nl en

Global Challenges 2: Earth



[BSc], GE

Admission Requirements

None. This is a compulsory introductory course for all LUC first year students.


Whether interested in the natural sciences or the humanities, knowledge of many global challenges is enhanced by having a solid conceptual understanding of Earth systems science. Understanding how humans have impacted Earth’s varied surface environments is fundamental to the question of sustainability.The goal of Global Challenges – Earth is to examine the topic of environmental sustainability through the lens of Earth Systems Science. The processes and structure of Earth’s surface influences the magnitude and scale of human impacts to landscapes and environments. In the context of a population that exceeds seven billion, understanding the myriad ways in which global environmental change may impact humans is a pressing topic, particularly from the standpoint of, for example, natural disasters, deforestation and land degradation, sea level rise, and changes in water availability. The course utilizes a systems perspective to examine the interaction and feedback between Earth’s major spheres, the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. Additionally, the course considers the various ways that global environmental change influences Earth’s surface, as well as how to manage land degradation and natural hazards.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course the student should:

  • Understand the Earth as a complex system, that includes interactions and feedbacks between different surficial phenomena and specific processes;

  • Characterize major processes within Earth’s four major spheres;

  • Critically evaluate environmental issues through the lens of Earth science;

  • Develops a strong awareness of the importance of Earth science to sustainability and environmental management.

Mode of Instruction

Each class topic includes and/or reviews 1. Relevant Earth surface processes, 2. Human impacts on the environment in the context of sustainability and management, and 3. Connection to global challenges. The course is taught in an open lecture format, and students expected to contribute to class discussion. To assure optimal participation students are required to have read prior to coming to class. It is essential that each student have their own textbook.

Laptops, phones, and other digital media are not allowed unless requested by the instructor.




McKnight’s Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation, 11th Ed. (ISBN-10: 0321820436, ISBN-13: 9780321820433), Prentice Hall, 688 pp.

Note to students: Older editions of the textbook are perfectly okay and are much cheaper (e.g., 8th, 9th, 10th Eds.), some of which are available on Please note the chapter #s may vary, but the text is the same.

Also, there will be short articles and reading materials on Internet sites and on Blackboard.

Contact Information

Dr. Paul Hudson,

Weekly Overview

Week 1: System Earth and Environmental Sustainability
Week 2: Climate Change and Water Resources
Week 3: Biodiversity and Sustainability
Week 4: Earth’s Internal Processes
Week 5: Earth’s Physical Landscapes
Week 6: Earth’s Physical Landscapes
Week 7: Sustainability and Environmental Change
Week 8: Final exam

Preparation for first session

Students are expected to have purchased the text book and have read the first three chapters by the start of the class.