In addition to courses in Environmental Studies, many courses for the major and minor in environmental studies are offered by other departments. Appropriate courses taken at Amherst, Hampshire, or Smith colleges or the University of Massachusetts may be counted toward the major or minor with the approval of environmental studies advisor. Courses taken at other colleges or universities, or through accredited field studies around the world, may also be counted toward the major or minor with the approval of environmental studies advisor.
Students interested in environmental issues should register for a 100-level Environmental Studies course during their first year. An introductory course is required for both the major and the minor in environmental studies and provides a broad overview of the field. It also gives students a good sense of how to continue their studies in the environmental field.
A 100-level science course with lab is a required prerequisite for the 200-level science courses that environmental studies majors and minors must take.
Intermediate courses for the major and minor should be chosen from the list approved by the environmental studies faculty. Other courses may be counted toward this requirement with the approval of environmental studies advisor.
ENVST-100 Introduction to Environmental Studies
This course introduces students to the field of environmental studies and to some of the scientific, historical, political, economic and cultural aspects of environmental concerns. Through interdisciplinary lenses, we explore the complexities of many issues and problems such as climate change, threats to biodiversity, and toxic environments. In addition to fostering an understanding of their origins, the course focuses on potential solutions.
ENVST-104 Renewable Energy
We will examine the feasibility of converting the entire energy infrastructure of the US from one that is dependent on fossil fuels to one that utilizes mostly renewable sources of energy. We will examine the potential scale of energy production and the associated costs, natural resource requirements and land usage needs for both renewables, such as solar, wind and biofuel, and non-renewables, such as coal, natural gas, petroleum and nuclear. By applying extensive use of basic algebra and an elementary understanding of the physical processes underpinning each energy technology, we will arrive at a number of urgent conclusions about the challenges facing our energy infrastructure.
ENVST-150 Introductory Topics in Environmental Studies
ENVST-150DV Introductory Topics in Environmental Studies: 'Introduction to the Histories and Theories of Development'
What is so compelling about the idea of development? Why does it fail much of the global south? Do colonialism and capitalism have anything to do with it? Why do hunger, poverty, inequality, unemployment, and ecological crises persist in the so-called developed world? What are the parameters of the proposed solutions to underdevelopment such as neoliberal market reforms versus those of alternative models? What are the connections between development and environmental issues? development and war? Can development be sustainable? Are gender and race incidental or central to these issues? This course engages these questions through readings, lectures, discussions, and writing assignments.
ENVST-150PH Introductory Topics in Environmental Studies: 'Introduction to Environmental and Public Health'
This course offers a broad introduction to the problems and solutions in the field of environmental and public health. Students will read about and discuss issues that occur in both industrialized and developing countries. Topics include the biological, physical, and chemical agents of environmental contamination; methods used in epidemiology and toxicology to evaluate environmental hazards; policies currently in place to reduce health risks and protect populations from exposure; and emerging global environmental health problems.
ENVST-181 From Local to Global: Food Justice and the Challenge of Feeding 10 Billion People
Humans currently produce enough food to feed the 7.6 billion people on Earth. Despite this fact, 815 million people went hungry in 2017 and this number is on the rise. With a growing population, we will need to increase food production, but first we must fix our current food system and ensure equitable food access for all peoples. This class will frame the problem at the local and global scales by covering topics including: food security; food sovereignty; food justice; and the connections between race, food, and health. We will then investigate how to create an equitable and sustainable food system, with a focus on urban community gardening in cities and towns close to Mount Holyoke.
ENVST-200 Environmental Science
Most of the environmental challenges we face are complex and interdisciplinary in nature. This course introduces students to the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to both understand the interrelationships of the natural world, as well as to identify and analyze environmental problems and think critically about alternative solutions for addressing them. Key concepts from ecology, biogeochemistry, and other fields inform our study of climate change, water resources, soil sustainability, food production, and other topics. Fundamental and emerging issues are examined using regional case studies, hands-on problem solving, and field and laboratory experiments in this interdisciplinary field-based course.
ENVST-210 Political Ecology
This course will explore the historical, political, economic, social, and cultural contexts in which human-environment interactions occur. We will cover critical topics and trends in the field of political ecology, from its early manifestations to more recent expansions. Using case studies from the global south and north, we will discuss factors that shape social and environmental change across scales from the personal to the global, and we will examine the role of gender, race, class, and power in struggles over resources. Students will become familiar with the academic debates in which political ecologists are engaged, and they will apply the concepts discussed in a case of their choice.
ENVST-216 Global Environmental Justice
Many of the world's most urgent issues, like Black Lives Matter, biodiversity conservation, or Indigenous self-determination, are also environmental justice challenges. This course will survey the theories, concepts, and perspectives on environmental justice at local and global scales. We will first apply a global perspective in understanding environmental justice, environmental racism, and environmentalism. A second part of the course will emphasize the justice dimensions of responses to pressing global environmental issues (such as food). A third part will focus on 'decolonizing' the meanings of environmental justice, and on its intersectional dimensions -- for example, by analyzing the diverse definitions of justice of social movements and collectives.
ENVST-222 Reading North American Landscapes
We explore the origin and anatomy of North America's most distinctive landscapes, including many national parks and monuments. We "visit" spectacular locales, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. We also consider how the continent's geologic character has influenced human action and experience. By "reading" the land we can see the complex layering of natural and cultural histories that influence a "sense of place." Reading the land can also provide a sense of how various peoples have used and shaped Earth's surface differently, and how these differences have contributed to a spectrum of environmental impacts.
ENVST-233 Topics in Environmental Studies
ENVST-233CS Topics in Environmental Studies: 'Introduction to Environmental Entrepreneurship: Campus Sustainability'
Mount Holyoke has recognized our role in global resource use and has a strong sustainability mission, with the goal to become carbon neutral by 2037. This course is a project-based experiential learning course that will use the Mount Holyoke campus as a case study to find solutions. Entrepreneurial teams will identify environmental hotspots on campus through use of existing datasets as well as collect additional needed data. We will then identify solutions that can be implemented over the short-term and at minimal cost to increase campus sustainability as well as identify larger projects for the future. Students will use entrepreneurship methods to assess projects for cost and feasibility.
ENVST-233EP Topics in Environmental Studies: 'Environmental Pollution'
Humans are increasing the amount of pollutants in the environment, particularly through the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial practices. As human population increases exponentially, our consumption and production of waste and pollution do the same. This class will investigate where the pollutants come from, their presence in the environment, and the biological effects of these pollutants. There will be a special emphasis on how the pollutants that humans produce feed back to affect human health. While this class is primarily science based, we will also address topics in environmental justice and environmental policy.
ENVST-240 The Value of Nature
Through this seminar, students develop an in-depth knowledge of and articulate vocabulary for the significant and diverse ways that humans value the natural world - utilitarian, scientific, aesthetic, naturalistic, symbolic, ethical, and spiritual. We use these different typologies of human environmental values as frameworks for readings and discussion, extending our examination to historical and cultural variations in values, competing perspectives of the natural world, and other value concepts, including intrinsic and transformative value. We examine the concept of biophilia and probe the role values play in the concern over losses of biological diversity and its implications.
ENVST-241 Environmental Issues
In this course, we will explore the different facets of numerous environmental policy issues and review the substantive aspects, legal themes, and regulatory structure of the major federal environmental laws. The laws covered in this course include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and others. The course objectives are for the student to learn the basic regulatory characteristics of the major laws and to become well-versed in the current environmental issues which we will focus upon throughout the semester, such as global climate change, ocean degradation, energy resources, and biodiversity loss.
ENVST-251 Research, Ethics, and Justice
The course is designed for students interested in learning about qualitative research on environmental issues. We will discuss the logic of qualitative social research and examine a range of methods, considering the specific advantages and limitations of different techniques. Students will also discuss ethical issues, including the challenges of conducting research in cross-cultural settings, reflect on our own underlying assumptions, motivations and values in research, and consider what it means to decolonize methodologies. The course is designed as a hands-on course in which each student will pick a research topic of interest (on an environment-society problem) and then share and discuss weekly assignments in class.
ENVST-295 Independent Study
ENVST-316 Restoration Ecology
A key test of our ecological knowledge is whether we can successfully apply it to create or restore ecosystems that have been damaged or destroyed. As we take on the role of restoration ecologists this semester, we will use principles and methods of ecology, conservation biology, hydrology, soil science, and related disciplines to learn about the theory, practice, and politics of ecosystem restoration. This course emphasizes fieldwork, interdisciplinary teamwork, and ecological planning to evaluate and design restoration projects in our surrounding communities and regional landscapes. On a few occasions, meetings may last until 5:05 pm so that we can go on fieldtrips that are farther from campus.
ENVST-317 Perspectives on American Environmental History
We explore the history of human-environment interactions in North America from precolonial times to the present from different cultural perspectives. How have such human activities as migration, colonization, and resource use depended on or modified the natural world? How have different cultural perceptions of and attitudes toward environment shifted through time and helped to reshape American landscapes? Case studies include ecological histories of Native America and Euro-America, slavery and land use, wilderness and conservation, and environmental racism and social justice. In addition to historical documents, we also consider scientific studies, literature, visual records, and oral tradition.
ENVST-321 Conference Courses in Environmental Studies
Selected topics in areas of environmental interest, determined by faculty expertise and student needs. Study in small groups or by individual students working with faculty.
ENVST-321CP Conference Courses in Environmental Studies: 'Political Economy of the Environment: Capitalism and Climate Change'
Can an economic system predicated on infinite growth achieve sustainability on a finite planet? This question will likely define the twenty-first century. This course aims to grapple with this paradox, examining the relationships and tensions between the globally dominant form of economy - capitalism - and global climate change. We will explore the interwoven rise of capitalism and emergence of fossil fuel energy, as well as the global expansion of capitalism and the connections between resources, economic growth, and political power. We will engage with various theoretical approaches to capitalism-environment relations, such as metabolic rift theory, the second contradiction of capitalism, and the production of nature thesis. These theories provide insight into recent forms of capitalism (i.e. neoliberalism) and the increasing degradation and commodification of the environment. We end by studying contemporary debates, examining institutions and policies seeking to manage climate change from with liberal-capitalist frameworks, the emergence of the "green economy", and the politics of climate denialism, concluding with alternatives economies and the climate justice movement. This course will provide students with theoretical knowledge and analytical skills for understanding economy-environment relationships.
ENVST-321EQ Conference Courses in Environmental Studies: 'Food Equity and Empowerment' Change'
This course uses a critical lens to examine the conflicts around equity and justice in our food systems, from production to consumption. Using race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic factors as the lens through which to examine the impacts associated with how we grow and consume food, this course seeks to understand an alternative to the dominant Western narrative on food systems. As a class, we will engage with readings, discussion and actual hands-on participation with food equity issues in the Pioneer Valley, so that we can reflect on our own power and privilege in the food system and come to a more holistic understanding of the challenges within the field.
ENVST-321GW Conference Courses in Environmental Studies: 'Global Water and Health'
Water is essential for life. Human health, both morbidity and mortality, is directly impacted by the scarcity of water and accessibility of safe drinking water. Amidst a changing climate, population pressures on finite water supplies continue to increase. This course will focus on the human health implications and challenges of water access, water scarcity, and water quality in different parts of the world. We will also discuss the disproportionate burden of water-related disease on children which impacts their long-term physical and cognitive development. Additionally, we will discuss threats to water quality including organic and inorganic contaminants as well as water-borne diseases.
ENVST-321HC Conference Courses in Environmental Studies: 'Human Health and Climate Change'
Climate change presents a global public health problem, with serious health impacts predicted to manifest in varying ways in different parts of the world. Through this course, we will investigate these health effects which include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme heat, weather, and other disaster events, and changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases. We will critically review the literature documenting recent and current impacts and predictions for the future. We will also look at solutions in place for adapting to these changes.
ENVST-321TX Conference Courses in Environmental Studies: 'Toxic Entanglements: Environmental (In)Justice in the United States'
Toxic water in Flint, Michigan. Oil pipelines through sacred sites in North Dakota. These manifestations of environmental injustice and inequality are only the most recent incarnations of larger legacies. Environments are never simply natural or given: they are imbued with unequal entanglements of gender, race, class, and power. Environmental justice asks questions about the ways in which environments are produced, and the relations of risk, harm, benefit, access, privilege, domination, oppression, and liberation therein. In this course, we will study the theory and practice of environmental (in)justice in the United States. We will briefly explore histories of environmental injustice in the U.S. (from colonization and slavery, to industrialization and pollution); past and current struggles over the siting of production facilities, toxic waste, and pollution; and recent events around water (be they floods, toxicity, or protection): Hurricane Katrina, Flint, and Standing Rock. We will pay particular attention to questions of food and justice, examining gender, race, and class in agricultural labor, corporate power in agribusiness, food deserts, food access/health and white privilege, and gender in alternative community food movements.
ENVST-335 Wetlands Ecology and Management
Although they cover ~0.6% of the earth's surface, wetlands perform more ecosystem services per hectare than any other ecosystem type. Alarmingly, over half of the earth's wetlands have been lost to agriculture and development. With these wetlands were also lost the valuable ecosystem functions wetlands perform. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine the biogeochemical, ecological, societal, and regulatory aspects of wetland ecosystems. Group discussion of primary scientific literature, as well as independent experimental design and the writing of a research proposal are core components. Field trips will sometimes keep us until 5:05 pm, and will provide an opportunity to explore these fascinating ecosystems in person.
ENVST-338 History, Race, and the American Land
Environmental justice is a key concern today. Yet ties between "race" and environment in what is now the U.S. have existed for centuries. In this research seminar we will explore how this country's still-unfolding history, and ideas of race and nature, have marked the land, this society, and each of us as individuals. We will consider Indigenous, colonial European, and African senses of Earth; origins of placenames; contested terrains; migration and displacement; and other topics revealing the place of race. We'll examine often-unrecognized connections, such as the siting of the nation's capital and the economic motives of slavery. None of these links is coincidental and all touch us today.
ENVST-339 Indigenous and Decolonial Ecologies
From protesting pipelines in Standing Rock to fighting fires in Brazil, Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of environmental struggles. But how do Indigenous peoples characterize relationships with land/territories? How do Indigenous and other marginalized groups contest colonialism when engaging with their territories, and in politics? What alternative worlds do they imagine? This course will seek to answer these questions in connection to theories, concepts, and cases focused on the Americas/Abya-Yala. It will further center Indigenous and other marginalized ways of knowing, worldviews, and lifeways, when analyzing issues like pollution, conservation, or environmental conflicts.
ENVST-342 Living in the Anthropocene: Development, Technology, Futures
The concept of the Anthropocene (the "human epoch") signifies that human activity has become the dominant physical force on the planet. Mainstream narratives envision three phases of the Anthropocene: industrial origins (1800 - 1950); global expansion and the nuclear age (1950 - 2000+); and an emergent third phase marked by massive shifts in land-use and biodiversity. This course undertakes a critical examination of the Anthropocene concept. We will analyze debates over geological demarcation, the term itself and the "anthropos" it embodies, and eco-modernist conceptions of a "good" Anthropocene. We aim to historically contextualize the socio-technical phases of the Anthropocene (industrial revolution, post-WWII global expansion, and contemporary globalization), situating them as processes emerging within a specific political-economic context (capitalism). Finally, we examine struggles over the socio-ecological entanglements shaping its future directions: urbanization, industrialized agriculture, genetic technology, and geoengineering/Earth System management. This course explores what it means to live in an era where a subset of one species can determine the conditions of possibility for life on the entire planet.
ENVST-346 Global Inequality, Smart Earth Technology, and Environmental Governance
This course is an interdisciplinary advanced seminar for students interested in learning about global environmental governance and inequality. We review the major theories about the intertwined challenges of poverty and environmental degradation, explore how legacies of colonialism persist, and examine how actors from nation states to Indigenous Peoples influence official state negotiations. Finally, we explore how advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and environmental sensor networks, and novel financial instruments, such as cryptocurrencies and nature-based video games, are changing conservation. As a curriculum-to-career course, there is strong emphasis on research, writing and speaking skills needed to advocate for environmental sustainability and social justice.
ENVST-390 Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies
This is the capstone course of the environmental studies major. The course explores linkages among the diversity of disciplines that contribute to the environmental studies major, illustrates how these disciplines that contribute to the environmental studies major are used in environmental decision making, enables students to inform one another's roles as environmentalists, and provides students with opportunities to develop individual and cooperative projects.
ENVST-395 Independent Study