The survival of this planet will, in large part, depend upon people acquiring an understanding of the intricate interrelationship of the physical, chemical and biological systems found in nature and the impact upon them of human activity. In this context, this course will provide an overview of contemporary changes to our global environment, the driving forces and the observed and foreseen consequences, from a natural science and social science perspective.
1. Introduction to the Ecosphere:
- Introduction to the “spheres”.
- Defining our environment. Introduction to various worldviews.
- Introduction to the concept of global change, timescales and rates of change.
- Environmental systems (cycling of energy and matter, biogeochemical cycles).
2. Humans and our Environment:
- World population, development and resource consumption.
- Human health and the environment.
- History of environmental consciousness in North America.
- Environmental law and ethics.
- Environmental economics.
3. The Changing Biosphere:
- Ecosystems (definition), community dynamics (species interactions, niche, disturbance, succession, trophic levels and food webs) and factors affecting ecosystem functions.
- Biomes/biogeoclimatic zones and factors affecting their distribution.
- Species diversity, evolution and adaptation, extinction rates, factors affecting biodiversity, etc.
4. The Changing Lithosphere:
- Land use changes (urbanization, agriculture, forestry, etc.) and related impacts.
- Natural resource exploitation (mining, energy, forestry, etc.) and related impacts.
- Pollution (contaminants, sources) and related impacts.
- Waste generation and disposal (solid, liquid and hazardous) and related impacts.
5. The Changing Hydrosphere:
- Natural resource exploitation (fisheries, fresh water use, etc.) and related impacts.
- Pollution (contaminants, sources, effects on marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems) and related impacts.
6. The Changing Atmosphere:
- Atmospheric pollution and related impacts.
- Climate change and related impacts.
- Ozone depletion and related impacts.
7. Achieving a Sustainable Future:
- Sustainability and strategies.
- Ecosystem management.
- Case studies.
Methods of Instruction
The primary method of instruction will be weekly lectures and seminar, which may include guest speakers.
Means of Assessment
Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the table above.
After successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Identify the spheres that make up our planet, provide examples of natural environmental systems and describe the cycling of energy and matter within these systems.
- Explain the concept of homeostasis and species adaptation in an ever changing environment.
- Discuss the driving forces of environmental change (both human and otherwise) and the main feedback effects. Discuss the role of humans both as drivers of global change and as a species that needs to adapt to an ever changing environment.
- Define the concept of “sustainable development” and discuss its importance and relevance to the future of human activity.
- Show how an individual, through their own lifestyle, makes an impact upon the environment and how they might be able to contribute to finding solutions to environmental problems.
- Perform scientific literature research on an environmental system or issue, formulate a thesis statement, evaluate the relevance and usefulness of the information researched, synthesize the information and communicate it.
- Critically evaluate publicly available information (example, from the media) regarding environmental issues and be able to identify logical fallacies, propaganda techniques, etc.
Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.
Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system.
A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.
For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.
If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.