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CANCELLED - Spring 2020 Course C.The Health of Our Planet:Past

Alumnae Continuing Education
Norris University Center
Thursday, Apr 2, 2020 at 9:30 AM (CT) to Thursday, Jun 4, 2020 at 11:30 AM (CT)

Dear Alumnae Continuing Education student, 

Regretfully, The Alumnae of Northwestern University Continuing Education Program is cancelling all four spring 2020 courses. 

Northwestern University is taking significant steps to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on its campuses and protect the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and guests. Because the university is not having spring classes onsite for the foreseeable future, we cannot hold our classes at Northwestern, precipitating the cancellation for spring. At present, we do not offer our courses online. 

A full refund will be forthcoming. Those of you who paid by check or cash will be sent a check for a full refund from The Alumnae of Northwestern University. The Norris Box Office will be issuing full refunds to those who paid by credit card. The refund will appear as a credit posted to the original payment card used for the registration. 

Under these circumstances, there is no need to purchase a cancellation fee. 

If you have any questions, please contact The Alumnae's voicemail (847-604-3569) or The Alumnae email: 

The Alumnae Continuing Education Program

Course C. The Health of Our Planet: Past, Present and Future

Thursdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Faculty from the McCormick School of Engineering, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences and the Chicago Botanic Garden

This course meets on Thursday mornings beginning on April 2nd


How do we assess the health of our planet? When we study the distant past, what changes do we see overall, and what are we discovering today that could raise concerns for the future? What are we doing now to protect our planet, and what more can we do? This lecture series will examine the science behind these questions and more. We will explore the carbon cycle, the Arctic region, coral reefs, and patterns of extreme weather-related events. In addition, we will discuss the impact that these changes have made on plants and pollinators, water quality and quantity, ecosystems, vulnerable populations, and overall global health. Professors from Earth and Planetary Sciences, Anthropology, Political Science, Plant Biology, and Civil and Environmental Engineering will bring a broad range of expertise to the discussion on these topics.

Apr. 2 Climate Change, Land Use and the Carbon Cycle 

Neal Blair, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Energy production via fossil fuel use and land use principally for agriculture, have dramatically perturbed global atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This in turn has altered Earth’s heat balance and climate as well as ocean acidity. In this presentation we will review how the C-cycle has changed as the result of human activities, how CO2 retains heat in the atmosphere and how it alters ocean chemistry. The controversy concerning whether land use is a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere or fosters a net removal will be considered.

Apr. 9 No Class

Apr. 16 Arctic Climate Change: A Geologist’s Perspective 

Yarrow Axford, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Is the Arctic really melting down? How unusual are recent warming and melting when considered in a long-term perspective? And why do changes in the Arctic matter? This lecture will provide both current and long-term (geological) perspectives on Arctic climate change, from an NU faculty member specializing in polar climate change.

Apr. 23 Extreme Events – The Tip of the Climate Change Spear 

Daniel Horton, Assistant Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Iconic graphics of human-caused climate change often depict the steady upward march of global average temperature. While projected changes in average temperature are indicative of potentially calamitous societal impacts,most global citizens will come to recognize climate change through their experience with extreme events. In this talk we will learn about the tools of climate projection, i.e., climate models, as well as delve into the action at tails of the distribution, i.e., climatic extremes. 

Apr. 30 Climate Change and the Future of Coral Reefs 

Luisa Marcelino, Research Assistant, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Coral reefs are the most diverse and productive ecosystems on earth due to a partnership between corals and unicellular dinoflagellate algae that live within the coral tissue, where the algae feeds the coral in exchange for light and nutrients. In the last four decades, almost half of the world’s reefs have deteriorated and died due to an excess of anthropogenic pressures with overexploitation, pollution and global climate change. While multiple efforts are under way to help conserve and restore coral reefs, a global agreement to fight climate change is urgently needed to avoid the complete loss of coral reefs.

May 7 Effects of Climate Change on Plants and Pollinators in the Natural World 

Amy Iler and Paul CaraDonna, Faculty, Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, The Chicago Botanic Garden
A prominent way that organisms in the natural world are responding to climate change is by shifting the timing of their life cycle events, such as plant blooming and animal migration. We mostly see events becoming earlier as temperatures warm. In this class we will examine what these changes in timing mean for plant interactions with pollinators and the ability of plant and pollinator populations to persist long-term

May 14 Measuring the World’s Experiences with Water 

Sera Young, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Problems with water quality and quantity are increasing in frequency and severity throughout the world, including in the United States. High- resolution, globally comparable data have been extremely helpful for understanding the human health impact of other health issues, e.g. food insecurity, but have not existed for water. To fill this gap, Professor Young developed the Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) scale, the first cross-culturally equivalent way of measuring household water insecurity ( The HWISE Scale can be used to estimate prevalence of household water insecurity and to investigate its causes and consequences

May 21 Justice, Climate Change, and Indigenous Peoples Kimberly Suiseeya, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Although Indigenous Peoples make up only five percent of global population, they steward 22% of the global land base that is home to 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity and 20% of global forest carbon stocks. Indigenous Peoples are also amongst the groups most ‘vulnerable’ to climate change, which will impact their lands, lifeways, and threaten their existence. In this lecture we will interrogate the possibilities for more effective climate governance by considering the role of Indigenous Peoples and their pursuits of justice in shaping global environmental governance. We will draw primarily from research in global environmental politics, but will also turn to political ecology and indigenous studies to better understand the relationships between environmental change, justice, and global governance.

May 28 Global Health in an Age of Rapidly Changing Climate Kimberly Gray, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The distinctive feature of our rapidly changing climate is the rate at which it is unfolding. Planet Earth has witnessed climate conditions similar to the present and the range of future projected conditions. It is humans as a species and as a society that have not. The rate and extent of climate change challenge our ability to adapt. This presentation will focus on how global health is threatened at a global scale by extreme events, shifting biomes and ecological habitats and altered patterns of vector-borne disease. These threats are multiplied by a global health infrastructure struggling to keep up.

Jun. 4 Living - and Thriving - in the Anthropocene 

Patricia Beddows, Director of Environmental Sciences Program, Associate Professor of Instruction

Earth is a finite planet. Global evidence shows we are now in the new geological period of the Anthropocene, with global scale impacts on our waters, the solid earth, ecosystems, and climate. We will review some of the aspects of our Past and Present as told by the preceding speakers, and now reflect on what we must do together, as we consider humanity’s Future. We can thoughtfully harness our activities and technologies, and work with our “human” systems spanning economics, culture, and legal frameworks, in order to achieve a new necessary global plateau in earth systems. The risks are indeed great, but this overview of the scope of action required, and some of the existing and emerging technologies will illustrate that we can achieve a thriving future on Earth.

Parking permit may be requested from this website.

See the event listed as Spring 2020 Parking - Optional

Information is subject to change. Full course and policy descriptions are available at

***One ticket per class, per account.

Course Pricing

One nine-week course $190.00

Discounts for Multiple Registrations for an Individual

Individuals who register for multiple courses may receive discounts on each additional course after the first:

To register for two nine-week courses at the special price of $355.00, select the 2-Course Package.

To register for three nine-week courses at the special price of $520.00, select the 3-Course Package.

To register for four nine-week courses at the special price of $685.00, select the 4-Course Package.

Your email confirmation from Norris Box Office verifies your registration but it is not your entry to class. Be sure to bring your class entry card to each class as it must be shown to the proctors at the entry door. In order to guarantee seating for registered students, those without their card will be given a temporary entry card, but ONE time only. After that one time, a replacement card will be provided at a fee of $30.00.

Refund Policy: Before a refund can be issued, your course card must be returned and the cancellation fee must be purchased on this website. Send your entry card to Alumnae Continuing Education, P.O. Box 2789, Glenview, IL 60025.

Applicable Fees and Withdrawal Schedule:
If the withdrawal request is received prior to the first class, the refund of the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases a $10.00 cancellation processing fee.

If the withdrawal request is received after the first class, but before the second class, the refund of the the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases both the $10.00 cancellation processing fee and the $30.00 per diem fee, per course dropped.

If the withdrawal request is received after the second class, but before the third class, the refund of the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases the $10.00 cancellation processing fee and $60.00 in per diem fees, per course dropped.

  • No refunds will be given after the second class.
  • Credits are not given for future classes.
  • A transfer at no cost to another class offered during the same quarter is an option provided there is space available.
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Online ticket sales ended on 3/12/2020 at 2:00 PM (CT)

Event Location
Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive Evanston, IL 60208

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