Dynamic Ecosystems: Changing Climate, Changing World

ecosystemsby Madeline Goodwin, Director of Online Classes

As I sit at my desk preparing for the start of Fall term, I am reminded with every breath of the realities of climate change. I live in the Pacific Northwest: the air is full of smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia. To the south, friends prepare in case they have to evacuate in the face of more fires. Elsewhere, hurricane season is just starting to pick up. Over the last few weeks, it seems like the whole planet has been encompassed by a heat wave.

Our global climate is changing, and the very existence of our species is at stake.

So what is happening, exactly? To truly comprehend the scale of the changes occurring right now, we must look at each ecosystem in turn. In the tundra, permafrost is melting. Forests and plains burn around the world. Tropical precipitation patterns are changing, and with them, woodlands change to grasslands and grasslands to desert, as arid conditions lead to desertification. Rivers are drying up or changing course; lakes and oceans warm along with everything else.

In Dynamic Ecosystems, we will look at each ecosystem type one by one. We will become intimately familiar with its vegetation, animals, and historic climate and geographic distribution, and use this understanding and climate models to understand where future predictions lead us. Not only does this course look at what is happening from the ecosystem view, however: It integrates with an anthropological perspective to understand how climate change is affecting societies large and small around the world, and exploring how people are taking action to fight climate change before it’s too late – and to adapt where it already is.

This course is for the environmentalist, who cares about our planet. It is for the scientist, who wants to know about the world around them. It’s for the advocate, who wants to speak out on policy issues. It’s for the worrier, the activist, the pessimist, the optimist, and the realist. Most of all, it’s for the kids who are growing up in a world of change.

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