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Courses : Syllabi : 573

Geography 573 Population and Environment


Dr. John R. Weeks

Course Description

The demographic foundation of our lives is deep and broad. As you will see in this course, demography affects nearly every facet of your life in some way or another. Population change is one of the prime forces behind social and technological change all over the world. As population size and composition changes in an area—whether it be growth or decline—people have to adjust, and from those adjustments radiate innumerable alterations to the way society operates. The major goal of the course is to offer insight into why and how populations grow (and decline), and where and under what conditions population change has positive and negative consequences. This requires that we understand the interaction of mortality, fertility, migration, population structure, and population characteristics. All of these factors will be considered within the context of cultural change and economic development and sustainability. The course will include a review and analysis of strategies designed to cope with population change, environmental change, and the rise in affluence and control over nature that have led to both phenomena.

Learning Objectives

  1. Analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on the earth's surface
  2. Comprehend relations between global and local processes
  3. Analyze the characteristics, distribution, and mobility patterns of human population on the earth's surface
  4. Interpret the human use of physical resources and the impact of resource utilization on nature and human society
  5. Apprehend the complex relations between nature and culture/society
  6. Summarize the spatial patterns and networks of economic interdependence on the earth's surface
  7. Recognize underlying assumptions in theoretical orientations or arguments


Geography 102


Your grade in this course will be determined by the following elements:

Books and Materials

John R. Weeks, Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, Eleventh Edition (Belmont; CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning), 2011

Yousef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011

In addition, there will be readings posted on Blackboard and/or that will be downloaded (or at least read) over the internet in conjunction with class assignments.

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Introduction to the class and to each other; defining demography and discussing why this is an important topic
Global patterns of population change—where are we and how did we get here?
Week Two Global patterns of population change, continued—Video on “World in the Balance—the Population Paradox” (Reaction paper opportunity)
Week Three Demographic perspectives—a little history about doomsters and boomsters, and the demographic transition in all its glory
Week Four Video on and discussion about the ultimate neo-Malthusian—Paul Ehrlich (reaction paper opportunity)
Week Five Demographic data and resources—how do we know what we know?
Week Six The mortality transition—this has changed everything
How do we measure mortality?
Week Seven Review for midterm exam
Midterm Exam
Week Eight The fertility transition—a radical transformation of life
Week Nine Class colloquium on the Courbage and Todd book
The migration transition—the most obvious aspect of spatial demography
Week Ten Migration, continued
The age transition—the “master” transition
Week Eleven Age transition, continued
The urban transition—moving to places we love to live in and complain about
Week Twelve The family and household transition—inevitable consequences of the other demographic changes
Video on the family transition “Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family” (reaction paper opportunity)
Week Thirteen Population growth and the environment—how many of us can live well?
Week Fourteen Population and the environment--continued
Coping with population change—The future is a foreign country
Week Fifteen Coping with population change, continued
Review for Final Exam

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