GEOL10050 Earth and Humanity

Academic Year 2023/2024

This open elective module considers how geological agents have shaped the pattern of human evolution, the development of agricultural and early industrial civilisations, and impact on the general health of these and today's societies. The lectures are supplemented by a comprehensive on-line learning resource. The first part investigates how environmental conditions (e.g. fluctuating climatic conditions, natural resource availability, geohazards and catastrophic natural events) influenced the evolution, migration and settlement patterns of hominid and early-modern human populations in the recent geological past. The second part of the module examines how, over the past ten thousand years, geology has influenced the development of agriculture, cities and an increasingly sophisticated use of metals, water and other earth resources up to the Industrial Revolution. The increasing effect of humans on the environment over time will be explored, including examples of civilisations ended by their own environmental impact; the collapse of civilisations as the result of external geological forces is also considered. The third part of the module focuses on how geological and related environmental factors continue to exert strong effects on the health and wellbeing of billions of people in the 21st century. Medical Geology, an emerging discipline in environmental and human health, is introduced. Case studies will be used to illustrate the beneficial and harmful effects of metals, metalloids and mineral dust on human health and their links with geological environments. The module complements GEOL10040, in which the current and future impact of humans on the global system is considered.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The goal of this open elective module is to provide undergraduate students from across the University with an appreciation of: (a) how external factors related to the Earth System, including regional and global climate change and catastrophic events, have shaped the record of human evolution, migration and, subsequently, the development and structure of societies; (b) the principal geological factors that have contributed to the development and structure of agrarian and industrialised societies; (c) how humanity has come in turn to exert major impacts on the Earth, and, in particular, how the health of societies in the past and today is inextricably interlinked with the geological context, both the solid Earth and its hydrosphere, biosphere and pedosphere.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module uses the following teaching-learning approaches:

1. Lectures will be given on the topics covered by this module
2. Students will partake in online activities and exercises 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Multiple Choice Questionnaire: Advanced MCQ exam on first section of module Week 7 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: Advanced MCQ exam on second part of module 1 hour End of Trimester Exam n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No



Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
Repeat Within Two Trimesters
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Eoghan Holohan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Ivan Lokmer Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Patrick Orr Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Koen Torremans Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Julian Menuge Tutor