"Are the polar ice caps melting?" "What is happening to the polar bears?" “Save the rainforest.” “We are running out of resources"
"We've diminished our natural capital" Daily we are bombarded with news about “environmental crisis.” Is our world spiraling into environmental disaster? Have environmental transformations been a constant component of the Earth? Are today’s changes something different? These, and other questions, are a central concern of geography. This course is an introduction to the tradition in geography that studies the relationship between human activities and the physical environment. The central focus of this course is on human beings as agents of environmental change and consumers of global resources.
1) Introduction to the Course
- Natural and human-induced change
- Some examples of human transformation of the earth
- The human-environment tradition in Geography
- History of the expression of environmental concern
- Sustainable Development
- Valuing Natural Resources, Natural Capital
2) Understanding the Earth
- Matter and energy: basic building blocks
- Spheres: Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere
- Nutrient cycles
- Biomes, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, succession, natural disturbances
- Carrying Capacity and Ecological Footprint
3) Population Growth and Consumption
- Growth of the human population through time
- Demographic variables: birth and death rates, fertility rates, density, population distribution, age-sex pyramids
- Demographic Transition Theory
- Political, social and economic factors
- Resource consumption patterns; biocapacity; overshoot
- Types of biodiversity
- Natural and human induced factors of biodiversity loss
- Species at Risk - classification systems
- Fragmentation, connectivity, landscape ecology, restoration
5) Global Climate Change
- Natural and human factors of climate change
- Greenhouse Effect
- Effects of climate change on natural and human systems
- Global, national and local responses to climate change
- Management policies and economic tools
- Adaptation strategies
6) Impacts on Oceans, Fisheries and Coastal Ecosystems
- Productivity in marine and coastal ecosystems
- Human impacts on oceans and coastal ecosystems
- Overharvesting of fisheries and consequences
- Changing social behaviour
7) Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems
- Productivity in lakes and watercourses
- Riparian zones
- Protecting salmon
- Human impacts on freshwater ecosystems - pollution, land use changes, etc.
8) Impacts on Forest Ecosystems
- Causes and rates of deforestation
- Effects of deforestation on natural systems
- Forest management in BC: case study - Great Bear Rainforest
9) Impacts of Urbanization
- Urban vs. rural population growth
- Impacts of urban development on natural systems - terrestrial, aquatic, air, noise
- Liquid and solid waste management
- Urban sprawl and regional planning
10) Impacts of Energy and Mining
- Patterns of global energy use - fossil fuels, hydroelectric, nuclear, biofuels, solar and wind
- Impacts of energy use and mining on natural systems
- Strategies to reduce energy consumption
11) Agro-ecosystems and impacts of Agriculture
- Soils and soil erosion
- Types of agriculture and impacts on natural systems
- Green revolution and consequences
- Sustainable agriculture challenges
- Agricultural planning in BC - case studies
Methods of Instruction
The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: lectures, small group discussions, visual presentations – powerpoint slides and videos, individual and team projects, field assignments and practical in-class exercises.
Means of Assessment
Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.
An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:
At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:
- Describe some of the important natural systems that make up the larger world system.
- Explain some basic ecological concepts (e.g., biomes, ecosystems, food chains, nutrient cycles).
- Analyze human impacts on various aspects of the natural world (e.g., population growth and consumption, climate change, deforestation, water pollution, overfishing, biodiversity and species at risk, urbanization, energy use, agriculture, etc.)
- Describe and explain both the antiquity of human intervention and the recent acceleration of rates of change.
- Describe and explain management approaches and solutions to address environmental issues on a local, national and global level.
- Understand the relationship between environmental philosophies and attitudes on the one hand and actions on the other, including theories and practices of sustainability.
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.