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There are few aspects of modernity more striking and significant than the changes that people have made to the physical and biotic environment. These are so significant that many natural and social scientists refer to a new geological age, the Anthropocene, a period in which the primary drivers of environmental change are human actions rather than just natural processes. This course give students a critical introduction to some of the profound responsibilities of modern citizenship in the Anthropocene, including conceptualising and understanding how physical and social geographic processes interact in a complex world. Citizens needs to be informed about environmental science, planetary boundaries and safe operating spaces for humanity while at the same time understand economic and political, social and cultural dilemmas of our earth’s crises. The requirement for geographical and historical understanding requires both novelty and urgency in meaningful planetary stewardship.
This elective stream is run over two modules, GY699GA in semester one, GY699GB in semester two. In semester one, we establish the dilemma of global change and introduce the idea of planetary boundaries: the limits to the change people can impose upon key systems before the Earth System shifts to a state much less hospitable to humankind. We examine the current state of four parts of our common home: climate, freshwater, biodiversity and land use. In each case, we will describe the ways that human activity changes the system. How do we influence climate? In what ways do we deplete freshwater reserves? How have humans altered global species diversity? What is the extent of global deforestation? We then ask the fundamental question: how far have we pushed these systems towards the point at which the changes we have caused now make this a less hospitable planet for us and for future generations?
Format: This module will be delivered through weekly lectures.
For MA in Geography/MA in Geography: Spatial Justice students: Available only to educators/future PME students who need Teaching Board accreditation in Physical Geography.