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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

This course reflects upon the role humans have played in creating the Anthropocene (the epoch we are now living in), a time period during which Human actions have become more significant than natural processes in shaping the world we currently live in.  Drawing primarily upon perspectives from Physical and Human Geography, the nature of the changes, “how did we get here”, are considered, laying the foundations for  GG1512 in which “what comes after”, how contemporary society is attempting to tackle Anthropocene challenges, is debated.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 1
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Timothy M. Mighall
  • Dr Katrin Prager

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Programme Level 1 or Programme Level 2
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course will reflect on how humans created the Anthropocene, the epoch we are now living in, a period during which Human actions and activities have become as, if not more significant than natural processes in shaping the current and future world. It will interrogate “how did we get to where we are”.  This sets up an opportunity for students who take GG15XX to explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to address “what comes after”.   No prior knowledge is assumed.

Through a combination of lectures and small group teaching students will engage with the following thematic content:

  1. Introduce definitions of the Anthropocene and related concepts, the Holocene and Pleistocene, consider why it is important to frame human impact in this way and discuss counter arguments that suggest the idea of an Anthropocene is misguided.
  2. Climate perspectives on the Anthropocene: Considers competing suggestions for the dates at which transition between the Holocene/Anthropocene took place. One marker is the introduction of agriculture (the advent of rice cultivation), another aligns with the advent of the nuclear era. A long-term perspective on climate change, at timescales of centuries to millions of years is provided to evaluate how we got here and the extremity of ongoing change in relation to natural climatic fluctuations.
  3. Human perspectives on the Anthropocene: Considers the nature of the changes leading to the Anthropocene including nature-society relationships, geo-political structures, industrial and agricultural revolutions and the transition to late capitalism.
  4. Changing dynamics within human populations and their impacts on climate, land, water, ice, biodiversity and soils are reviewed at global, regional and local scales. These include, for example: the development of industry and associated economic growth, the advent of mining and metallurgy, the industrial revolution and the arrival of the fossil fuel age and subsequently the nuclear era; the rise of globalisation, increasing urbanisation, changing mobility patterns for people and commodities (e.g. cars, air travel) and the growth of consumerism and consumption; changes in agricultural and other extensive land uses and food production; and associated environmental impacts such as pollution on the physical world

The course will be assessed by completion of in-course assessments and a final written exam.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

2 x Individual Report (33.33% each)

Written Exam (33.33%)

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
FactualUnderstandUpon completion of the course, be able to describe some of the interlinked ways in which the Anthropocene challenges are manifest at a variety of temporal and spatial scales.
ConceptualEvaluateDemonstrate the importance of approaching these issues from an interdisciplinary, yet spatio-temporal perspective.
FactualEvaluate(i) be able to synthesise complex concepts to explain why the Anthropocene arose and (ii) use a range of techniques to identify, analyse and communicate Anthropocene-related challenges.
ConceptualUnderstandIntroduce students to contemporary geographical issues surrounding the Anthropocene (both Physical and Human geographical perspectives) of global, regional and local scale and significance.
ConceptualAnalyseAppreciate the inter-relationships between components of the worlds natural and cultural systems that produced the Anthropocene and explain the processes behind them.

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