Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid


Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements


Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses


Environmental Studies

Professors Clotfelter†, López, Martini, Moore, and Temeles (Chair); Associate Professors Melillo, Miller; Assistant Professor Sims; Pick Visiting Assistant Professor Stewart; Lecturer R. Levin.

†On leave spring semester 2015-16.

For many thousands of years, our ancestors were more shaped by than they were shapers of the environment.  This began to change, first with hunting and then, roughly ten thousand years ago, with the beginnings of agriculture. Since then, humans have had a steadily increasing impact on the natural world. Environmental Studies explores the complex interactions between humans and their environment. This exploration requires grounding in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. Hence, majors in Environmental Studies must take six core courses that collectively reflect the subject’s interdisciplinary nature. The required introductory course (ENST 120) and senior seminar (ENST 498) are taught by faculty from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and humanities. The remaining core courses include Ecology (ENST 210), Environmental History (either ENST 220 or HIST 105), Economics (ENST 230), and Statistics (ENST 240). Majors are strongly encouraged to complete the core requirements prior to their senior year.  The senior seminar, offered in the fall semester, fulfills the comprehensive requirement.

Beyond the required core courses, majors must take at least four courses from the list of electives. Elective courses must include at least one course from each of the two categories, which span different fields of environmental inquiry. The honors program in Environmental Studies is a two semester sequence. Majors electing to do honors are required to submit a thesis proposal to the Advisory Committee prior to enrolling in ENST 498. Following successful completion of ENST 498, students complete their thesis by enrolling in ENST 499. Students who wish to satisfy a core or elective requirement with a Five College course or a course taken abroad must petition the Advisory Committee in writing and submit a syllabus or description of the course for approval. Students for whom Environmental Studies is a second major can count no more than two courses toward both majors.

220 Environmental Issues of the Nineteenth Century

(See HIST 104)

228 Environmental Philosophy

(See PHIL 225)

230 An Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

(See ECON 111E)

240 Introduction to Statistics

(See STAT 111E)

260 Global Environmental Politics

Our global environment as a subject of concern has emerged in recent decades with the rise of scientific and media attention to the ways ecological issues like climate change and biodiversity loss matter in the daily lives of global citizens. But are all “global environmental citizens” equally responsible for and influenced by what are currently considered global environmental challenges?  Why is it that some forms of nature are considered global while others are resolutely local? Are international agreements and development and conservation organizations effective at addressing the problems they intend to solve, or do they create new problems that should be accounted for in our understanding of global environmental politics? In this course, we will explore these questions and others by examining various ecological crises – climate change, deforestation, fisheries management, air and water pollution, hazardous waste disposal, among others – from critical perspectives that raise questions about key political issues, including markets, states, science, power, knowledge and social movements. This course is organized into thematic case studies, through which we will examine the production and negotiation of environmental problems by diverse social actors and institutions, including: producers and consumers, members of different socio-economic groups, actors of institutions and social movements, and citizens of diverse polities.

Limited to 35 students.  Omitted 2015-16.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

310 Conservation Social Science

The nascent field known as “conservation social science” is emerging among the major conservation organizations, like the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, as they realize the need to move beyond their traditional biological foundations towards the social sciences.  Conservation landscapes and species of interest are embedded in complex, and often long-standing, human-environmental relationships that require the retooling of conservation science to better understand and address integrated challenges. This shift towards a “people are the solution” conservation framework requires knowledge about the ecological and social concerns and implications of conservation, which is a well-suited pursuit for interdisciplinary Environmental Studies scholars. This course prepares students to engage with this emerging field by understanding what conservation social science means in the history and trajectory of conservation, and what its foci and approaches should be in the coming years.  We begin the class with a historical review of the "greening" of the World Bank and the scaling up of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) during the 1980s, which brought "the environment" and the "community" together in development and conservation agendas. Moving forward, we review critical social science literatures that examine the social impact of conservation to refine meaningful ways forward for community-centered conservation endeavors.  Key themes will include: participation, traditional ecological knowledge, ecological baselines, sustainable yields and sustainability.

Requisite:  ENST 120.  Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2015-16.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

330 Environmental Justice

Environmental despoliation and degradation are unequally distributed across the disparate geographies of global north and south; urban and rural; the wealthy and poor; and in terms of production and consumption. Why do pollution and environmental degradation unevenly burden particular people and places? How do race, class, gender, expertise, and representation factor into the linkages between environmental quality and social equity? Should everyone have equal access to the same environmental quality, and whose responsibility is it to ensure this in the United States and globally? This seminar will explore these and related questions by critically examining the theories and issues of environmental justice and political ecology. Beginning with a review of the history of the U.S. environmental justice movement, we will examine the social and environmental justice dimensions of U.S. and international case studies of industrial agriculture, product manufacturing, nature conservation, urbanization, and natural disasters. The course will require students to write position papers, facilitate discussions, and produce a final case study analysis of an environmental justice issue of choice.

Requisite: ENST 120. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Pick Professor Stewart.


401 Wine, History, and the Environment

(See HIST 402)

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

495 Senior Seminar

The Senior Seminar is intended to bring together majors with different course backgrounds and to facilitate original independent student research on an environmental topic. In the early weeks of the seminar, discussion will be focused on several compelling texts (e.g., Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us) which will be considered from a variety of disciplinary perspectives by members of the Environmental Studies faculty. These discussions are intended to help students initiate an independent research project which may be expanded into an honors project in the second semester. For students not electing an honors project, the seminar will offer an opportunity to integrate what they have learned in their environmental studies courses. The substance of the seminar will vary from year to year, reflecting the interests of the faculty who will be convening and participating in the seminar.

Open to seniors. Fall semester. Professors Sims and Temeles.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

498 Senior Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, January 2021, Fall 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

499 Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Core Courses

120 The Resilient (?) Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Studies

Life has existed on Earth for nearly four billion years, shaped by massive extinction events. In the short span of the last 10,000 years, humans have become important agents in shaping global environmental change. The question this course considers is straightforward: Have humans been modifying the environment in ways that will, in the not distant future, cause another worldwide extinction event? There are no simple, much less uncontested, answers to this question. We will have to consider the ways we have altered habitats and ecosystem processes. We will also consider the economic consequences of disturbed ecosystems and assess contemporary policy responses and solutions. One lecture and one discussion section per week.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester. Pick Visiting Professor Stewart and Lecturer R. Levin.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Departmental Courses

210 Ecology

(See BIOL 230)

Departmental Seminars and Tutorials

250 Environmental Politics and Policies

Contesting values of and struggles over the control of “nature” are at the heart of environmental politics, and differently positioned political, economic, and social interest groups contend for and exert power through the U.S. environmental policy-making process.  In this course we will examine the politics of U.S. environmental policies, focusing on how local, regional, and national governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations and interest groups, and some publics (but not all) define environmental problems and actionable solutions. We will examine the relationship between science, policy and politics, and critically evaluate when and how "objective" scientific truths are mobilized for particular agendas--while not for others--and what "citizen science" means with respect to the U.S. environmental policy process.  The class will be divided into two parts: Part I will begin with key environmental writings, and move into an overview of the institutions, actors, and concepts that shape our policy process.  Part II will use a case study approach to ground our understanding of how multi-scalar interactions, plurality and uneven power relations influence how and why some issues and interests are validated in the policy process, while others are not. Case studies may include: fracking, Keystone XL pipeline, Endangered Species listings and New England cod fishery regulations.

Recommended requisite:  ENST 120.  Limited to 35 students.  Fall semester.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

320 Knowledge, Politics & the Environment

What we know and how we know about "the environment" is influenced by cultural, political, historical and social contexts.  Why are some knowledges about the environment perceived to be more accurate, objective and true than others?  How might our collective understandings of environmental change shift if multiple forms of knowledge--"western" scientific, indigenous, etc.--were mobilized in the production, dissemination and application of environmental knowledge? These questions are both academic and policy-oriented and sit at the interface of political ecology and science studies scholarship on nature/society and conservation and development practice: environmental management contestations and outcomes are shaped by what counts as valid knowledge. In this seminar we will examine how attention to the politics of knowledge potentially shifts the current formations of environmental studies and policy–in theory and practice--towards more integrated and democratized engagements with social and environmental change. This course is anchored in the field of political ecology, which is a sub-field of geography that is concerned with the complex power dynamics of knowing and making claims on "the environment."  Our readings and discussions will examine critical perspectives on nature/society boundaries; the role of "western" scientific knowledge in the politics of conservation and development; and meaningful ways to integrate "western" scientific and indigenous environmental knowledges in environmental studies.

Requisite:  ENST 120; recommended requisite:  ENST 250.  Limited to 35 students.  Spring semester.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016

425 Conservation Social Science in Practice: Methods and Realities

Building on the theoretical grounding of the Conservation Social Science course, this class will equip students with social science methods training and practice-based experience in the field of conservation social science.  This practice-driven course will facilitate student interactions and engagement with a conservation organization, preferably within the Pioneer Valley area, to hone their grounded understanding of the barriers, challenges and rewards of conservation practice.  A key goal for this course is to put into practice everything that was learned during the theory-focused fall course.  Our readings and weekly discussions will focus on social science methods training--particularly ethnographic, participatory research methods and related ethical considerations–and select conservation social science articles. Students will be responsible for a semester-long project designed to critically define, research, and analyze an important facet of the organization’s efforts to engage with the growing conservation social science agenda.

Requisites: ENST 120 and 310.  Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2015-16.  Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.

2023-24: Not offered

Related Courses

- (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-104 Food, Fiber, and Pharmaceuticals (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-181 Adaptation and the Organism (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-281 Animal Behavior with Lab (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-320 Evolutionary Biology (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-321 Evolutionary Biology With Lab (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-434 Seminar in Ecology: Plant-Animal Interactions (Course not offered this year.)BIOL-440 Seminar in Conservation Biology. (Course not offered this year.)ECON-210 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-109 Climate Change, Global Warming and Energy Resources (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-121 Surface Earth Dynamics (Course not offered this year.)GEOL-450 Seminar in Biogeochemistry (Course not offered this year.)HIST-105 Global Environmental History of the Twentieth Century (Course not offered this year.)HIST-402 Wine, History, and the Environment (Course not offered this year.)MATH-140 Mathematical Modeling (Course not offered this year.)PHYS-109 Energy (Course not offered this year.)