A fundamental reality in environmental science is that all life and Earth processes are interconnected across vast distances and over long periods of time. Yet human systems of governance work at much smaller scales, both spatially and temporally. This is perhaps especially true in the contemporary United Kingdom, where ongoing processes of regional devolution –- and particularly Brexit –- signal growing interest in localization.
Geological timescales are not well-aligned with electoral cycles, and the lithosphere pays little heed to political borders. As concerns about the Anthropocene (an unofficial epoch recognizing humanity’s significant impact on Earth systems) rise, the mismatch between environmental realities and political constructions becomes ever more apparent. Effective responses to climate change require global coordination, but countries have not been able to agree upon shared regulations within their borders, let alone beyond them.
This field studies course invites you to use Great Britain as a case study for the interplay between environmental geology, political ecology, and devolution policy. During travels in Scotland, Wales, Devon, and Cornwall, you will encounter controversies over environmental resources, climate policies, and decision-making power.
Devolution (the process of shifting control from a central government to subnational authorities) has given several British regions increased say over environmental matters. But devolution is far from clear-cut… and many powers remain reserved by the UK.
This integrated science and policy class will simultaneously study the geological history that formed distinct landscapes in the devolved areas of Great Britain and the current sociopolitical forces that create interest in the resulting environmental resources. Through a variety of site visits and guided tours, the course will ask questions such as:
- Is Scotland responsible for its agricultural impact, when it overwhelmingly voted against Brexit yet has been pulled from EU Common Agricultural Policy resources?
- Can the UK Government mine Wales’ seabed for energy resources without consent from the Welsh Assembly?
- Does Cornwall have any power to prohibit internationally owned trawling boats from fishing in its waters?
Ultimately, “Green Britain” will help you better understand geology, politics, and science communication –- and how these forces impact both their daily lives and human history.
Course fee: A fee will be billed from Syracuse to cover field studies (2023-24 = $840). For this course, tickets are purchased by Syracuse London in advance. Once registered, students are responsible for all expended and committed costs, even if the course is dropped prior to the start of classes.