Scribner Seminar Program
Instructor(s): Ann Gallagher Ernst, Environmental Studies
Plastic – miracle molecule or environmental scourge? Plastics helped the Allies win World War II, transformed transportation and electronics, and revolutionized medicine. Through their use in clean drinking-water delivery, helmets, food packaging, incubators, airbags, for example, plastics also save lives daily. But plastics have a dark side that is becoming more apparent every day: they leach toxic chemicals, litter our landscapes, and imperil marine life. And the problem is only growing. Half of the plastic ever made was produced in the past 15 years, and it can last for hundreds of years. In this course, students will examine the basic properties of plastics, the scale of society’s dependence on them, and the impacts on public health and ecosystems. We will examine ways to regulate plastics and possible solutions to this growing problem. We will also develop different ways to communicate this information to the broader public, through written and oral communication and through art. This course includes several lab sessions during class time.