I’m running a graduate math seminar called here at U. C. Riverside, and here are the slides for the first class:
• Mathematics of the Environment, 2 October 2012.
I said a lot of things that aren’t on the slides, so they might be a tad cryptic. I began by showing some graphs everyone should know by heart:
• human population and the history of civilization,
• the history of carbon emissions,
• atmospheric CO2 concentration for the last century or so,
• global average temperatures for the last century or so,
• the melting of the Arctic ice, and
• the longer historical perspective of CO2 concentrations.
You can click on these graphs for more details—there are lots of links in the slides.
Then I posed the question of what mathematicians can do about this. I suggested looking at the birth of written mathematics during the agricultural revolution as a good comparison, since we’re at the start of an equally big revolution now. Have you thought about how Babylonian mathematics was intertwined with the agricultural revolution?
Then, I raised the idea of ‘ecotechnology’ as a goal to strive for, assuming our current civilization doesn’t collapse to the point where it becomes pointless to even try. As an example, I describe the perfect machine for reversing global warming—and show a nice picture of it.
Finally, I began sketching how ecotechnology is related to the mathematics of networks, though this will be a much longer story for later on.
Part of the idea here is that mathematics takes time to have an effect, so mathematicians might as well look ahead a little bit, while politicians, economists, business people and engineers should be doing things that have a big effect soon.