Wilson, Chapter Two Handout

CRTW 201

Dr. Fike





Directions: Note that we are going to look at chapter 2 from various angles, much like pan, track, and zoom in WA. Get into your five presentation groups and work on all of the following questions in turn. You have 50 minutes to work in your groups and (see Q4) to write on the board. I will keep time and let you know when to switch to the next question. After 50 minutes, we will switch to whole-class discussion. Please note that the exercises below (see red) are examples of the sorts of things that you could do in your group presentations. A summary of things you can do in your group presentation appears at the end of the handout. Note: This exercise/handout is based on the assumption that you have read the chapter and that you will write your answers in your notes.


Q1: TEN MINUTES: Do a sentence outline of the chapter, using Roman numerals for major sections and capital letters for subpoints: Wilson asks questions on pages 28 and 33. Use these as clues to the chapter’s organization. Make the chapter’s Q @ I  part of your outline. Is it one of the questions that he asks, or is it some other that remains unasked? In this chapter does he sufficiently answer all the questions that he does ask? Where does Wilson begin a fourth section? If you have extra time, make your outline more specific.


I. Page 22:


II. Page 28:


III. Page 33:


IV. Page 39:


Q2: TEN MINUTES: Identify chapter 2’s key concepts and do as many SEE-Is as you can: You should by now be used to marking concepts in your books, so locating Wilson’s concepts should be a quick and easy task. Once you have a long list, make a short list of not more than eight concepts that you think are, in Nosich-speak, the most “fundamental and powerful.” Then do an SEE-I for the several that you think will be most illuminating to your classmates. Keep going until time runs out.


Q3: TEN MINUTES: Wrestle with the points of view in the chapter: First, consider words and phrases on pages 22-23 that point to Wilson’s own point of view. Second, investigate the two main points of view in the introductory portion of the chapter: the economist and the environmentalist. As you work on this element, use a T-chart to flesh out the following homology:




That is, the economist is to blank as the environmentalist is to blank. Come up with as many contrasts as you can.


Q4: TEN MINUTES: Draw two of Wilson’s paragraphs: Two of the chapter’s paragraphs lend themselves particularly well to visual representation. They are the paragraph that spans pages 27-28 and paragraph 3 on page 37. Pay particular attention to the concrete images that Wilson uses. For each paragraph, create a picture, diagram, flow chart, or whatever visual rendition you think will be most helpful to your classmates. Use the board for your drawings.


Q5: TEN MINUTES: Analyze two sentences using as many of the elements of critical thinking as you can: The first one is the last sentence in the top paragraph on page 32 (“The United States”). The second is the last sentence in the top paragraph on page 33 (“I have come to understand”). If you have time left after thoroughly analyzing these two sentences, identify others and analyze them too. You are welcome to use SEE-I for key concepts.




Discussion questions for the whole class:


1) How did you answer each question?


2) What discoveries did you make? What problems did you encounter? What things are you unsure of? Which exercises worked best?


3) Wilson presents the economic and the environmentalist points of view in the chapter’s introductory section. Which point of view is most compatible with your own belief system? And how would you analyze the thinking that undergirds your preference? What impact does your own point of view (your major) have on your reading of chapter 2?

Here is the kind of supplementary information that you may want to build into your group presentations: first, a passage from a review of Wilson's book that challenges his mathematics; second, a definition that deepens your understanding of a key term in the book; third, a link to the Kardashev Scale; and fourth, a link to the world population clock.

                1) From Kenan Malik’s review available at http://www.kenanmalik.com/reviews/wilson_future.html (see Wilson 23)

Wilson suggests that the 'ecological footprint' - the average amount of land required by each individual for food, water, housing, and so on - is about 2.1 hectares per person for the whole world. US citizens, however, apparently hog about 9.6 hectares each. 'For every person in the world to reach the present US level of consumption with existing technology would', Wilson warns, 'require four more planet earths.'

In fact, the total amount of world land surface is only about 2.1 hectares per person, and barely half of this is currently used to supply all of human needs. Wilson's figures are inflated by calculating the theoretical amount of forested land that would have to be added to the earth's surface to soak up all the CO2 emissions caused by the current burning of fossil fuels - a move one critic describes as an 'Enron-esque' piece of accounting.

2) From “Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834 ),” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (see Wilson 25)

Malthus is arguably the most misunderstood and misrepresented economist of all time. The adjective “Malthusian” is used today to describe a pessimistic prediction of the lock-step demise of a humanity doomed to starvation via overpopulation. When his hypothesis was first stated in his best-selling An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), the uproar it caused among noneconomists overshadowed the instant respect it inspired among his fellow economists. So irrefutable and simple was his illustrative side-by-side comparison of an arithmetic and a geometric series—food increases more slowly than population—that it was often taken out of context and highlighted as his main observation. The observation is, indeed, so stark that it is still easy to lose sight of Malthus’s actual conclusion: that because humans have not all starved, economic choices must be at work, and it is the job of an economist to study those choices.

3) Here is a link to the Kardashev Scale, to which Wilson alludes on page 34: http://www.veronicasicoe.com/blog/2014/04/the-kardashev-scale-0-to-6/.

4) World population clock: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/. Wilson says that the world's population is over 6 billion. It is now approximately 7.5 billion (fall 2016).

Summary of techniques that we have been practicing and discussing (consider incorportating some of them in your group's presentation):