• University of York

Tackling Environmental Challenges for a Sustainable Future

Discover how environmental research can inform how we respond to and solve the major global environmental issues of today.

2,610 enrolled on this course

Tackling Environmental Challenges for a Sustainable Future
  • Duration4 weeks
  • Weekly study4 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $44Find out more

Explore sustainable solutions to environmental issues like changing glaciers

Our energy use is unsustainable, we’re producing waste plastic that’s endangering oceans, and large parts of the natural world are disappearing. We know our planet is facing huge environmental challenges, but what are we doing to solve them?

On this course, you’ll discover how the environment is studied and learn how research at the University of York is helping to develop sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

The course will encourage you to reflect on the importance of a more sustainable future for our planet and will introduce you to the role the Sustainable Development Goals can play.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Understanding the range of environmental problems facing us in the world today is of the utmost importance. In fact, it could be argued that getting to the bottom of the causes and consequences of these environmental changes, as well as coming up with solutions to them, are the most pressing issues facing the world today. Your interest in the world’s environmental problems likely means that you feel the same way. In this four-week course we aim to show you some of the critical environmental issues that are the focus of attention at the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York.

Skip to 0 minutes and 36 seconds Each week we’re going to focus on a different topic, starting off with an exploration of changing glaciers, before moving on to look at how we protect our oceans, then how we can create opportunities for human development alongside environmental conservation, and finally examining the issues surrounding energy and society. Not only will you learn about the details of these fascinating and highly topical issues, but you will also learn about some innovative ways of tackling the problems and you will join our team and help in our efforts to come up with solutions!


  • Week 1

    Changing glaciers

    • Welcome

      Welcome to the course - time for some introductions to the course and each other before we start learning.

    • An introduction to glaciers

      We're going to start off with an introduction to glaciers and ice sheets, and investigate why they matter.

    • The importance of increased melt rates

      This section is all about glacier melt - why is it so important and why does it matter?

    • Monitoring and measuring change in glaciers

      This section is all about how we make accurate and useful measurements of glacier change.

    • Policy and the future of glaciers

      This section is about predicting the future. How we make predictions and what the future looks like for glaciers.

    • Summary and closing thoughts

      Finally, this section provides a short recap of what we've explored and learned through this week, as well as some things to think about.

  • Week 2

    Protecting our oceans

    • Introduction: The blue planet

      In this first section we will look at why the ocean is so important to humanity. We will explore how it regulates our climate and weather, how it feeds us and makes us feel good, and therefore, why it needs protecting.

    • Fisheries and aquaculture: The good, the bad and the ugly

      Here we explore the role of the oceans for supplying seafood, from the earliest times to the present day. What effect has this had on the marine environment and is aquaculture the solution to keeping the world fed with fish?

    • Climate change and the oceans: Warming up and turning sour

      Climate change is having a wide range of interacting effects on the ocean. Here we examine the effects on marine life and start to explore how we might buy the ocean time while the world reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Ocean pollution

      In this activity we will explore the different types of pollution that threatens our oceans and how these enter our marine environment.

    • Ocean optimism: Solutions

      It's easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges facing the ocean, but if we look after it, marine life has an amazing ability to recover. Here we look at some of the options for enabling that to happen

    • Final thoughts and knowledge

      A chance to add your final thoughts and test your ocean knowledge!

  • Week 3

    Environment and development

    • Introduction: What is development?

      Explore what development really means, how it happened in the past, and how we can measure it.

    • Development and CO2

      Rapid industrialisation has resulted in rising carbon dioxide levels. What does this mean, and is there another way we can achieve development?

    • Development and the oceans: An example from Indonesia

      Fishing communities in Indonesia rely on good supplies of fish for their livelihoods. What does development mean for them?

    • Development and energy: An example from Tanzania

      This section addresses two types of energy use in Tanzania. Firstly we look at how people use energy in their homes to cook, and then we see how farmers need energy in the cultivation of tobacco, a cash crop.

    • Development and biodiversity

      We will explore biodiversity and the sixth mass extinction. Why is biodiversity threatened, and what can we do about it?

    • Summary and closing thoughts

      Development, the environment and our activities are all intertwined. This final section is for you to reflect on what you have learned this week, and to think about our future.

  • Week 4

    Energy and Society

    • Introduction: Energy and Society

      An overview of what we will be covering during this week!

    • What sort of energy system do we want?

      In this section we will begin exploring what sort of energy system change we might want for the future.

    • What is driving the need to change our energy system?

      In this section we will cover the key drivers (imperatives) for energy system change including environmental issues, energy security and energy affordability.

    • Public attitudes to supply-side options/energy developments

      This section will review the research on public attitudes to a variety of different energy developments. Then it will look at specific case studies in place to understand what people think about living close to energy developments

    • Energy and society in developing countries: Energy for resilience

      In this section we will review how energy issues are impacting the Global South.

    • Geoengineering

      In these steps we'll explore the role of new technologies.

    • Final thoughts

      This is the end of week 4 and sadly the end of the course. Here are some final thoughts.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore major environmental challenges and how we investigate them.
  • Evaluate the importance of interactions between people and the planet.
  • Investigate potential sustainable solutions to major environmental problems.
  • Reflect upon the need for a sustainable future and the role of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Who is the course for?

There has never been a more important time to study the environment. This course is designed for anyone interested in how research is informing our knowledge of global environmental issues and potential solutions.

The course will be particularly useful for final year school students who are considering studying an environmental course at university. It will also appeal to anyone with an interest and with a general understanding of issues surrounding environmental issues.

Who will you learn with?

David Rippin is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography and a glaciologist. His research focuses on understanding how glaciers move and how their behaviour is affected by climate change.

Bryce is a Senior Lecturer whose work has ranged across temperate and tropical seas. He specialises in improving the management of fisheries and studying the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas.

Brett is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York and studies the fate and effects of emerging pollutants in the environment.

I am an Associate Professor in Human Geography with an expertise in public and stakeholder attitudes to energy and environmental risk issues (e.g. climate engineering and climate change).

Joshua Kirshner is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in University of York’s Department of Environment and Geography. My research focuses on urban development and climate planning and energy.

Eleanor Jew is a Lecturer in Environment and Development at the University of York, teaching on a BA in Global Development, a new degree course. Her research addresses land use change in Africa.

Who developed the course?

University of York

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

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