Environmental Issues

Sue Ebanks
Savannah State University


Environmental issues is designed for non-science majors. Students taking this course will be exposed to just enough science to help them discuss society-related issues for which environmental consideration is important, whether it is considered or not. Examples include population and consumption, energy, climate, food beyond Y2K, and more.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course for non-STEM majors and it does not serve as a pre-requisite for other courses. Typically, students are from majors in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Journalism & Mass Communications, Business, etc.

Course Content:

Environmental Issues is centered on the confluence of social science and natural sciences with the goal of helping students discern the 'nature' of the science involved. There is no lab component; but when offered in the summer, I usually take them on weekly walkabouts.

Course Goals:

The course is designed to acquaint non-science majors with the most current environmental issues such as population and migration, consumption and quality of life, energy use and consumption, climate change, and environmental health affecting humankind.

Thus, by the end of the course and beyond, I aim for students to be able to
(a). Define the concept of sustainability.
(b). Describe global demographic shifts.
(c). Describe energy sources, energy, and energy conservation.
(d). Explain global nature of pollution as a result of industrialization.
(e). Understand the concept of biosphere, biomes, and global warming.
(f). Describe environmental health.
There is effort to discuss at the intersection of some of these as well.

Course Features:

There is a scaffolded activity that is introduced when we are approximately 30% into the course and it continues to the very end. They have individual and group requirements. The activity is centered on understanding the basic concepts and factors on global-scale climate and resource utilization.

Course Philosophy:

Over time, I have learned that students rarely appreciated the scope of what they could learn from the process when it was just a single submission at the end of the semester. This does work with my teaching style, the rate at which I learn all the names and character traits of the students, and the type of students that we have (demographics).


I have found it to be a more robust assessment of what the students have learned, especially when coupled with a more traditional form of assessment, such a a final exam.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 67kB May2 19)

References and Notes:

formerly McConnel & Able Environmental Issues
We have recently made the decision to move away from using this text and will be moving to Online Educational Resources.

Excerpts from basic literature/reports (e.g. from IPCC)