Environmental Risks and Hazards

Jennifer Haney, Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania


This course explores the human and environmental contributions to the generation and management of risks and hazards originating from extreme natural events and technological failures. Contemporary public policy issues at the local, national, and international levels are reviewed with an emphasis on geographic themes in hazards and emerging management technologies.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an upper-level course with a required pre-requisite of the introductory-level Natural Disasters course. It serves as an elective course for majors in the Geography and Planning and Environmental Science programs. This course is rigorous, requiring students to not only become familiar with the scholarly literature in risks and hazards fields, but critically evaluate them.

Course Content:

This course integrates topics in geography, planning, emergency management, geology, history, and political science. The course includes two required book reviews and a data-driven research project in the risks and hazards arena. Students learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret their data on their selected topic(s), and create outputs and visualizations (maps, graphs, tables).

Course Goals:

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyze and compare the scope and extent of environmental risks and hazards in the natural, technological, and social spheres.
  2. Identify and explain the various theoretical and conceptual frameworks utilized in the development of hazards theory.
  3. Examine the creation of a "risk" oriented society and assess the impact of newer technologies such as remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and social media on the communication and management of environmental risks and hazards.
  4. Distinguish between hazard mitigation and management techniques (physical and institutional) utilized at the individual/household, local, state, national and international levels and identify the various tensions that sometimes arise between them.
  5. Develop effective written and oral communication skills while working within subject matter that requires an understanding of complex physical and social processes.

Course Features:

The final project for this course requires students to collect data from a reputable source like the Spatial Hazards Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS) to answer a specific research question. For example, a student from last year analyzed and compared data on heat waves and associated losses in two counties in Pennsylvania. The results were described in a paper and accompanied with maps and other graphics.

Course Philosophy:

This course was designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the development of environmental risks and hazards, which emphases the human-environment relationship, a recurring theme in all of our department courses. Common themes that are explored in conjunction with a combination of national and international case studies include hazard vulnerability with an emphasis on social vulnerability, resilience, hazard mitigation. The course offers opportunities for lecture, discussions, and field trips.


The instructor of the course will choose problems or questions on quizzes, homework assignments, in-class assignments, or examinations or assess performance on written assignments, projects, or presentations to determine whether students have met the objectives listed above.


hazsyls14 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 31kB May5 15)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

See syllabus, as readings change every semester.