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   Course Title    Human Impact
Lecturer    Andrei Fiodorov
Institution    Tiraspol State University
Country    Moldova


The very survival of our planet is at risk: human misuse of natural resources and disturbance of natural environmental systems is pushing the Earth to the limits of its capacity. Many renewable resources are being consumed at rates that far exceed the speed at which they can be regenerated or replenished. There are many examples of how uncontrolled or excessive exploitation of the land’s natural resources (vegetation, wildlife, minerals, waters, land, soil, air, etc.) can have a profound effect on the natural environment, in terms of both ecosystems and the aesthetic beauty of landscapes. No doubt, human impacts on the natural environment caused by the unsustainable exploitation of available natural resources should be studied, analyzed, and understood to avoid environmental mistakes in the future.

Human activities have had a significant impact on the natural environment in the Republic of Moldova. Human impact has been particularly strong during the last 200 years of Moldovan history; especially when the present-day territory of the Republic of Moldova was a constituent part of the Russian Empire and, later, the Soviet Union. Sharp economic recession, which occurred in the country after the breakup of the Soviet Union, led to the much poorer human influence on the natural environment. The sustainable economic development in the Republic of Moldova requires good knowledge of the past human impacts on Moldovan natural environment, the quality and quantity of the present-day available natural resources and the ways of their sustainable management.

This course introduces key concepts, issues, approaches in Human Impact combining elements of environmental science, environmental management and policy, natural resource economics and business. This class helps students better understand how the environmental systems function and the ways in which various economic activities have changed and are changing the face of the Earth. The human role in natural processes and systems is discussed in detail. The class also considers the future, in particular the possible consequences of global warming. Focusing mainly on the environmental impacts of economic activities, the class explains the ways in which an understanding of basic physical principles can help manage the environment and its resources in a sustainable way. The class provides information on the international and regional environmental organizations (United Nations Environmental Program, Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the GEF Black Sea Environmental Program). A number of tools for environmental decision-making (environmental impact assessment, environmental modeling, environmental auditing, environmental databases, state-of-the-environment reporting, geographical information systems, environmental management and policy, etc.) are analyzed. The Gaia hypothesis and its implications are discussed. The major part of the course contains detailed descriptions of major environmental issues related to human impacts on the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.



Many universities located in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and most CIS countries have been working on the reorganization of their curricula to include a number of environmental disciplines such as environmental policy, environmental management, environmental history, environmental ethics, environmental impact assessment, etc. This reorganization is mainly determined by the understanding of the particular importance of environmental issues for sustainable economic development, by the commitment to numerous international environmental conventions and treaties, etc. One of the classes, which is being included in the revised curricula, is Human Impact (on the Natural Environment), providing general knowledge about the effects of an array of human activities on the natural environment. Tiraspol State University is the only educational institution of the Republic of Moldova where the Human Impact course is developed to be included in the curriculum. The course is designed for both undergraduate and graduate students of the University majoring in geography, natural sciences, environmental sciences, environmental studies, economics, and management. The course is viewed as a prerequisite for a number of other classes such as Natural Resource Management, Natural Resource Economics, Environmental Policy, Environmental Impact Assessment, etc. provided or planned to be provided by the departments and faculties of Tiraspol State University.



The course is organized in lectures and seminars and contains such methodological elements as field studies, environmental problem-solving, role model playing, environmental debates, group projects, scientific report writing, and oral presentations. In class, students follow the sequence of topics outlined in the course syllabus. The course is built around three levels of knowledge - information presented in lectures, discussed in seminars, and materials presented in the text. Students are responsible for completing the readings as they are assigned. Three or four group projects are assigned. Students are also expected to prepare in-class presentations and write several research papers. Four field trips are expected at the end of each semester. In addition, several guest speakers are expected to come to the class to give students an opportunity to see the kinds of research that the local environmental organizations or businesses do. An outline of lecture notes is available for students to follow along with during the class. Assignments include collecting data, reference materials, and other information from libraries, experts, and other sources, environmental field surveys and investigations, and preparation of reports / presentations. The class contains a number of case studies (local, national, regional, and global scales will be considered). Particular attention is given to local / regional topical environmental examples such as trends in Moldovan population, mineral extraction in the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine’s nuclear industry, coastal erosion on the Black Sea, air pollution in Chisinau, water abstraction in the Republic of Moldova, pollution of the Nistru River and the Black Sea, post-glacial vegetational change in Europe and in the Republic of Moldova, the Red Data Book of the Republic of Moldova, etc. The duration of the course is 30 weeks (two semesters), 2 class meetings (one lecture and one seminar) per week, 2 academic hours per meeting.



1. Introduction to Human Impact: subject, concepts, issues, approaches. The development of ideas. The environmental crisis. Symptoms. Environmental change and national economies.

2. Environmental organizations. United Nations Environmental Program. Global Environmental Facility. The GEF Black Sea Environmental Program. Modern environmentalism. The Rio Earth Summit. Monitoring and analysis. Sustainability debate.

3. Tools for environmental decision-making. Environmental impact assessment. Environmental modeling. Environmental auditing. Environmental databases. State-of-the-Environment reporting. Geographical information systems. Environmental management.

4. Environmental policy. Environmental law. The Soviet approach. Changes in the post-Soviet period.

Environmental systems. Flows, cycles and structures. System dynamics. Response to change. Equilibrium. Implications. Biogeochemical cycles. Structure and implications.

5. Environmental systems. Flows, cycles and structures. System dynamics. Response to change. Equilibrium. Implications. Biogeochemical cycles. Structure and implications.

6. Environmental systems. The Nile River case study. The Nistru River case study. Economic costs and benefits.

7. Spaceship Earth. Views of the universe. The universe: structure and composition. Origin and evolution of the universe. The Milky Way galaxy. The Solar System: origin and evolution, structure and composition.

8. The Earth as an environmental system. The Earth as a living organism. The Gaia hypothesis. Implications of Gaia.

9. Population. The basic components of population change: natural increase and migration. Population composition: age distribution, sex ratio, ethnic groups and races, geographical distribution and urbanization. Labor force.

10. Population. Population theories. Malthus and his successors. Marx, Lenin, and their followers. Demographic transition theory. Trends in world population. Population projections. The Republic of Moldova case study.

11. Economic development. Theories of economic development. Stages of economic development. Hunting and gathering. Domestication. Humans as cultivators, keepers, and metal workers. Modern industrial and urban civilizations. Costs and benefits of economic growth. Economic development of the Black Sea region.

12. The solid Earth: its properties, composition, and structure. The lithosphere. Plate tectonics. Earth movements and mountain building. Earthquakes and volcanoes. Types of landforms. Landform evolution.

13. The lithosphere. Earth materials. Minerals and rocks: types and origin. World mineral resources and reserves. Mineral extraction. The Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia case studies.

14. Uranium extraction. Nuclear industry. Storage of nuclear waste. Russia’s nuclear industry case study. Ukraine’s nuclear industry case study.

15. Nuclear accidents. Chornobyl (Ukraine), Three Mile Island (USA), and Windscale (UK) case studies. Environmental costs. Economic costs.

16. The lithosphere. Human agency in geomorphology. Landforms produced by excavation, construction, and dumping. Accelerated sedimentation. Ground subsidence. Accelerated coastal erosion. Shoreline installations. The Ukraine case study.

17. The atmosphere. Composition and structure. The energy system. Atmospheric processes: temperature, pressure and wind, moisture and precipitation. Weather systems. World climates.

18. The atmosphere. The human impact on climate and the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases. Aerosols. Urban climates. Urban air pollution. Air pollution in Chisinau. Air pollution and environmental change. Stratospheric ozone depletion. Acid rain. Deliberate climatic modifications.

19. The atmosphere. Global warming. Kyoto Protocol. The Republic of Moldova case study.

20. The hydrosphere. The hydrological cycle. Oceans and seas. Inland waters. Drainage basins. River systems. Lakes and reservoirs. Underground waters. Water resources: availability and management. The Republic of Moldova case study.

21. The hydrosphere. The human impact on the waters. Deliberate modification of rivers. The Danube River case study. Effects of urbanization and deforestation. The human impact on lake levels. Changes in groundwater conditions.

22. The hydrosphere. Water pollution. Chemical pollution by agriculture and other activities. Inland water pollution. The Nistru River case study. Marine pollution. The Black Sea case study.

23. The biosphere. Life on the Earth. Biodiversity. Evolution and extinction. Management and conservation. Ecosystems, succession, and biomes.

24. The biosphere. The human impact on flora and fauna. Causes of plant decline. The use of fire. Fires: natural and anthropogenic. Some effects of fire on vegetation. The role of grazing. Deforestation. Secondary rain forest.

25. The biosphere. The human impact on flora and fauna. Desertification. The prairie problem. Post-glacial vegetational change in Europe and in the Republic of Moldova. Introduction, invasion, and explosion. The change in genetic and species diversity. The Black Sea basin case study.

26. The biosphere. The human impact on flora and fauna. Causes of animal decline. Dispersal and invasions. Animal extinctions in prehistoric and historic times. Modern-day extinctions. The Red Data Book. The Republic of Moldova case study.

27. Soil. Nature and development of soils. Classification and distribution. The management of soil resources. Key factors of sustainability. Moldovan soils.

28. Soil. The human impact on the soil. Salinization. Lateritization. Accelerated podzolization and acidification. Soil structure alteration. Drainage. Fertilization. Fires and soil. Erosion. Economic costs. The Republic of Moldova case study.

29. The future. Potential consequences of global warming. The cryosphere. The biosphere. The hydrosphere. Coastal environments. Future responses. The Republic of Moldova case study.

30. Conclusion. The power of non-industrial and pre-industrial civilizations. The proliferation of impacts. Changes are reversible. The susceptibility to change. Human influence or nature?

readings (only the English-language materials are listed):

A. mandatory:

1. Alexander, David and Goudie, Andrew. 1997. The Human Impact Reader: Readings & Case Studies. Blackwell Publishers. 448 pages.

2. Environmental Science for Environmental Management, 2000. Edited by Timothy O’Riordan. Second Edition. Prentice Hall. Pearson Education Limited. 520 pages.

3. Goudie, Andrew. 2000. The Human Impact on the Natural Environment. Fifth Edition. Blackwell Publishers. 511 pages.

4. Park, Chris, 1997. The Environment. Principles and Applications. Routledge. 598 pages.


1. Atlas of the World. 2000. Oxford University Press. 416 pages.

2. Brown, Lester R., et al., 1991. Saving the Planet. How to Shape an Environmental Sustainable Global Economy. W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

3. Chiras, Daniel D., et al., 2001. Natural Resource Conservation: Management for a Sustainable Future. Eighth Edition. Prentice Hall. 608 pages.

4. Erickson, Paul A. 1994. A Practical Guide to Environmental Impact Assessment. Academic Press. 266 pages.

5. Europe’s Environment. Statistical Compendium for the Dobríš Assessment, 1995. ECSC-EC-EAEC. Brussels. Luxembourg. 455 pages.

6. Europe’s Environment. The Dobríš Assessment, 1995. Edited by David Stanners and Philippe Bourdeau. European Environment Agency. Copenhagen.

7. Fiodorov, A.B., 2002. Moldovan Nature on My Mind (in print).

8. Fiodorov, A.B. and Chaney, W.R. 1998. Natural Resources of the Black Sea Region. Purdue University. 322 pages.

9. Jackson, Andrew A. and Jackson Julie M. 2000. Environmental Science: The Natural Environment & Human Impact. Pearson Education Corporate Communications.

10. Marriott, Betty B. 1997. Environmental Impact Assessment: A Practical Guide. McGraw-Hill Companies. 320 pages.

11. Modelling the Human Impact on Nature: Systems Analysis of Environmental Problems. 1993. Oxford University Press. 224 pages.

12. National Geographic Atlas of the World. 1999. National Geographic Society. 280 pages.

13. Newson, N. 1993. Managing the Human Impact on the Natural Environment Patterns & Processes. Mutual Book & Periodical Service. 282 pages.

14. Pickering, Kevin T. and Owen, Lewis A., 1997. An Introduction to Global Environmental Issues. Second Edition. Routledge. 512 pages.

15. Redman, Charles L. 1999. Human Impact on Ancient Environments. University of Arizona Press. 288 pages.

16. Republic of Moldova, 1998. Environmental Performance Reviews Series No. 3. Economic Commission for Europe. United Nations Publications. 163 pages.

17. Russo, Michael V., 1998. Environmental Management: Readings and Cases. Houghton Mifflin College. 415 pages.

18. Tacconi, Luca, 2001. Biodiversity and Ecological Economics: Participation, Values and Resource Management. Stylus Publications. 254 pages.

19. The Times Atlas of the World. 1999. Crown Publishing Group. 544 pages.

20. Wright, L. W. 1993. Environmental Systems and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press. 60 pages.

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