Environmental Studies Program

Environmental issues call upon citizens, organizations, and governments to grasp complex scientific concepts, address conflicting human values, and make difficult economic, political and ethical choices. The three curricular options in Environmental Studies—the major in Environmental Studies and the concentrations in Environmental and in Maritime Studies—are designed to prepare students to effectively address these issues by integrating perspectives and methodologies from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

The program is administered by the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), located in the Class of 1966 Environmental Center. Founded in 1967, CES was one of the first environmental studies programs at a liberal arts college. In addition to the academic program described below, CES is the focus of a varied set of activities in which students lead and participate, often with other members of the Williams community. CES offers extensive resources including databases, funding for student-organizations, and student initiated activities, and generous support for summer research and internships. The Class of 1966 Center, a Living Building and the Program’s home, includes a classroom, living room, study rooms, kitchen, as well as student gardens. The Center manages the Hopkins Memorial Forest, a 2600-acre natural area located a bit to the northwest of campus, in which there are field-study sites and a laboratory, and where passive recreation opportunities may be found in all seasons. CES also operates the Environmental Analysis Laboratory in Morley Science Center. The Maritime Studies concentration builds on the course offerings of the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program at Mystic Seaport.

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

The three curricular options in Environmental Studies—the major in Environmental Studies, the concentration in Environmental Studies, and the concentration in Maritime Studies—are designed to help majors and concentrators to:

  • Effectively address complex environmental issues by integrating perspectives from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities;
  • Understand ecological principles and the nature of living systems;
  • Apply scientific methods to collect environmental data and evaluate environmental quality;
  • Understand the political and economic factors that inform, enable, and constrain environmental policy;
  • Understand the social, cultural, and historical factors that shape environmental thought, history, and behavior;
  • Develop significant understanding of one or more of the essential methodological approaches required in addressing environmental challenges;
  • Apply their learning in a practical setting.

 Overview of the Major and Concentrations

The Environmental Studies major is an eleven course major. The major has a core of seven courses, with varying amounts of choice for the various core course requirements. All majors are required to take four of the seven courses: ENVI 101, ENVI 102, ENVI 302, and the ENVI senior seminar, ENVI 412. ENVI 101, Nature and Society: An Introduction to Environmental Studies, is a broad introduction to the field, emphasizing the humanities and social sciences. ENVI 102, Introduction to Environmental Science, introduces students to the interdisciplinary study of the Earth’s systems through the synthesis of physical, chemical, geological, and biological perspectives. All majors are also required to take, in the junior year (or senior year under special circumstances), ENVI 302, Environmental Planning Workshop: Community-Based Experience (offered every fall), and ENVI 412, Environmental Studies Senior Seminar (offered every spring). The remaining component of the core is comprised of three foundational 200-level courses, one from each of three lists of courses (see below), with each list representing the three main branches of the environmental curriculum (environmental humanities, environmental social science/policy, and environmental science). Students choose, in consultation with their major advisor, the course they will take from each of the three lists.

Building on this seven course foundation, each ENVI major devises an individualized four-course cluster of electives that together comprise a disciplinary or thematic specialization sequence—for example, climate change policy, environmental justice, the built environment, environmental chemistry, sustainable food and agriculture, environmental ethics, etc. Students are responsible for designing their own major cluster in consultation with a faculty advisor in the spring semester of their sophomore year. One of these four electives in the cluster must be among those listed by the Program as a research methods course, although students may petition to count another course toward this requirement under special circumstances.

The study of living systems is an integral component of environmental studies, and therefore all students majoring in environmental studies will need to complete at least one course designated by the Program as a “living systems” course (this may be within their specialization cluster or as one of their 200-level foundational courses).

The Environmental Studies concentration is a seven course concentration in which students gain broad exposure to environmental studies while pursuing another major. In addition to the core of ENVI 101, ENVI 102, ENVI 302 and ENVI 412. Students pursuing the concentration will take one elective each from each of three lists of courses, each list (see below) representing a broad category of inquiry: the natural world; humanities, arts, and social sciences; and environmental policy.

The Maritime Studies concentration is a seven course concentration that builds on course work completed during the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. In addition to four intermediate-level core courses completed at Williams-Mystic, students pursuing the Maritime Studies concentration will also take the interdisciplinary introductory course GEOS 104 (Oceanography), an elective, and ENVI 412, Environmental Studies Senior Seminar. Students may attend the Williams-Mystic Program in their sophomore, junior or senior year. Students who have completed other study-away programs that emphasize marine studies should consult with the program chair about the possibility of completing the Maritime Studies concentration.

Submitting your Proposed Course Cluster and Plan of Study to the Major

Students intending to major in environmental studies must meet with a prospective advisor chosen in consultation with the Environmental Studies Chair to develop their proposed four-course cluster and plan of study through the major. We encourage all students interested in the major to meet with a faculty member in Environmental Studies at least one week prior to spring Pre-registration to discuss their proposed cluster and plan of study. The proposals must be submitted to the program Chair on or before the final day of pre-registration in the spring of the sophomore year. Application materials and instructions are available from Environmental Studies faculty and on the CES website (ces.williams.edu). The individual proposals will be reviewed by the CES Advisory Committee.

Credit for AP, IB, A-levels and other pre-Williams courses

Students are not allowed to place out of ENVI 101 or ENVI 102.

Planning for prerequisites on your path through the Environmental Studies major

While ENVI 101 or ENVI 102 are recommended starting points for the major, and are prerequisites for many other ENVI course offerings, please note that some of the course options for the major may have other courses as prerequisites that may not count toward the programs. For example, ENVI/ECON 213 (Intro to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics) has a prerequisite of ECON 110 (Principles of Microeconomics). We strongly suggest that you do advance planning to avoid being blocked from taking a relevant course. For example, should you want to design a cluster that emphasizes environmental economics, ENVI/ECON 387 (Economics of Climate Change) has a prerequisite of ECON 251 (Price and Allocation Theory), which in turn has a prerequisite of ECON 110. Similarly, should you design a cluster that emphasizes resource conservation, you should be aware that ENVI 312 (Communities and Ecosystems) has a prerequisite of ENVI/BIOL 203 (Ecology) or ENVI/BIOL 220 (Field Botany and Plant Natural History). Students interested in the program are encouraged to consult with members of the Environmental Studies Program and to contact Henry Art, Director or Sarah Gardner, Associate Director.

Study Away

Many study away options are available to students in Environmental Studies, including the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.

Furthermore, the Williams-Mystic Program is the foundation of the Maritime Studies concentration. Students considering either a semester or year away who intend to major or concentrate in Environmental Studies should consult the Chair or Associate Director of Environmental Studies and the Dean in charge of study abroad as early as possible to discuss their options. Students may take up to two courses outside of Williams toward their major or concentration, but must have advance approval in writing from the Chair of Environmental Studies.

Advising

Majors and concentrators (or first years and sophomores interested in the major or concentrations offered by CES) are encouraged to talk at any time with the Chair or Associate Director of Environmental Studies, or any other members of CES or Maritime Studies for advice. All incoming majors and concentrators will choose a faculty advisor in the spring of their sophomore year.

Advisors for 2019-20: Henry Art, Sarah Gardner, Pia Kohler, Laura Martin, Mea Cook, James Manigault-Bryant.

HONORS IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES (MAJOR OR CONCENTRATION)

Candidates for honors in Environmental Studies will complete a thesis in their senior year. A student earns honors by successfully completing a rigorous independent project under the supervision of a member of the CES faculty. The thesis may either be a one-semester plus winter study project, or a full-year project (two semesters plus winter study). Students who are majoring in environmental studies, and who opt to complete a year-long thesis project, have the option of substituting the second semester of their thesis work for the spring semester senior seminar. Honors will be awarded on the basis of the academic merit and originality demonstrated by the student in the completed thesis. Because many theses will require sustained field, laboratory or archival work that is difficult to combine with conventional coursework, students are strongly encouraged to spend the summer before senior year and/or their senior year Winter Study doing advance research.

Funds to support student research are available from endowment funds of the CES, and an open competition is held each spring to allocate summer funding resources. Some other departments also provide limited support for summer thesis research. Students and their faculty sponsors should plan the thesis with the expectation of such research in mind.

Juniors who wish to apply to pursue honors should submit a 5-page proposal to their intended advisor and the Chair of Environmental Studies by the end of the week following spring break. If a student wishes to pursue thesis research advised by a faculty member not affiliated with CES, the student must also identify a co-advisor from within the program. Environmental Studies concentrators may undertake an honors thesis and submit it to both their major department and Environmental Studies; petitions for a joint honors project should be approved by the department chair and the Chair of Environmental Studies by the end of the junior year. Students applying to conduct an honors thesis in Environmental Studies will be notified by the end of the spring semester whether or not their proposal has been approved.

Students doing a full-year thesis should plan on a presentation in early November to their thesis advisor, second reader, and, if applicable,

co-advisor, at which the thesis writer will offer a discussion of the work completed on the thesis to date, and provide an outline of the full thesis and a timetable for completion of the remaining parts of the thesis.

HONORS IN MARITIME STUDIES

Candidates for honors in Maritime Studies will complete a thesis in their senior year. The project will involve original research (archive, museum, field, or laboratory) followed by on-campus analysis and write-up of results. The thesis may either be a one-semester plus winter study project, or a full year (two semesters plus winter study). In either case, data collection during the summer before the senior year may be necessary. In some cases, the thesis project may be a continuation and expansion of the student’s Williams-Mystic research project. Honors will be awarded if the thesis shows a high degree of scholarship, originality, and intellectual insight.

WINTER STUDY AND INDEPENDENT STUDY

In addition to courses fulfilling the environmental studies major and concentration requirements, the following courses are offered: ENVI 397, 398 Independent Study of Environmental Problems

MAST 397, 398 Independent Study: Maritime Studies ENVI 493-W31-494 Honors Thesis and Senior Research MAST 493-494 Senior Thesis: Maritime Studies

Winter study courses play an important role in the program, offering opportunities to learn about aspects of environmental studies with which students would like to become more familiar. We encourage students to bear in mind their interests in the environment and maritime studies when reviewing each year’s Winter Study offerings.

Environmental Studies Major: Sample Course Clusters

See a full description of the program https://catalog.williams.edu/catalog.php?&subjinfo=evst

  • ENVI 101(F)Nature and Society: An Introduction to Environmental Studies

    Environment and society interact on scales from the local to the global. This course explores these interactions and introduces students to the interdisciplinary methods of environmental studies. We will investigate the historical development of environmental problems -- including pollution, land grabbing, and species extinction -- and their possible solutions. We will survey policy-making and activism in a variety of contexts and will examine art, literature, film, music, maps, advertisements, and other cultural objects. Throughout the course, we will ask how unequal distributions of power affect people and environments. Case studies, readings, discussions, and field exercises will help students develop their understanding how natural systems influence and are influenced by human activities. [ more ]

    ENVI 102(S)Introduction to Environmental Science

    Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field that develops scientific and technical means for assessing and mitigating human impacts on the environment. This course provides an overview of the discipline in the context of the interconnected global earth system: the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Students are introduced to scientific methods from physics, chemistry, geology, and biology that are used to examine real-world case studies at global and local scales. Topics may include: climate change, air and water pollution, resource extraction and management, land use change, and their effects on environmental quality, biodiversity, and human health. During weekly fieldwork and laboratory sessions, students gain hands-on experience in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data that can be used to make recommendations for addressing local environmental issues. [ more ]

    ENVI 302 / AMST 302(F)Environmental Planning Workshop: Community-Based Experience

    This interdisciplinary, experiential workshop introduces students to the field of planning through community-based projects. Environmental Planning encompasses many disciplines pertaining to the natural and built landscape such as city planning, ecological design, climate resiliency, natural resource planning, landscape architecture, agricultural and food systems, walkable neighborhood design, energy planning, and community development, to name a few. In this workshop, students regularly get out of the classroom and gain direct experience working in the greater Berkshire region. The class is organized into two parts. Part 1 involves reading and discussion of the planning literature: history, theory, policy, ethics, and legal framework, site visits, and concludes with a design project. Part 2 focuses on hands-on field work tackling an actual planning project under the guidance of a community partner. Small teams of students, working in conjunction with a client in the region and under supervision of the instructor, conduct a planning project using all the tools of a planner, including interviews, survey research, site visits, primary research, mapping, and site design and other activities as demanded by the particular project. The project work draws on students' academic training and extracurricular activities, and applies creative, design thinking techniques to solve thorny problems. The midterm assignment is a creative landscape/site design project. The lab sections include field trips, GIS mapping labs, project-related skill sessions, public meetings, and team project work. The course includes several class presentations and students will gain skills in public speaking, preparing presentations, interviewing, survey research, report-writing, design, and teamwork. The class culminates in an on-site public presentation of each team's planning study. [ more ]

    ENVI 412 / MAST 402(S)Senior Seminar: Perspectives on Environmental Studies

    The Environmental Studies and Maritime Studies programs provide students with an opportunity to explore the myriad ways that humans interact with diverse environments at scales ranging from local to global. The capstone course for Environmental Studies and Maritime Studies, this seminar brings together students who have specialized in the humanities, social studies and/or the sciences to exchange ideas across these disciplines. Over the course of the seminar, students will develop a sustained independent research project on a topic of their choice. [ more ]

  • GEOS 100 / ENVI 100(S)Introduction to Weather and Climate

    How is it that we have such a hard time predicting if it's going to rain next week, but we can be confident in projections of future climate change decades from now? This course will explore the atmosphere and how air moves and changes, understanding the wind, clouds, precipitation, and extreme events (including thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornados) that form our weather. Building off of our understanding of the atmosphere, we'll look at longer time scales to develop a basic understanding of earth's climate, global heat and moisture transport, climate change, and the ways that humans can change our planet. We will look at weather and climate models to learn how to scientists and meteorologists predict future conditions. Labs will include local field trips, bench top experiments, and running a climate model on a computer. [ more ]

    GEOS 101 / ENVI 105(F)The Co-Evolution of Earth and Life

    Our planet is about 4.6 billion years old and has supported life for at least the last 3.5 billion of those years. This course will consider the inter-related nature of Earth and the life that inhabits it, starting with the first living organisms and progressing to the interaction of our own species with the Earth today. Students will investigate the dynamic nature of the Earth-life system, examine many of its feedbacks, and learn about the dramatic changes that have occurred throughout the history of the Earth. We will ask questions such as: How did the Earth facilitate biologic evolution, and what effects did those biologic events have on the physical Earth? When did photosynthesis evolve, how can we detect that in the rock record, and how did this biological event lead to profound changes in the environment? How and why did animals evolve and what role did environmental change play in the radiation of animal life? How did the rise and radiation of land plants affect world climate? How do plate tectonics, glaciation, and volcanism influence biodiversity and evolutionary innovation? What caused mass extinctions in the past and what can that teach us about our current extinction crisis? Labs will involve hands-on analysis of rocks, fossils, and real-world data as well as conceptual and analytical exercises; field trips will contextualize major events in Earth history and will help students learn to read the rock record. Through these investigations, the class will provide a comprehensive overview of Earth history, with special attention paid to the geological and paleontological history of the northeastern United States. This course is in the Sediments and Life group for the Geosciences major. [ more ]

    GEOS 102(S)An Unfinished Planet

    The Earth is a work-in-progress, an evolving planet whose vital signs--as expressed by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and shifting plates--are still strong. In a geological time frame, nothing on Earth is permanent: ocean basins open and close, mountains rise and fall, continental masses accrete and separate. There is a message here for all of us who live, for an infinitesimally brief time, on the moving surface of the globe. This course uses the plate tectonics model--one of the fundamental scientific accomplishments of the past century--to interpret the processes and products of a changing Earth. The emphasis will be on mountain systems (on land and beneath the oceans) as expressions of plate interactions. Specific topics include the rocks and structures of modern and ancient mountain belts, the patterns of global seismicity and volcanism, the nature of the Earth's interior, the changing configurations of continents and ocean basins through time, and, in some detail, the formation of the Appalachian Mountain system and the geological assembly of New England. Readings will be from a physical geology textbook, a primary source supplement, selected writings of John McPhee, and references about the geology of the Northeast. [ more ]

    GEOS 103 / ENVI 103Global Warming and Environmental Change

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Earth is the warmest it has been for at least five centuries, and the surface of our planet is responding. From extreme floods and drought to landslides and soil erosion, the natural processes that shape the Earth's surface are tied to temperature and precipitation, and as those change, the landscape reacts. People are beginning to feel the impacts, but in different ways depending on where we call home. Our ability to cope with the changes also depends are where we are, with low-income nations the least able to implement costly adaptive strategies. In this course, we will take a tour of the planet, investigating how climate change is altering landscapes and the natural processes that support them. Ultimately, we will develop an understanding of the consequences of climate change that connects physical processes with the geography of place. Specific topics include foundations of the Earth system, plate tectonics and the construction of landscapes, Earth materials, rivers and flooding, hillslope processes, coastal processes, and climate impacts on natural resources such as freshwater and soil. Labs will use local field sites and analytical exercises to evaluate recent cases that reflect an interaction of the landscape and climate. [ more ]

    GEOS 104 / ENVI 104 / MAST 104(F)Oceanography

    The oceans cover about 72% of Earth's surface, yet we know the surface of Venus better than our own ocean floors. Why is that? This integrated introduction to the oceans covers formation and history of the ocean basins; the composition and origin of seawater; currents, tides, and waves; ocean-atmosphere interactions; oceans and climate; deep-marine environments; coastal processes; productivity in the oceans; and human impacts. Coastal oceanography will be investigated on an all-day field trip, hosted by the Williams-Mystic program in Connecticut. This course is in the Oceans and Climates group for the Geosciences major. [ more ]

    PHYS 108 / ENVI 108(F)Energy Science and Technology

    Energy use has skyrocketed in the United States and elsewhere in the world, causing significant economic and political shifts, as well as concerns for the environment. This course will address the physics and technology of energy generation, consumption, and conservation. It will cover a wide range of energy sources, including fossil fuels, hydropower, solar energy, wind energy, and nuclear energy. We will discuss energy use in transportation, manufacturing, building heating, and building lighting. Students will learn to compare the efficiencies and environmental impacts of various energy sources and uses. [ more ]

    BIOL 134 / ENVI 134(F)The Tropics: Biology and Social Issues

    Intended for the non-scientist, this course explores the biological dimensions of social issues in tropical societies, and focuses specifically on the peoples of tropical regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and the Caribbean. Tropical issues have become prominent on a global scale, and many social issues in the tropics are inextricably bound to human ecology, evolution, and physiology. The course highlights differences between the tropics and areas at higher latitudes. It begins with a survey of the tropical environment of humans, including major climatic and habitat features. The next section focuses on human population biology, and emphasizes demography and the role of disease particularly malaria and AIDS. The final part of the course covers the place of human societies in local and global ecosystems including the challenges of tropical food production, the importance of organic diversity, and the interaction of humans with their supporting ecological environment. This course fulfills the DPE requirement. Through lectures, debates and readings, students confront social issues and policies from the perspective of biologists. This builds a framework for lifelong exploration of human diversity in terms of difference, power and equity. [ more ]

    GEOS 201 / ENVI 205Geomorphology

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Geomorphology is the study of landforms, the processes that shape them and the rates at which surface processes change the landscape in which we live. The course is designed for Geosciences majors and for environmental studies students interested in surficial geologic processes and their importance in shaping the physical environment. We emphasize the influence of climatic, tectonic, and volcanic forces on landform evolution over relatively short periods of geologic time, generally thousands to a few millions of years. At this time scale, the influence of human activity and climate change on geomorphic processes is strong, perhaps dominant, in many geologic environments. Many of our examples analyze human interaction - planned or unplanned-- with geomorphic processes. Labs focus on field measurements of channels and landscapes in the Williamstown area as well as on the analysis of topographic maps and imagery. [ more ]

    BIOL 203 / ENVI 203(F)Ecology

    This course combines lectures with field and indoor laboratory exercises to explore factors that determine the distribution and abundance of plants and animals in natural systems. The course begins with an overall view of global patterns and then builds from the population to the ecosystem level. An emphasis is given to basic ecological principles and relates them to current environmental issues. Selected topics include population dynamics (competition, predation, mutualism); community interactions (succession, food chains and diversity) and ecosystem function (biogeochemical cycles, energy flow). [ more ]

    GEOS 205 / ENVI 207(F)Economic Geology and Earth Resources

    "If it can't be grown, it must be mined." We depend on the solid Earth for a huge array of resources. The metal in your soda can, the plastic in your Nalgene, the components of your computer, the glass in your window, the hydrocarbons being burned to keep you warm in the winter or to transport you in cars or aircraft, the cars and aircraft themselves: all are made of materials mined from the Earth. Right now there are more people building more houses, paving more roads, making more vehicles, more electronics, and more plastic packaging-all with geologic materials. As demand soars in both established and growing economies, and as we realize the environmental damage that can result from resource extraction and processing, the importance of understanding Earth's resources increases. Finding new deposits and managing those we have requires insight into the geology that underlies the location and origin of strategic Earth materials. This class introduces the geologic processes that control formation, distribution, and extent of materials reserves: dimension stone and gravel, base and precious metal ores, gemstones, petroleum, nuclear energy sources, and specialty materials for medical, technological, and military uses. This course is in the SOLID EARTH GROUP for the Geosciences major. [ more ]

    MAST 211 / GEOS 210(F, S)Oceanographic Processes

    This course examines ocean and coastal environmental science issues including carbon dioxide and the ocean's role in climate, El Niño and other ocean-atmosphere oscillations that influence our weather, coastal erosion and other hazards, coastal pollution, and fisheries. The focus is on controlling processes with regional comparisons. Blue water oceanography is conducted in the Atlantic and comparative coastal oceanography includes trips to southern New England shores, and the West and Gulf coasts of the US as part of the Williams-Mystic program. [ more ]

    GEOS 214 / ENVI 214(F)Mastering GIS

    The development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has allowed us to investigate incredibly large and spatially complex data sets like never before. From assessing the effects of climate change on alpine glaciers, to identifying ideal habitat ranges for critically endangered species, to determining the vulnerability of coastal communities to storms, GIS tools have opened the door for important, large-scale environmental analyses. And as these technologies improve, our ability to understand the world grows ever greater. This course will teach you how to use GIS tools to investigate environmental problems. We will review fundamental principles in geography, the construction and visualization of geospatial datasets, and tools for analyzing geospatial data. Special attention will also be given to analysis of remotely sensed (satellite) imagery and to collection of field data. By the end of the course, you will be able to conduct independent GIS-based research and produce maps and other geospatial imagery of professional quality. [ more ]

    GEOS 215 / ENVI 215Climate Changes

    Last offered Fall 2018

    In recent years, there has been a growing public and scientific interest in the Earth's climate and its variability. This interest reflects both concern over future climate changes resulting from anthropogenic increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases and growing recognition of the economic impact of "natural" climate variability (for example, El Niño events), especially in the developing world. Efforts to understand the Earth's climate system and predict future climate changes require both study of parameters controlling present day climate and detailed studies of climate changes in the past. In this course, we will review the processes that control the Earth's climate, like solar radiation, the greenhouse effect, ocean circulation, configuration of continents, and positive and negative feedbacks. At the same time, we will review the geological record of climate changes in the past, examining their causes. Laboratories and problem sets will emphasize developing problem solving skills as well as sampling and interpreting geological archives of climate change. [ more ]

    BIOL 220 / ENVI 220(S)Field Botany and Plant Natural History

    This field-lecture course covers the evolutionary and ecological relationships among plant groups represented in our local and regional flora. Lectures focus on the evolution of the land plants, the most recent and revolutionary developments in plant systematics and phylogeny, characteristics of plant families, the cultural and economic uses of plants and how plants have shaped our world. The labs cover field identification, natural history and the ecology of local species. [ more ]

    GEOS 220 T / ENVI 219Evolution of and on Volcanic Islands

    Last offered Spring 2018

    Plate tectonic theory accounts for the vast majority of volcanic islands in ocean basins. They form above mantle plume hot spots (Hawaiian and Galapagos Islands), subduction zones (Aleutian and Indonesian arcs), and mid-ocean ridges (Azores and Ascension Island). Iceland is unusual because it is located above a hot spot and the mid-Atlantic ridge. Each plate tectonic setting produces chemically distinctive magmas, and the lifespan of volcanic islands varies widely. Islands above hot spots may be geographically remote and emergent for only several million years, but be part of a long-lived sequence of islands that persists for over a hundred million years. In contrast, island arc volcanoes belong to long geographically continuous chains of volcanoes, commonly in close proximity to continents. This tutorial explores the geologic evolution and lifespan of volcanic islands from formation to submergence, and searches for correlations between these characteristics and plate tectonic setting. We will also consider how geographic isolation, areal extent, lifespan, and climate affect biological evolution on volcanic islands.There will be weekly tutorial meetings with pairs of students, and students will alternate writing papers on assigned topics. [ more ]

    BIOL 225 T / ENVI 225Sustainable Food & Agriculture

    Last offered Fall 2018

    A tutorial course investigating patterns, processes, and stability in human-dominated, food production systems. The course will examine sustainable food and agriculture from an ecological perspective. Topics will include: changes in diversity, concentration, and scale, flows of energy, circulation (or not) of fertilizer nutrients, carbon balances in soils, and stability of food production, processing, and distribution ecosystems. A day-long field experience will take place on a local farm. [ more ]

    ENVI 240 T(F)Conservation and Climate Change

    What does climate change mean for the future of Earth's 8.7 million-or-so species? This tutorial introduces students to an emerging literature on how climate change alters the distributions, behaviors, and interactions of plant and animal species. In it we will pay close attention to how to read a scientific paper and how to write about science from the discipline of environmental studies. Some of the questions we will consider include: How is scientific knowledge produced? What might the biotic world look like in 10, 100, and 1000 years? How are conservation and restoration practitioners responding to climate change? To what extent can local environmental management alter global trends? [ more ]

    GEOS 255 / ENVI 255(F)Environmental Observation

    To study the environment, we need to observe and measure it. We collect data--numbers that represent system states--and analyze them to create understanding of the world we live in. Advances in technology create more opportunities to discover how the planet works. Through a survey of observational approaches (including weather stations, direct sampling, radar, community-based monitoring, and other techniques), this course will investigate the process of turning a physical property in the environment into a number on a computer and then into meaningful information. We will explore both direct field measurements and remote sensing techniques, diving into how to choose the appropriate sensor for a scientific question, how sensors work, analysis approaches and statistical methods, and how to interpret the resulting data. We will also learn how to mitigate measurement bias through a combination of lab experiments and field work and how to make interpretations of measurements that accurately reflect what is being measured. The course will focus on the near-surface environment, including the atmosphere, water, and biosphere. Students will carry out a research project using observation techniques covered in class to explore a scientific question of interest. [ more ]

    BIOL 302 / ENVI 312(F)Communities and Ecosystems

    An advanced ecology course that examines how species interact with each other and their environment and how communities are assembled. This course emphasizes phenomena that emerge in complex ecological systems, building on the fundamental concepts of population biology, community ecology, and ecosystem science. This foundation will be used to understand specific topics relevant to conservation including invasibility and the functional significance of diversity for ecosystem stability and processes. Lectures and labs will explore how to characterize the emergent properties of communities and ecosystems, and how theoretical, comparative, and experimental approaches are used to understand their structure and function. The lab component of this course will emphasize hypothesis-oriented field experiments as well as "big-data" analyses using existing data sets.The laboratory component of the course will culminate with a self-designed independent or group project. [ more ]

    MAST 311 / BIOL 231(F, S)Marine Ecology

    Using the principles of evolutionary biology and experimental ecology, this course examines the processes that control the diversity, abundance and distribution of marine organisms. Major marine communities, including estuaries, the rocky shore, sandy beaches, salt marshes, coral reefs, and the deep sea are discussed in detail. [ more ]

    GEOS 324 / ENVI 324 / MAST 324Corals and Sea Level

    Last offered Spring 2019

    In coastal communities, increasing flood damage from storm surges and chronic inundation by seawater are already happening as a result of sea level rise. How do we know what contributes to the observed change in sea level in the last century? What does the geological record teach us about what controls the natural variation in sea level on short and long timescales? How can we use this information to separate anthropogenic effects from natural change in modern systems? And how does this inform us on what to expect through the 21st century and beyond? In this course, we will examine how sea level is reconstructed using geological archives and how coral-based sea level data led to breakthroughs in our understanding of the long-term evolution of the ocean and climate, the controls in the timing of ice age cycles, the singularity of modern climate change, and how high the future seas will rise. During Spring Break, the class will travel to Barbados, a renowned locality for Quaternary sea level reconstruction, to observe modern and ancient reefs, and collect samples that will be the basis of individual or group projects in the second half of the semester. Participation in the Spring Break trip is not required for successful completion of the course, but course enrollment is necessary to attend the trip. [ more ]

    BIOL 329 / ENVI 339Conservation Biology

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Conservation biology is an interdisciplinary field that develops scientific and technical means for the protection, maintenance, and restoration of diversity at all levels of biological organization. This course provides an overview of the discipline including the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss as well as approaches and strategies used to combat biodiversity threats such climate change, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species. Particular emphasis is placed on the ecological dimension of conservation and the application of biological principles (derived from physiological and behavioral ecology, population genetics, population ecology, community ecology, and systematics) to the conservation of biodiversity.The course combines lectures, readings, in-class discussion, and a laboratory that includes both field and lab projects. [ more ]

    CHEM 341 / ENVI 341Toxicology and Cancer

    Last offered Spring 2018

    What is a poison and what makes it poisonous? Paracelcus commented in 1537: "What is not a poison? All things are poisons (and nothing is without poison). The dose alone keeps a thing from being a poison." Is the picture really this bleak; is modern technology-based society truly swimming in a sea of toxic materials? How are the nature and severity of toxicity established, measured and expressed? Do all toxic materials exert their effect in the same manner, or can materials be poisonous in a variety of different ways? Are the safety levels set by regulatory agencies low enough for a range of common toxic materials, such as mercury, lead, and certain pesticides? How are poisons metabolized and how do they lead to the development of cancer? What is cancer and what does it take to cause it? What biochemical defense mechanisms exist to counteract the effects of poisons?
    This course attempts to answer these questions by surveying the fundamentals of modern chemical toxicology and the induction and progression of cancer. Topics will range from description and quantitation of the toxic response, including risk assessment, to the basic mechanisms underlying toxicity, mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and DNA repair.
    [ more ]

    CHEM 364 / ENVI 364(S)Instrumental Methods of Analysis

    This course provides the student an understanding of the applicability of current laboratory instrumentation both to the elucidation of fundamental chemical phenomena and to the measurement of certain atomic and molecular parameters. Student will gain knowledge and understanding of the theory and practical use of a variety of instrumental techniques; including, but not limited to, chromatography, mass spectrometry, thermal methods, electroanalytical techniques, atomic and molecular absorption and emission spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and optical and electron microscopies, with examples drawn from the current literature. Analytical chemical and instrumental techniques will be developed in the lecture and extensively applied within the laboratory. These skills are useful in a wide variety of scientific areas. Through exploration of primary literature and review articles we will discuss recent developments in instrumental methods and advances in the approaches used to address modern analytical questions. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    GEOS 404 / ENVI 404 / MAST 404(S)Coastal Processes and Geomorphology

    Can people live safely along the coast? Recent events like SuperStorm Sandy and the Tohoku Tsunami have shown us how the ocean can rise up suddenly and wreak havoc on our lives and coastal infrastructure. Only educated geoscientists can evaluate the risks and define informed strategies to prevent future coastal catastrophes. Currently almost half the global population lives within 100 km of the coast, with a large percent of those living in densely populated cities (e.g., New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Sydney, Mumbai). Despite the growing risks and challenges associated with climate change and rising sea levels, the coastal population continues to grow rapidly. To help ensure these growing populations can live safely along the coast requires a detailed understanding of the processes that shape the coastal zone. These processes act across a variety of scales, from deep-time geologic processes that dictate coastal shape and structure, to decadal-scale processes that determine shoreline position and evolution, to weekly and daily processes such as storms and tides. This course will provide an in-depth look at the forces--wind, waves, storms, and people--that shape the coastal zone, as well as the geologic formations--sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, barrier islands, deltas, and coral reefs--that are acted upon and resist these forces. Coastal dynamics are strongly affected by human interventions, such as seawalls, dredged channels, and sand dune removal, as well as by sea level rise and changes in storm frequency and magnitude associated with climate change. Finally, the course will provide students with a perspective on how the U.S. seeks to manage its coastal zone, focusing on sea level rise and coastal development. This class will include a quantitative lab that will use MATLAB software to model and evaluate various coastal processes. Students will gain a basic understanding of MATLAB functionality, and will be asked to independently apply what they have learned to various data sets provided by the instructor. [ more ]

    GEOS 405 / ENVI 405Geochemistry: Understanding Earth's Environment

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Rocks, water, air, life: what comprises these interconnected components of the Earth system? How do they interact today, and how did these interactions differ in the past? In this course we will study how chemical elements are distributed in the Earth, cycle through the Earth system, and act together to produce a planet that is habitable. As Earth's landscapes and oceans, and the life they harbor, have evolved through time, they have left an imprint in the geological record that we can read using geochemical tools such as molecular fossils, elemental ratios, and stable and radioactive isotopes. Topics include the synthesis of elements in stars, the formation and differentiation of planet Earth; radiometric dating; the major constituents of the atmosphere, rain, rocks, rivers and the ocean; how they're linked by chemical weathering and biological activity; and reconstruction of past environments. Students will explore these topics through lecture; reading and discussing articles from the scientific literature; and collecting, analyzing and interpreting data from environmental samples. [ more ]

    MATH 410 T / BIOL 214Mathematical Ecology

    Last offered Spring 2016

    Using mathematics to study natural phenomena has become ubiquitous over the past couple of decades. In this tutorial, we will study mathematical models comprised of both deterministic and stochastic differential equations that are developed to understand ecological dynamics and, in many cases, evaluate the dynamical consequences of policy decisions. We will learn how to understand these models through both standard analytic techniques such as stability and bifurcation analysis as well as through simulation using computer programs such as MATLAB. Possible topics include fisheries management, disease ecology, control of invasive species, and predicting critical transitions in ecological systems. [ more ]

    ENVI 422Ecology of Sustainable Agriculture

    Last offered Fall 2018

    A seminar/field course investigating patterns, processes, and concepts of stability in human-dominated, food production ecosystems. As a capstone course, the course will draw upon the experiences that students have had in biology and environmental studies courses. Topics will include: the relationships among diversity, ecosystem function, sustainability, resilience, and stability of food production, distribution systems, nutrient pools and processing in human dominated ecosystems. Two extensive field trips will be taken to agricultural operations in the region. Each student will present a seminar on a topic requiring extensive reading of primary resources and is responsible for leading the discussion that ensues. Reading question paper assignments will be due prior to the seminar. Criticism paper assignments will be made at approximately bi-weekly intervals and due two days after the seminar to which they relate. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details
  • ENVI 110 TThe Anthropocene: Nature and Culture in the Human Age

    Last offered Spring 2018

    In 2016, a group of scientists appointed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the body that keeps the official timetable of earth's history, argued that the planet has entered a new age known as the Anthropocene. Their questions were epochal: Has humanity become a geological force as powerful as those that have shaped the planet's deep past, such as ice sheets and asteroids? Have we truly entered "the human age," and if so, when did it begin and what does it all mean? This course will ask how researchers from different fields have sought to answer these questions. Just as important, it will ask how they became questions in the first place. Where did the idea of the Anthropocene come from? What are its social, political, and ethical implications? How we have arrived at this new understanding of our planet and ourselves? And what can this major intellectual shift-a shift that has already begun to send waves far beyond the academy into the worlds of art, literature, politics, and religion-tell us about the construction of environmental knowledge in the twenty-first century? Readings will come primarily from the environmental social sciences and humanities, including works by nineteenth and early twentieth-century environmental thinkers, but will be supplemented with material from the natural and environmental sciences. Topics will include climate change, mass extinction, urbanization, and deforestation. Our focus throughout will remain on ways of knowing, imagining, and representing global environmental change in an era of ever-expanding human influence. [ more ]

    AFR 211 / AMST 211 / ENVI 211 / SOC 211Race and the Environment

    Last offered Fall 2018

    In contemporary societies, race remains an enduring impediment to the achievement of equality. Generally understood as a socially meaningful way of classifying human bodies hierarchically, race manifests itself in a number of arenas, including personal experience, economic production and distribution, and political organization. In this course, we will explore how race emerges in local and global environmental issues, like pollution and climate change. We will begin with a review of some of the landmark texts in Environmental Studies that address "environmental racism," like Robert Bullard's Dumping in Dixie and David Pellow's Garbage Wars. We will examine how and to what extent polluting facilities like landfills, oil refineries, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color; we will also pay attention to how specific corporations create the underlying rationale for plotting industrial sites. After outlining some of the core issues raised in this scholarship, we will turn to cultural productions--like literature, film, and music--to understand how people of color respond to environmental injustice and imagine the natural world. [ more ]

    ANTH 214 / ENVI 224The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Over the centuries, philosophers and historians have asked how societies evolved from simple hunter-gatherer bands to complex urban civilizations. Human prehistory and history have shown the repeated cycles of the rise, expansion and collapse of early civilizations in both the Old and New World. What do the similarities and differences in the development of these first civilizations tell us about the nature of societal change, civilization and the state, and human society itself? The course will examine these issues through an introductory survey of the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Mesoamerica and South America. Classical and modern theories on the nature, origin, and development of the state will be reviewed in light of the archaeological evidence. [ more ]

    ENVI 217 / AMST 216Landscape, Place and Power

    Last offered Fall 2018

    How does culture shape the way we imagine, use, and experience the physical environment, and how does the physical environment shape culture in turn? What can landscapes tell us about the values, beliefs, and ideas of the people who make them? What is the relationship between place and social power? This course will explore the various ways in which scholars from a broad range of disciplines have sought to answer these questions by incorporating insights from social theory and cultural criticism. Focusing on studies of place and landscape in the Americas from the time of European colonization to the present, it will examine key works from fields such as cultural geography, environmental history, ecocriticism, environmental philosophy, and anthropology, and it will survey the major methodological and theoretical commitments that unite these fields. [ more ]

    LATS 220 / AMST 221 / ENVI 221Introduction to Urban Studies: Shaping and Living the City

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Generally, cities have been described either as vibrant commercial and cultural centers or as violent and decaying urban slums. In an effort to begin to think more critically about cities, this course introduces important topics in the interdisciplinary field of Urban Studies. Specifically, we will discuss concepts and theories used to examine the peoples and structures that make up cities: In what ways do socio-cultural, economic, and political factors affect urban life and development? How are cities planned and used by various stakeholders (politicians, developers, businesses, and residents)? How do people make meaning of the places they inhabit? We will pay particular attention to the roles of race, ethnicity, class, and gender in understanding and interpreting urban communities. Texts include works by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, cultural critics, cultural geographers, and literary writers. [ more ]

    REL 227 / AMST 227 / ENVI 227 / LATS 227Utopias and Americas

    Last offered Spring 2012

    Where does the term "new world" come from? What do we mean by "utopia," "utopian," and "utopianism?" What relationships exist between the people who imagine utopias and the lands they inhabit? This course considers the relationship between utopian imaginations and the imaginations of the lands and peoples in the Western hemisphere. We will spend some time studying utopian theory, ancient proto-utopias, and utopias in Latin America, though our main focus will be on particular examples of utopianism in the U.S.A. We will attend to particular instances of utopian social dreaming that re-imagine time, space, environment, gender, family, education, and power. While the U.S.A. is the main focus of the class, students are encouraged to pursue and bring to class utopian perspectives from other parts of the Americas. Students are also strongly encouraged to take questions from class and engage utopian images not listed on this syllabus but pertinent to our classroom learning. [ more ]

    ENVI 229 / HIST 264(S)Environmental History

    This course is an introduction to Environmental History: the study of how people have shaped environments, how environments have shaped human histories, and how cultural change and material change are intertwined. As such, it challenges traditional divides between the humanities and the sciences. Taking U.S. environmental history as our focus, we will strive to understand the historical roots of contemporary environmental problems, such as species extinction, pollution, and climate change. We will take field trips to learn to read landscapes for their histories and to examine how past environments are represented in museum exhibits, digital projects, and physical landscapes. And we will develop original arguments and essays based on archival research. It is imperative that we understand this history if we are to make informed and ethical environmental decisions at the local, national, and global scale. [ more ]

    MAST 231 / ENGL 231(F, S)Literature of the Sea

    Taking advantage of our maritime museum, coastal setting, and three field seminars, we study canonical and lesser-known novelists, short-story writers, dramatists, and poets who set their works in the watery world, often in the exact places where we travel as a class. We read, for example--depending on fall or spring semester--Ernest Hemingway when sailing on the Straits of Florida, John Steinbeck when exploring Cannery Row on Monterey Bay, and Mark Twain on a steamboat on the Mississippi. We read Kate Chopin on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico, Rudyard Kipling out on Georges Bank, and Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby-Dick aboard Mystic Seaport's historic whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan, a vessel nearly identical to the vessel he climbed aboard at age twenty-one. In the classroom we examine these works through a mixture of lecture, small-group discussion, and writing. To further appreciation and analysis, this interdisciplinary course uses students' emerging knowledge of maritime history and marine science. [ more ]

    PSCI 235 / ENVI 235Survival and Resistance: Environmental Political Theory

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Contemporary struggles to reverse environmental destruction and establish sustainable communities have prompted some political theorists to rethink longstanding assumptions about politics and its relationship to nature. Does the environment have "rights"? What, if anything, is the difference between an ecosystem and a political community? Is democracy dangerous to the planet's health? Are environmental protections compatible with political freedom? How is the domination or conquest of nature connected with domination and conquest within human societies? What does justice demand in an age of climate change? In this class, we will consider the promise and limits of political theory to illuminate present day environmental crises and foster movements to overcome them. We will engage classic texts that helped to establish political theory's traditional view of nature as a resource, as well as contemporary texts that offer alternative, ecological understandings of nature and its entwinements with politics. Class will be driven primarily by discussion. Students will have significant responsibility for setting the agenda for discussions through informal writing submitted prior to class. As a writing intensive course, attention to the writing process and developing an authorial voice will be a recurrent focus of our work inside and outside the classroom. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ENVI 240 T(F)Conservation and Climate Change

    What does climate change mean for the future of Earth's 8.7 million-or-so species? This tutorial introduces students to an emerging literature on how climate change alters the distributions, behaviors, and interactions of plant and animal species. In it we will pay close attention to how to read a scientific paper and how to write about science from the discipline of environmental studies. Some of the questions we will consider include: How is scientific knowledge produced? What might the biotic world look like in 10, 100, and 1000 years? How are conservation and restoration practitioners responding to climate change? To what extent can local environmental management alter global trends? [ more ]

    ENVI 246 / AMST 245 / HIST 265(F)Race, Power, & Food History

    Have you ever wondered why Spam is so popular in Hawaii and why ramen noodles are a cheap, ubiquitous food? Are you curious why black-eyed peas and collards are considered "soul food"? In this course, we will answer these questions by digging in to the histories of global environmental transformation through colonialism, slavery, and international migration. We will consider the production and consumption of food as a locus of power over the last 300 years. Beginning with the rise of the Atlantic slave trade and continuing through the 20th century, we trace the global movement of plants, foods, flavors, workers, businesses, and agricultural knowledge. Major units include rice production by enslaved people in the Americas; Asian American food histories during the Cold War; and fat studies critiques of critical food studies. We will discuss food justice, food sovereignty, and contemporary movements for food sustainability in the context of these histories and our contemporary world. Readings are interdisciplinary, but our emphasis will be on historical analyses of race, labor, environment, and gender. [ more ]

    REL 247 / AMST 247 / ENVI 247 / LATS 247Race and Religion in the American West

    Last offered Spring 2017

    From the "Land of Enchantment" of New Mexico in the far reaches of the desert to the sacred temples on the West Coast that overlook Pacific Ocean, this course examines the peoples and the "sacroscapes" of the American West. Historian Patricia Limerick regards this region as an extraordinary site of convergence and one of "the greatest meeting places on the planet." The region is a site of cultural complexity where Penitentes maintained a sacred order, Pentecostals attracted a global audience, Native Americans forged legal/protected definitions of "religion," and Asian immigrants built the first Buddhist and Sikh temples. Until recently, standard surveys of religious history in North America have devoted minimal attention to the distinctive role of religion in the American West. They have focused on religious history in the flow of events westward from the Plymouth Rock landing and Puritan establishment while generally overlooking the Pueblo Revolt in modern-day New Mexico which occurred in that same century and marked the temporary suspension of Spanish encroachment. How do scholars of religion and history account for these renditions between the past and present? Most mainstream religious histories treat religious experience and identity in the U.S. West as additive rather than complementary to or constitutive of its mainstream narratives. Contemporary historians of religion note the need for new "sights," "cites," and "sites" in order to deconstruct and reconstruct this incomplete meta-narrative, taking into account such factors as migration, gender, region, and the environment. [ more ]

    ENVI 250 / STS 250(S)Environmental Justice

    How are local and global environmental problems distributed unevenly according to race, gender, and class? What are the historical, social and economic structures that create unequal exposures to environmental risks and benefits? And how does inequity shape the construction and distribution of environmental knowledge? These are some of the questions we will take up in this course, which will be reading and discussion intensive. Through readings, discussions, and case studies, we will explore EJ in both senses. Potential topics include: toxics exposure, food justice, urban planning, e-waste, unnatural hazards, nuclearism in the U.S. West, natural resources and war, and climate refugees. Occasionally, community leaders, organizers, academics, and government officials will join the class to discuss current issues. [ more ]

    ENVI 259 / AMST 259 / HIST 259New England Environmental History

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Have you ever wondered why there are few old-growth forests in New England? What Williamstown looked like before Williams was founded? How ideas about environmental preservation have changed over time? These are some of the questions we will explore in this course, which introduces students to the discipline of Environmental History through New England examples. During the semester we will: (1) read and discuss scholarship on the environmental history of New England and the world; (2) use case studies and field trips to examine how past environments are represented in museum exhibits,digital projects, and physical landscapes; (3) Develop a research paper based on original archival research [ more ]

    ANTH 272 / WGSS 272Sex and the Reproduction of Society

    Last offered Fall 2014

    Why is reproduction such a controversial subject in society today, especially in areas of medicine, culture, and religion? And why is the reproductive body subject to such highly ideological and yet contradictory types of practices and discourses across the globe? This course seeks to examine the myriad ways that societies police the range of practices surrounding reproduction--including fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, abortion, and motherhood. We will pursue a comparative analysis of reproduction across major societies and cultures, through an in-depth look at specialized topics such as the new reproductive technologies, the medicalization and ritualization of obstetrics in America, the continuing controversies over abortion across the globe, and the ongoing debates about the rise of women and the 'End of Men'. Throughout the course, we remain focused on the cultural, social, and medical construction of birth and reproduction more generally. To this end, we explore the varying ritual and medical practices that surround reproduction in different cultural contexts, from high tech to low tech settings and societies. We will deconstruct the process of human reproduction through readings culled from a variety of cultures and disciplines including anthropology, medicine, religious studies, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. [ more ]

    ENVI 285Writing About Science and Nature

    Last offered Spring 2016

    Over the last few decades, the nature of nature has changed and so, necessarily, has nature writing. In this course we will read essays and articles by some of the most innovative science and nature writers working today. Students will also produce their own work. The class will include workshop sessions and group discussions. There will be frequent short exercises and a long final project. [ more ]

    REL 287 / ENVI 287The Dynamics of Globalization: Society, Religion and the Environment

    Last offered Spring 2010

    This course offers a theoretical reflection on the social, cultural and environmental dynamics of globalization and their consequences for the nature and place of religion. Rather than argue for or against globalization, we first examine the nature of this new configuration and its relation to (post)modernity, asking questions such as: What are the cultural and social dynamics of globalization? What are the effects on the nature of the state and the political practices that take place in the global world? What are its environmental consequences? We then shift to examining the role of religion, arguing that its renewed relevance is a function of the socio-cultural transformations that globalization brings about, particularly the loss of community and the increasing atomization of individuals. We conclude by examining some of the perspectives created by the new religious expressions that attempt to respond to this situation, from personal spiritual quests as manifested in interest in Buddhism, ecology or mountain climbing, to various forms of fundamentalism, such as Evangelicalism, the fastest growing religious movement in the Americas, and the most radical forms of Islamicism. Reading list: Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity; Castells, The Rise of the Network Society; Bauman, Globalization; Kivisto, Multiculturalism in a Global Society; Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World; Ortner, Life and Death on Mt. Everest; Matthews, Global Cultura/ Individual Identity; Shuck, Mark of the Beast; Roy, Globalized Islam. [ more ]

    ENVI 291 / REL 291 / SOC 291Religion and the American Environmental Imagination

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course examines the relationship between religious and environmental thought in modern America. Exploring a broad range of practices and beliefs, we will examine the religious (and anti-religious) roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Rather than survey the environmental teachings of organized religious groups, our focus throughout will be on ambiguous, eclectic, and fascinating traditions of "eco-spirituality" and popular "nature religion." Where do these traditions come from? What is their relationship to science, to secularism, to politics, and to the search for environmental justice? Starting with the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century, we will trace a roughly chronological line to the present, taking long detours into several modern religious trends and movements, including the revitalization and contestation of Native American religions, Wicca and neo-pagan ecofeminism, and evangelical Creation Care. Focusing on the writings of activists and radicals from a variety of religious backgrounds, our overarching question throughout the semester is one of the most critical we face in modern environmental thought: what is the relationship between spirituality and the just, sustainable society? [ more ]

    ENVI 303 / SOC 303Cultures of Climate Change

    Last offered Spring 2019

    This course asks why people think and talk about climate change in such very different ways. Climate change is a physical phenomenon that can be observed, quantified, and measured. But it is also an idea, and as such it is subject to the vagaries of cultural interpretation. Despite scientific agreement about its existence and its causes, many people do not see climate change as a serious problem, or as a problem at all. Many others see it as the most serious problem our species has ever faced. What are the sources of this disparity? Why can't we agree about climate change? How does something as complex and confusing as climate change become a "problem" in the first place? This course will explore a broad array of factors, from religion to race, class to colonialism. It will focus especially closely on the communication of scientific knowledge, risk perception, and environmental ethics, and it will apply a range of theories from the social sciences and humanities to a set of concrete case studies. [ more ]

    ENGL 312 / ENVI 315(S)Ecocriticism

    How does the human imagination encounter its environment? This overarching question is of particular importance now, as the humanities struggle to address the ecological crises of our time. We¿ll read selections from the long tradition of environmentally-minded literary works in order to historicize concepts of nature and wilderness, as well as from more recent theoretical and creative writing that reflects an increasing awareness of climate change, toxic waste and pollution, habitat loss and species extinction, population expansion, and other forms of environmental catastrophe. Finally, we will explore via our own writing the ethical and aesthetic imperative to find ways of imagining this ever-changing relation between the imagination and the environment. [ more ]

    LATS 312 / AMST 312 / ENVI 313Chicago

    Last offered Spring 2018

    "The city of big shoulders has plenty of room for diversity," reads the official visitor's website for the City of Chicago. Focusing on this claim, this course asks students to think critically about what kind room has been made for diversity--social, spatial, and ideological. Additionally we examine the ways in which diverse social actors have shouldered their way into the imagined and physical landscape of the city. Working with ethnography, history, literature, critical essays, and popular culture, we will explore the material and discursive constructions of Chi-Town and urban life among its residents. Appreciating these constructions we also consider how Chicago has served as a key site for understandings of urbanity within a broader national and global context. [ more ]

    SOC 315Culture, Consumption and Modernity

    Last offered Fall 2017

    How do lifestyles, fashions and trends appear and evolve? Are we authors of our own taste? What structures our choices of goods and activities? What is it that gives meaning to objects and makes them desirable? Are there non-consumer societies in the modern world? How has globalization changed the ways people consume in different parts of the globe? This course will explore consumption and consumer practices as products of modernity and will analyze the political, cultural and social agendas that have transformed consumption over time. Politics of consumption (the way in which seemingly free and independent consumption choices aggregate into the existing system of global capitalism) will be treated alongside its symbolic element: the role of consumer practices in creating and articulating identities, building relationships and creating solidarities. We will look at fashion, advertising, arts and shopping in places as varied as nineteenth-century France, socialist Russia, and in contemporary United States, tracing both the mechanisms that structure patterns of consumption, and the consequences that these patterns have for the larger social order. [ more ]

    LATS 318 / AMST 318 / ENVI 318 / REL 318 / COMP 328California: Myths, Peoples, Places

    Last offered Fall 2016

    Crosslisting Between Paradise and Hell, between environmental disaster and agricultural wonderland, between Reagan and Berkeley, between a land of all nations and a land of multiracial enmity, a diversity of myths have been inscribed onto and pursued within the space we call California. How did certain narratives of California come to be, who has imagined California in certain ways, and why? What is the relationship between certain myths, the peoples who have imagined them, and the other peoples who have shared California dreams? In this course, we will examine some of the myths that surround California by looking at a few specific moments of interaction between the peoples who have come to make California home and the specific places in which they have interacted with each other. Of special interest will be imaginations of the Spanish missions, the Gold Rush, agricultural California, wilderness California, California as "sprawling multicultural dystopia," and California as "west of the west." [ more ]

    ANTH 322 / ENVI 322 / GBST 322Trash

    Last offered Fall 2017

    What is waste? What is filth? Why do titles or categories of sanitation workers--"garbage man," for instance--bear such charged social and sometimes moral significance in many societies? In this seminar we will critically examine the production of waste and its role in the production of value, meaning, hierarchy, and the environment. Readings will be of three types. First we will consider theoretical inquiries into the relations between filth and culture. Second, we will examine studies of the political and environmental consequences of systems of waste management historically and in the present, with a focus on South Asia and the United States. Third, we will read ethnographies of sanitation labor and social hierarchy with the same regional focus - work on Dhaka and Delhi, Chicago and New York. There is also a fieldwork component to this class. In groups, students will conduct ethnographic micro-studies of elements of the systems of waste production and management in Berkshire County (e.g., cafeterias, retail outlets, homes, dorms, recycling facilities, sewage treatment plants). Students will post field notes to a class blog, and each group will present its findings in the form of a short film, multimedia presentation, or paper. [ more ]

    ARTS 329(F)Architectural Design II

    A continuation and expansion of ideas and skills learned in Architectural Design I. There will be four to six design projects requiring drawings and models, each of which will emphasize particular aspects of architectural theory and design. One project will be built full-scale by the students in the class. [ more ]

    ENGL 331(F)Romantic Culture

    The Romantic period--1780 to 1830, roughly--is one of the great watershed moments in western culture. Romantic writers obsessed over the same things we do: the profit and power resident in human interactions with the natural world, for instance, or the spiritual significance of our inner lives, or the terrors and exhilaration of political and social activism. Romantic writing is durably relevant and, frequently, durably and interestingly weird. We will read a lot of poetry, and paintings and other examples of Romantic expressive culture will comprise a significant part of the course materials. [ more ]

    PSCI 331Knowledge and Politics

    Last offered Spring 2014

    Is there a form of knowledge proper to politics? What are the risks and promise of turning to the sciences to supply or guarantee that knowledge (as we do, in different ways, when we call the study of politics "Political Science" or when we call for "science-based policies")? In this class, we will engage several recent works at the intersection of political theory and science studies that reopen the question of science's proper relationship to politics. These works challenge critical theory's traditional assumption that scientific knowledge is, at best, impotent and, at worst, imperious in the context of politics. Yet in defining a more productive role for the sciences in politics, they do not take for granted that science is what its traditional advocates often took it to be: objective, dispassionate... in short, a-political. Works we will consider may include William Connolly's Neuropolitics, Isabelle Stengers The Invention of Modern Science, Karen Barad's Meeting the Universe Halfway, Bruno Latour's Politics of Nature, Mark Brown's Science in Democracy, and Joseph Rouse's Knowledge and Power. [ more ]

    PSYC 346 / ENVI 346(S)Environmental Psychology

    This is a course in social psychology as it pertains to the natural environment. We will consider how the environment influences aspects of human psychology (e.g., the psychological implications of humans' disconnect with nature), as well as how human psychology influences the environment (e.g., why some people engage in environmentally destructive behaviors despite holding proenvironmental attitudes). At the core of this course is an attempt to examine various ways in which research and theory in social psychology can contribute insights to understanding (and encouraging) environmentally responsible behavior and sustainable practices, both here at Williams and globally. Because human choice and behavior play such an important role in environmental problems, a consideration of human psychology may therefore be an important part of the solution. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ENVI 348(S)Telling Stories about Climate Change: Cultures of the Anthropocene

    This environmental humanities seminar begins with the premise that our present climate crisis is a political project of globalization that simultaneously involves political economic and cultural processes. Causes and consequences of climate change can only be understood by examining the historical trajectories of carbon-based economic, political, and cultural systems in the 19th and 20th centuries. We trace the intellectual genealogy of modern climate science, literary engagements with the natural world, and discuss the politics of indigenous knowledge as related to extractivism. We pay particular attention to the narrative strategies that scientists and policymakers use to talk about climate, and we develop creative critiques of the dominant discourses. We use historical and cultural analysis to study social movement strategy and tactics among advocates for climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. We conclude with fiction and creative responses to climate crisis. How might history inform social movements for climate resilience? How can the arts, theater, and cultural production promote climate action? [ more ]

    MAST 352 / HIST 352(F, S)American Maritime History

    This course surveys American maritime history from the colonial era to the 21st century. We will consider the dynamic relationship between the sea and American life, and the broad influence that each has had on the other. Special emphasis will be placed on how diverse peoples shaped and experienced America's maritime past. We will sample from different fields of historical inquiry including labor, environmental, cultural, political, technological, and energy history in order to gain a deeper understanding of America's maritime heritage. [ more ]

    SOC 368 / ENVI 368Technology and Modern Society

    Last offered Fall 2017

    With widespread use of new social media, controversial developments in such bio-technical practices as the cloning of mammals, rapid advances in various forms of telecommunication, and the increasing sophistication of technological weaponry in the military, the triumph of technology remains a defining feature of modern life. For the most part, modern humans remain unflinchingly confident in the possibilities technology holds for continuing to improve the human condition. Indisputably, technology has benefited human life in innumerable ways. However, as with other features of modernity, technology has also had significant, albeit largely unanticipated, social consequences. Working within a sociological paradigm, this course will focus on the less often examined latent functions of technology in modern society. It will consider, for example, the social effects of technology on community life, on privacy, and on how people learn, think, understand the world, communicate, and organize themselves. The course will also examine the effects of technology on medicine, education, criminal law, and agriculture and will consider such counter-cultural reactions to technology as the Luddite movement in early nineteenth century England, Amish agrarian practices, and the CSA (community supported agriculture) movement. [ more ]

    ENGL 378 / ENVI 378(F)Nature/Writing

    What do we mean by "nature"? How do we understand the relationships between "nature" and "culture"? In this course we will examine how various American writers have attempted to render conceptions of "nature" in literary form. We will compare treatments of various kinds of natural environments and trace the philosophical and stylistic traditions within the nature writing genre. The authors to be considered include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Faulkner, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Ursula LeGuin, and Wendell Berry. [ more ]

    LATS 408 / AMST 408Envisioning Urban Life: Objects, Subjects, and Everyday People

    Last offered Fall 2018

    What is the relationship between real life in urban communities and the multiple ways in which they are imagined? What does it mean to be "urban," to live in an "urban community," or to be the product of an "urban environment"? Who do we think the people are who populate these spaces? This course takes a critical look at specific populations, periods, and problems that have come to dominate and characterize our conceptions of the quality, form, and function of U.S. urban life. A few of the topics we may cover include historical accounts of the varied ways in which poverty and "urban culture" have been studied; race, class, and housing; the spatial practices of urban youth and the urban elderly; and gendered perspectives on social mobility and community activism. Finally, this course will explore how diverse social actors negotiate responses to their socio-spatial and economic circumstances, and, in the process, help envision and create different dimensions of the urban experience. [ more ]

  • ECON 213 / ENVI 213(S)Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

    We'll use economics to learn why we harm the environment and overuse natural resources, and what we can do about it. We'll talk about whether and how we can put a dollar value on nature and ecosystem services. We'll study cost benefit analysis, pollution in general, climate change, natural resources (like fisheries, forests, and fossil fuels), and energy. We will take an economic approach to global sustainability, and study the relationship between the environment and economic growth and trade. [ more ]

    ECON 214 T / ENVI 212 / POEC 214(S)The Economics and Ethics of CO2 Offsets

    Some electric utilities and other CO2 emission polluters are allowed to purchase carbon offsets to achieve a portion of their mandated emissions cuts, in effect, to pay others to reduce carbon emissions in their stead. Some individuals, college and universities, and for-profit and non-profit institutions have chosen voluntarily to purchase carbon offsets as a way of reducing their carbon footprint. But do offsets actually succeed in reducing carbon emissions? What separates a legitimate offset from one that is not? How should we measure the true impact of an offset? How do carbon offsets compare to other policies for reducing carbon emissions in terms of efficiency, equity, and justice? Is there something inherently wrong about "commodifying" the atmosphere? Is there something inherently wrong about selling or buying the right to pollute? Should colleges and universities be using the purchase of offsets to achieve "carbon neutrality?" [ more ]

    PSCI 229Global Political Economy

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Thirty years ago the production, distribution, consumption and accumulation of goods, services and capital were predominantly national, organized by nation-states and within national territories. Today they all are increasingly global in scope, and nation-states find themselves more and more the subjects than the masters of mobile transnational corporations, international trade tribunals, global currency markets and natural resources cartels. All of these developments have direct and far-reaching effects on the power of states, the wealth of societies, and the life chances of billions of people around the world. This course offers a broad introduction to contemporary global capitalism, emphasizing the inherent and inseparable intertwining of politics and economics, power and wealth, the state and the market. The core of the course is made up of a broad analysis of global trade, global finance, development, and migration, with special attention to subjects such as free trade, foreign aid, industrial policy, currency wars, and refugee crises. We conclude the course with a close look at current global financial instabilities and the implications for the future of global capitalism. [ more ]

    ECON 238 / ENVI 238(F)Sustainable Economic Growth

    Is it possible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet? This question has sparked a great deal of inquiry across the social sciences. Some argue that we need to slow or even end economic growth to prevent environmental catastrophe. Others argue that market forces, especially changing prices and improved technology, will ensure that growth can continue unabated without significant negative consequences. Still others argue that government intervention is necessary to limit negative consequences of economic progress, but that effective interventions are still compatible with sustained economic growth. In this class, we will explore the insights that economics has to offer on this important question. We will start by considering the importance of finite inputs used in production, including fossil fuels, minerals, land, water and food, among others. Then, we will consider whether undesirable byproducts of economic growth will prevent sustained growth. This second part of class will place a lot of emphasis on climate change, but we will also discuss other forms of environmental degradation. Throughout the class, we will pay special attention to the role that government intervention can or cannot play in promoting sustainable economic growth. This class will reinforce core economic concepts taught in introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics. [ more ]

    ENVI 244 T / PHIL 244(S)Environmental Ethics

    What ethical standards should guide our individual and societal choices when those choices affect current and future environmental conditions? This course will introduce students to fundamental concepts, methods, and issues in environmental ethics. Initial tutorial meetings will focus on theoretical materials that will background later discussions and will include classic readings from the environmental ethics literature (e.g., Leopold, Taylor, Rolston). Subsequent sessions will pair readings about key concepts with specific cases that raise complex ethical issues, including the concept of moral standing and, e.g., people who do not yet exist, non-human individuals, species, and complex living systems; the concept of moral responsibility and complicity in environmentally damaging practices; the legitimacy of cost-benefit analysis as an environmental policy tool; and the valuation of human lives. [ more ]

    ENVI 248 T(F)"Our Response Will Define Our Future": Climate Change Policy Analysis

    In 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared: climate change is "the defining issue of our age. It is defining our present. Our response will define our future." In this tutorial, we will examine a broad range of proposed, and currently implemented, policy responses to this grand challenge. We will employ policy analysis to evaluate these strategies' effectiveness and viability. This tutorial will consider approaches at varied scales (ranging from university campuses to coordinated global action) and addressing different sectors (including transportation, energy generation, and food production). [ more ]

    ENVI 249(S)Food, Agriculture, and Globalization

    This course examines the history and current politics of the international political economy of food with a particular focus on how agriculture and food provisioning have been transformed through imperialism and globalization. We will pay particular attention to the interactions of corporations, nation-states, multilateral international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and social movements in the formation of a globalized food system. Topics include the historical antecedents of our present system, plantation agriculture, the influences of war and settler colonialism on global food production, Cold War transformations in the international food system, the origins of sustainable development discourse, international anti-hunger programs, free trade and fair trade schemes, labor migration, the antiglobalization and local food movements, and transnational food businesses. We will pay particular attention to theories about how producers and consumers are connected to one other through the political economy of food. The reading assignments are drawn from the fields of environmental and food history-there is a definite historical bent to this course-and we will also read works from political scientists, international relations scholars, geographers, anthropologists, and activists. The written assignments will be a series of policy briefs on topics you design in consultation with me. You will also be responsible for two oral presentations during the semester, related to the policy briefs. [ more ]

    ENVI 270Environmental Problems: Social Causes, Consequences, and Policy Solutions

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course will provide an overview of the social causes and consequences of environmental problems, especially within the US context. Special attention will be paid to the variety of actors that shape environmental outcomes, including legislators, administrators, the science community, civil society and the private sector. We will examine different proposed solutions to environmental problems and models of environmental policy-making, including at the local, state and federal level. This course will focus on several case studies, including air and water pollution, agricultural runoff, climate change and endangered species protection. [ more ]

    PSCI 273 / ENVI 273 / STS 273(F)Politics without Humans?

    Are human beings the only beings who belong in politics? And is political involvement a unique or defining aspect of what it means to be human? Such questions are increasingly complex as the boundaries of "the human" become blurred by the rise of artificial intelligence, robotics, and brain implants: shifting attitudes towards both animal and human bodies; and the automation of economic and military decisions (buy! sell! attack! retreat!) that used to be the prerogative of human actors. How do visions of politics without humans and humans without politics impact our thinking about longstanding questions of freedom, power, and right? Can and should the link between humans and politics survive in an age in which "posthuman" or "transhuman" entities become central characters in the drama of politics? This class will consider these questions through readings, films and artifacts that bring political theory into conversation with science fiction, popular literature on the so-called "singularity" (the merger of humans with computers), science and technology studies, evolutionary anthropology, "new materialist" philosophy, and feminist theory. [ more ]

    ENVI 283 / PSCI 283Dirty Politics: Regulating Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Since consumers were first introduced to the promise of "better living through chemistry," society has had to wrestle with the impacts, often far removed in place and time, resulting from a rapid proliferation of hazardous chemicals and wastes. Policy responses, be they at the local, national or global scale, are often limited to reactionary efforts to counter releases into the environment, are constrained by the prevalent use of the technologies in question, and further bring to the fore key challenges of environmental justice and risk management. How then are we to regulate DDT without adversely affecting our fight against mosquito-borne malaria? How might we preserve the ozone layer while still maintaining the benefits of food preservation through refrigeration? How can we reap the benefits of the electronic age without condoning the steady flow of electronic waste affecting workers' health and environments in developing countries? Emphasis will be placed on understanding the politics that bring about, and allow us to address, these problems.We will be examining in particular novel policy responses, including the US' revised legislation on chemicals passed in 2016 and citizen science initiatives such as those that brought attention to the crisis of lead-contaminated water in Flint, MI. [ more ]

    ENVI 307 / PSCI 317(F)Environmental Law

    We rely on environmental laws to make human communities healthier and protect the natural world, while allowing for sustainable economic growth. Yet, despite 40 years of increasingly varied and complex legislation, balancing human needs and environmental quality has never been harder than it is today. Environmental Studies 307 analyzes the transformation of environmental law from fringe enterprise to fundamental feature of modern political, economic and social life. ENVI 307 also addresses the role of community activism in environmental law, from local battles over proposed industrial facilities to national campaigns for improved corporate citizenship. By the completion of the semester, students will understand both the successes and failures of modern environmental law and how these laws are being reinvented, through innovations like pollution credit trading and "green product" certification, to confront globalization, climate change and other emerging threats. [ more ]

    ENVI 308Science and Politics in Environmental Decision Making

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course explores the relationship between science and politics in environmental decision-making. How do legislators know when a species is endangered and warrants protection? What precautions should be applied in allowing genetically modified foods onto our plates? Can we, and should we, weigh the risks of malaria against the impacts of pesticides used to control those mosquitoes that transmit the disease? How has the global community come together to understand the risks from global climate change, and how has this understanding shaped our policy responses? What are some of the limits of science in shaping policy outcomes? In addressing these and other questions, we will pay particular attention to how power relations and existing institutions shape what knowledge, and whose knowledge, is taken on board in decision-making, be it at the local, national or global level. We will delve into how these dynamics shape policy outcomes and we will also examine novel approaches for incorporating the knowledge of traditionally disempowered groups, including indigenous and local communities. [ more ]

    ENVI 328 / PSCI 328Global Environmental Politics

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This seminar draws on the last five decades of international efforts to regulate the environmental commons. The process of negotiating and implementing international environmental treaties will be a core focus of the course, yet emphasis will also be placed on emerging non-state means of addressing global environmental challenges. A variety of challenges faced in global environmental policymaking (compliance, participation by civil society and industry, incorporation of science, efficiency.) will be examined through the study of several international regimes, including on climate change, endangered species, biodiversity, biosafety and mercury pollution. [ more ]

    ENVI 329Our Planet's Plastic Plight

    Last offered Spring 2019

    #stopsucking, #gotopless, #foodinthenude: these rallying calls to #rethinkplastic and ban plastic straws, coffee cups, and excessive food packaging are just the latest consumer-driven campaigns to combat the scourge of plastic proliferation. Indeed, over the past century, plastic has become ubiquitous in our societies. Durability, affordability and versatility, the very characteristics that explain this success, have heightened the pollution challenge we face today. Yet, we also rely on plastic for a variety of life-saving devices and implements. In this course, we will examine the chemistry and history of plastic and understand how its uses have impacted diverse systems including our oceans. As we undertake this semester-long lifecycle analysis of plastic in our daily lives, we will explore how additives, often toxic, complicate efforts to recycle plastic goods. We will also study international flows of this material, notably following China's decision in 2017 to constrain its imports of plastics for recycling. Finally, we will evaluate novel efforts to regulate plastic from the local to the global scale. [ more ]

    ENGL 331(F)Romantic Culture

    The Romantic period--1780 to 1830, roughly--is one of the great watershed moments in western culture. Romantic writers obsessed over the same things we do: the profit and power resident in human interactions with the natural world, for instance, or the spiritual significance of our inner lives, or the terrors and exhilaration of political and social activism. Romantic writing is durably relevant and, frequently, durably and interestingly weird. We will read a lot of poetry, and paintings and other examples of Romantic expressive culture will comprise a significant part of the course materials. [ more ]

    MAST 351 / PSCI 319 / ENVI 351(F, S)Marine Policy

    This seminar utilizes the interdisciplinary background of the other Williams-Mystic courses to examine national and international contemporary issues in our relationship with our ocean and marine environment. This seminar takes a topical approach to the study of ocean and coastal law and policy, examining climate change, fisheries, coastal zone management, admiralty law, marine biodiversity, ocean and coastal pollution, and ocean governance. [ more ]

    ECON 386 / ENVI 386 / ECON 518Environmental and Natural Resource Policy

    Last offered Spring 2016

    Economic activity often damages the environment significantly, especially in developing countries. Firms may clear-cut valuable forests, while consumers may drive high-pollution vehicles with little thought for the environmental consequences. Economists have proposed a variety of policy remedies, from pollution taxes to tradable permit schemes and restrictions on the quantity of pollution. This course first examines the relative merits of these policies from a theoretical perspective. When pollution damage is uncertain, is it better to use a pollution tax or a quantity restriction? Is it worse to set a pollution tax too high than to set it too low? It then proceeds to the practical issues that attend policy implementation, particularly where state capacity is limited. What is the best policy when inspectors can be threatened or bribed? When resource extraction is hard to monitor? Case studies will likely include policies aimed at deforestation, mineral ownership and extraction, particulate air pollution from industry and transportation, and carbon emissions from electricity generation. In evaluating policies we will think about both efficiency and the distribution of costs and benefits. (What if environmental regulation only benefits the wealthiest people in a country?) We will also examine the environmental consequences of policies aimed at other problems, like poverty and low education. [ more ]

    ECON 387 / ENVI 387 / ECON 522Economics of Climate Change

    Last offered Spring 2017

    This course introduces the economic view of climate change, including both theory and empirical evidence. Given the substantial changes implied by the current stock of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, we will begin by looking at impacts on agriculture, health, income, and migration in both poor and wealthy countries. Next we will study adaptation, including capital investments and behavioral changes. We will examine the sources of climate change, especially electricity generation and transportation, and think about optimal policies. What is the socially optimal amount of climate change? Why have countries had such a hard time agreeing on GHG emissions reductions, and how might we overcome such difficulties? We will consider the growing body of evidence from attempts to regulate GHGs, including China's pilot cap-and-trade programs, the EU ETS, and the US Clean Power Plan. We will pay particular attention to the political economy of regulation and ways in which policy results have departed from theoretical predictions. Throughout the course we will discuss the limits of the economic approach to climate change, pointing out questions on which economic theory provides little guidance. [ more ]

    ECON 465Pollution and the Labor Market

    Last offered Spring 2018

    If your home town has polluted air, does that reduce your wage? Do you work less? Are you less likely to finish high school? These are specific versions of an important general question: how does pollution affect labor market outcomes? The answer matters for individual decisions (where to live) and government policies (air pollution regulations). This seminar begins from theories of optimizing worker behavior in the presence of pollution. Building on this foundation, we will critically evaluate new empirical research into the impacts of pollution on human capital, labor supply, and productivity. We will also study the impact of pollution regulations on wages and employment. Included papers will cover both developed and developing countries. [ more ]