GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

Course Structure, Description and Objectives


Course Structure:

This course will be conducted entirely online. There are no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments. In this course, registered students will need to navigate between several online environments.

These include:

  • this site - the instructional materials in this site include 12 weeks of course material, including course Introduction and Orientation (Week 0), the syllabus, and several other helpful supplemental pages;
  • Canvas - Penn State's course management system; in this course, we'll use Canvas for our course calendar, to communicate, to access some of the readings and films, to submit assignments, and to post grades.

Course Description:

Geography 430 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, class discussions, presentations, and interactive activities. 

Learning Objectives for the Course:

  • 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.