Environmental Perspectives

Environmental Sciences

The natural sciences study how the world and universe around us by investigating processes that we witness in nature. The natural sciences include chemistry, biology, physics, earth science, and astronomy. 

  • Sustainable Agriculture Science (ENVR 300R)

Managing agricultural landscapes to provide the world with sustainable food, fiber, and fuel while conserving the environment and addressing cliamte 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 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. 

  • Science of Global Climate Change (ENVR 331)

Is Earth's climate rapidly changing, and if so, what is causing it? 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 students will gain a basic understanding of the interdisciplinary science behind climate change and its impacts. Following an introduction to the climate system, we will explore Earth's climatic history and how we know about the history, the drivers of cliamte change past and present, and the impact of climate change and stability on human societies in the past, present, and future. Labs will focus on furthering understanding of climatic processes, methods on paleoclimateology, and the use of models in climate science. 

Environmental Social Sciences

Social sciences investigate the social and cultural aspects of human nature, and include the studies of anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and economics. The environmental social science courses discuss how we address the environment within our cultural and societal relationships. 

  • 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. 

  • Energy and Society (ENVR 377) 

How does energy work and how does it relate to our communities and collective future? 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. For the final project, you will have the opportunity to become an expert in a pathway for creating sustainable and just energy futures. 

Environmental Humanities

The humanities study human culture and society using tools such as literature, are, religion, and history. The environmental humanities courses utilize these and similar tools to discover and investigate societies attitude towards and awareness of our environment. Both of these courses fulfill a Humanities requirement. 

  • American Environmental Classics (ENVR 315)

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, and discussing, and writing critically about a wide range of examples from 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, and ethical reasoning.

  • U.S. Environmental History (ENVR/HIST 360)

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 vaules recognizing non-utilitarian values in nature, and to the evolution of the conservation and environmental movements. Intellectual, political, economic, scientific, and social evidence will all be examined in the process of placing nature back into the human history of North America.