Intro to Environmental Science

Dec 2009

I found this class to be a terribly boring waste of time. If you’re in it for an easy fulfillment of the science requirement and you don’t care about wasting your time with busywork, then perhaps it’s for you. However, be warned: do not underestimate the annoyance and agony described in some other reviews. Many of my classmates, who would have been perfectly capable of acing his open-notes tests, decided to pass/fail the class because they were sick of wasting too much time on the busywork reading assignments (sometimes relevant, sometimes about good recipes for trout) and boring, irrelevant lab reports (one was a “field journal” about our walk to look at and analyze the building composition of various structures in Morningside Heights- when we weren’t even studying geology at all). Listening to lab instructor Diane Dittrick’s voice for over two hours each week was enough to give me a headache for the rest of the day. This woman also consistently wasted our time and confused us each lab. The lab topics, aside from the one memorable trip out on the Hudson in a research vessel, were almost always boring. Once we dissected owl pellets. Very sixth-grade science class. As a humanities person who is interested in environmental topics, I thought this would be a great way to fulfill the lab requirement. However, I don’t think I can bear to take another course in the environmental science department here, so I will have to content myself with reading books about environmental science and probably take two semesters of another science lab. I would rather pass/fail a difficult science course and learn something than headache my way through another semester of intro to environmental science.

Jul 2006

I took both semesters as my science/lab requirement, and both semesters this class was unbelievably frustrating. Bower’s lectures have no focus and wander all over. Everything was covered very superficially, and I don’t feel that I learned anything useful/or important – I just picked up useless pieces of trivia about the Hudson River. But even worse than the lectures are the labs. First semester the labs were just boring. Second semester we were supposed to investigate pollution in a virtual world. We had to have serious discussions about a made-up town and learned absolutely nothing. Lab (let alone lecture) was a complete and utter waste of three hours each week.

Feb 2006

I found Professor Mutter to be an excellent instructor and probably the best science instructor I've had at Columbia (in mostly intro courses). The material for the course is difficult and broad, but he threw a lot of info at us in an attempt to show us the principles that united all of it, and he did a pretty good job. The things I learned in that class are still very vivid in my mind, (more vivid than dinosaurs class - Mutter makes the rock cycle more memorable than predatorial dino lineages) and he does a very good job of imparting the significance of issues in class to the survival of life on this planet. So there's that. Lectures were informative and well-put together, in that he gets to the point and then shows how to see the point in data. He also makes it a priority to show not only what scientists know but how they go about knowing it, which helps to make the material more approachable. There will be graphs and data charts that are just too hard to understand in the context of a blurringly fast intro course, and the two-prof method can be a little awkward at times. The tests were very straightforward and reinforced the essentials, and not all that hard. Professor Mutter was very approachable. The inside of the earth is an incredibly hot iron ball with fissures through it like slices in a loaf of bread. This is very important to the earth's magnetism. Still remember that.

Dec 2005

DON’T TAKE THIS CLASS IT ISNT EVEN EASY. Ok so if you read the twenty other horrible reviews but are still thinking about taking this class because its easy…DON’T. While it is true that all you do is busy work and you won’t have to synthesis any information or even think, it takes A LOT OF TIME. Every week I spent an ENORMOUS amount of time doing brainless work for this class. You can’t just make it up either because all the answers need to be verbatim from the reading. This is not even including the 25 page lab report. NOT WORTH IT. Additionally, I found the reading extremely offensive and chauvinistic, just like Bower. All of our texts were written by backwards men from the 1960’s, and they aren’t even environmentally accurate anymore. Ok here is an example of a passage from Farley Mohwat’s Never Cry Wolf (this is about how a wolf in the artic yelped) “It was a high-pitched snarl of shock and outrage-not entirely unlike the sound I have heard an angry woman make when, in a crowded subway car, someone pinched her bottom.”(170) The book is filled with lots more wonderful scientific observation…

Dec 2004

I cannot remember a time when I didn't fall asleep during class. The course was annoying and time consuming. All this course revolves around was tedious work. I don't care about the life cycles of the shad or the bass. If I wanted to know, I would look it up. I want to know more about actual environmental issues. Professor Bower himself is nice enough, but his course was so boring. We got so many handouts, maps, and other paper materials that I feel like our class killed a whole forest during one semester.

Dec 2004

It's really disheartening to see my fellow classmates writing such heinous reviews for this class. This is an intro to ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE class, what do you EXPECT to learn? How much depth can you really cover in such a science class- it is an intro (oh mind, the directly- previous 3-4 reviews were about 1st semester ONLY don't forget-- i am good friends w/one of the head T.A.'s who has taken the course both semesters last yr & was informed by her, that during the 2nd semester, you learn a lot more about environmental policy & environ. preservation details, etc. = more interesting). Contrary to other people's heated & fuming rants about how much of a waste this class was, I found myself learning A LOT about the wildlife (wolves~ so much info about them!), the ecosystems & the vital ecological cycles in our environment. The salt and freshwater lectures even helped me to understand the science behind that movie- The Day After Tomorrow. Don't expect to come out of the FIRST semester of this class with a boundless amount of newly-acquired scientific theories & facts; instead, expect to come out of it a bit peev'd at how much you've had to read, but also satisified with how much more you DO know about owls, wolves, caribou, wildlife, estuarines, salt/freshwater balance, phases of the moon, and the Hudson River. All-in-all, this is a course about how interconnected everything is in the environment- if we harm one tiny part of our environment, it may have detrimental effects on a number of other organisms/environmental cycles. Also, I really appreciated the MET visits & the American Museum of Natural History- those museums are incredible & priceless to our society at large.

Dec 2004

I second the review directly previous; this class is absolutely unequivocally terrible. I've never written a CULPA review before now, but I feel it'd be irresponsible not to after having taken this class. F**KING AWFUL. God how I loathe it with the fire of ten hundred thousand suns. .no, it really is that bad. A black hole of pedagogical suck, Bower is unfocused, indifferent, and rude, and yes--his lame attempts at wit really really grate. I'm so glad to know someone else actually finds him unfunny. 'Depressing beast,' as another reviewer described him, is just about perfect. His lecturing 'style' is disorganized and unproductive; his free-associative lectures feel more like an excuse to avoid preparing something to deliver to the class than 'threads' as he so artfully calls them. Instead of teaching, he serves up either a totally redundant rehearsal of the readings which adds nothing new to your understanding of them (not that there's much to get to begin with) or rattles off a bunch of vaguely related material in a manner which makes it all seem somehow even more totally irrelevant, with some anecdotes and fucking terrible jokes tossed in for piquancy . . The course requirements are as muddled as his lectures. I was delighted to learn two weeks before the end of the semester that the 'Hudson River Report' due at the last class was to be 25 pages long. .which is just a little outrageous for an intro class like this one--and he's been pretty cagey, when it comes down to it, about what exactly is supposed to be included in it. And then of course, there are all the annoying little quizzes and weekly tests that you can't make up without a pink slip from your dean, and the labs--one of which involved walking down to a playground and listening to our lab instructor read us a CHILDREN'S BOOK about a lighthouse. Oh no, I'm not kidding. Yeah the labs are pointless too. .reconstructing vole skeletons is pretty cool though. .and to her credit Diane is a really great lab instructor who did her best to represent on the students' behalf and whatnot, but evidently in vain since Bower doesn't seem to care about or listen to anyone but his own well-distended ego. . .but yeah, this class, if you dare take it, will just confound you with its shittiness, so don't do it unless you have to (god forbid). Really, it boggles the mind. Total waste of time and money, and totally inexcusable, really, as an offering at any accredited institution--and Bower is definitely the weak link here. The material is interesting, sure, but he kills it dead. HATE.

Nov 2003

Completely confusing. i always left the class as clueless as when I first came in and although he would joke about this fact. I found it annoying because I did not know what or how to study. At times he can be interesting and in a sarcastic way funny but it was really hard to study for the exams based on what he taught in class and there really is no text book that is imperative for you to read.

Apr 2003

Going to this class is like crawling through the NYC sewers. Every now and then you might learn something, or find something cool, but you mostly feel rancid and disgusted. Whomever wrote the review proclaiming that "Bower is power" must be one of the students who got a little too friendly with this depressing beast of a professor (you may note that he no longer has office hours). The lectures do sometimes cover interesting material, but are drained by Bower's mid-life-self-hatred and simultaneous/unremitting condescension. By the way, the material is all based on divulging the myriad of ways in which we are going to die (chemical poisoning, pesticides, meteors, nukes, etc.) and on that consideration, I suppose Bower's lecture enthusiasm equals the optimism of the material. I will concede, however, that students interested in psychology may find amusement in the psychoanalysis of Bower, which could very well be a case study, if not a class on its own. The first semester of lab involves tracking groundwater contamination on a SimCity-esque computer game and plotting points on maps. Second semester involves picking apart owl pellets, pasting mouse skeletons on construction paper, and yes, coloring a diagram to demonstrate your knowledge of the food chain. If you passed the third grade, you will excell in these activities. If you consider yourself even barely more intelligent than a fourth grader, you will want to be highly sedated before each lab section. Overall, if you are looking for an easy class to complete your science requirement, then this class definitley offers that...that is, if you are willing to endure patronizing lectures and mind-numbing labs. However, if you have a genuine desire to learn or be challenged, value your mental health and maybe even your parents' money, or simply prefer professors who can differentiate between daily life and a nightmare... take something else.

May 2002

Bower IS power. As mayor of Teaneck he effectively controlled the decision-making processes of a major NJ town. As the father of seven children, he serves as powerful head of a large household. So it's no surprise that his students tend to worship him and fall under his spell. I know I did. When you go to office hours to learn more about groundwater penetration, you come out with a REALLY complete understanding of the complex processes of irrigation and fertilization that lead to project conception. I HIGHLY recommend this Professor, in all his classes (including Hudson River). A tip: be sure to get to know Bower through office hours and other extracurricular activities.