters, each with multiple sections and sub-sections, treating such subjects as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, waste management, and energy use, along with disciplinary approaches such as history, economics, public policy, and ethics. It also includes more than ten short case studies. Like any good textbook, each section (or "module") has a set of learning objectives at the beginning, as well as a set of review questions at the end, which are helpful in keeping students focused on the information conveyed in each section. The book also has a glossary at the end, and links to further resources appear throughout, either as URLs in the PDF version or hyperlinks in the HTML version. The book description claims that "the text has sufficient range to perform as the core resource for a semester course" (3), and this is true, but it would also be challenging to assign as a single textbook. At times, the book reads more like an introductory environmental science textbook than an introduction to sustainability, and many of the sections go into far more detail than "first and second-year college students" would ever want to know, much less be able to process. This is undoubtedly the consequence of having each chapter be "written by a recognized expert in the field," as experts are not always the best judges of what ordinary readers need to know about their subjects. To give an example, the section on "Environmental Challenges in Energy, Carbon Dioxide, Air, Water and Land Use" is written at just the right level of accessibility for a general audience, whereas the section on "Risk Assessment Methodology for Conventional and Alternative Sustainability Options" appears to be written for a specialist audience. This latter point is a particular shame, because risk assessment is one of the most important and least understood aspects of sustainability, and it deserves to be more widely understood. That this section includes no reference to the Precautionary Principle, which is only briefly referred to in another section, should give some indication of the drawbacks of a more limited, specialist approach to the subject. (Similarly, it might be off-putting to some students to begin with an equation-heavy introductory chapter.) For this reason, the dual purposes of the text are sometimes at odds, as it is difficult for a text to be useful as both "a broad-based introductory class on sustainability" and "a useful supplement to specialist courses which wish to review the sustainability dimensions of their areas of study" (3). While there is much to be praised about the volume's attempt at comprehensiveness, it also seems somewhat tone-deaf at times to the larger conversation about sustainability taking place around the world. If it is true, for instance, that "at the center of the sustainability paradigm" is the fact that "human behavior is a social and ethical phenomenon, not a technological one" (11), it is remarkable that the book does not include a chapter on behavioral psychology, which has made so many contributions to sustainability, such as Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's idea of the "nudge." The book gestures toward the importance of human behavior in the chapters on economics and ethics, culture, and history, but it lacks a more thoroughgoing treatment of the subject. Likewise, it is surprising that the chapter on economics does not address ecological economics, whether Herman Daly's idea of the "steady-state economy," Paul Hawken's exploration of "natural capitalism," or other allied formulations. Similarly, there is no historical or theoretical treatment of the corporation, and--incredibly--the word "capitalism" does not appear once in the entire text. Other gaps include no mention of William McDonough's work on sustainable design (which would have been a natural fit as part of the discussion of life-cycle analysis in chapter 9), no reference to Aldo Leopold's "land ethic" (which surely belongs in a chapter on ethics, culture, and history), and little attention to indigenous perspectives, environmental justice, and the outsized role that poverty plays in preventing sustainability from being achieved.
The text is largely accurate and unbiased, particularly in its excellent overview of "Climate and Global Change" (Chapter 3) and sensitive discussion of CO2 emissions in developed countries vs. emerging economies. The only exception is the conclusion that "we are essentially changing the climate faster and in a different direction than natural processes have intended," as natural cycles do not have intention (88). The section on "The Sustainable City" in the final chapter is also arguable in some of its utopian visions, such as: "In our sustainable city everyone will be watching everyone else. Video surveillance webcams might be everywhere, and everyone would have access to them" (534). Edward Snowden might beg to differ.
The content is mostly up-to-date, with limited exceptions, such as the reference to the EPA being given the authority "to regulate greenhouse gases through a series of findings, hearings, rulings, and regulations in accord with terms set out in the Clean Air Act" (267). The text notes that "this process is underway at the present time" (267), but it will soon be complete. Otherwise, the book is highly relevant.
Because many of the sections within each chapter are written by different authors, this lends the book a certain stylistic discomfort, but overall the book description is correct that the text covers "a wide range of topics with a uniformity of style" (3). This leads to rather workmanlike prose, of course, although there are some exceptions, such as Gillen Wood's elegant chapter on ethics, which is rendered in the first-person singular (e.g. "In terms of the evolutionary argument I am outlining here..." (482).
The book description notes that "readers accustomed to textbooks that present material in a unitary voice might be surprised to find in this one statements that do not always agree" (3), but this is not a major issue; the variations in style and approach are more significant. Some sections, such as the list of major environmental laws in chapter 7 on "Modern Environmental Management," read more like Wikipedia articles than interpretive or analytical summaries, while other sections take a more narrative approach.
The text is highly modular; indeed, because of its multiple authorship, the book would be overwhelming to read all at once. As the book description indicates, "the modular design allows individual chapters and sections to be easily appropriated--without the purchase of a whole new text. This allows educators to easily bring sustainability concepts, references, and case studies into their area of study" (3). More likely, this modularity will allow teachers of introductory sustainability courses to pick and choose which sections to assign. The presence of a glossary helps the book maintain a certain level of self-referentiality, but it is not overly self-referential.
The book is well organized overall, although one could argue with how the chapters and sections are ordered. The section on "Soil and Sustainability" could just as well have been placed in the chapter on "Physical Resources" (rather than in the chapter on "Biosphere"), for example, and the many sub-sub-subsections in some chapters (e.g. Section 18.104.22.168.8) can become disorienting. More broadly, one could imagine a framework that separates those chapters that address broad principles (such as policy, economics, and ethics) from those that address particular subjects (such as biodiversity, energy, and climate change). It would also be nice to see more attention given to the case studies, which appear in chapters 5-11 but not in chapters 1-4. If, as Gillen Wood argues, "sustainability is best viewed through specific examples, or case studies" (494), these stories of sustainability in action deserve more prominence, perhaps as openings to each chapter that illustrate the main points under discussion.
While the PDF version makes for easier reading, especially offline, it also has some weaknesses: the authorship of the various sections does not appear in most sections, for example, and the presence of numerous footnotes makes the book look more like a series of law review articles than an introductory textbook. Likewise, many of the HTML references in Chapter 8 on "Sustainable Energy Systems" are orphaned (e.g. "For more information about this, click here" ), some tables not rendered correctly in Chapter 11 on "Sustainable Infrastructure," and dashes are rendered so thinly that they appear almost invisible in the PDF version. In both the HTML and PDF version, graphs, charts, and illustrations are of varying quality, depending on their source.
No obvious errors.
The book could do better on this count. Many of the sections focused on science and technology seem to assume a universality of application, rather than recognizing that sustainability takes place in a diversity of cultural frameworks.
A very worthy text, most of the problems of which are the consequence of multiple authorship.
This textbooks seems to cover the same information and depth as other texts on the same subject. Its depth and coverage of topics in sustainability would be appropriate for a non-majors, general science course in the environmental sciences. Some... read more
This textbooks seems to cover the same information and depth as other texts on the same subject. Its depth and coverage of topics in sustainability would be appropriate for a non-majors, general science course in the environmental sciences. Some of the chapter titles are uniquely titled which may make them harder to connect to the organization of Environmental Science courses but a little deeper inquiry into the chapter subheadings help bring more clarity to what the chapters are about. Each of the main subjects of the multidisciplinary text seem to be written by an expert in that particular discipline.
Each of the main content areas within this multidisciplinary text has been written by a content expert in the particular field represented. This means that each of these content areas is well represented and written from the perspective of that discipline.
I appreciate the use of case studies in this text. Case studies provide real world examples of the material represented in the chapters. This would give the ability of the authors/editors to continually update the text with more up-to-date information. However, about half of the case studies are a bit dated. They are classic examples but there are more relevant and current examples for the same material. Also I would love to see even more case studies available for students and professors to utilize. Students appreciate the ability to see why the material they are studying matters and that is relevant in the real world.
The text is mostly easy to read; however, the figures, picture examples, and frankly unappealing and simplistic design in several of the chapters will cause most students will loose interest in reading it. It reads like many research articles and for the non-major student especially will not be excited and engaged in the text. I was fine to read it coming from a science background and interest in the subject matter, but someone who is taking the course to fulfill a requirement will mostly likely skim the chapters instead of reading them in depth. This is one of the more important things I look for in a text so currently this would not displace the paper copy text I use in my course.
The text terminology and framework is fairly consistent. You can tell that each of the authors had a specific framework to follow in order to maintain the consistency of the text. You can tell that different people are writing each chapter; however the format is the same throughout. It may be one of the downfalls of the many author design of the text that each chapter will read slightly different but the consistent format helps to alleviate most of it.
It is broken into smaller sections take can aid in its readability however at times this is distracting and the sections are overly divided. There are other sections that are not divided enough. I think the simplistic design of the subheadings makes for more dry reading and disinterest for the reader. Even having some different colors of subheadings could help with this problem.
The topics seem to be organized well with the chapters building on each other well. The chapters do the same as they start with introduction material and then build into more complex concepts and ideas. The text ends with what the future could hold in regards to sustainability. I think it does well to end on positive subject matter.
I do think that the interface is more clunky compared to a paper text. On a laptop using a PDF is not as easy to skip to specific parts of the text. On a reader app this would be more helpful but still would not be as easy as a paper text. This may frustrate students and professors alike. I could also see that the diagrams and pictures may not look as clear on all devices.
I found no grammar errors.
It is definitely written from an American cultural background. Almost all of the case studies are from the US which I believe should be remedied. I would not choose this particular text if cultural relevance is important, which it happens to be. This is however a common problem of many text available for this subject which I believe is limiting its affect on those outside the eurocentric viewpoint.
The text occurs to me as comprehensive in terms of approaching sustainability as a issue of environmental management. It contains a single chapter (10) that draws some of the connections between the social and cultural. The chapters that address... read more
The text occurs to me as comprehensive in terms of approaching sustainability as a issue of environmental management. It contains a single chapter (10) that draws some of the connections between the social and cultural. The chapters that address intersections, such as Environment and Resource Management, largely occur to me as speaking about these issues from an analytical view of patterns of behavior and resources use as "objects," distinct from history and emotion. For example, Chapter 2, which discusses the evolution of enviornmental policy in the U.S., makes no reference to native American experiences; it treats the "beginning" as colonialists' ownership and use of land. More emergent views that include reslilience and complexity (e.g., C.S. Holling and L.H. Gundersen) are not omitted. The majority of the chapters reflect issues of environmental science in a way that occurs to me as reductionist, rather than holistic. Having said that, the chapters on the individual issues (e.g., Global climate change, Biosphere) seem comprehensive in terms of the present science. The chapter titles do address the broad range of issues within sustainability. It's hard to address such a complex, interconnected set of issues in the linear media of a book. So, I think the book largely does a nice job of this.
In terms of the disciplinary sciences that are represented here, the book occurs to me as accurate. As I read it, there is a way in which the chapters are written from a disciplinary mindset, rather than an holistic mindset. In this way, I do not consider it "unbiased". All viewpoints, in the arguments of J. Habermas (which seem logical to me), necessarily contain a biased point of view, since they include a "viewer".
There is relevance and longevity, it seems to me, in the sections that address the biophysical world, even though they do so in a traditional, reductionists view. I don't see this text as being obsolete any time soon. However, for me, the text would serve as a starting point from which to begin conversations in class about what is potentially missing, the tacit mental models represented in different chapters, and so on.
The text seems to be straight forward and clear in the prose. Technical jargon is defined when included. There is a way in which the text occurs to me as less of an overview and more of a deep dive into the distrinct disciplinary perspectives. However, I suspect that this is appropriate for a college-level audience.
The text seems fairly consistent in the layout, although it varies from chapter to chapter in terms of the granularity of the sections and the scope that is addressed in each chapter. I suppose this is expected in an edited compilation. There are also inconsistencies in presentation of viewpoint, but this is acknowledged and explained in the preface.
The chapter headings are such that the book can easily be used in a modular way.
From my point of view, the text seems to place a priority on environmentalism, with the social dimensions of sustainability residing at the margins. In this way, the text represents what occurs to me as a U.S. centric view of sustainability. The more European/global views that look at the holistic picture that include histories that brought the planet and its peoples to this point are largely absent from the text. It does this by focusing largely on the environmental issues and resources for the bulk of the book and then include a single chapter on the social (10) at the end. So, if I were to use the text, would start with Chapter 10, or put chapter 10 early in the text.
The interface is quite good for a free text. There do not appear to be significant issues. From an academic standpoint, there are places where the references are not as robust or present as one would expect, but there are references to the on-line content at Connexions which might have a more comprehensive referencing. There is also some inconsistency with the reference use, but all in all, it is sufficient as a interface.
As mentioned above, the embedded cultural base-line is the U.S., white man's story. The perspective of native Americans or more global regions is largely omitted. In this way, the book occurs to me as "offensive" in its ethnocentricity. I don't think this can be "fixed" by including, say, a Chinese person in an example. It's my view that the assertions in the book are made unconsciously, without an awareness of one's own cultural milieu. As an example: p. 24 assertion: "If the sustainability paradigm is to be believed, then economic viability is of paramount concern and the engagement of industrial forces must of necessity be part of its enactment. These are the engines that provide employment, and that control large quantities of capital for investment." These statements are made as if they are the truth. The value system of the military-industrial complex, consumption as 'way of life' and concentraion of profit for the few, are embedded in this statement as if these things were God-given, rather than socially-defined. In this way, the text is limited in its cultural relevance. However, it certainly has a lot of value as a source of a particular point of view. Readers can deconstruct and question the assumptions implicit in the text. So the text is very useful, regardless.
For a free text, this book is excellent. No text is free from bias. No text is complete comprehensive for all uses. I commend the authors and editors.
This text covers many, although not all, aspects of environmental science and sustainability. To be fair, no single book could ever be completely comprehensive, as hte subject is simply too large. This text is more geared towards policy, and... read more
This text covers many, although not all, aspects of environmental science and sustainability. To be fair, no single book could ever be completely comprehensive, as hte subject is simply too large. This text is more geared towards policy, and explaining some fo the science behind current policy, with a focus on climate change. Many topics that I cover in my class, including agriculture, livestock, biodiversity, are not covered adequately in this text. Agriculture is mentioned very very briefly in chapter 4, but not to a level that any real class would cover it. Nothing about GMOs or alternate cropping systems for sustainability in the future. Biodiversity is covered in slightly less than 4 pages, and it is very dry: the red list, categories of species, and so on -- nothing for students really to sink their teeth into.
I would give this book a great rating on accuracy -- the authors did a fabulous job with their research, and did great summaries of the topics that they covered. I have no problem at all sending students this way, to get accurate updated information on the topics covered in this book.
The climate section is so well written that I believe that this has at least 5 years of life in it, before it might become painfully obvious that it needs updating. The policy sections are written in a general enough way that I also think they will stay current. This field is so new, and is moving so quickly, that updating frequently will be critical. Other topics that change rapidly -- such as alternative energy -- are described here so briefly, and in such general terms with few specifics, that they will need updating less than once a year as well.
Although the writing style is VERY dry, with an emphasis on gneralizations and take-home points, with fewer specifics and examples, I find the writing to be very clear and easy to read. The section on mining, starting with basic geology concepts, was particularly easy to read.
The book does a great job with consistency, and it reads as if if one author alone wrote the whole thing. The level of detail is about the same throughout, the glossary at the end of each chapter is detailed, and the level stays consistent.
The modularity is EXCELLENT and is what might make this book most useful. I looked at several chapters of this book that are not covered well by my lectures, and the chapters seem to be complete as stand-alone chapters. I have no problem assigning individual chapters of this text.
Because the chapters really are stand-alone units, the flow is almost irrelevant. But in any case, chapters internally are very well organized and flow very well. Chapters start with general introductions, lead us through the history and background of a problem, and move us to specifics and more advanced material. It is a very clear text.
I had to read the book through iBooks, because the PDF download did not work -- at least on the 2 Macs I tried. Everything in teh text displayed perfectly. The only annoyance I had -- and this may be due to my complete lack of experience with iBooks -- is that I could only page through things page by page, and so skipping around from chapter to chapter, and back to the table of contents, was annoying. I found that I left the table of contents open in Firefox, and then paged through iBooks to the right place after I looked up where I wanted to go on the web site. It is easier to jump around with a printed book.
It is very culturally sensitive! Sustainability is a global concern, and they address this well.
On one hand, I really wanted to love this book. However, I don't think I will be able to use it. It is very dry -- few examples, few things that are provocative, and I don't think that htis book will really capture and excite freshmen students, which is my audience. Everything is accurate, but I wanted pictures, specifics, controversy.
Table of Contents
- 1 Foreword
- 2 Preface
- 3 Introduction to Sustainability: Humanity and the Environment
- 4 The Evolution of Environmental Policy in the United States
- 5 Climate and Global Change
- 6 Biosphere
- 7 Physical Resources: Water, Pollution, and Minerals
- 8 Environmental and Resource Economics
- 9 Modern Environmental Management
- 10 Sustainable Energy Systems
- 11 Problem-Solving, Metrics, and Tools for Sustainability
- 12 Sustainability: Ethics, Culture, and History
- 13 Sustainable Infrastructure
About the Book
With “Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation”, first and second-year college students are introduced to this expanding new field, comprehensively exploring the essential concepts from every branch of knowledge – including engineering and the applied arts, natural and social sciences, and the humanities. As sustainability is a multi-disciplinary area of study, the text is the product of multiple authors drawn from the diverse faculty of the University of Illinois: each chapter is written by a recognized expert in the field.
This text is designed to introduce the reader to the essential concepts of sustainability. This subject is of vital importance seeking as it does to uncover the principles of the long-term welfare of all the peoples of the planet but is only peripherally served by existing college textbooks.
The content is intended to be useful for both a broad-based introductory class on sustainability and as a useful supplement to specialist courses which wish to review the sustainability dimensions of their areas of study. By covering a wide range of topics with a uniformity of style, and by including glossaries, review questions, case studies, and links to further resources, the text has sufficient range to perform as the core resource for a semester course. Students who cover the material in the book will be conversant in the language and concepts of sustainability, and will be equipped for further study in sustainable planning, policy, economics, climate, ecology, infrastructure, and more.
Furthermore, the modular design allows individual chapters and sections to be easily appropriated without the purchase of a whole new text. This allows educators to easily bring sustainability concepts, references, and case studies into their area of study.
This appropriation works particularly well as the text is free downloadable to anyone who wishes to use it. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to work with the text. Provided there is attribution to the source, users can adapt, add to, revise and republish the text to meet their own needs.
Because sustainability is a cross-disciplinary field of study, producing this text has required the bringing together over twenty experts from a variety of fields. This enables us to cover all of the foundational components of sustainability: understanding our motivations requires the humanities, measuring the challenges of sustainability requires knowledge of the sciences (both natural and social), and building solutions requires technical insight into systems (such as provided by engineering, planning, and management).
Readers accustomed to textbooks that present material in a unitary voice might be surprised to find in this one statements that do not always agree. Here, for example, cautious claims about climate change stand beside sweeping pronouncements predicting future social upheaval engendered by a warming world. And a chapter that includes market-based solutions to environmental problems coexists with others that call for increased government control. Such diversity of thought characterizes many of the fields of inquiry represented in the book; by including it, we invite users to engage in the sort of critical thinking a serious study of sustainability requires.
It is our sincerest hope that this work is shared freely and widely, as we all struggle to understand and solve the enormous environmental challenges of our time.
About the Contributors
Tom Theis is Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, and Professor of Civil and Materials Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Jonathan Tomkin is the Associate Director, School of Earth, Society & Environment, an Associate Research Professor with the Department of Geology and Director, ESE Online.