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Unformatted text preview: Human Impacts page 1 H UMAN I MPACTS ON A NCIENT E NVIRONMENTS ASB 326 F ALL 2009 2:00-3:15 MW MANZANITA HALL RM 1 Instructor: Melissa Kruse-Peeples Office: SHESC 150 Office Hours: MW 3:30-4:30, by appointment Email: Melissa.Kruse@asu.edu http://www.public.asu.edu/~mrkruse/ Teaching Associate: Angela Huster Office: SS 100B Office Hours: T TH 10:00 11:00 or by appointment Angela.Huster@asu.edu See Blackboard for additional course information C OURSE O VERVIEW Over the past decade, it is increasingly apparent that human society is profoundly altering the world around us. But the extent and eventual consequences of human-caused environmental change remain far from clear. More and more frequently we find public constituencies and private interest groups debating the nature of human impact on the environment and the best ways to minimize potentially harmful consequences of human activities. It is often difficult even to agree on what the natural environment is (or was) in many cases, much less what it should be. The past few decades have seen greater changes in some aspects of climate than have been recorded in over a millennium. How much this is a result of human activity and how much is due to non-human causes is a matter of considerable debateespecially as we are now learning that major climate change can happen with frightening swiftness even without human intervention. Two decades ago, demographers were predicting a world population exploding at an ever- increasing rate with dire consequences for the earth. Today, world population growth is unexpectedly beginning to slow down, and population is even declining in many industrialized nations. For much of the twentieth century, we have tried to protect areas of forest from wildfires. Now it appears that this effort has made forests even more susceptible to destruction by fire. Our success in fighting deadly diseases is contributing to the evolution of new strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The links between human actions and environmental consequences are often indirect, non-linear ones that are difficult to predict. And many of the effects of our actions today will not be felt for many years or perhaps even centuries. Modern ecosystems are not static communities to be maintained or repaired, but are only the current manifestation of continuous and complex interactions among living and acting organismsincluding humansand between organisms and the abiotic (i.e., non-living) parts of their surroundings. These interactions stretch far back into antiquity, and the state of modern ecosystems is as much a product of their histories as it is current conditions. As you will see in this course, humans have been an integral and active component of earths ecology for thousands of years. This long history of interaction between humans and their environment has had both beneficial and deleterious results. This has critically important ramifications for those who would shape social and environmental policy. Human Impacts...
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- Fall '08