ENVR E-160: Critical Thinking about Issues of Environmental and Public Health

Our ideas about complex environmental and public health issues such as climate change, industrial chemicals, and species extinction are largely formed by simplistic and dramatized media coverage and distorting political spin from all sides. In this course, students learn how to think about these issues more carefully. As a result, their views and perspectives are better informed and their choices are more intelligent and healthier for them and their families. Topics include risk perception—the psychology that explains why we are often more afraid of lesser risks and less afraid of bigger ones, and how that perception gap can be dangerous; media coverage of environmental and public health issues; risk analysis—the controversy over choosing policy options based on economics; the risk sciences of epidemiology and toxicology—what they can and cannot tell us; and hormesis—the discovery by toxicologists that small exposures to toxic substances may be beneficial. Other issues include endocrine disruption, radiation, air pollution (indoor and outdoor), pesticides, major causes of death (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and accidents), and emerging infectious diseases.


David P. Ropeik







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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2016-2017 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

NEW! Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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