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This is a free online course offered by the Saylor Foundation.'Human societies have always been dependent upon local and regional environments for critical natural resources, and loss of these resources (either due to environmental changes or human overuse) has often reduced a society’s resilience to future challenges. When...
This is a free online course offered by the Saylor Foundation.
'Human societies have always been dependent upon local and regional environments for critical natural resources, and loss of these resources (either due to environmental changes or human overuse) has often reduced a society’s resilience to future challenges. When resilience decreases, the risk of societal collapse increases. Today, our globalized, highly connected societies have increased access to environmental resources, yet they leave us more vulnerable to disruptions and disasters that begin in other regions or systems. By understanding how our societies are connected to each other and to the environment, we can better manage our interactions so that they do not increase the potential for societal collapse. This course will use a complex systems theory perspective to investigate how coupled human-environment systems interact to either increase or decrease their risk of collapse. This complex systems approach works across many disciplines, so that human-environment linkages can be understood from sociological, environmental science, and economic viewpoints.
The course will begin with a primer of complex systems theory and then will discuss the theory’s influence on the science of societal collapse. Then, the course will review trends and issues in a variety of systems and society-environment interactions that are critical to most communities, including strained energy and food resources, loss of biodiversity and cultural resources, risks posed by invasive species and international trade, impacts of overpopulation and excess consumption, and alteration of flows of key resources. The final “Solutions and Syntheses” unit will allow you to apply your knowledge to several discussions of current societies and their vulnerabilities. You will be able to identify the human and environmental connections that are at risk of failing (and therefore at risk for societal collapse). The goal of the course is to help you become literate in the terms and concepts relating to societal collapse and resilience, environmental issues, and societal responses to them.
This course is cross-listed as an elective in two curriculums: a) Environmental Sciences and b) Science, Technology, & Society curricula. For Environmental Sciences majors, this course will demonstrate how human activities can rearrange ecosystems, alter flows of nutrients and species, and bring about what some geologists are now calling the Anthropocene Epoch, a period of time dominated by human activities. For Science, Technology, & Society majors, the course will help strengthen the application of a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving and risk assessment that includes social and economic perspectives. The basic goal of this course is to provide you with the necessary theoretical foundation (complex systems and societal collapse theories) to allow you to identify critical interactions between social and environmental systems that govern systemic risk of collapse.'