Energy, the Environment, and Our Future - FREE online course

This is an online course offered through Pennsylvania State University and Coursera that starts September 16th

August 12

Course Length and Workload:
8 week on line course
6-9 hours per week workload

Date & Time:
The time listed above is not a class time, but the last date/time when you can sign up for the course, so I listed the latest time.

For more info and to sign up, go here

Course is Free
Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor for a fee.

Dr. Richard B. Alley
Professor of Geosciences
Pennsylvania State University

Recommended Background:
No background is required. All are welcome


About the Course

Join internationally-acclaimed researcher and award-winning educator Richard Alley in an exploration of the role of energy in our environment and our future. Energy use has done great good for humans by giving those in the developed world the equivalent of 100 energy "serfs" to do our bidding, making up roughly 10% of the economy, and powering most of the economy.  However, the unintended consequences of energy use are affecting people around the world and changing the climate in ways that will make life much harder.  Numerous options exist for development of a sustainable energy system that provides a stronger economy, more jobs, and greater security that is more consistent with ethical principles.  The course explores these issues.
“Energy, the Environment, and Our Future” will combine student-centered instructional materials and film clips from the PBS TV series Earth: The Operators' Manual, also hosted by Richard Alley, to tell the history, present, and possible futures of human energy use. 

Course Syllabus

(Subject to change before course begins)

●    Lesson 1. Sustainability: Why Energy Matters (and Money)  
●    Lesson 2. What is Energy—Units and Such; What we use, and how much good it does  
●    Lesson 3. Oil, Coal and Natural Gas, Drilling and Fracking and Reserves  
●    Lesson 4. Global Warming I—Physics 
●    Lesson 5. Global Warming II—History  and Impacts 
●    Lesson 6. Options: Solar, Wind
●    Lesson 7. Options: Geothermal, Waves, Tides, Nukes
●    Lesson 8. Options: Conservation
●    Lesson 9. Options: Geo-Engineering
●    Lesson 10. Economics
●    Lesson 11. Policy Options
●    Lesson 12. Ethical issues 

In-course Textbooks

As a student enrolled in this course, you will have free access to selected chapters and content for the duration of the course. All chapters were selected by the instructor specifically for this course. You will be able to access the Coursera edition of the e-textbook via an e-reader in the class site hosted by Chegg. If you click on “Buy this book”, you will be able to purchase the full version of the textbook, rather than the limited chapter selection in the Coursera edition. This initiative is made possible by Coursera’s collaboration with textbook publishers and Chegg.

Suggested Readings

This course will build on the PBS Video Series “Earth: The Operator’s Manual,” as well as the companion book of the same title. See for additional information about these resources.

Course Format

The course will incorporate text and video lecture materials that are embedded with rich media, including compelling film clips from the PBS TV series Earth: The Operators' Manual (hosted by course instructor Richard Alley). Short exercises, objective quizzes, and a comprehensive final examination will assess student progress.  Students will also have opportunities to engage in a world-wide conversation that is taking place online on matters of climate change and clean energy.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class? 
Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

What resources will I need for this class?
For this course, all you need is an Internet connection and the time to watch lectures, read course content, complete lab assignments, and discuss some assignments with your peers.

What future learning opportunities will this class prepare me for?
If you are looking for additional coursework related to energy and the environment, you may be interested in Penn State's online bachelor's degree program in Energy and Sustainability Policy.  FInd out more information. 

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