Biogeochemistry and Global Change: Material from 2017

Welcome to the Biol 510 webpage for Fall 2017 version of this course which was subtitled: Biogeochemistry and Global Change: Deep Ecology - Literally and Philosophically

This ecology course is aimed at identifying and critiquing potential mechanisms by which our civilization could most effectively move toward more sustainable living.  This topic incorporates biogeochemical, ecological, economic, social, genetic and behavioural features and constraints.   Each iteration of the course will focus on a specific thematic question related to at least some of those components. Emphasis will be on interactive discussions and student-led seminars in which participants will have ample opportunities to explore, analyze and synthesize scientific information, to learn how the scientific process works, to write and speak effectively, and to develop their understanding of global change issues and sustainability.

The 2017 course iteration will focus on the theme of ‘deep ecology’ interpreted in two distinct but inter-related ways. The first half of the course will highlight the ecological and social significance of what ‘goes on beneath our feet’ – i.e. the biological activities in the soil environment that are the fundamental basis for terrestrial ecosystems.  The second half of the course will investigate the development and significance for our civilisation’s sustainability of the philosophical concept entitled ‘deep ecology’ that proclaims “All life (human and nonhuman) has value in itself, independent of its usefulness to humans”.

The principal question that this course will address is:
What is the ‘deep ecology’ concept, how can it be meaningfully applied to the soil environment, and how can it be most effectively used to promote sustainable ecological behaviour?

This course is for final year undergraduates and is specifically aimed at enhancing their capacities for critical thinking, intelligent open discussion, group work, and independent learning. The course will develop students' perspectives on the relationship between ecology and the sustainability of our current civilisation. Students will lead informal seminar discussions on some component of this theme that is of particular interest to them.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the soil environment in terms of it wondrous biology as well as its ecological and societal significance
  2. Describe and critically assess the concept of ‘deep ecology’ and its relevance to society’s responses to global change issues, especially as applied to the management and conservation of soils
  3. Search, analyse, and synthesize primary and secondary literature in the natural and social sciences
  4. Develop and present a cohesive, original synthesis essay on the potential of deep ecology and other philosophical perspectives to influence the future sustainability of our civilisation

Professor: Paul Grogan

Seminar times: Tuesdays 10.00; Fridays 11.30
Location: Room 3112, Biosciences building

Calendar: Sessions are 1.5 hours


15% Active participation in discussions (questions, comments, suggestions)
15% Seminar written questions
35% Seminar
35% Final Essay




Seminar convenor


September 12th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Course introduction



September 15th
(Friday 11.30)

Deep Ecology - Introduction


Video: The Call of the Mountain – Arne Naess and the Deep Ecology Movement
Readings: Introductions to Deep Ecology by Drengson, A. (D.E.M.), and Harding S. (Schumacher college).  Interbeing. By Thich Nhat Hanh from Peace is Every Step (1991).

September 19th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Soil Ecology – Introduction.
Why was this particular paper such a catalyst in turning me on to soil ecology all those years ago?


Coleman, D. 1985. Through a Ped Darkly: An ecological assessment of root-soil-microbial-faunal interactions. In: Ecological Interactions in Soil (eds Fitter, Atkinson, Read and Usher).

September 22nd
(Friday 11.30)

How has human perspective influenced description and use of soils?

Farrah Soliman

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

September 26th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Origins - Ch. 1.
How can an understanding of the origin of life, in conjunction with deep ecology philosophies, help us create positive and substantial ecological behavioural change?

Meredith Wilson

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

September 29th
(Friday 11.30)

The Habitable Zone – Ch.2.
In what ways has our awareness of the potential importance of extremophiles in the origins of life expanded our conception of the habitable zone, and altered our understanding of the evolution of life?

Zoe Ounpuu-Adams

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 3rd
(Tuesday 10.00)

Shaking the Tree of Life – Ch. 3.
In what ways have changes in human perspective influenced the “tree of life” concept?

Shannon Petrie

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 6th
(Friday 11.30)

No class



October 10th
(Tuesday 10.00)

No class



October 13th
(Friday 11.30)

Out of Thin Air – Ch. 4.
In what ways can understanding human appropriation of the nitrogen cycle, and its effect on the earth’s carrying capacity, help us move towards more sustainable living?

Jessica Mootoo

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 17th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Nexus of the Underground – Ch. 5.
How do mutualistic relationships, such as interactions between mycorrhizae and plants influence our view of other living organisms in relation to humans?

Sierra Klueppel

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 20th
(Friday 11.30)

When the Humble Explain the Great – Ch. 6.
How can earthworms be used to promote sustainable ecological behaviour?

Christine Jauernig

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 24th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Germ Warfare – Ch. 7.
In a world where supporting a growing population is an increasing concern, should science research funding be focused less on developing antibiotics and pesticides to control the soil pathogens that cause famine and disease, and more on reducing birth rates and equalizing the distribution of food and wealth between developed and developing countries?

Sophie Raymond

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

October 27th
(Friday 11.30)

Endangered Diggers of the Deep – Ch. 8.
How are the aspects of deep ecology that are found in other cultures affecting their behaviors towards sustainability?

Alex Tieu

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground; Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

October 31st
(Tuesday 10.00)

The Good Earth, and Epilogue – Ch. 9.
Since the Scientific Revolution and emergence of objective science, ‘progress’ has been generally synonymous with materialistic progress. How can the rise and fall of past civilizations shed light on what is ‘good’ progress vs ‘bad’ progress? Are we genetically predisposed to over-exhaust resources in our pursuit of ‘progress’?

Geordie Maguire 

Wolfe, D. 2001. Tales from the Underground

November 3rd
(Friday 11.30)

Deep Ecology Reading 1
How might subjective incorporation of religious ethics, or a lack thereof, coincide with the fundamental principles of the deep ecology movement, and promote the creation of an ecologically sustainable society?

Emily Iorio

Negi, C.S. 2005. Religion and biodiversity conservation: not a mere analogy. International Journal of Biodiversity Science and Management 1:85-96.

November 7th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Deep Ecology Reading 2
How can sustainability be promoted in civil society in a way that is significant enough to initiate a “social avalanche”, a complete reform of existing consumption habits and formal institutions?

Jeffrey Cato

Fischer, J. et al. 2012. Human Behaviour and Sustainability. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 10(3): 153–160.

November 10th
(Friday 11.30)

Deep Ecology Reading 3
If a sustainable society could be created in one way or another, what would it look like?

Sarah Beech

Costanza, R. et al. 2006. Quality of life: An approach integrating opportunities, human
needs, and subjective well-being. Ecological Economics 61:267-276.

November 14th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Deep Ecology Reading 4
In what ways does globalization benefit or hinder us from incorporating the deep ecology principles?

Sophie Fusigboye

Rees, W. 2002. Globalisation and Sustainability: Conflict or Convergence? Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 22(4):249-268.

November 17th
(Friday 11.30)

Deep Ecology Reading 5
Can the explanation of cooperation and selfishness provided by analyzing the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ be used to understand and/or explain the current sustainability issues facing the world?

Tristan Frappier-Brinton

Axelrod, R. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. Basic Books. Pages 6-12.

Hardin, G. 1968. The Tragedy of the Commons: Sections entitled Tragedy of the Commons, and Pollution. Science 162: 1244-1245.

November 21st
(Tuesday 10.00)

Essay preparation – Paul available for one-on-one consultation



November 24th
(Friday 11.30)

Essay preparation – no class



November 28th
(Tuesday 10.00)

Synthesis I



December 1st
(Friday 11.30)

Synthesis II (including a class debate on the following proposition: That the Earth Charter platform is superior to the Deep Ecology platform to promote ecologically sustainable behaviour).




Class photo 2017
The class of 2017! Alex Tieu, Sophie Raymond, Jeffrey Cato, Sierra Klueppel, Tristan Frappier-Brinton, Sophie Fusigboye, Shannon Petrie, Geordie Maguire, Zoe Ounpuu-Adams and Jessica Mootoo.  Front row: Meredith Wilson, Farrah Soliman, Emily Iorio, Sarah Beech and Christine Jauernig
Promoting sustainable behaviour: Deep Ecology's relationships to individual well-being, and to social and economic justice
debate earth charter vs deep ecology
Points for and against in the lively final class debate that 'the Earth Charter is a superior platform than the Deep Ecology platform to promote sustainable ecological behaviour'


Last Updated: 21 December 2017