University Scholars 203

Human Geography

Drs. Hugh Blackmer, Greg Cooper and James Kahn

Parmly 302 TuTh 9-11

Course home page

Course description:

Human Geography seeks to develop factual background and information skills to enable students to understand the numbers and distribution of humans, past and present. Case studies at global, continental, national, regional and local scales address ecological settings, resource allocation decisions, temporal trajectories, and landscape transformations. Students will develop information literacy skills across a broad range of disciplines and media, and will use the Web to develop and present their own syntheses of data in projects defined by their own interests. Basic training in the use of Geographic Information Systems software will support data analysis and presentation.

This course may be used toward credits required for the general education requirement in social sciences (area 6) but may not be used to meet one of the two areas for this general education requirement. That is, students must still have regular courses in two other disciplines (anthropology, economics, politics, psychology, sociology) in order to have satisfied the requirement.

Text: AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment (University of California Press, 2000), and readings distributed via Web links.

Human Geography is concerned with anthropogenic change: environmental history in which man is the primary actor. We will use maps and other data visualization tools to explore patterns in multidimensional landscapes, and build an empirical basis for inquiry into broad issues such as the understanding of demographic change, biodiversity decline, global changes in vegetation cover, and the investigation of environmental injustice. Data will be drawn from epidemiology, demography, economics, politics, ecology, technology, social history, and many other specialties, and we anticipate that students will enlarge their perspectives and understanding --whatever their background or career interests-- by work with such data. We will emphasize the location, evaluation, and analysis of empirical data and research reports.

Tentative schedule of topics and readings:
Week 1 (6 Sept)
Organizational... and probably incomplete anyway
some images
Why we must worry (Peter Raven in Science 31 Aug 2001) --and see my page on Pimm

Week 2 (11 and 13 Sept) Basic demography, basic ArcView (11 Sept outline and 13 Sept sketch)

Reading: Population growth and Earth's human carrying capacity (Joel Cohen, Science 1995)
...and today's harvest from Science: Humans as the World's Greatest Evolutionary Force (Stephen R. Palumbi Issue of 7 Sep 2001, pp. 1786-1790)

Basic current data from Population Information Network (POPIN)and International Data Base of US Census Bureau

Week 3 (18 and 20 Sept) Population and Consumption

The World at Six Billion (UN Population Newsletter, 1999)
1998 revision of the UN Population Projections (Population and Development Review, 1998)
Demographic Consequences of Declining Fertility (Bongaarts Science 1998)

UN CyberSchoolbus InfoNation
UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP)

my sketch for 20 Sept

Week 4 (25 and 27 Sept)
links for 25 Sept and 27 Sept

Week 5 (2 and 4 Oct) Natural Resources and Wastes
(Barry Lopez on 2 Oct)

Can we defy Nature's end? (Pimm et al., Science Volume 293, Number 5538, Issue of 21 Sep 2001, pp. 2207-2208) is well worth reading in its entirety, but I want especially to call attention to this bit, because it's so much the essence of what Human Geography and Global Stewardship is aimed at illuminating:

Paradoxically, we are not limited by lack of knowledge, but by our failure to synthesize and distribute what we know. (2208)

consider the implications...

Renewable resources, the AAAS Atlas says, "...are much more problematic than non-renewable resources, because most of them are vulnerable to human overuse or pollution" (pg. 22). The two readings for today offer a variety of perspectives on some food system questions.

for 4 October and some other links

Plants and population: is there time? (Fedoroff and Cohen, PNAS 1999)
Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems (Jackson et al. Science 2001)

a digression on soybeans and a collection of links on fisheries and sustainability

World Energy Council country data
World Bank data by topic
World Resources 1996-97 (World Resources Institute)
UN Environment Programme (e.g., Environment in Central Asia)

Week 6 (9 Oct)Food and Agriculture

Can China Feed Itself?

Food Production, Population Growth, and the Environment (Daily et al. Science 1998)
Forecasting Agriculturally Driven Global Environmental Change (Tilman et al. Science 2001)
Tony Pitcher on Three Ratchets
Ecological Interaction as a Source of Economic Irreversibility (Kahn and O'Neill)
The Role of Capital, Mineral Resources and Environmental Resources in Sustainable Development (Franceschi and Kahn)

FAO Statistical Databases

Week 7 (16 and 18 Oct)
Spatial Data: finding and using

Week 8 (23 and 25 Oct) Globalization

Globalization as bugaboo
harvest 18x and Wendell Berry
see Slide #23 for the spread of Walmart
globalization notes and urban growth quest
A Long-Term View of the Trajectory of the World-System (Immanuel Wallerstein) [see marked-up version]
Global Culture(s)- Salvation, Menace, or Myth? (Wallerstein's latest)
Globalization Website from Emory
("Many authors cite Wallerstein (1979) as the first to open up the theme of globalization", says the author of
Prandial Practices: eating in a globalizing world

editorial and article on antibiotic-resistant Salmonella

An Assignment and my contribution

On Bioterrorism from PRAXIS

Week 9 (30 Oct 1 Nov) State of Major Ecosystems

Peters Projection

Week 10 (6 and 8 Nov) Case Studies (to be decided as we go)

Southeast Asian tropical forests

Week 11 (13 and 15 Nov)

Improving access to information and some Web sources
municipios do Brasil

Week 12 (27 and 29 Nov)


Week 13 (4 and 6 Dec)

notes from 4 Dec class


We encourage participants to explore the full range of information sources, print and electronic, and especially to make use of online indexes and full-text archives. Particularly important are JSTOR, Web of Science, and Science magazine, all of which address issues connected to human geography. We will make extensive use of ArcView as a means to visualize, explore and present data.


Each participant will select a geographical region (which may be large or small, but should be clearly delimitable, and should be negotiated with the instructors) and use available information resources to explore and analyze its past history and present situation as a locus of anthropogenic change. The final product of this research will be a suite of Web pages introducing the region, including maps and an annotated guide to information resources for the region. We expect that work on projects will be continuous through the term, and will be reflected in Web pages, including (1) an ongoing log file and (2) material related to topics discussed in class. The instructors will monitor evolving Web pages, and will review and grade progress in mid-October and mid-November.


2/3 of final grade on the Project, 1/3 on participation as reflected in in-class exercises and occasional assignments.

my log file

The specific topics considered will depend on the interests of course participants, but might include these:

Basic demography: the hydraulic model. What affects the valves? And how? By what linkages? 
Humankind in space: demographic history, and what underwrites (technology, Manifest Destiny, etc.) 
Saints and Demons (Midgely, Mao, Muller...): consequences of human schemes
Distributions: inequalities, patterns and correlations
Information economy: telesphere, infosphere, connectivity 
Stratification and how it works
Women in space and time
Food: starchy staples, protein, cuisines, etc. 
Ecologies, near and far, great and small 
Energy: captured, transformed, distributed

Case studies (a partial list, easily expanded...):

deforestation, and reforestation 
invasive plants (see
poverty --and its correlates 
herbicide use 
biodiversity loss 
environmental costs of development

...and regional landscape units for which cases might be developed include another growing list: 

James River Watershed 
Colorado Plateau (nice example from Land Use History of North America)