Environmental Electives

*Environmental elective courses can include any environmental perspectives class not used to fill the perspective requirement. Any cross-listed courses below will be counted as an environmental elective for major students only.

Departmental Courses

  • Environmental Art and Architecture (ENVR 200A) (FA)

This course focuses on a range of issues addressing art, architecture and their relationship to a sustainable environment. Through an analysis of critical theory, students will gain an understanding of the language and critical issues of art, architecture and their impact upon the environment. Through a hands-on approach, students will apply these concepts to make ceramic artwork in the SJU Pottery studio. By using all native materials, designing through a programmatic structure of indigenous systems, in a sustainable framework the student will parallel architectural and design schematics presented in theory and research to an applied reality. Students will critically analyze readings, discuss examples of art and architecture and meet with artists in order to expand their understanding of the relationship between art, architecture, and the environment.

  • Environmental Health (ENVR 300Q)

This course will explore the health of the environment and how it relates to public policy by examining the issues and problems associated with environmental pollution and how pollutants impact our ecosystem. Students will develop an understanding of the physical processes involved in polluted environments as well as the socioeconomic consequences. Topics may include energy and resources; water treatment; geoengineering; climate change; remediation strategies; environmental public policy; in addition to pollution in the air, water, and soil including heavy metals, toxic organic compounds, ozone, greenhouse gases, and pesticides.

  • Sustainable Urban Planning (ENVR 300R)  

A sustainable world requires continual examination and debate related to the ways we plan, design and manage human settlements. Urban planners and policy makers address both the built and natural environment and the relationships between town and country. Sustainable development has ecological, economic and social aspects. The organization and design of space is a prime source of resource and energy use, as well as being a key to well-functioning and healthy communities. The course includes discussion and debate on themes including land use, economic development, ecological footprint, social neighborhood planning, citizen participation, work and mobility, and urban ecology. 

  • Sustainable Agriculture Science (ENVR 300T)

Managing agricultural landscapes to provide the world with sustainable food, fiber, and fuel while conserving the environment and addressing climate change is a grand challenge of 21st century agriculture. This course examines agroecosystems as complex adaptive systems characterized by interactions and feedbacks among organisms, the atmosphere, climate, and the cycling of elements at local to global scales. Key elemental cycles of carbon and nitrogen and how human activities are affecting these cycles and creating environmental challenges will be emphasized. Soil and crop management practices and resulting interactions between soil, water, organisms, and organic and chemical inputs form the basis for discussions on diverse cropping systems, soil health, water quality and quantity, bioenergy, greenhouse gases, and sustainability.

  • Gender and Environment (ENVR 300U/GEND 360M) (GE)

This course explores the links between gender, women and environments, with an emphasis on the interconnections between environments and the workings of power that shape gender-based inequality, resistance, and strategies for social change. Through reading, discussion, documentary films, and research projects, we will explore how gender inequalities and norms of femininity and masculinity shape and are shaped by environments. The course will focus on local and global contexts, covering topics such as ecofeminism; intersectionality; environmental and climate justice; climate change; women's leadership in the environmental movement and community resiliance; development; gendered perceptions of environmental risk; queer perspectives on environmental issues; how gendered divisions of labor (particularly care of children and elderly) affect environmental experiences; sustainable agriculture and redistribution of global resources; the effects of globalization and militarism on women and the environment; social constructions of gender and science; and the relationship between gender and environmental policy-making, inequalities, and health. 

  • Energy & Society (ENVR 300X)

This course explores the relationship between energy and society. Through diverse materials and field trips, we will learn about the energy infrastructures that power our society, the social, political, and cultural factors that shape energy production and consumption, and the relationship between energy, environment, and climate. Throughout, we will examine how all of these factors inform inequalities in who has access to energy and who is impacted by energy extraction, processing, transportation, and consumption. Students will leave the course prepared to assess the social and environmental impacts and benefits of different types of energy, and to contribute to discussions about building sustainable and just energy futures.

  • Environmental Hazards, Risks, and Resilience (ENVR 300Y)

This course reviews theories and practices for risk reduction, including natural hazards, catastrophes, and acts of terrorism, all of which produce devastating impacts on social structures and the built and natural environments. We address these issues through readings selected from anthropology, geography, sociology, and planning to understand how governments, markets, and societies respond and adapt to the consequences of climate change, droughts, floods, tornados, tsunamis, and wildfires. Students will explore human subjectivity to hazards and risks, including measurement tools used for assessing vulnerability and the causes and consequences of environmental-based migration and displacement. Through development of a case study, students will critically reflect on the roles of international and state institutions in community recovery efforts and how policies and programs prioritized or omitted social and environmental justice objectives. Finally, students will develop a final paper suggesting actionable strategies for policymakers to respond to an environmental crisis and pathways to a more resilient future.

  • Climate Action Workshop (ENVR 303, 2 credits)

This course involves exploration of climate policy and action at the national, regional and local level. Meeting once per week in the fall semester, students will learn about climate change and its effects, policies and technologies to address climate change, an ddebates over taking action, focused on the national and local level. Each student will focus on one aspect of climate change at the regional scale, writing a research paper based on primary research with regional organizations and policy makers, including attendance at local events and interviews with stakeholders. This course can be combined with ENVR 305: Global Climate Policy to create a four-credit course.

  • Global Climate Policy (ENVR 305, 2 credits)

This course involves preparation for, research in support of, an dattendance at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual Conference of Parties (COP). Meeting once per week in the fall semester, students will learn about climate change and its effects, policies and technologies to address climate change, and debates over taking action, all at the global level. Students will also learn about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the UNFCCC, in preparation for attending the conference. Each student will focus on one aspect of climate change, writing a research paper that includes both preliminary research before the conference then primary research at the conference itself, attending sessions devoted to that issue and interviewing stakeholders. Participants are required to attend the COP during the semester they take this course. Applications for this course are accepted each spring semester. This course can be combined with ENVR 303: Climate Action Workshop to create a four-credit course.

  • Environmental Geography (ENVR 310)

This course is an upper level, reading intensive course focusing on global environmental issues from the perspective of geography. Using water as a topical focus, the course will consider human modifications of and responses to the environment; the sometimes unintended consequences of such actions; and water as a key resource and potential source of conflict in the 21st century. As an environmental studies course, the subject matter is interdisciplinary and will include physical geography.

  • Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (ENVR 311)

This is an introductory course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is designed to collect, store, and use spatial and geographic information, such as land use, property ownerships, roads, rivers, lakes, forest cover type, elevation, versus tract boundaries and data, and political boundaries. In this course, students will learn to use ESRI's ArcGIS software within a larger context that also includes a history of cartography, the uses and abuses of maps, elements of map design, mental maps, participatory GIS, and a range of ethical issues that must be considered in learning how to use this powerful technology responsibly. 

  • American Environmental Literature (ENVR 315) (HM)

This course explores the long history of American writing about nature and the environment, with particular attention to questions of the human place in nature. Some of this literature is about exploration - what is out there? Some of this is about the utility of nature - what can we do with vast forests, grasslands, or rivers? But the most interesting examples are often about what we can learn from nature and what obligations we may have to non-human life - what is our place in nature? The styles and traditions of American nature/environmental writing have changed dramatically over time and today are quite diverse, incorporating at times elements of philosophy, theology, ethics, science, economics, politics, and art. Through reading, thinking, discussing, and writing critically about a wide range of examples from the genre students will gain an appreciation for the depth of the American literary approach to nature, become familiar with many of the writers and texts that could be said to form a "canon" in the field, and will learn to actively engage such writing from a variety of approaches including historical analysis, ecocriticism, an dethical reasoning.

  • Environmental Politics and Policy (ENVR/POLS 330)

This course is about the politics and policies surrounding environmental issues at all levels of government. Many issues are both local and global. Transportation, electricity, and food are locally experienced but have global as well as local environmental ramifications. Environmental politics and policies draw upon a range of disciplines including economics, history, ecology, and ethics in addition to political science, public policy, and public administration. In covering environmental politics, we focus on the themes of environmentalism from lobbying, legislation litigating to protests and the politics of corporate sustainability. The policy focus emphasizes content related to major federal laws and the federal agencies that oversee environmental policy. The second half of the course concentrates on specific local, national and international issues such as the management of national forests, food politics, and local land use planning. We study each issue by discussing players and major debates. 

  • Science of Climate Changes (ENVR 331)

Heated ideological debates and images of imminent environmental catastrophe generated by the issue of climate change often obscure the scientific foundation upon which it rests. In this course we will explore: (i) Earth's climatic history and how we know about its history, (ii) the drivers of climate change past and present, and (iii) the impact of climate changes and the stability on the biosphere and human societies in the past. By understanding how climate naturally changed in the past we will be able to better understand current human-driven change. The impacts of, and potential solutions to the current climate crisis will be covered within this historical context.

  • US Environmental History (ENVR 360) (HM)

Environmental history is the study of the relationship between humans and nature over time. This course examines the changing American understanding of nature in the 19th and 20th centuries with particular attention to the development of public policies toward natural resources and wildlife, the emergence of a new set of values recognizeing non-utilitarian values in nature, and to the evolution of the conservation and environmental movements. Intellectual, political, economic, scientific, and social evidence will al be examined in the process of placing nature back into the human history of North America.

Cross-listed and Non-departmental Courses

  • General Ecology (BIOL 334)

An exploration of the historical, theoretical and empirical development of the science of ecology. Topics include dynamics of populations, interactions among species, and the organization and function of ecosytems, We devote special attention to the interplay between theoretical and empirical studies with emphasis upon current research whenever possible. In the laboratory, students are expected to work in teams to design and implement a research project and present their findings in a public forum. 

  • Aquatic Ecology (BIOL 337)

An exploration of the ecology of lakes, streams, wetlands, and otehr aquatic ecosystems. Topics include lake ontogeny, physical limnology, ecological interactions in lakes and streams and lake management. Laboratories take place on campus lakes, on shore and in the lab. 

  • Environmental Rhetoric (COMM 309) (HM)

This course examines how people use communication to articulate viewpoints about the natural environment in the public sphere. Students study an array of environmental discourse, including speeches, advocacy campaigns, advertisements, image events, environmental reporting and news, film and media, to see how these messages convey meaning and shape audience attitudes and behavior about the environment. 

  • Global Environmental Politics (PCST 354)

This course explores the efforts of nation-states to collectively deal with global environmental problems, identifies alternatives to the nation-state (e.g. environmental NGOs), and studies domestic political movements to protect the environment. As a historically-rooted endeavor, this course examines how global environmental action has emerged as a result of increased international cooperation, newly available scientific information, ambivalence about the success of development, and changing attitudes reagrding our responsibility to nature. Through the application of social science concepts such as the "tragedy of the commons", collective action theory, and regime formation theory, students will attempt to devise public policy solutions for global environmental issues. Many global environmental effects are felt most strongly in the developing world and these countries' experiences have given rise to many of the most potent critiques of modernization and development theory, both of which contribute to the course emphasis on areas outside of Western Europe and the United States. Alternate years. 

  • Environmental Ethics (PHIL 322) (ES)

This course investigates a variety of ethical issues that arise from consideration of the relation between humans and the non-human natural world (i.e., the environment, animals, land, ecosystems, wilderness areas). This course will introduce students to the basic concepts of environmental ethics, to specific ethical issues associated with environmental policy, and to the philosophical theorizing about the environment.