professor
Jason Smerdon

Apr 2021

If you're not a sustainable development major or minor (who are required to take this course) I really don't recommend it. It's not terrible, but it is pretty boring, only touches on surface level of all topics covered, and barely touches on issues of equity. For those majoring or minoring, this class shouldn't stop you from doing so: it's boring, but not terrible, and it is extremely easy. That being said, if you're not a major or minor, find yourself a more interesting easy class.

Dec 2012

This class is what it is: a basic introduction to the Sustainable Development Major/Concentration. Thus, it ultimately lacks substance and can be a waste of time; this was especially the case for my class, which was full of juniors and seniors who had obviously finished their other requirements for the major and had to get this requirement out of the way. At the same time, however, the class did what it was supposed to do: introduce the discipline and major of Sustainable Development and have the students think critically about the concepts that they entail. While the material is often dry, the class did a great job in achieving its purpose. Jason was a wonderful and comical lecturer, and you can tell that he is passionate about the subject even though he acknowledges that the course is a necessary evil. Rebecca, the TA, also made the class interesting with her personal anecdotes about her experience with the major. I also liked the guest lecturers such as Jeffrey Sachs and the professors from the department. Don't listen to the uncouth review below mine; the claims made about Jason and Rebecca are simply untrue. While the class could be redundant at times, it was an overall stress-free and relaxing experience. Jason even brought homemade food for us on the last day! Just go to class and do the work and you're guaranteed an A.

Dec 2012

Intro to Sustainable Development was worthless. In hindsight, I should have watched a documentary on YouTube concerning global warming. The weekly lectures were spent gossiping about current event, not sustainable development. Do yourself a favor and skip this class. It was just one credit, but the course's demand mirrored a traditional, three credit course. And if you're not a SusDev major, Jason and the TA assumed you were beneath them. So, do not take this class unless you're required to do so. Worthless!

Dec 2010

This class has to be my biggest disappointment at Columbia thus far. The class was, at times, pathetically redundant with the Frontiers of Science curriculum, which itself was often pathetically redundant. The class's makeup also seemed to be averse to learning Environmental Science itself, as most students were either Sustainable Development Majors or were there for the Science Requirement. Thirty minutes of a class were once spent on explaining why the seasons occur, and amazingly several members of the class were still confused. The subject matter was tragically interesting - the first half of the semester, taught by Jason Smerdon, dealt with Atmospheric Circulation and Weather Systems. Although at times he came off as shallow, Smerdon was extremely charismatic and held the class's attention quite well. The second half of the semester was taught by McManus, and although he came off as more intelligent than Smerdon, his lectures sometimes rambled and his class notes were not helpful with studying, consisting mostly of pictures and scanned scribblings. His lectures focused on Deep Ocean Currents but also spent way too much time on the same 3 ideas about Climate Change. I would have liked to call this an "easy" class due to its sparse and repetitive subject matter but this was not an "easy" class. Even if you pay attention and take notes in class, and even if you read the optional readings from the textbook, I still cannot say you're going to get an A in this class. The weekly labs were a shitshow. The TAs came disastrously unprepared to labs, which as the semester progressed often required downloading glitchy software that the TAs did not understand how to use and also failed to tell us to download in advance. Most labs consisted of inputting data into Excel and making graphs over and over again. It did not matter if you understood the subject matter (which was often a painfully basic grasp of Climate Change), but a few formatting errors in Microsoft Excel or Word could cost you one or two letter grades. The TAs often didn't respond to emails sent regarding formatting yet penalized students harshly on formatting when grading labs. Their grasps of labs' actual content were also maddening, and they were often bitter and angry when politely challenged. If these people are on the front lines of environmental change and study, we are fucked. It is seriously unfortunate that this class is a requirement for an EESC degree, as this completely turned me off to the entire department