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GEOG 430 - Human Use of the Environment

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Geography 430: Human Use of the Environment - examines the human use of resources and ecosystems, the multiple causes and consequences of environmental degradation, and adaptive institutional and policy arrangements as prerequisites for resilient and sustainable management and development in different parts of the world. The major objective of this course is to help geographers, earth scientists, and other professionals develop an awareness and appreciation of the multiple perspectives that can be brought to studies of human use of the environment and of the ways in which resource-management decisions are made in human society. This is a capstone course that encourages students to place their individual major and technical skills within the context of multiple approaches to environmental decision making and management in complex and dynamic social-ecological systems. GEOG 430 is designed as a collective/social learning experience. This implies that the professor and students share responsibility for the learning process and take advantage of collective skills, insights, experiences, and efforts of each other. As in system dynamics, this requires both commitment and flexibility and the willingness to explore foreign territory. As part of this philosophy, learning consists not only of information flow from professor to student, but also from student to student and student to professor. The course follows a case study approach to explore real life lessons of adaptive management around the globe. To make this process work, attendance and active participation are imperative. The course is run more like a seminar than a lecture course and integrates lectures, in-class discussions, presentations, and interactive activities.


Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Describe the changing relationships between people and their environments, the causes and consequences of environmental degradation, strategies for building a more sustainable world, and the methods and approaches that scholars have used to describe human-environment interactions.
  • Explain the complexity of human-environment systems.
  • Interpret, analyze and communicate effectively regarding human-environment interactions in their lives as students, professionals, and citizens (critical thinking and synthesis of ideas, map interpretation, searching for and finding and assessing academic sources and writing).
  • Analyze and critique competing approaches intended to achieve environmental conservation and sustainability.

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


GEOG 010, or GEOG 020, or GEOG 030, or GEOG 040, or GEOG 130, or permission from the program (based on experience with environmentally-related coursework from another discipline or prior knowledge).


We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 12 – 15 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

  • Two Current event essays (40% of total course grade)
  • Discussion posts (20% of total course grade)
  • Path 1 OR Path 2 option (40% of total course grade)
    • Path 1: Ten weekly reflections on assigned readings
    • Path 2: Take-home mid-term and final exams

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1Course Orientation
  • Everyone: Introduce Yourself Activity
  • Everyone: Participation Assignment 1
2Global Environmental Change and Planetary Boundaries
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
3Complex Social-Ecological Systems
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
5Environmental Justice
  • Everyone: Participation Assignment 2
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
6The Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Environmental impacts of Agriculture
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
  • Everyone: Current events essay 1
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
  • Everyone: Participation Assignment 3
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
  • Path 2: Midterm Exam
10Biodiversity Conservation
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
11Land Use
  • Everyone: Participation Assignment 4
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
12Climate Change
  • Path 1: Weekly written reflection
13 - 15Work weeks
  • Everyone: Current events essay #2
  • Path 2: Final exam