Dr. Yazhen Gong is currently an associate professor and an executive vice department chair at the School of Environment and Natural Resources, Renmin University of China. She received her doctoral degree from University of British Columbia and her master degree from University of the Philippines. Her major research field is environment and natural resource economics, particularly focusing on studying the governance of natural resources from economic perspectives. She has strong expertise on conducting household surveys and field experiments to study human behaviors in natural resource management. She has published more than 20 papers in high-quality journals such as PNAS, Land Economics, Ecological Economics, Agricultural Economics, Climatic Change, Science of the Total Environment and among others.
Over the past three decades, China’s growth and development have made it one of the world’s greatest economies, but at a high cost to the environment, both within and outside of China. Based on a fossil fuel-powered manufacturing-based economy and rapid development, China faces severe environmental problems of water quality and supply, soil erosion, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, and others. China’s great challenge is to mitigate these issues and become more sustainable in its practices, especially for its energy sources, while at the same time growing its economy and providing for all its citizens.
The objective of this course will be for students to understand the science of critical environmental problems, the interconnections between environmental stressors and their impacts, and how practices can be more sustainable to conserve better and restore vital resources needed for the wellbeing of people and associated ecosystems. The class lectures and discussions, assigned readings, meetings with experts, and exploring case studies will provide students a greater understanding of the intricate weave of cultural, political and economic factors that have created grave environmental concerns for China. Through these studies, students will explore how changing policies are leading to more sustainable practices, with within China and outside its borders. During the 9-10 day excursion and field trips in Beijing, students will witness both the impacts of rapid growth on environmental quality and efforts to improve conditions through more sustainable practices and policies.
Throughout the course, students will conduct soil and water quality tests, both in Beijing and on the excursion, for hands-on learning of some basic environmental tests, and assessment techniques. This fieldwork, coupled with scholarly research and written work during the course, will provide students a sound grasp of the environmental challenges facing China and how they are being solved.
After completing this course, students should: