Spring 2024 - HIST 132 B100

Global Environmental History (3)

Class Number: 4642

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Tue, 8:30–10:20 a.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 18, 2024
    Thu, 11:59–11:59 p.m.



A planetary-scale introduction to reciprocal human-environment interactions from the discovery of fire to the present day. Case studies focus on humans and non-human actors in specific locales, and their movement across continents and oceans. Themes include climate, energy regimes, disease, science and technology, agriculture, subsistence, and landscape change. Breadth-Hum/Social Sci/Science.


Our species has been telling stories about nature since before we had words. A key trait is our intense and sustained effort to defeat, harness, nurture, and worship nature. We have leveled forests, bloomed deserts, stoppered seas, and changed climate. The course traces thirteen-thousand-year years of global history as a primer on the field of environmental history. Lectures and readings address the reciprocal relations between culture and ecology at the planetary scale. Eight themes shape the narrative: food, energy, settlement, population, disease, climate, knowing, and veneration. Students will be asked to identify how societies and nature reciprocally shaped each other across time and space, and how individual narratives intersect with each other in context-dependent ways. Tales about food were inherently also about identity and settlement; energy, disease, and climate are entangled forces. The course begins with the retreat of ice sheets and rise of agriculture. By 13000 YBP humans had gathered into permanent settlements with domesticated animals. Their populations grew in ways that pressured resources and nurtured pathogens. They altered local ecologies and planetary climate millennia ago, and the social and ecological feedback loops only accelerated across time. Read, listen, and learn just how old the Anthropocene is, and how complex our environmental relationships have been.


  • Midterm 30%
  • Paper 30%
  • Final 30%
  • Quizzes 10%


2024 Alert: This course will be conducted remotely. Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and methods of feedback on your work than for in-person classes. Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, should register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



No required textbook. Scholarly articles and primary documents available online.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the term are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.