environmental geography

Population and Consumption

Over the past centuries, our demand on Earth's renewable and non-renewable resources has rapidly increased as a byproduct of a growth in population and consumption. This segment of the course looks at the explosive global population growth as well as the disproportionate use of resources amongst the people's of the world. Through analyzing data on total and per capita ecological footprints of selected nations, students are given a holistic picture of the global resource use patterns overtime and the current ecological overshoot. The lesson is strengthed by the haunting conclusions drawn by Jared Diamond in his book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" emphasizing that our current patterns of resource use are unsustainable and unless we can learn from collapsed societies doomed by their own environmental exploitation, we are headed to a dim future. 

Chapter 1, Chapter 8, Assignment #1: Collapse (Diamond, 2007).

Valuing Nature: Ethics & Economics

Varying ethical perspectives may weigh in environmental issues. A pragmatic approach to environmental problems may adopt anthropocentric values and base those values on our direct reliance on nature's goods and services, many of which can be directly calculated. Ecological economists, such as Richard Heinberg and Robert Constanza calculate nature's market and non-market values into economic systems and decisions. Lastly, ecosystem valuation must be correlated to human wellbeing. Various wellbeing indexes (HDI, HPI, GNH) are presented in correlation with the ecological footprint data. Although wealthy places tend to experience high levels of wellbeing accross indexes, some data outliers teach us that it is possible to live well and have a small ecological footprint. Sustainability holds a promise of thrivability as well. 

Chapter 2

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Western science, as a body of knowledge, is a relatively young and incomplete record of human inquiry regarding nature. In various pockets of the world, cultures that date back to thousands of years survive in the forms of myths, traditions, practices, and celebrations that embody much undiscovered knowledge about nature. In a time of globalization where history has been cruel to indigenous peoples all over the world, scientists are in a rush to record the wisdom of ancient cultures regarding their environment. Traditional knowledge may teach us valuable lessons in medicine, agriculture, and philosophy, and perhaps through learning from these societies we may unravel the important lessons for sustainability.

Assignment #2: Nature's Rx and the Inuit and Climate Change

Species Interactions

Species interact in complex ways. 

Chapter 3 & 4, Strange Days on Planet Earth, The Grey Wold Controversy

World's Climates & Biomes

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Chapter 5 & 6

Forests

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Chapter 17, Assignment #3: Converging Worlds and Interests in the Amazon

Biodiversity Crisis

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Chapter 16

Freshwater Systems

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Chapter 13, Assignment #4: Tapped Documentary

Global Climate Change

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Chapter 20, Chasing Ice Documentary

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