Environmental Studies Program

Director: Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert; Professors: Pinar Baturab (Sociology), Randolph R. Cornelius (Psychology), Rebecca B. Edwardsab (History), Brian J. Godfrey (Earth Science and Geography), Paul Kane (English), John H. Long, Jr.ab (Biology), Brian Lukacher (Art), Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Hispanic Studies), Anne Pike-Tay (Anthropology), Sidney Plotkin (Political Science), Peipei Qiu (Chinese and Japanese), Paul Ruud (Economics), Mark A. Schlessman (Biology), Jill S. Schneiderman (Earth Science and Geography), Peter G. Stillman (Political Science), Jeffrey R. Walker (Earth Science and Geography),Yu Zhou (Earth Science and Geography); Faculty Phased Retirement: Lucy Lewis Johnson (Anthropology); Associate Professors: Mark W. Andrews (French and Francophone Studies), Marianne H. Begemann (Chemistry), Stuart L. Belli (Chemistry), Mary Ann Cunninghamb (Earth Science and Geography), Kathleen Hartab (French and Francophone Studies), E.H. Rick Jarowab (Religion), Brian McAdoo (Earth Science and Geography), Kirsten Menking (Earth Science and Geography), Himadeep Muppidib (Political Science), Leonard Nevarez (Sociology), Joseph Nevinsa (Earth Science and Geography), A. Marshall Pregnall (Biology), Margaret Ronsheimab (Biology); Assistant Professors: Lynn Christenson (Biology), Erica J. Crespib (Biology), Julie E Hughes (History), Jonathon S. Kahn (Religion), Jamie Kelly (Philosophy), Candice M Lowe Swift (Anthropology), Erin McCloskey (Education),Molly S. McGlennenb (English), Julie Parka (English), Jodi Schwarz (Biology), Alison Keimowitz (Chemistry); Adjunct Associate Professor: Judith Nichols (English); Exploring Science Teacher: Lynn Capozzoli (Education).

Environmental Studies is a multidisciplinary program that involves the natural and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. It explores the relationships between people and the totality of their environments—natural, built, and social. As part of that exploration, environmental studies concerns itself with the description and analysis of natural systems; with interspecies and species-environment relationships and the institutions, policies and laws that affect those relationships; with aesthetic portrayals of nature and how these portrayals affect human perceptions and behavior toward it; and with ethical issues raised by the human presence in the environment. A component of the program is the Environmental Research Institute (ERI), whose mission is to broaden and enrich the Environmental Studies program by emphasizing and supporting fieldwork, research, and engagement in the community.

Students majoring in Environmental Studies are required to take courses offered by the program, a set of courses within a particular department, and other courses from across the curriculum of the college. Therefore, a student interested in the major should consult with the director of the program as early as possible to plan a coherent course of study. The director, in consultation with the steering committee, assigns an advisor to each student. Advisors are selected from the participating faculty of the program. The steering committee approves each major’s program, and is concerned not only with the formal requirements but also with the inclusion of relevant environmental courses in the student’s chosen areas of study, interconnections among groups of courses, and adequate concentration in the methods of a discipline. Students are admitted to the program by the director, subject to the approval of their program of study by the steering committee. For additional information please consult the program website.

Research studies by Environmental Studies majors are supported by the Environmental Research Institute.

Requirements for the Major: 15 units to be distributed as follows, with specific courses chosen in consultation with the director and the student’s advisor, and with the approval of the steering committee. (1) Environmental Studies 124, Environmental Studies 250 and Environmental Studies 301, the senior seminar; (2) Environmental Studies 260 or 270, and one course from within the program’s own offerings at the 300-level; (3) the senior project/thesis, Environmental Studies 300 or 303-304; (4) a sequence of five courses in one department (or a set of five courses with a common focus, such as law or environmental policy, from two or more departments), including at least one at the 300-level; (5) for students whose disciplinary concentration is in biology, chemistry, or earth science, three courses, no more than one at the 100-level relevant to the major in a department outside the natural sciences; for students whose disciplinary concentration is in a natural science other than biology, chemistry, and earth science, a set of courses established in consultation with the director; for students whose disciplinary concentration is not in the natural sciences, three courses, at least one at the 200-level, relevant to the major from either biology, chemistry, or earth science; (6) one full unit of field experience, which may come from field work, independent study, an internship, or selected course work taken during the Junior Year Study Away. Field experience is expected to be carried out before the senior thesis/project. The unit of field experience is graded Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. The senior project/thesis is graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory. After declaration of the major, no required courses may be elected NRO.

Senior Year Requirement: Environmental Studies 300 or 303-304 and 301.

Because Environmental Studies is a major in which students concentrate in two disciplines or areas of focus (one in the natural sciences), potential majors are encouraged to take introductory courses in the disciplines or areas where their focus may be. Although the program does not require any specific introductory courses, Environmental Studies 100-level courses are available and can lead appropriately into the required sequence beginning with Environmental Studies 200-level courses.

I. Introductory

100b. Earth Resource Challenges (1)

(Same as Earth Science 100b, Earth Science and Society 100b, and Geography 100b)

Not offered in 2010/11.

105. Understanding Haiti (1/2)

(Same as International Studies 105) In January 2010, the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, was devastated by a powerful earthquake that left more than 200,000 dead and close to a million people homeless. This course addresses the reasons why the earthquake caused so much destruction and what effort will be needed to rebuild and recover from the tragedy. Among the issues to be discussed are: Haiti's history of vulnerability to natural hazards; an analysis of Haiti's socio-economic history and how it has had led to substantial poverty; the nation's history of earthquake activity; the uses of foreign aid; and the prospects for recovery, among others. Ms. Paravisini-Gebert and Mr. McAdoo.

107a. Global Change (1)

This class offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the climate and ecosystem principles needed to understand human impact on the natural environment. We discuss the issue of global change prediction and the scientific basis for global change assessments and policy measures. Key topics are the physical climate system and its variability, the carbon cycle and related ecosystem processes, land use issues, nutrient cycles, and the impact of global change on society. Common threads in all of these topics include the use of observations and models, the consideration of multiple scales (temporal and spatial), the interaction of human behaviors and choices with natural systems, and the linkages among aspects of the global change issue.

124a. Essentials of Environmental Science (1)

A lecture/laboratory course in which basic topics in environmental biology, geology, and chemistry are covered with examples from current environmental issues used to illustrate the application and interdisciplinary nature of these fields. This course treats the following topics: energy sources and waste products, atmospheric patterns and climate, biogeochemical cycles, properties of soils and water, and ecological processes. Using these topics as a platform, this course examines the impact humanity has on the environment and discusses strategies to diminish those effects. The laboratory component includes field trips, field investigations, and laboratory exercises. Ms. Menking.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

150. The Environmental Imagination in Literature and Art: American Visions of Landscape (1)

The course introduces students to ways in which literature and art in the Americas, from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century, may be considered "environmental." Works are studied for ways in which they express environmental values such as a strong sense of place, a scientifically informed view of nature, a sense of nature as "process," and an ecological worldview.

There are several field trips to Hudson Valley sites. Ms. Paravisini-Gebert.

177b. Environmental Political Thought (1/2)

(Same as Political Science 177b) The emerging awareness of ecological problems in the past half-century has led to a questioning and rethinking of some important political ideas. What theories can describe an ecologically-sound human relation to nature; what policies derive from those theories; and how do they value nature? What is the appropriate size of political units? What model of citizenship best addresses environmental issues? This course will address selected issues through readings in past political thinkers like Locke and Marx and in contemporary political and environmental theorists. Mr. Stillman.

Not offered in 2011/12

178a. Political Theory, Environmental Justice: The Case of New Orleans After Katrina (1/2)

(Same as Political Science 178a) Hurricane Katrina flooded much of New Orleans, causing intense social and political problems within the city and testing the ability of citizens and governments to respond to the crisis. The course aims to interpret and evaluate those responses by reading past political theorists, such as Aristotle, Hobbes, and DuBois, and current evaluations, such as those based in concerns for environmental justice. Mr. Stillman.

179a. Special Topic: Henry David Thoreau (1/2)

(Same as English 179)

Not offered in 2010/11.

II. Intermediate

231. Field Archaeology (1)

250b. Environmentalisms in Perspective (1)

The purpose of this course, an introduction to the core issues and perspectives of environmental studies is to develop a historical awareness of selected, significant positions in the contemporary theory and practice of environmentalism. In addition to studying different views of the relationship between human beings and their environments posited by different environmentalisms, the course critically examines views of science (or the study of nature), implications for policy, and the creation of meaning suggested by each. Environmentalist positions under consideration vary. By examining the roots of major contemporary positions, students explore possible connections among the ethical, scientific, aesthetic, and policy concerns that comprise environmental studies. Ms. Hughes. and Ms. Johnson.

Required of students concentrating in the program. Open to other students by permission of the director and as space permits.

Prerequisite: sophomore or junior standing. Must be taken before the senior year.

254b. Environmental Science in the Field (1)

(Same as Biology 254 and Earth Science 254 and Geography 254) The environment consists of complex and often elegant interactions between various constituents so that an interdisciplinary approach is required to understand how human interactions may affect it. In this course, we study a variety of aspects of a specific environment by considering how biological, chemical, geological, and human factors interact. We observe these interactions first hand during a weeklong field trip. Some of the questions we may consider are: How does a coral polyp create an environment that not only suits its particular species, but also helps regulate the global climate? How has human development and associated water demands in the desert Southwest changed the landscape, fire ecology, and even estuary and fisheries' health as far away as the Gulf of California? How have a variety of species (humans included) managed to survive on an island with the harsh environment of the exposed mid-ocean ridge of Iceland? The course is offered every other year, and topics vary with expertise of the faculty teaching the course.

By special permission.

Not offered in 2010/11

256. Environment and Culture in the Caribbean (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 256) The ecology of the islands of the Caribbean has undergone profound change since the arrival of Europeans to the region in 1492. The course traces the history of the relationship between ecology and culture from pre-Columbian civilizations to the economies of tourism. Among the specific topics of discussion are: Arawak and Carib notions of nature and conservation of natural resources; the impact of deforestation and changes in climate; the plantation economy as an ecological revolution; the political implications of the tensions between the economy of the plot and that of the plantation; the development of environmental conservation and its impact on notions of nationhood; the ecological impact of resort tourism; the development of eco-tourism. These topics are examined through a variety of materials: historical documents, essays, art, literature, music, and film.

Not offered in 2010/11.

260b. Issues in Environmental Studies (1)

The purpose of this course is to examine in depth an issue, problem, or set of issues and problems in environmental studies, to explore the various ways in which environmental issues are embedded in multiple contexts and may be understood from multiple perspectives. The course topic changes from year to year.

Topic for 2011/2012: Grasslands: Human History and Ecology of the American Plains. For thousands of years, humans have sought ways to survive and prosper in the semi-arid plains--an area popularly known, in the 19th century, as the "Great American Desert," a place devoid of life. This class explores the roots of such misconceptions and their often catastrophic legacy, and it considers other modes of life on the grasslands, including those of native peoples. The environmental and cultural history of the Plains provides a framework for examining such complex issues as tallgrass prairie conservation and preservation; water management; climate change; and use of the land for energy production. Visions of a different future for this critical place in the American heartland are placed in the context of major ecological and cultural transitions over the past 10,000 years. The course includes a one-week trip to the Plains over spring break, which includes visits to bison re-introduction sites, a restored Native American earth lodge, the Land Institute in Kansas, and a viewing site for hundreds of thousands of migrating sandhill cranes along the Platte. Ms. Edwards, Ms. Ronsheim. By special permission.

261. "The Nuclear Cage": Environmental Theory and Nuclear Power (1)

(Same as Sociology 261 and Urban Studies 261) The central aim of this course is to explore debates about the interaction between beings, including humans, animals, plants and the earth within the context of advanced capitalism by concentrating on the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of nuclear power. The first question concerning the class is how does Environmental Theory approach nuclear power and its impact on the environment. The second question deals with how this construction interacts with other forms of debate regarding nuclear power, especially concentrating on the relation between science, market and the state in dealing with nature, and how citizens formulate and articulate their understanding of nuclear power through social movements. Ms. Batur.

270. Topics in Environmental Studies (1)

The purpose of this course is to take up topics relevant to environmental studies, and examine them through the perspectives of the humanities and the natural or social sciences. The course topic changes from year to year.

Topic for 2010/2011b: It's Only Natural: Contemplation in the American Landscape. This course examines the ways in which Americans have approached the natural world as both a source of revelation and an object of contemplation. Drawing on a wide range of literary, environmental and religious texts, we explore the dynamic relations between concepts of the natural, the human, and the divine in the American and the Native American experience. We also consider the American landscape tradition in painting and photography, as well as certain forms of folk music. We take field trips to local sites, including parks, farms, museums and monasteries, and host class visits from educators and artists. Techniques of contemplation play a role in the course. Mr. Kane.

Special permission required.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group field projects or internships. Prior approval of advisor and instructor supervising the work are required. May be taken during the academic year or during the summer. Participating faculty.

298a or b. Independent Research (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group project or study. Prior approval of advisor and instructor supervising the work are required. May be taken during the academic year or during the summer. Participating faculty.

III. Advanced

300b. Senior Project/Thesis (1)

Recognizing the diverse interests and course programs of students in Environmental Studies, the program entertains many models for a senior project/thesis. Depending on their disciplinary concentration and interests, students may conduct laboratory or field studies, literary and historical analyses, or policy studies. Senior project/thesis proposals must be approved by the steering committee.

301a. Senior Seminar (1)

In the Senior Seminar, Environmental Studies majors bring their disciplinary concentration and their courses in the program to bear on a problem or set of problems in environmental studies. Intended to be an integration of theory and practice, and serving as a capstone course for the major, the seminar changes its focus from year to year.

Required of students concentrating in the program.

Open to other students by permission of the director and as space permits.

303a. Thesis (1/2)

Year-long course, 303-304.

304b. Thesis (1/2)

Year-long course, 303-304.

305a. People and Animal Histories in Modern India (1)

(Same as Asia 305 and History 305)

This Course examines human interactions with animals in India from the colonial period through the present. How have various groups and important individuals defined the proper relationship between themselves and the animals around them? What challenges and advantages have animals and people met with as a result? As we explore how people have served their social, political, economic, national, and religious interests through animals, we learn how human values and beliefs about animals have in turn helped shape Indian environments. Ms. Hughes.

One 2-hour meeting.

312b. Studies in Environmental Political Thought (1)

(Same as Political Science 312b) An advanced course that studies topics at the intersection of environmental issues and political thought. Topics change yearly and may include Green Utopias; Justice and Democracy in New Orleans after Katrina; and Economic Growth and the Equitable Distribution of Water in the American Southwest. Mr. Stillman.

Not offered in 2011/12

331b. Seminar in Archaeological Method and Theory (1)

(Same as Anthropology 331 and Environmental Studies 331)

Topic for 2010/11b: Technology, Ecology and Society. Examines the interactions between human beings and their environment as mediated by technology focusing on the period from the earliest evidence of toolmaking approximately up to the Industrial Revolution. Student research projects often bring the course up to the present. Includes experimentation with ancient technologies and field trips to local markets and craft workshops. Ms. Johnson.

335. Paleoclimatology: Earth's History of Climate Change (1)

(Same as Earth Science 335) Ms. Menking.

This course discusses how Earth's climate system operates and what natural processes have led to climate change in the past. We examine the structure and properties of the oceans and atmosphere and how the general circulation of these systems redistributes heat throughout the globe. In addition, we study how cycles in Earth's orbital parameters, plate tectonics, and the evolution of plants have affected climate. Weekly laboratory projects introduce students to paleoclimatic methods and to real records of climate change. Ms. Menking.

Prerequisite: Earth Science 201, 211, and 231 or permission of instructor.

One 4-hour classroom/laboratory/field session.

337b. Stable Isotopes in Environmental Science (1)

(Same as Earth Science 337b.) Stable isotopes have become a fundamental tool in many biogeoscientific studies, from reconstructing past climates to tracking animal migration or unraveling foodwebs and even to study the origin of life on Earth and possibly other planets. This course highlights the applications of stable isotopes in biological, ecological, environmental, archeological and geological studies. Students learn the fundamentals of stable isotope biogeochemistry in order to understand the uses and limitations of this tool. This course starts with an introduction to the fundamentals of stable isotope geochemistry and then moves on to applied topics such as paleoceanography and paleoclimatology proxies, hydrology, sediments and sedimentary rocks, biogeochemical cycling, the global carbon cycle, photosynthesis, metabolism, ecology, organic matter degradation, pollution, and more. The course content is directly related to Earth Science, Geography, Biology, Environmental Studies, and Chemistry. Mr. Gillikin.

Not offered in 2010/11.

341b. Oil (1)

(Same as Earth Science 341 and Geography 341) For the hydraulic civilizations of Mesopotamia, it was water. For the Native Americans of the Great Plains, it was buffalo. As we enter the twenty-first century, our society is firmly rooted both culturally and economically in oil. This class looks into almost every aspect of oil. Starting at the source with kerogen generation, we follow the hydrocarbons along migration pathways to a reservoir with a suitable trap. We look at the techniques geologists and geophysicists use to find a field, and how engineers and economists get the product from the field to refineries, paying particular attention to environmental concerns. What is involved in the negotiations between multinational corporations and developing countries over production issues? What are the stages in refining oil from the crude that comes from the ground to the myriad uses seen today, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers, not to mention gasoline. We also discuss the future of this rapidly dwindling, nonrenewable resource, and discuss options for an oil-less future. Mr. McAdoo.

Prerequisite: One 200-level earth science course or permission of instructor.

One 4-hour classroom/laboratory/field session.

By special permission.

350. New York City as a Social Laboratory (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 350) What is the future role of cities in the global environment? The goal of this class is to explore the major challenges in making cities environmentally sustainable. Efforts to generate and foster green and sustainable urban space confront economic, political and social complexities, while our imagination is being challenged to define alternatives. By focusing on New York City, we explore alterations in the discourse on sustainability as it relates to spatial allocation in urban design, and architectural innovations in the form and function of green buildings. Through a combination of classroom based discussions and New York City on site investigations, the class strives to understand expanded definition of sustainability in the contemporary urban environment.

Not offered in 2010/11.

352b. Conservation Biology (1)

(Same as Biology 352b) Ms. Ronsheim.

Not offered in 2010/11.

356. Environment and Land-Use Planning (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 356 and Geography 356)

361. Modeling the Earth (1)

(Same as Earth Science 361a) Ms. Menking.

Not offered in 2011/12

364. Seminar on Selected Topics in Law and Technology (1)

(Same as Science, Technology, and Society 364) This course explores the dynamic interrelationship between technology and law. It is designed to analyze the reciprocal effects of our society's developed jurisprudence and the advancement and use of science and technology on each other. Areas explored include American Constitutional, international, environmental, criminal, and property law, particularly as they interact with reproductive determination, government information gathering, hazardous waste generation, biotechnology, and technology transfer.

One 2-hour period.

Not offered in 2010/11.

367b. Peoples and Environments in the American West (1)

(Same as History 367b) Ms. Edwards.

370. Feminist Perspectives on Environmentalism (1)

(Same as Earth Science and Society 370 and Women's Studies 370) In this seminar we explore some basic concepts and approaches within feminist environmental analysis paying particular attention to feminist theory and its relevance to environmental issues. We examine a range of feminist research and analysis in "environmental studies" that is connected by the recognition that gender subordination and environmental destruction are related phenomena. That is, they are the linked outcomes of forms of interactions with nature that are shaped by hierarchy and dominance, and they have global relevance. The course helps students discover the expansive contributions of feminist analysis and action to environmental research and advocacy; it provides the chance for students to apply the contributions of a feminist perspective to their own specific environmental interests. Ms. Schneiderman.

One 2-hour meeting.

Not offered in 2011-12

372. Topics in Human Geography (1)

(Same as Geography 372 and Urban Studies 372)

Not offered in 2010/11.

375b. Aquatic Chemistry (1/2)

(Same as Chemistry 375b) This course explores the fundamentals of aqueous chemistry as applied to natural waters. The global water cycle and major water resources are introduced. Principles explored include: kinetics and thermodynamics, atmosphere-water interactions, rock-water interactions, precipitation and dissolution, acids and bases, oxidation and reduction, and nutrient and trace metal cycling.

Prerequisites: Chemistry 245; Physics 113, 114; Mathematics 121/122 or 125 or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2011/12

380a. Risk Perception and Environmental Regulation (1)

(Same as Science, Technology and Society 380a) This course explores the relationship between how individuals perceive risk and attempts to regulate the environment. In particular, we examine problems (both conceptual and practical) that arise in attempting to effectively manage risks to the environment. Gathering together empirical insights from Psychology and Behavioral Economics, we evaluate a number of proposed theoretical frameworks for regulation regimes (e.g., the Precautionary Principle, and Cost benefit Analysis). Problems to be discussed include the roles of popular (e.g., referenda) and non-democratic (e.g., judicial review) institutions, the feasibility of identifying relevant scientific expertise, and difficulties posed by inequalities in political, and economic power. Readings include works by thinkers such as Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Cass Sunstein, and Richard Posner, as well as studies of existing legislation (e.g., the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act). Mr. Kelly.

Not offered in 2010/11.

381b. Topics in Ecosystem Ecology - Ecosystem Structure and Function (1)

(Same as Biology 381)

385a. The Art of Nature: Painting, Literature, and Landscape Design in the Hudson Valley (1)

(Same as Art 385a) This seminar examines the vital concern for picturesque landscape-both actual and imaginary-in the evolution of art and cultural expression in the Hudson River Valley. The course investigates the relationship of important innovators in landscape design, such as Downing, Vaux, and Olmsted, to the literary and artistic works of Cole, Durand, Cooper, Irving, Bryant, and others. It includes a consideration of contemporary artists' engagement with the environment, such as Eric Lindbloom's photographs, Andy Goldsworthy's wall at Storm King, and the installations of the Minetta Brook Hudson River Project, such as George Trakas's pier at Beacon. The course has several fieldtrips to study the continuing impact of nineteenth-century landscape theory and traditions in the Hudson River Valley. Ms. Lucic, Mr. Peck.

By special permission.

One two-hour period.

Not offered in 2010/11.

387. Risk and Geohazards (1)

(Same as Earth Science and Geography 387a) The world is becoming an increasingly risky place. Every year, natural hazards affect more and more people, and these people are incurring increasingly expensive losses. This course explores the nature of risk associated with geophysical phenomena. Are there more hazardous events now than there have been in the past? Are these events somehow more energetic? Or is it that increasing populations with increasingly disparate incomes are being exposed to these hazards? What physical, economic, political and social tools can be employed to reduce this geophysical risk? We draw on examples from recent disasters, both rapid onset (earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones), and slow onset (climate change, famine) to examine the complex and interlinked vulnerabilities of the coupled human-environment system. Mr. McAdoo.

One 4-hour meeting.

Prerequisites: Earth Science 121, 151, or 161.

399a or b. Senior Independent Research (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group project or study. Prior approval of advisor and instructor supervising the work are required. May be taken during the academic year or during the summer. Participating faculty.