Environmental Studies Program

Director: Margaret L. Ronsheim; Steering Committee: Pinar Batur (Sociology), Marianne H. Begemann (Chemistry), Mary Ann Cunningham (Geography), Jeffrey Cynx (Psychology), Kathleen Hart (French), Lucy Lewis Johnson (Anthropology), John Bertrand Lott (Classics), Brian G. McAdoo (Geology), Kirsten Menking (Geology), Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Hispanic Studies), H. Daniel Peck (English), Anne Pike-Tay (Anthropology), A. Marshall Pregnall (Biology), Margaret L. Ronsheim (Biology), Peter G. Stillman (Political Science), Jeffrey R. Walker (Geology); Participating Faculty: Mark W. Andrews (French), Pinar Batur (Sociology), Marianne H. Begemann (Chemistry), Stuart L. Belli (Chemistry), Lisa Brawley (Urban Studies), Lynn T. Capozzoli (Education), Randolph Cornelius (Psychology), Mary Ann Cunningham (Geography), Jeffrey Cynx (Psychology), Andrew Davison (Political Science), Rebecca Edwards (History), Robert Fritz (Biology), Brian J. Godfrey (Geography), Michael P. Hanagan (History), Kathleen Hart (French), Richard Hemmes (Biology), Maria Hoehn (History), Lucy Lewis Johnson (Anthropology), Michael Joyce (English), Paul Kane (English), Timothy H. Koechlin (Economics), Kiese M. Laymon (English), John H. Long Jr. (Biology), John Bertrand Lott (Classics), Jennifer E. Ma (Psychology), Mia Mask (Film), Brian G. McAdoo (Geology), Kirsten Menking (Geology), Leonard Nevarez (Sociology), Joseph Nevins (Geology/Geography), Judith Nichols (English), Leslie Offutt (History), Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Hispanic Studies), H. Daniel Peck (English), Anne Pike-Tay (Anthropology), Sidney Plotkin (Political Science), A. Marshall Pregnall (Biology), Christopher Roellke (Education), Margaret L. Ronsheim (Biology), Jonathan C. Rork (Economics), Harry S. Roseman (Art), Mark A. Schlessman (Biology), Jill S. Schneiderman (Geology), Christopher J. Smart (Chemistry), Peter G. Stillman (Political Science), J. William Straus (Biology), Jeffrey R. Walker (Geology), Michael Walsh (Religion), Yu Zhou (Geography).

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.

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, will assign 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.

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 224, 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; (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 geology, 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 geology, 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 geology; (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 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

100. 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.

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

The course introduces students to ways in which American works of literature and art, 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. Mr. Peck.

Two 75-minute periods

[175a. Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture] (1)

Developing a sustainable system of producing food and fiber is one of the most important challenges facing human societies. This challenge is as much social as scientific or technological, because it is technically possible, even now, to produce an adequate diet for a world population of over twenty billion people. This course considers the two most important aspects of agricultural sustainability: the demands of consumers, and the abilities of producers to satisfy those demands. Through the writings of such authors as Wendell Berry, Sir Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, David Kline, Aldo Leopold, and Vandana Shiva, and through field trips to local farms, we explore the physical, social, economic, and environmental issues defining debates about sustainable agriculture. Mr. Walker.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2006/07.

II. Intermediate

224a. 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. Mr. Belli.

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

Prerequisite: One laboratory course in Biology, Geology, or Chemistry or permission of the instructor.

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. Mr. Plotkin, Mr. Schlessman.

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.

Two 75-minute periods.

254a. Environmental Science in the Field (1)

(Same as Geography 254 and Geology 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, usually in the fall semester, and topics vary with expertise of the faculty teaching the course. Ms. Cunningham, Ms. Menking.

Destination Fall 2006: Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Prerequisite: Prior Biology or Geology coursework at the 200-level and permission of the instructor.

[256b. 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. Ms. Paravisini.

Not offered in 2006/07.

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 2006/2007: Grasslands: Human History and Ecology of the American Plains. To early newcomers from the east, the Great Plains looked like empty space, a “Great American Desert” devoid of life. Our class explores the roots of such misconceptions and their often catastrophic legacy for farmers and ranchers on the Plains, as well as for native peoples. We study the region’s biodiversity, the ecological dynamics involved in grassland conservation, and visions of a different future for this critical place in the American heartland. The course includes a one-week trip over spring break to study the Plains, including visits to bison re-introduction sites and to the Land Institute in Kansas, which is researching perennial grain polyculture, and observation of migrating shorebirds at Cheyenne Bottoms and sandhill cranes along the Platte. Ms. Edwards, Ms. Ronsheim.

By special permission.

270a. 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 2006/2007: Conversations with the Land. From the middle of the city to the remote backwoods, humans are in constant conversation with the land, a conversation informed by our scientific, social, and aesthetic sensibilities. Through field trips and readings, this course investigates some of the myriad conversations happening around us in the Hudson River Valley. Examples of places to be explored include Mohonk Mountain House, a vineyard, an abandoned farm, a Buddhist monastery, Vassar College, and some urban settings in Poughkeepsie. Readings may include Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, and Annie Dillard. Mr. Stillman, Mr. Walker.

By special permission.

290a or b. Field Work (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)

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.

Topic for 2006/07: Ecology of the Mid-Hudson Valley. Ms. Ronsheim.

Required of students concentrating in the program.

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

[302. Environmental Science Seminar] (1)

The Environmental Science Seminar, taken during the junior or senior year consists of critical analyses of current issues in the interdisciplinary field of Environmental Science.

By special permission.

One 2-hour period.

Not offered in 2006/07.

312b. Green Utopias (1)

(Same as Political Science 312b) Mr. Stillman.

331a. Technology, Ecology and Society (1)

(Same as Anthropology 331a) Ms. Johnson.

341b. Oil (1)

(Same as Geology 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, Mr. Rashid.

[352b. Conservation Biology] (1)

(Same as Biology 352) Ms. Ronsheim.

Not offered in 2006/07.

[355b. Environment and Land-Use Planning] (1)

(Same as Geography 355b, Geology 355b) Ms. Cunningham.

Not offered in 2006/07.

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

(Same as Science, Technology, and Society 364b) 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.

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

(Same as History 367b) Ms. Edwards.

Not offered in 2006/07.

370b. Feminism and Environmentalism (1)

(Same as Women’s Studies 370 and Science, Technology, and Society 370) This seminar takes as its departure point the claim that the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and the environmental movement, combined with efforts on behalf of anti-classism, anti-heterosexism, and anti-colonialism must be practiced and theorized as interconnected. We examine gendered discourses of natural history, explore their past origins and contemporary ramifications, and study various approaches to understanding gender and environment. We pay particular attention to feminist scholarship and activism concerning the gendered implications of development policies and practices. Course readings may include work by Susan Griffin, Chris Cuomo, Carolyn Merchant, Londa Schiebinger, and Vandana Shiva. Ms. Schneiderman.

By special permission.

One 2-hour period.

[387b. Advanced Special Studies] (1)

Topic for 2005/06: Global Environmental Justice. In this seminar we explore global environmental issues from a perspective that foregrounds questions of social equality. Throughout the course we examine the roles that race, class and gender play in contemporary environmental issues. Beginning with a survey of the origins of environmentalism in the United States, we study the rise of the “environmental justice” movement in the United States and contemplate concepts of justice as they apply to “environment.” We pay particular attention to feminist theories of justice and concerns regarding social and environmental inequity. With the conceptual framework in place, we focus on particular problems that may include: pollution and exposure to toxic substances; global climate change and its links to global consumerism; economic development in the developing world; and resource (water and fuel) extraction. In the latter part of the course, we devote each class session to student projects focussed on specific local environmental issues within a framework of global environmental justice.

By special permission.

One 2-hour period.

Not offered in 2006/07.

399a or b. Senior Independent Research (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.