¶ … Global Environmental & Social Problems
The four unit course in Contemporary Global Environmental and Social Problems explores and critiques some of the most pressing global social / environmental issues and problems that are not limited to one nation or region. Thesis: The most serious environmental and social issues on the planet -- issues that threaten the health, safety and productivity of the human race -- should be given serious, critical thought and research by students, because they will inherit the ramifications and problems related to those pivotal issues.
While the science will be reviewed, the focus is on how climate change impacts people and the lands and waters they depend on, and on the wildlife. The world is already being impacted by global climate change.
Unit Two delves into the problems associated with human rights, including the nations and political movements that abuse human rights and the leadership that informs society about the horrific abusive policies that are ongoing.
Unit Three examines hunger and world food production, including the efforts to provide food for the hungry (including hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn regions) and the potentially serious consequences of corporations' widespread efforts to grow genetically modified organisms (GMOs), i.e., foods, including rice, wheat, and other staples of human diet.
Unit Four -- money and politics in democratic societies -- examines how governments and societies are shaped and directed by the infusion of money; to wit, it has become an accepted norm for wealthy individuals and groups with large quantities of money and other resources to dictate their desires and policies to society.
The four-unit course offers students the opportunity to learn and to utilize pure investigative strategies -- using for the most part scholarly academic sources while eschewing the ideological biases projected by contemporary media members -- in order to present their own potential solutions to social and environmental problems. Utilizing structured, well-founded research strategies and critical thinking skills, students' work will be evaluated on originality, validity of sources, and on thoroughness of subject presentation.
Prerequisites: at least one course with a concentration in the social sciences or history. Junior college level reading, comprehension, and writing skills.
Course Learning Outcomes -- Unit One
The first unit, Global Climate Change is concerned not just with the science (rising temperatures and a changing global climate empirically recorded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - IPCC) but climate change's impact on human society and the natural world. This unit explores the rising sea levels and how rising tidal flooding impacts societies that live near the oceans and depend upon the oceans for their survival. Rising sea levels will impact iconic and historic sites like the Everglades, Ellis Island, and Cape Canaveral among other places.
This unit examines how intense heat waves and wildfires -- due to climate change -- affect societies (health risks including aggravating existing medical conditions). The natural world is already being negatively impacted as tens of millions of trees in the Rocky Mountains are already stressed and/or dead from heat and from attacks by tree-killing insects. Migratory birds are impacted as spring arrives earlier; marine life are changing patterns as sea temperatures rise. Droughts are more severe and on the other hand there has been an enormous increase reported in the amount of rainfall in the Northeast region of the U.S. .
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that climate change is increasingly seen as a current and future cause of hunger and poverty; that is because droughts, flooding, and changing climatic patterns that require crops to be farmed in different ways and those adjustments may not be accomplished in a seamless way (WHO, 2013).
Unit One also delves into the stubborn resistance to accepting global climate change on the part of conservative politicians, conservative talk radio and television personalities, and on the part of evangelical religious groups. Some religious organizations deny science (including evolution) and believe the God made the planet about...
This unit delves into the beliefs of Evangelical Christians vis-a-vis Creationism; and it encourages research into how their faith provides them with spiritual answers to environmental and social problems -- and in effect encourages them to turn their backs on science and to insist that alternatives to evolution should be published in high school science textbooks.
Interactive / Multimedia Element: Students will arrange a debate between a noted local expert on climate change (preferably a scholar or scientist) and a credible person who does not accept that humans are the cause of global climate change. A key for students will to be thoroughly informed as to scholarship on the topic. It will be important to research a peer-reviewed article by Schuldt, who explains that a third of people who have been polled say they have no knowledge of climate change (Schuldt, 2014). It would be an important event to share with the entire campus community, if possible. A public debate with worthy, credible individuals squaring off on this contentious issue would get local news coverage and advance the reputation of the college and of the course as well. A very positive learning experience for students; also, this debate should be streaming live on the Internet.
This event is to be considered an assignment, with up to six students working together to produce the debate. Another assignment to be given would be to interview a pastor of a local evangelical congregation, offering him the chance to explain how the interpretation of the Bible offers the church the needed information on climate change and evolution.
Course Learning Outcomes -- Unit Two
Unit Two -- human rights investigations provide students with an opportunity to learn from ongoing and unconscionable contemporary abuses that have caused the deaths and brutal detainment of millions of innocent people. Human trafficking -- including the kidnapping and forced prostitution of tens of thousands of young women in particular -- is a key study area in the human rights genre. There are a number of subjects within the area of human rights abuses that will be studied, including: a) prisoners incarcerated without due process; b) the death penalty and how and where it is administered; c) hundreds of thousands of refugees that are living in ramshackle tent cities in Africa and the Middle East, driven from their homes by civil war and extremist / jihadist violence; d) torture is a policy that has even been utilized by civil societies like the United States; e) children prevented (by radical Islamic groups) from achieving an education are actually being denied their human rights; f) gender-based violence is perpetrated on women in numerous societies around the globe; g) genocide, currently conducted in Iraq and Syria by the ISIS terrorist organization, is just one example and there are more worthy of investigation by students; and h) gay and lesbian people have their human rights abused in various places around the globe, and this, too, is a worthy human rights issue to review.
In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. How many nations signed on to the Declaration, and how effective has it been? This and other questions germane to human rights will be covered in Unit Two.
Interactive / Multimedia Element: Students will arrange for a member of Amnesty International to be part of a Skype video interactive conference on campus. The questions that need to be prepared prior to this interactive dialogue will be reviewed by the instructor, so that a factually accurate interrogative presentation can be made by those taking the course.
An assignment for this unit would involve students interviewing law enforcement (preferably an FBI officer that has worked on human trafficking issues, or a U.S. Attorney with experience in this genre).
Course Learning Outcomes -- Unit Three
Unit Three will focus on hunger -- which is directly linked to poverty -- and food production in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that out of the 7.1 billion people on earth, there are about 870 million people (about one in eight people on the planet, mostly in developing nations) who suffer from chronic undernourishment (this is based on statistics from 2012). This is an important component of the course because even in developed countries there are an estimated 16 million people who go hungry (WHO).
Unit Three will allow students to carefully research: a) how and why poverty is the principle cause of hunger; b) how harmful economic systems contribute to poverty and hunger; c) how wars and conflict cause hunger; and d) how climate change (as mentioned earlier in this proposed four-unit course) contributes to hunger (WHO). Also, students will investigate how vitamin deficiencies (especially Vitamin A and iron) contribute to anemia.
The issue of food production is an enormous topic and deserving of research by students in this unit. The United Nations reports that food production must be able to double by 2050 in order to meet the demand of the world's fast-growing population (UN). But moreover, research needs…
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