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Geography of Global Change

GEO 3001, U01.  Spring 2012


Class Location: ECS 135   Time: 12:00-12:50 p.m.  M,W,F

Instructor:  Benjamin Smith   Email:

Office: SIPA 305 Office Phone: 348-2074

Office Hours: M,W 1:00-1:50, or by appointment

Teaching Homepage Which You Must Check Frequently:

Where You Must Log In To Take The Essay Portion of Exam 1 & 2: 



Mega-Cities, Melting Artic Ice, and Transnational Consumer Cultures.   Oh my!


We live in extraordinary times.  In the last few years the planet has become more urban than rural, has begun to face a multitude of problems associated with climate change, and has seen more of the world’s information potentially available to more people than ever before through the Internet.  Not to mention the profoundly interconnected planetary economy.  In the 1990’s, a term called globalization emerged to describe this seeming leveling of the world – so much so that a well-traveled person like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman actually wrote a book called The World is Flat.   Some have even declared geography not to matter anymore – that every issue is only global now.


However all these recent changes lumped under globalization have histories – or to be precise historical geographies.  Furthermore, in the words of Richard Florida, “the world is spiky”– meaning that global issues have an uneven geography, with areas of intensity and absence.  Causes and effects are often not found in the same location, nor is every location equally impacted.    The history and present of this uneven geography is the focus of this course.



You will have to read and understand geography stuff


The point of this course is to learn not just “facts” about global change – though you certainly will be presented with a lot of those (which you will hopefully find interesting).    More importantly, the point is to acquire a “geographic” perspective on how to contextualize, analyze, think about and act upon those facts.    This will require reading work written by geographers so you to can begin to think like a geographer.   It is also an upper division Global Learning Course, which requires critical thinking and engagement.


So if you don’t want to read, perhaps you should consider a course in interpretive dance.


The Goals of the Course/Global Learning Outcomes



1.      Gain an understanding of contemporary global changes,.   Most of the foundations of today’s seemingly new “global” phenomena date back at least to the period of colonialism, sometimes earlier.  Furthermore, many “global” problems are exceedingly complex and display great spatial variability, thus meaning there are no easy solutions.  Understanding and accepting this complexity will be part of this course. (Global Awareness)


2.      Critically assess multiple perspectives concerning global issues. Given the complexity of many global issues, there are often multiple perspectives on what drives these processes and how best to address them.   Part of the goal of this course is to understand and learn to critically assess these multiple perspectives, what their particular historical geographies are, and how these perspectives shed light on ways students can get involved in changing their world. (Global Perspective and Global Engagement)


3.      Gain the ability to analyze global issues from a geographic perspective.  Though geographers analyze many of the same issues people from other disciplines do, there is a difference in how geographers approach things.    Terms like space, scale, systemic analysis and materiality are extremely important to geographers – this course will help you understand why.  Similarly, it will focus on the research and publication processes through which geographic knowledge is produced and disseminated.


Required Texts


A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development (2nd Edition). By Porter, et. Al. The Guilford Press.   ISBN: 1606232620

Geographies of Global Change: Remapping the World (2nd Edition).  Edited by Johnston, Taylor and Watts.  Blackwell.  ISBN: 0631222863


Important Dates


Monday, January 16 – No Class Meeting, MLK Day

Monday, February 6 – Exam One

Wednesday, February 22 – Research Proposal Due

Monday, February 27 – No Class Meeting, at AAG Meeting

Monday, March 19 – Exam Two

Friday, April 13 – Research Assignment Due

Friday, April 27 – Final Exam, 9:45-11:45




There will be 500 total points available in this class, broken down as follows:


  90 points: Global Change Research Assignment & Proposal

  50 points: Attendance and Participation 

120 points: Exam 1

120 points: Exam 2

120 points: Final Exam  

500 points Total  


The grading scale is A = 100-93%, A- = 92.9-90%, B+ = 89.9-87%, B = 86.9-83%, B- =82.9%-80%, C+ = 79.9-77%, C = 76.9-73%,  C- = 72.9-70%, D+ = 69.9-67%, D = 66.9-63%, D- = 62-60% F = 59-0%, which translates to, in points:






The first two exams will consist of two parts.   The first part, taken in class on the dates shown above, is a combination of multiple choice, matching, and short answer drawn from lectures, readings, videos, etc. – basically anything covered in class or assigned.  The second part, available online for 48 hours after the in-class exam, consists of timed essay questions.   You will need to login to the address at the top of the syllabus and click on this course’s module to take the exam.  PLEASE NOTE: YOU SHOULD SET UP YOUR LOGIN WELL IN ADVANCE OF THE ACTUAL EXAM DATE. 


The final exam, because there is more time allotted, will be taken entirely in person – meaning multiple choice, matching, short answer AND short essay will all be done during the exam time.



Each exam covers only material covered since the previous exam.  This includes the final. That does not mean major concepts should be completely forgotten after first tested – indeed some concepts will be covered again and again.   I will also say this: essays will be worth a significant amount of points on the test, because this is a largely conceptual class.



Research Assignment & Proposal 


This assignment will involve demonstrating an ability to conduct and summarize research concerning global change, which takes into account a geographic perspective.    The purpose of this assignment is not to write a semester paper, but to learn how geographers undertake research on a topic to understand the full range of perspectives that surround it.   The techniques and sources which will be part of this project would be used regardless of whether you were working as a GIS professional, urban planner, locational analyst or academic researcher.


What you submit at the end of the semester will be what is known as an annotated bibliography.   What this means is that the project will consist of you finding a variety sources (including geography reference, newspapers, journal articles, books, etc.) that relate to a global change topic of your choosing and instead of writing a coherent paper, write one or two paragraphs on each source summarizing it’s topic, arguments, literature it is speaking to, methods, how it relates to the other sources, and its use to you.   Again, the goal is to have you do research using geographical sources, so you get used to working as a geographer does.


Also, at the end of the project, you will provide a one page reflection on the literature reviewed as a whole, and what it seems to indicate might be a path for you to become involved in addressing the issues.


Additionally, a proposal, which will be used to gauge progress, will be submitted the week after the first exam.   Also, two weekends before the project is due, there will be a peer editing session, where you will bring 3 completed sources from the final bibliography so that you can see what other students are doing and get suggestions. Assignments turned in late (or not ready for peer editing) will have points deducted.



Attendance and Participation Points, Name Cards & Classroom Etiquette


This being an upper division course, you should not have to be reminded how important regular attendance is.   This is especially true because lectures, while drawing on the readings, will expand upon them as well.   Missing class means missing a lot of the material that will be on the test.   The same goes for the readings – if you fail to do them before the test, your efforts to answer essay questions will be hamstrung (ummm… hamstrung…ahhhhh)


To reward you for reading and attendance, I will have various easy point opportunities throughout the semester.   Sometimes they will be announced tasks – like bringing three questions to class about the reading for discussion.  Other times, they will be unannounced – like having a quick individual quiz about the reading that asks a few, really simple questions.  If the reading is particularly theoretical, I will put you into groups during class so you and your classmates can hash it out together.  These are meant to be low stress, and providing everyone makes a good faith effort (and attends), these points should be easy to get.  Even easier to get are the points where I simply mark down everyone who is there.


However, these points can also be taken away, at the instructor’s discretion, in extreme circumstances, due to regularly bad behavior.   Points can also be taken away if a student shows lack of engagement by talking to other students while the instructor, guest or another student is speaking, repeatedly reading the newspaper, using their cell phone or mp3 player, doing homework for other classes, or using their notebook computer for IM’s (not note-taking).  However, I doubt it will come to this.  If points are taken, the student will be notified as to why.  Also, any of the above behaviors are grounds for me to remove you from the classroom for the remainder of the class period in which the infraction occurred.   But again, I’ve not had to do that – probably because I look so threatening.


Attendance quizzes and activities will contribute a maximum of 50 points to your final grade.   There will likely be more than 50 points made available during the semester, meaning if you miss a class or have an off day, you will still be able to receive full attendance credit.


Readings and Changes to Schedule


Since this course is difficult to structure, the schedule of readings and lectures will likely be in flux throughout the semester (although exam and due dates are firm).   I will always announce the reading for next class at the beginning of each class, and update the “Class Schedule” link as needed.   It is your responsibility to know what the reading is – either by attending class or checking the class schedule.


Teaching Website, On-Line Articles, and Updates


At the top of this document, you will find the address for my teaching homepage, which is .  There will be a copy of the syllabus there, as well as the course schedule and instructions regarding the research assignment.  Also, there and only there you will be able to find study guides for the exams – meaning I will not be handing these study guides out in class.  In addition, I will post announcements (such as the unlikely event of a class cancellation) on this page as well.   Thus, if you have a question about the structure of the class (due dates, test structure, etc.), check the teaching website, because the answer will probably be there.  NOTE: Very little will be contained on the site, other than the test questions.


Office Hours & Making Contact


My office hours are posted at the top of this document.  If you are having trouble at all, I strongly encourage you to stop by or call during office hours, or make an appointment to do so.   My job is to make sure you learn the material, not just to assign grades.


I will also try my best to answer questions via e-mail, but realize that apart from teaching this class, I am also teaching a second course, doing research, and administrative work, thus the quickest, best way to get an answer is to stop by or call me during office hours.   Please do not call outside of office hours – it is easier for me to answer an email than to play phone tag.  If you e-mail me, please put “GEO 3001” or “Global Change” in the subject line – so I know what class you are in.   Also, pretty please put your name in the email, so I know who I am replying to.


Earning the Grade You Want & (Lack of Significant) Extra Credit


If you are doing poorly in the class, the time to ask how you can do better is not right before, and especially not right after, the final.  If you do badly on the first or second test PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come to office hours or make an appointment to see me as soon as possible after that test, and I will help you devise strategies to study more effectively.


If there are events on campus (e.g. lectures) that are related to the course, I may give 2 or 3 points extra-credit if you attend.   Other than that, I will not give extra credit – so there is no point in asking.   Nor will I go back and change grades after the semester is over and grades have been submitted – you earn what you earn.   It is the only thing that is fair to all students in the course – I cannot give advancement opportunities to one I do not give to all.


Academic Integrity, Cheating and Plagiarism:


Cheating and plagiarism are done by pathetic and desperate people – don’t be one of them.    If you plagiarize on your research assignment, or cheat on an exam – you will receive at minimum a zero on that assignment, which instantly drops your score for the course by about two full letter grades.    If you find yourself in a desperate situation while taking a test or up against a deadline – turn in the best work you can do at the time.  Getting an F usually means you will get some points – getting caught cheating means you get zero.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of the case, I can choose to pursue harsher penalties, including assigning an F0 for the course or pursuing your expulsion from the university.


It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the FIU student handbook’s sections on cheating and plagiarism.  Also, if you need to know more about how to not plagiarize, please check out the following websites.


1) “Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (Indiana University)” at

2) “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words (Purdue University)” at


Absences & Make-Up


Excused absences include serious illness; illness of a spouse or dependent; death of an immediate family member; University-sponsored trips; and major religious holy days.  It is your responsibility to inform me of the absence in advance of class by e-mail (and within 2 weeks of the start of class if it is a university trip or holy day), but no later than two class sessions after the missed class.  In order to have an absence excused, you must provide original documentation which I can keep.   If this is done, and I determine the absence to be excused, I will do my best make sure you make up what you missed.


Make-up exams will only be given in extreme circumstances.  The make-up exam will not be the same one given to those who took the test on the established date, and will be given during the final examination period, during which time you will take both the make-up exam and the final.    To sit a make-up exam, you must 1) provide documentation to me in class within two class periods of the missed exam addressing why your absence qualifies as excused 2) have that documentation accepted by me 3) email me asking to be given a make-up exam and 4) receive back an email from me confirming a make-up exam will be given.


Your choices to attend or not attend have consequences – just like they would at work.    I take my responsibilities and role as a teacher seriously; I hope you hold your role and responsibility as a student in equal respect.





Enjoy Your Semester of Global Change!