What I’ve Learned So Far – Block 1 – Our Planet

I’ve completed my first year studying toward BSc (Hons) Environmental Science, this is what I’ve learned…

The first book was about home (Earth); how we are all connected and the history of Earth.

We looked at the loss of biodiversity through climate change and how native species are affected with the introduction of ‘alien’ species to a new Island. We were also introduced to The Keeling Curve. This is a chart shows carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere since mid-1950s. This chart shows us that at the point where the lines dips show there is less CO2 in the atmosphere telling us it’s summer time as trees and vegetation are at their peak and when it shoots up, the CO2 concentration increases as there are fewer trees and vegetation during the winter period. Although I had never seen this chart before, I found it fascinating because you can see the earth ‘breathing’.

We learned about the history of earth from its birth 4.6 billion years ago and how the rocks give us clues about the changes on the planet over that time, the five mass extinctions (some believe we have already entered the sixth but that’s a whole another blog!) and how the land masses broke up and moved to where they are now.

I was already familiar with the carbon cycle but seeing diagrams how they are interlinked was really interesting. It also touched on the correlation between CO2 level and previous ice ages, it’s quite hard to deny there is a link between the two.

In this block, we got the opportunity to work out and produce our own carbon calculator, something I was particularly looking forward to. I was so fascinated by this that I wrote about it on my personal blog.

The block ended with climate talks, Paris COP21, the promises made and what does 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius really mean. The section discussed an approach called The Wedges. As the issue of climate change involves several factors, this approach is to break the issues down into ‘chunks’ in order for nations to better manage them and achieve pledges made. There are a lot of pros and cons to this approach, however, it was interesting to see arguments from both sides.

This module took be back to my maths classes. It covered percentages, mean and median. I’ve regularly used percentages in my adulthood but I can safely say the last time I looked at mean and median was in my maths GCSE exams. As you can imagine, my textbook is littered with reference tags!

The TMA for this was to look at our carbon footprint and identify what we could do to reduce it and how we could do this. Selecting five areas within; heating, income, appliances, travel, food and good. We had to ensure our five were from different categories. It wasn’t as easy as I first thought. I had to look at what I ate, being a meat eater meant my carbon emissions was high so I started looking at meat-free Mondays. I also looked at when I really needed something new, I would make an effort to source it second-hand where I could. I work from home so my travel emissions weren’t high and it’s been a few years since I’ve been on a plane, I have no plans to travel on a plane any times soon.  

The carbon calculator I used is only for students but if you are interested in finding out your carbon footprint, I found the WWF one was quite similar. Give it a go…

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