Spaceship Earth

Investigations into Environments

Subject Description

This course will be taught by staff from the Geography and Science Departments.

Think of the earth as a spaceship and humans are the astronauts. How are the crew treating the spaceship?

  • The air that they breathe?
  • The water that they drink?
  • The food that they eat?
  • Their animal companions?
  • Their habitat?

This course will study Planetary Boundaries. This looks at human systems as a part of the Earth’s system. In other words, what are the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate? These include climate change, biodiversity, deforestation, emissions, ocean acidification, fresh water usage, pollutants and plastics.

To avoid catastrophic environmental change humanity must stay within defined “planetary boundaries”. If one boundary is pushed, then safe levels for other processes could also be under serious risk.

The course will examine the concept of interconnectedness – are there four spheres (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere) or one world?

It involves examining the concept of the Anthropocene, a period in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Areas of Study

  • Periods of the Earth’s history from the Holocene to the Anthropocene
  • The characteristics of the world/Earth system (separation, interconnectedness, interpenetration)
  • Human impacts at a range of spatial scales
  • The concept of nine planetary boundaries
  • Global, national, regional, local, individual
  • Current global treaties

Forms of Assessment

  • Research projects
  • Problem based scenarios

Links to the Broader Curriculum

  • Critical thinking
  • Geography
  • Economics
  • The natural sciences