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Course Introduction

Dr. Nathan B English provides an overview and introduction to Beginner's Guide to Environmental Science
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<v ->Wadda Mooli, or hello, in the First Nations language,</v> of the Wulgurukaba and the Bindal people of Townsville Australia. In Australia, we have a tradition of acknowledging the Traditional Owners from the First Nation Peoples, of the land on which we work, research, play and live. And I think it’s a really important tradition, because it acknowledges that in Australia, for 60,000 years, people have been living on this land and interacting with the environment. And that’s what this unit is about, it’s about environmental science. And the Elders past, present, and future, of those First Nation Peoples, hold an incredible amount of knowledge about the environment in which they live, and which we live as well. My name’s Dr.
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Nathan English, and I’ll be your instructor for this course. I have a background in biogeochemistry, which sounds fancy, but what it means is I know very much, about a very narrow part of environmental science. However, for the last 25 years, I’ve been an environmental scientist, and I’ve loved it. I’ve worked in the Himalayas, looking at water chemistry and rock weathering. I’ve worked in South America in the Altiplano, plucking spines from high elevation cactus, trying to get paleoclimate records from those. I’ve also worked in more mundane jobs, giving tours of a wastewater treatment plant when I was a graduate student. So I’ve done a lot of different things, and they’ve all been fun, and they’ve all been interesting.
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And I’m really glad you’re here to enjoy, and learn more about environmental science with me. What will we learn in this course? Well over four weeks, we’ll talk about, mainly, the underpinnings of environmental science. And what do I mean by underpinnings? I mean the basic science, the way things work. How do we impact the environment, as humans? What are the interactions between mangroves, and oceans, and development? We’ll talk about the atmosphere. We’ll talk about waste. And we’ll talk about sustainable solutions. The real focus here, and I want to really try to emphasize this through the course, is the value of quantitative measurements. And these are things that scientists are really good at getting. Quantitative measurements, are measurements with numbers.
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Qualitative measurements, are measurements of relative things, like the sky is up, the ocean is down. But if you say the vast majority of the sky, is within 12 kilometers of the surface of the earth, that’s different than saying, our atmosphere is thin. And if we say the oceans are 3,000 meters deep, that’s different than saying, the oceans are deep. So I really want to emphasize the value of quantitative information, not over qualitative information, but with qualitative information. And hopefully that makes your argument stronger, when you’re discussing environmental science with your colleagues or your friends, or even people you may disagree with. Our other goal in this unit, is to talk about solutions.
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We all know that there are problems in our environment today. And we really want to focus on a couple of different perspectives in how we talk about environmental science. One of those focuses will be cause, effect, solution. Another focus will be the triple bottom line, people, planet, profit. Or the quadruple bottom line, if you include culture. So we’ll talk about those perspectives, and how they’re used to inform, not only how we learn about environmental science, but how we use that information to build more sustainable solutions in the future. We also want to help you learn to communicate environmental science better. Not only understanding it, but also talking about it with your friends and colleagues and neighbors.
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And so we’ll talk a little bit about communication, and hopefully through my lectures, and through my speaking with you, and through some of the activities you do, you’ll learn some effective ways to talk about environmental issues, their causes, their effects and their solutions. And with that at the end of the course, we hope you’ll be able to synthesize all that information. The basic scientific principles, the focus on cause, effect, solution, the use of quantitative data in your discussion. And you can synthesize that into effective communication tools, and understanding of the world around us, and how we interact with it, how we have an impact on it, and how we can find sustainable solutions for our future.
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This course is divided into four weeks of material. The first week, the fundamental concepts of environmental science. What is environmental science? What do we address? What are some of the perspectives we use as organizations or as scientists, to look at environmental issues? In week two, we’ll talk about human population, and the wicked problem of human demography. Look, we’re a part of our natural environment, but it’s important that we know our impacts. And part of that is knowing how to think about, are we growing? Are we declining? In actual numbers. And what’s the impact and the interaction between human population and affluence. In week three, we’ll talk about the atmosphere. And I love the atmosphere.
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It’s a really interesting part of this course, and I think it’s a fascinating topic. We’ll talk about the composition of the atmosphere. We’ll talk about radiation from the sun, and how it interacts with the atmosphere, how it warms our earth. And how human impacts on the atmosphere, are making our earth warmer. And finally, in week four we’ll talk about waste. This is a really interesting part of the unit as well, and it’s one of the ones where we can make a big impact. We’ll talk about the different kinds of waste, and importantly, we’ll talk about what happens to that waste when we’re done with it.
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And we’ll talk about sustainable solutions, to lower the impact of human waste on the environment, in the future.

Welcome to Introduction to Environmental Science. This online course is brought to you by the Central Queensland University.

Throughout this course, you will be guided by Dr. Nathan B. English, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Ecology. In this video, he explains what you’ll learn in this course.

Course outcomes

By completing this course, you should better be able to:

  • Explain the fundamental concepts of environmental science
  • Use demographics to understand your ecological impact
  • Summarise the relationship between the atmosphere and climate change
  • Examine how we produce and manage waste

Get involved

Getting the most out of your online learning experience begins by getting involved.

This course is designed for adult learners from around the globe who, like you, have diverse work, life and study experiences. As such this course is available to you on your schedule. It is designed for you to work through the content presented, and share your thoughts and ideas with other learners in the comments feed.

We encourage you to support and assist each other with any questions. One of the key ways to optimise your learning is to participate in the tasks set by your educator and engage in topic-related conversations with other learners.

Learning through conversation

In this course, you’re invited to comment on topics, discuss issues and ask and/or answer questions.

Some of the ways you can do this include:

  • adding a post to start or continue a conversation by building on what others are saying
  • using reply to ask a question or make a comment that indicates you’re interested in what someone else has said and encourages them (or others) to expand on their ideas
  • making a comment that links, compares or contrasts different themes in the conversation
  • disagreeing with a comment in a curious, constructive and compassionate manner and using the like button to indicate which comments resonate most with you.
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A Beginner's Guide to Environmental Science: Wicked Problems and Possible Solutions

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