The Global Environment

UNIV X350 Fall 2006


Catalog Description

Course Goals

Course Materials



Gantt Chart

Other Useful Links

For More Info:

Catalog Description

An interdisciplinary investigation of how human activities impact the Earth's environment on a global scale. Examination of population, resource use, climate change, and biodiversity from scientific/technical and social/economic/historical/political perspectives. Use of remote sensing maps. Sustainability.

4.0 Units General Education Credit in Area F

Course Goals

This interdisciplinary course enables students to examine global environmental issues from scientific, economic, political, social, and ethical perspectives. The interdisciplinary subject matter challenges one to assimilate and integrate facts, ideas, and concepts from different and possibly unusual perspectives without becoming frustrated. Systems thinking enables students to process, integrate, and interrelate these facts, ideas, and concepts effectively. Environmental problems are complex and require us to see problems from various often conflicting viewpoints. This capstone course provides the opportunity to examine recurring themes of ideas and relationships without having to become a specialist in every subject. Group activities involve students from various Cal Poly colleges in applied problem development, analysis, and methods to improve real environmental situations. The course encourages you to combine your knowledge and experience with that of others.

Course Materials

Michael L. McKinney and Robert M. Schoch, Environmental Science: Systems and Solutions, Third Edition (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2003)
William D. Coplin and Michael K. O'Leary, Political Analysis Through The Prince System  
Paul Harrison and Fred Pearce, AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment (University of California Press, 2001) Atlas available free online at
Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Little, Brown and Company 1999) Available free online at


Class Project Assignment

Project Assignment
Identify Global Issue (Rubric)
Identify Local Manifestation (Rubric)

Technical Recommendations
Economic Analysis
--Excel Spreadsheet for Economic Analysis
Political Recommendations
Final Project Report
--Executive Summary
Class Presentations

Essay #1 (Due October 17, in class, before 4:10 pm)

Essay #2 (Due December 11, in Political Science Office, room 47-14A, before 3:30 pm)

Citing References

Peter Raven Video HW (Due October 5)

Homework Calculation #1 (Due October 24)

Gantt Chart

Click to enlarge

Did you know that Cal Poly has an Environmental Studies Minor?

Some assignments for this class require you to locate information on the web. This page provides starting points, links that we believe to contain quality information. These links are by no means exhaustive. Each link here will take you to many more, and any search engine will turn up links by the hundreds or thousands. However, keep in mind that much of the information on the web is junk. A fancy web page doesn't validate the information. An important educational goal is to apply critical analysis to what you find on line.
  • Why should you believe what the author says?
  • What are his or her credentials?
  • Is the site that of a credible organization, or is it an individual's personal web page?
  • Does the author or the host site have a financial interest in one point of view?

These are just some of the questions you should ask as you look for on-line information.

Table of Contents
  1. General Sources of Information on Global Issues
  2. Systems Thinking
  3. Maps
  4. Population and Food
  5. Energy and Resources
  6. Climate Change and Global Warming
  7. Biodiversity and Extinction
  8. Sustainability

General Sources of Information
on Global Environmental Issues

U.N. Global Environmental Outlook
EarthTrends (World Resources Institute)
State of the Nation's Ecosystems
Living Planet Report
The Human Footprint

Ecological Footprint
UCSD Earthguide
Environmental News Network
BBC News Planet under pressure Website
"State of the World" on-line course at UC Irvine
Global Change Master Directory (NASA)
CIA World Fact Book

Systems Thinking

Garrett Hardin's classic essay:
"The Tragedy of the Commons" Science 13 Dec 1968: Vol. 162. no. 3859, pp. 1243 - 1248

Science: State of the Planet Website
Earth Systems Science
D. Meadows, "Places to Intervene in a System," Whole Earth, Winter, 1997, pp. 78-84, and "Dancing with Systems," Whole Earth, Winter, 2001


AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment
Watersheds of the World maps (Click on "Text in PDF" button)
The Human Footprint
The Geography Network
NASA: Earth Observatory
NASA: Goddard Institute
UNEP-USGS Atlas: One Planet, Many People

Population and Food

Population Reference Bureau
GAPMINDER Human Development
U.N. Population Information Network
Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.
Die Off: A "population crash" resource page
Will Limits of the Earth's Resources Control Human Numbers?
Population and natural resources
Population and the Environment

Case study - fisheries

Global fisheries crises (Greenpeace)
Greenpeace Fisheries Campaign
Global fisheries crises (University of British Columbia)
Sustaining Marine Fisheries
Pew Ocean Commision Report
Whaling and Fishing
National Marine Fisheries Service
Dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico 1
Dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico 2
West-coast fisheries
State of the Salmon

Energy and Resources

The End of Cheap Oil (Scientific American)
The End of Fossil Fuels
The Hubbert Peak of oil production
BP Statistical Review of World Energy
Renewable Energies: Economic and environmental issues
America Wind Energy Association
DOE Wind and Hydropower
DOE Solar Energy
DOE Hydrogen
DOE Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Princeton Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI)
U.S. water resources (USGS)
UNESCO World Water Resources
World Resources Institute - Freshwater

Climate Change and Global Warming

Early Warning Signs
UNEP Vital Climate Graphics
Union of Concerned Scientists. See links to "California's environment at risk."
EPA Global warming site
Compendium of data on climate change
Science Magazine climate change resources
Case study: Possibility of melting the Greenland ice sheet
Case study:
Impact of climate change on agriculture (Iowa State University site)
Case study - climate change and coral reefs
     Coral Bleaching
     Great Barrier Reef
Case study - alpine ecosystems
     NOW Video: John Harte on Climate Change    
D.L. Hartmann Global Warming .ppt (16 MB)

Biodiversity and Exinction

World Conservation Monitoring Center
World Atlas of Biodiversity
Global Forest Watch
Science Magazine biodiversity resources
"Biodiversity and Conservation" on-line book by Peter J. Bryant of UC Irvine
Millenium Ecosystem Assessment
Coral reefs and mangroves


Sustainability Institute
Global Footprint Network
“Waste = Food (An inspiring documentary on the Cradle to Cradle design concept)” with William McDonough and Michael Braungart 2006 [Podcast television program] Directed by R. van Hattum. The Netherlands: VPRO.
The Land Institute
Buckminster Fuller Institute
Arid Lands Consortium
The Rocky Mountain Institute
Cal Poly Center for Sustainability in Engineering
U. of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems
Grameen Bank
Story about Grameen Bank

Newer Links

Earth Policy Institute: Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Sustainability and Integrated Circuits
Carbon reductions that save money
Carbon reductions that cost money
McKinsey report on carbon reductions


The Global Environment UNIV X350 Fall 2006