As environmental change vies to become the greatest challenge of the entire human history, communicating the gravity of the urgent need for action is hindered by the lack of a long-term perspective. This course starts with the Big Bang and the origin of the solar system to introduce the evolution of Earth, Life, and Climate and the interactions between them. It is only in this long term context that we can understand how human brain evolved and how it perceives risks and reaches the threshold for action. Climate and Environmental Change are placed in this context to walk through the role played by human beings in changing our home planet and to elucidate the steps towards returning to sustainable ways.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to
• Explore the evolution of the most cooperative species along with the evolution of the Universe.
• Understand how continents, mountains, and oceans evolved and how life went from RNA to DNA, single cells to multi-cellular life to eventually to the arrival of humans.
• Investigate the role of humans in the ecological and environmental change the planet is experiencing.
• Prepare for the issues of how to communicate the gravity of climatic change.
• Use their knowledge to seek sustainable solutions at individual to local to regional to global scales.
• Learn to take the pulse of the planet to diagnose what ails it and formulate cures and preventive actions.
• Discussions in class will be most critical
• Weekly gathering of media reports on climate change, sustainability, renewable energy
• Final Project, with a report ~15 pages, with a presentation at the end (For this Final Project, students will identify their own topic in any aspect of the course with guidance from the teacher. Background literature, media reports, and/or books will be researched by the student. The report will follow standard formats with an Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. Research will be a review of the chosen topic or will present new hypothesis. And finally, students will make a presentation with PowerPoint or props as appropriate.)
• Interactions with the Campus Sustainability Committee to develop a Group Project
An Introduction to the Earth-Life System Edited by Charles Cockell. Cambridge University Press
The Earth System by L. R. Kump, J. F. Kasting, and R. G. Crane. Pearson Prentice Hall
Climate Change: Biological and Human Aspects, Cambridge University Press, by Jonathan Cowie
And a number of scientific articles to be provided and general books will be recommended.