Course Description in Academic Calendar 

Earth systems science reveals that the environmental conditions that supported the development of human civilization over the past 10,000 years are becoming increasingly destabilized. This course introduces students to the Earth's regulatory systems such as climate, nitrogen and phosphorus flows, forests, oceans and biodiversity, and the social structures and processes that are interfering with them. Students will come to understand that environmental problems cannot be solved by individual behavioural changes; solutions will require collective action to achieve systemic change.

This is an experiential learning course. Students will spend several hours per week working at an environmental organization, gaining important experience in how non-profit groups organize to address environmental problems in their local community, or at the provincial level.  You will also spend time in class discussing your work experience and integrating your experience with learning objectives, which are developed in consultation with the course supervisor and workplace mentor.  The course is a 6 credit hour course and counts as an elective for an ENVS Major.

It is common, now, to hear about the climate crisis, the species extinction crisis, and the plastic waste crisis. Are we really facing a crisis? What does it mean to be in crisis? Are they connected somehow? How should we respond? In this course, we look at how the social systems - politics, economy, culture - in the industrialized world are undermining the Earth's life support systems on which we and very other species completely depend. Our starting  point is our own personal involvement in those social processes through our ecological footprint analysis; from there we branch out to examine the broader social systems that are now global in scope. We will learn that consumer society of the Western world is unsustainable, that we have very little time to turn things around, and that a different, sustainable world is possible.

"Welcome to the Anthropocene. It's a new geological era, so take a look around. A single species is in charge of the planet, altering its features almost at will. And what [is] more natural than to name this new era after the top of the range anthropoid, ourselves?" (Pearce, 2007:58).

This course focuses on the different perspectives or theories that help explain the environmental transformations that constitute the Anthropocene. While we can agree on some scientifically-explained 'facts' about the way human society has changed the natural world, there is a great deal of divergence on how these 'facts' should be interpreted, and therefore understood. In this course, we will explore those theories. This will help us to understand the public discourse on environmental problems, and how both governments and individuals respond to them.

This course does not study environmental problems per se, although students are expected to have a good grasp of the current ecological and climate crisis. Therefore, ENVS 1013 - Introduction to Environmental Problems - is a prerequisite for this course. Special permission may be given by the instructor if the student has taken an equivalent course elsewhere.

This Moodle site contains several environmental issue case studies compiled by Prof. Harvey for use in her course, Introduction to Environmental Perspectives.  Students in ENVS 2023 should enroll in this "course" as well as ENVS 2023.