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Welcome to PWS 180

This course focuses on one of the defining environmental, ethical, and spiritual challenges of our day: human-caused climate change. Whether you are taking the course for credit or learning on your own, I am grateful that you are here. Over the 15 weeks of this semester, we will explore the scope and causes of climate change, emphasizing multiple approaches (cultural, political, and personal) to solving this challenge.

Course structure

This class is an open learning environment that is accessible to BYU students for credit and anyone with an internet connection for learning. There will be live class sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays (9:30-10:45 MST). For those enrolled in the course through BYU, you will use Learning Suite (BYU's learning managements software) to submit assignments. If other participants wish to submit and receive feedback on assignments, I encourage you to organize among yourselves on Teams (details in the syllabus linked at the top of the page).

To allow all participants to stay up to speed, I will make announcements via Teams, which allows greater two-way communication (you can post resources and questions for all participants) and multiple settings for notification type and frequency. As we work through the four sections listed below, I will add recorded materials, readings, and activities for each week to the Section web pages (click on the picture or "More" button to access each page).

Values and perspectives

As BYU is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this course is taught from the perspective of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, students and participants from all backgrounds and beliefs are invited to fully participate and engage as we explore this crucial topic. Your individual and cultural perspectives will enrich and deepen the conversation. As we listen to each other sincerely while avoiding assumptions and stereotypes, I know we will be enlightened and uplifted.

Course content

Section 1: How do we know and why does it matter?

In this section, we will explore the scientific method, prioritize environmental issues, and learn how to combine scientific evidence and values in decision making.

Section 2: What controlled climate in the past?

In this section, we will evaluate the physical and ecological dynamics that have influenced Earth's climate in the past. How have the sun, atmosphere, life, and Earth's surface interacted to determine climate?

Section 3: How do humans influence climate and how does it affect us?

In this section, we will investigate how different human activities are modifying the climate and how that is changing the world we live in. What activities are having the biggest impact and how? How serious, immediate, and unavoidable are these effects, and how are they effecting our lives?

Section 4: What can we do about it?

In this final section, we will learn what others are doing to combat climate change. How can we effectively face this environmental challenge? What is the role of personal action and systemic change? What political, economic, and cultural tools can we use to create a better future?