Professor Seto teaches four classes at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES) and two seminars in the undergraduate Environmental Studies Program (EVST). Some courses are taught on a rotational basis; students can consult Yale Bluebook for current offerings. Those not affiliated with Yale can view the Yale College Programs of Study or F&ES Bulletin.
Urbanization and the Environment and China and India
Study of contemporary urbanization processes in China and India, with a focus on environmental challenges and sustainable development. Energy, food, water, and land-use systems; manufacturing, industry, and technology; cultures and lifestyles. Introduction to conceptual and analytical tools for assessing the effects of urbanization.
Urbanization, Food Systems, and the Environment
Trends in urbanization that affect the production and demand for food in the twenty-first century. Implications for natural resources such as agricultural and pasture lands. The simultaneous demographic, economic, and biophysical processes of urbanization; the life cycle of food, from production, processing, and distribution to demand, consumption, and waste.
By the end of this century, the world urban population is expected to increase to 8.5 billion from today’s 3.5 billion. Concomitant with these demographic changes, urban areas are expected to more than triple in size, leading to the loss of agriculturally productive lands in many regions. At the same time, income gains associated with urbanization increase the consumption of luxury goods such as meat products, and multiply the current indirect pressure on agricultural and pasture land. This course explores the implications of urbanization on food systems and the environment. The class treats urbanization as multi-dimensional and simultaneous demographic, economic, and biophysical processes, and considers food systems as the life cycle of food, from production, processing, and distribution to demand, consumption, and waste. The primary question the class examines is: How will 21st century trends in urbanization affect the production and demand for food?
Remote Sensing of Land-Cover and Land-Use Change
FES 725, alternating years
This is an advanced course on the use of satellite remote sensing to monitor terrestrial land-use and land-cover change. The course combines lectures, seminar discussions, and labs to emphasize digital image processing techniques to detect landscape dynamics using data from satellite sensors. Lab assignments will focus on data from the Landsat sensors. Topics covered include: quantitative versus qualitative land cover changes; temporal, spatial, spectral variations in land cover change; change vector analysis; landscape pattern analysis, accuracy assessment of change; urban expansion; agricultural productivity; deforestation; wildfires; vegetation phenology; changes in impervious surface.
To enroll in this course, students must have prior experience in remote sensing methods. At Yale, the appropriate prerequisite is Observing Earth from Space.
Climate Change Mitigation in Urban Areas
This class provides an in-depth assessment of the relationships between cities and climate change, and the central ways in which urban areas, cities, and other human settlements can mitigate climate change. The course explores two major themes: 1) the ways in which cities and urban areas contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change; and 2) the ways in which urban areas can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The class format is lecture, short break, and discussion.
Linkages of Sustainability
The Earth system is comprised of interdependent components—land, water, energy, biota, and non-renewable resources, all of which have physical limits. Societies transform these resources into useable goods, and the production and consumption cycles connect people and places across space and across time. This team-taught course provides an overview of these linkages and explores their implications for applying and measuring the concept of sustainability. It examines the constraints to sustainability imposed by those linkages (e.g., the energy required to supply water), opportunities for transformation, and the challenges of implementing sustainability across complex social and cultural systems. There are many facets to the study of these issues. A foundational topic is that of land use – how does the idea of a global land ethic mesh with the needs of nature and of humans? Are limits to the availability of resources basically economic ones, or are they absolute? How do we understand systems and their linkages across space? (This question immediately calls out for discussion the issue of global connections and the “virtual resources” that are embodied in international trade.) How do we understand systems and their linkages across time? And, engaging each of these questions, How do social and cultural attributes and actions influence the dynamism of the linkages and the implementation of decisions? The class lectures and discussion sections are designed to engage students and faculty in wrestling with these issues, so important in determining sustainability over the next several decades.
Urbanization, Global Change, and Sustainability
FES 857, alternating years
Urbanization and associated changes in human activities on the land (land use) and in the physical attributes of Earth’s surface (land cover) have profound environmental consequences, including modification of surface energy balance, conversion of land cover, changes in local and regional temperature and precipitation, and loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Aggregated globally, these effects constitute some of the most significant human impacts on the functioning of Earth as a system. This class examines the interactions and relationships between urbanization and global change at local, regional, and global scales with an emphasis on the biophysical aspects of urbanization. Topics include urbanization in the context of global land use change, conservation and biodiversity, the urban heat island, climate change and impacts on urban areas, urban biogeochemistry, and urbanization as a component of sustainability. This is a combined lecture/seminar course.