GEOL 105: Earth Lab: Is the Earth Worth Saving?

4 credits, FDR-SL

Three weeks on campus, one week in Belize

Prof. Lisa Greer

Can we save the earth? What does that really mean? In the context of geologic time, many of the recent changes we see in our earth system and environment seem remarkably small, if sometimes more rapid, than in the past. This course explores both the humbling existence of humans in deep time (4.6 billion years) and the potentially profound impacts of humans on the earth environment. We consider whether it is the earth or only ourselves that we wish to 'save'. Throughout this course, we learn how rocks reveal a deep and rich history of changing climate and environment with time. We then compare this record with what we know about human-influenced climate and environmental change in the last few hundred years, and reflect on what, if anything, we should do with this information. We evaluate the effectiveness of efforts to 'protect' the environment, specifically with regards to marine protected areas. This seminar involves extensive field exploration of the geology of Rockbridge County and a week-long trip to Belize, to visit a coral reef. Students must be comfortable in water deeper than wading depth for long periods of time (floating, treading water, and swimming).

Program Fee (paid to W&L): $2,400. This includes airfare, accommodation and meals.

Estimated Additional Expenses: The only anticipated additional expenses will be spending money and food during travel days to and from Belize. It is possible that there might be an optional dive opportunity if anyone is certified ($75).

For further details, please contact Prof. Greer at