Convenor: Prof Jonathan Holmes
Other staff: Prof Mark Maslin, Prof Chronis Tzedakis
Unit Value: 0.5 unit Year 1 Term 2
This introductory course deals with changes in our physical and biological environment on a variety of timescales, looks into the causes of natural environmental change and examines the progressive environmental impact of people from the last glacial stage up to the present. The aim of the course is to place present-day environmental issues such as climate change, evolution, biodiversity and human-environment interactions in a long-term temporal perspective, arguing that an understanding of the present and prediction of the future both require an examination of the past. It also emphasises the complex interplay between geological, climatic, ecological and human factors in shaping our present environment.
The main course topics include change on long geological timescales and the evolution of plant and animal species, including humans; environmental change during the glacial-interglacial cycles of the past few million years; changes since the last glacial maximum; human impacts on climate and the environment; future climate change projections and their potential impacts.
There are twenty lectures organised into four themes, namely tectonics and evolution; Quaternary environments; Holocene environments; the anthropogenic interval. The course is supported by Moodle. Support for external students is provided by tutorial sessions: dates and times of these support sessions are arranged after the introductory lecture. Geography students are supported through the tutorial system.
The course is assessed by one three-hour examination held during the summer term. The examination consists of two sections: a short-answer section, which covers the whole of the course, and an essay section, from which students typically choose two questions from six.
There is no single textbook that covers the broad scope of this course, although the books listed below provide some very useful background. Reading lists are given out to support individual lecture topics and students are strongly encouraged to read the journal literature as well as textbooks: the reading lists provide guidance and the course staff are available to help with this.
Lamb, S. & Sington, D. (1998) Earth Story: the Shaping of Our World. BBC Books, 240pp.
Roberts, N. (1998) The Holocene, and Environmental History. Second Edition. Blackwell, Oxford, 316pp.
Ruddiman, W. F. (2001) Earth's Climate: Past and Future. Freeman, 480pp.
Van Andel, T.H. (1994) New Views on an Old Planet. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 439 pp.
Goudie, A. (2000) The Human Impact on the Natural Environment. Oxford, Blackwell, 528pp. (5th edition).