About the Course
Syllabus - pdf
Part One - Geological Earth
Part Two - Evolutionary Earth
Part Three - FINAL EXAM - Earth Does Not Have an Environmental Problem
Catalog DescriptionGGEOL 102: Environment Earth—Formerly GSCI 102: Environment Earth. GSCI 101 deleted as prerequisite (Formerly UMSC 102A.)
A study of geological processes causing global change and their impact on human thought. The relationship between some geological processes and life on the Earth is also considered. Not available for major or minor credit in geology. Formerly GSCI 102. Students may not receive credit for both GGEOL 102 and GSCI 102.
Before and after class. By Appointment, but any time I am in my officeand not immediately tied up with something else, which is most of the time, you may come by to see me. Just come by, or call to see if I am available.
Final Exam Time
Friday of the last week of classes.
Why do I have to take a general education science course, especially one as boring as geology? What does it matter? And who really cares!? And what possible importance could it have for me and my life?
We live on a planet we pretty much take for granted. After all, it is here, and it is all we know. But, the problem is our relationship with the Earth is too overwhelmingly human-centered. Most people treat the Earth as a black box. Things go into it (like garbage), and things come out of it (like water, and energy, and minerals) but we really don't care what goes on in between.
Yet virtually each day we become more aware of environmental problems: global warming, polluted drinking water, not enough landfills for all our garbage, and the loss of rural landscapes (especially in northern Virginia and its suburbs that now extend as far as Pennsylvania), to mention just a few. We are also becoming more aware of the destructive power of the Earth; ever watch Storm Stories on the Weather Channel? You might come to think the Earth is out to get us: hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires, landslides, earth quakes, volcanic eruptions.
On the other hand, we just as commonly hear how awful the human species is, doing all these things that pollute the Earth, destroy the Bay, over fish the fish. We know there is something wrong, but most of the time we do not know enough to act more responsibly.
Yet we now face decisions we cannot avoid that will strongly impact generations into the future; do we know how to intelligently make them? The problem with most thinking until recently is that Earth environments and man's relationship to those environments have been thought of as separate problems. Yet, we live on a very old planet (4 billion years old) and environmental conditions that exist today are embedded in and reflect processes that can only be understood at time spans extending far beyond the short window of human experience, far beyond experiments run under controlled laboratory conditions and for time spans that are geologically instantaneous.
Geology is not simply about the past it is also about change and continuity. Most of all it is about the long run. What society needs to learn from geology is that we cannot impose short-term thinking on long-term problems, or adopt policies that do not recognize the Earth is embedded in ongoing evolutionary change. Geologic understanding is an antidote to the fragmented and piecemeal thinking that is characteristic of most human decision making and the provincialism of narrow specialist centered thinking about the environment, our relationship with the Earth, and about the importance of human civilization. The perspective inculcated by geological understanding is as rare as it is vitally necessary in our society.
This course is about coming to understand the Earth, and our relationship with it in a more realistic and rational way.