Environment: journeys through a changing world
Our world is changing fast – we are experiencing pressure from climate change, growing demands for finite resources and the extinction of many plants and animals. Environment: journeys through a changing world introduces you to subjects from the natural sciences, social sciences and technology to develop your understanding of environmental issues and concerns. It shows how people are seeking positive solutions to environmental challenges where you live, in the Arctic, Africa, the Amazon and China. You do not need any prior environmental knowledge to study this key introductory OU level 1 module, just an interest in the future of our planet.
What you will study
Are you interested in global environmental issues; how living and non-living things interact; how humans are changing the planet and are now responding to the difficult challenges this brings? If you are looking for a single module that offers a general introduction to studying the environment, then this is the module for you. It provides the ideal foundation for a range of environment, science, social science and technology modules, diplomas and degrees, or you can study it on its own.
Our interconnected world is changing so fast that people have to work hard to understand and address the environmental issues generated by rapid economic and technological development. Studying this module will enable you to explore how and why different parts of the world are changing and how people, plants and animals are living within their changing environment. The module will show you how people are striving to manage and protect the many features of the world that we all share. It will help you to make sense of some of the stories that you hear and read about in the media, from wildlife extinctions to plans for new, greener cities. By the end of the module you will be more able to follow the debates about environmental issues and play an active part in addressing some of the great environmental challenges of the day.
Studying this module will provide you with the knowledge and skills to help you to become more informed about both the causes and concerns of environmental change. The module will take you to some of the most fascinating but also important parts of the planet in terms of understanding environmental change.
Block 1 – Setting out from home
Rather like reading a travel guide in preparation for a journey, the first block introduces some of the language and ideas that you need to make sense of environmental change. You start by looking at two crucial global issues – loss of biodiversity and climate change – to get a sense of the influence of people on a dynamic planet. You then assess your own environmental impact in terms of your ‘carbon footprint’ and consider how to reduce it towards a more sustainable level.
Block 2 – Arctic approach
This block explores a place that has long fascinated scientific researchers, artists and adventurers. It is now thought of as a kind of early warning system for global warming and climate change. You will be given a sense of the different ways in which environmental change is investigated, communicated and experienced by the scientists who now work there and the societies who have been living there for centuries.
Block 3 – Nile limits
This takes in a very diverse region of tropical forest, desert, agricultural land and cities, which makes it an illuminating place to explore environmental conflicts and efforts to overcome them by cooperation. Block 3 focuses on two issues: water resources, in particular the multiple uses of and conflicts over the Nile’s water supply; and wildlife conservation, focusing on how to support a population of threatened African mountain gorillas by balancing conservation with local community development.
Block 4 – Life in the Amazon
This block investigates the richest storehouse of the world’s biological diversity. You will develop an understanding of the environmental science of tropical forests by exploring their role in global carbon and water cycles, and also as a genetic storehouse. Block 4 will discuss how your own daily choices as a consumer connect to the fate of what has been called ‘the Earth’s lungs’.
Block 5 – Changing China
The pace of economic and environmental change is perhaps greater in this most populous country than anywhere else on the planet. You will follow the migration of people from countryside to city – the largest migration in human history – and gain insights into the difficult balancing act of growing sufficient food and bringing wealth and new opportunities to people in developing countries, without further damaging the world’s environment.
Block 6 – Cities and sustainability
Cities now hold over half the world’s population and use or control most of the world’s resources. The final destination in your journey is the world’s first truly global city – London. It had to develop systems for supplying water, energy and transport to make a city healthy and workable, and its history may point to lessons for future city living. You will explore ideas and plans for making cities economically, socially and environmentally more sustainable as part of a more general exploration of what it means to be a concerned and responsible global citizen in the twenty-first century.
The module is presented as six block texts, together with supporting material provided by DVD and online via the website. Each block focuses on major environmental concepts illustrated by the places you visit. In addition, study notes throughout the module will help you to improve your study skills and develop your ability to become an independent learner.
Studying this module gives you an opportunity to acquire the necessary skills that can equip you not only to join the global environmental debate but also to study further modules in environment, science, social science and technology.
You will learn
By studying a range of subjects, drawn from the natural sciences, technology and the social sciences, you will become more aware of the contributions each discipline makes to our understanding of environmental issues and concerns.
You will also explore how people from these different fields bring together their various perspectives to help understand the many interactions between the environment, organisations and human cultures and values. This sharing of different approaches can lead to new ways of thinking about environmental problems, balancing alternative interpretations and conflicting interests, and hopefully generating new solutions.
Six module books, DVD containing activities and short television sequences, website including activities, resources and optional supplementary website materials.
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided from a hardware device e.g. DVD drive or USB stick or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.