Curriculum Guideline

Human Impact on the Environment

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOG 1130
Human Impact on the Environment
Geography and the Environment
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 4 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
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.

Course Description
"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.
Course Content

1)     Introduction to the Course

  1. Natural and human-induced change
  2. Some examples of human transformation of the earth
  3. The human-environment tradition in Geography
  4. History of the expression of environmental concern
  5. Sustainable Development
  6. Valuing Natural Resources, Natural Capital

2)     Understanding the Earth

  1. Matter and energy: basic building blocks
  2. Spheres: Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere
  3. Nutrient cycles
  4. Biomes, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, succession, natural disturbances
  5. Carrying Capacity and Ecological Footprint

3)     Population Growth and Consumption

  1. Growth of the human population through time
  2. Demographic variables: birth and death rates, fertility rates, density, population distribution, age-sex pyramids
  3. Demographic Transition Theory
  4. Political, social and economic factors
  5. Resource consumption patterns; biocapacity; overshoot

4)     Biodiversity

  1. Types of biodiversity
  2. Natural and human induced factors of biodiversity loss
  3. Species at Risk - classification systems
  4. Fragmentation, connectivity, landscape ecology, restoration

5)     Global Climate Change

  1. Natural and human factors of climate change
  2. Greenhouse Effect
  3. Effects of climate change on natural and human systems
  4. Global, national and local responses to climate change
  5. Management policies and economic tools
  6. Adaptation strategies

6)     Impacts on Oceans, Fisheries and Coastal Ecosystems

  1. Productivity in marine and coastal ecosystems
  2. Human impacts on oceans and coastal ecosystems
  3. Overharvesting of fisheries and consequences
  4. Changing social behaviour

7)     Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems

  1. Productivity in lakes and watercourses
  2. Watersheds
  3. Riparian zones
  4. Protecting salmon
  5. Human impacts on freshwater ecosystems - pollution, land use changes, etc.

8)     Impacts on Forest Ecosystems

  1. Causes and rates of deforestation
  2. Effects of deforestation on natural systems
  3. Forest management in BC: case study - Great Bear Rainforest

9)     Impacts of Urbanization

  1. Urban vs. rural population growth
  2. Impacts of urban development on natural systems - terrestrial, aquatic, air, noise
  3. Liquid and solid waste management
  4. Transportation
  5. Urban sprawl and regional planning

10)   Impacts of Energy and Mining

  1. Patterns of global energy use - fossil fuels, hydroelectric, nuclear, biofuels, solar and wind
  2. Impacts of energy use and mining on natural systems
  3. Strategies to reduce energy consumption

11)   Agro-ecosystems and impacts of Agriculture

  1. Soils and soil erosion
  2. Types of agriculture and impacts on natural systems
  3. Green revolution and consequences
  4. Sustainable agriculture challenges
  5. Agricultural planning in BC - case studies


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:


  1. Describe some of the important natural systems that make up the larger world system.
  2. Explain some basic ecological concepts (e.g., biomes, ecosystems, food chains, nutrient cycles).
  3. 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.)
  4. Describe and explain both the antiquity of human intervention and the recent acceleration of rates of change.
  5. Describe and explain management approaches and solutions to address environmental issues on a local, national and global level.
  6. Understand the relationship between environmental philosophies and attitudes on the one hand and actions on the other, including theories and practices of sustainability.
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:

Lab assignments  10%
Field assignments      15%
Exams  50%
Term Project  20%
Participation   5%
Total 100%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:

 Deardon, Philip and Mitchell, Bruce. (2012). Environmental Change & Challenge: A Canadian Perspective. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. Ontario, Canada.

Middleton, Nick. (2013).  The Global Casino - An Introduction to Environmental Issues. Fifth Edition. Routledge Publishers