GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

Syllabus - Summer 2021


GEOG 430: Human Use of the Environment 

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document.  It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation in Canvas. Together these serve as our course "contract."


Mikael Hiestand Department of Geography


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 to 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.

Prerequisites*: 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)

*Regarding prerequisites and requirements for the specific program you are in, please ask the Undergraduate Advisor Jodi Vender ( to see if you can take this course or if this course fulfills specific requirement.

Course Structure

This course is offered completely online beginning with an orientation week, plus 11 lessons and breaks for the final project. An average of 8-10 hours a week for 15 weeks. Your workload may be more or less, depending on your personal working style.

Course Objectives

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

All of the readings and links to films will be embedded in the course website and posted on Canvas corresponding to the appropriate week. You are not required to purchase a textbook for this class.

What to Expect in terms of Material:

This is a 400-level Geography course so you can expect a significant amount of reading each week. You will be expected to read one, two or occasionally three academic papers for each of the 11 weeks of course content.


  • Midterm Exam 1 (20%)
  • Currents Events Essay 1 (20%)
  • Midterm Exam 2(20%)
  • Current Events Essay 2 (20%)
  • Final Exam 3 (20%

Late Work Policy

As an instructor, I want to be concious of the fact that all of us have lives outside of school and many of us have responsibilities that can, at times be unpredictable. I trust that as students enrolled in this course, you have personally committed to finishing the course work and assignments that are part of this class. I will provide due dates in the Canvas page in order to guide you and keep you on track with completing the course. That being said, please contact me if you are unable to turn in the assignments by the due date so that we may work together to continue your progress through the class.


  • All assignments will be monitored for adherence to academic integrity policies. Academic integrity violations WILL BE REPORTED.
  • POSTING ANY CLASS MATERIAL (content, discussion) to external sites is A COPY RIGHT INFRNGEMENT and AGAINST THE LAW!


I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the gradebook by clicking the Grades tab in Canvas. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentages
Letter Grade Percentages
A 93 - 100 %
A- 90 - 92.9 %
B+ 87 - 89.9 %
B 83 - 86.9 %
B- 80 - 82.9%
C+ 75 - 79.9 %
C 70 - 74.9 %
D 60 - 69.9 %
F < 60 %
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Course Schedule

Week 1: Course Orientation
Dates Week 1 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Chapter 1 of Moseley, W. G., Perramond, E., Hapke, H. M., & Laris, P. (2014). An introduction to human-environment geography: local dynamics and global processes. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Introduce Yourself Activity
Week 2: Global Environmental Change and Planetary Boundaries
Dates Week 2 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin Iii, F. S., Lambin, E. F., . . . Foley, J. A. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472. doi:10.1038/461472a.
  • Pierce, F., “Is the way we think about overpopulation Racist."
  • No assignment
Week 3: Complex Social-Ecological Systems
Dates Week 3 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Liu, J., Dietz, T., Carpenter, S.R., Alberti, M., Folke, C., Moran, E., Pell, A.N., Deadman, P., Kratz, T., Lubchenco, J. and Ostrom, E., (2007). Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317 (5844): 1513-1516.
  • No assignment
Week 4: Governance
Dates Week 4 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Ostrom, E. 2009. “A General Framework for Analyzing the Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems.” Science, 325(5939): 419–22.
  • Watts, M. (2004). Resource curse? Governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Geopolitics, 9(1), 50-80.
  • No assignment
Week 5: Environmental Justice
Dates Week 5 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Pulido, L. 2000. ‘‘Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California.’’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90:12–40.
  • Bledsoe, A. 2019 "Afro-Brazilian Resistance to Extractivism in the Bay of Aratu." Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109:2, 492-501.
  • Midterm Exam 1
Week 6: The Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Environmental impacts of Agriculture
Dates Week 6 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Campbell, B. M., Beare, D. J., Bennett, E. M., Hall-Spencer, J. M., Ingram, J. S. I., Jaramillo, F., . . . Shindell, D. (2017). Agriculture production as a major driver of the Earth system exceeding planetary boundaries. Ecology and Society, 22(4)
  • Leck, H., Conway, D., Bradshaw, M., & Rees, J. (2015). Tracing the water–energy–food nexus: description, theory and practice. Geography Compass, 9(8), 445-460.
  • Stein, C. & Jaspersen, L. J. (2018). A relational framework for investigating nexus governance, The Geographical Journal, 1-15.
  • No assignment
Week 7: Food
Dates Week 7 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Altieri, M., and V.M. Toledo, 2011. ‘The Agroecological Revolution of Latin America: Rescuing Nature, Securing Food Sovereignity and Empowering Peasants’. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38 (3): 587–612.
  • Graddy-Lovelace, G. (2017). The coloniality of US agricultural policy: articulating agrarian (in) justice. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(1), 78-99.
  • Current Events Essay #1
Week 8: Energy
Dates Week 8 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Baka, J. (2017). Making space for energy: wasteland development, enclosures, and energy dispossessions. Antipode, 49(4), 977-996.
  • Huber MT (2011) Enforcing scarcity: oil, violence, and the making of the market. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 101(4):816–826.
  • Midterm Exam 2
Week 9: Water
Dates Week 9 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Bakker, K. (1999). The politics of hydropower: Developing the mekong. Political Geography, 18(2), 209-232.
  • Green, W. N., & Baird, I. G. (2016). Capitalizing on compensation: Hydropower resettlement and the commodification and decommodification of nature–society relations in southern Laos. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 106(4), 853-873.
  • Ziv, G., Baran, E., Nam, S., Rodríguez-Iturbe, I., Levin, S.A., 2012. Trading-off fish biodiversity, food security, and hydropower in the Mekong River Basin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(15), 5609-5614.
  • No assignment
Week 10: Biodiversity Conservation
Dates Week 10 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Garnett, S. T., Burgess, N. D., Fa, J. E., Fernández-Llamazares, Á., Molnár, Z., Robinson, C. J., ... & Collier, N. F. (2018). A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation. Nature Sustainability, 1(7), 369.
  • West, P., J. Igoe and D. Brockington (2006). "Parks and people: The social impact of protected areas." Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 251-277.
  • No assignment
Week 11: Land Use
Dates Week 11 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Edelman, M., Oya, C., Borras, S.M., 2013. Global Land Grabs: historical processes, theoretical and methodological implications and current trajectories. Third World Quarterly 34(9), 1517-1531.
  • Geist, H. J., & Lambin, E. F. (2002). Proximate Causes and Underlying Driving Forces of Tropical Deforestation. BioScience, 52(2), 143-150.
  • No assignment
Week 12: Climate Change
Dates Week 12 - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • Online lesson material
  • Nicholls RJ, Cazenave A (2010) Sea-level rise and its impact on coastal zones. Science 328: 1517–1520.
  • Ostrom, E., Burger, J., Field, C. B., Norgaard, R. B., & Policansky, D. (1999). Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges. Science, 284(5412), 278-282.
  • Current Events Essay #2
Weeks 13 to 15: End of Term
Dates Week 13-15  - See the calendar in Canvas for specific dates.
  • None
  • Final Exam

Class Support Services

Penn State Online offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations will not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for Undergraduates. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency camps disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review some general Netiquette guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.