Environmental Studies
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Amherst College Environmental Studies for 2012-13

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. Professors Dizard and R. Levin.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

210 Ecology

(Offered as BIOL 230 and ENST 210.) A study of the relationships of plants and animals (including humans) to each other and to their environment. We'll start by considering the decisions an individual makes in its daily life concerning its use of resources, such as what to eat and where to live, and whether to defend such resources. We'll then move on to populations of individuals, and investigate species population growth, limits to population growth, and why some species are so successful as to become pests whereas others are on the road to extinction. The next level will address communities, and how interactions among populations, such as competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism, affect the organization and diversity of species within communities. The final stage of the course will focus on ecosystems, and the effects of humans and other organisms on population, community, and global stability. Three hours of lecture per week.

Requisite: BIOL 181 or ENST 120 or permission from the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Temeles.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015

220 Environmental Issues of the Nineteenth Century

(Offered as HIST 104 [C] and ENST 220.)  This course considers the ways that people in various parts of the world thought about and acted upon nature during the nineteenth century. We look historically at issues that continue to have relevance today, including: invasive species, deforestation, soil-nitrogen availability, water use, desertification, and air pollution. Themes include: the relationship of nineteenth-century colonialism and environmental degradation, gender and environmental change, the racial dimensions of ecological issues, and the spatial aspects of human interactions with nature. We will take at least one field trip. In addition, we will watch three films that approach nineteenth-century environmental issues from different vantage points.  Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2012-13.  Professor Melillo.

2014-15: Not offered

228 Ethics and the Environment

(Offered as PHIL 225 and ENST 228) As our impact on the environment shows itself in increasingly dramatic ways, our interaction with the environment has become an important topic of cultural and political debate. In this course we will discuss various philosophical issues that arise in such debates, including: What obligations, if any, do we have to future generations, to non-human animals, and to entire ecosystems? How should we act when we are uncertain exactly how our actions will affect the environment? How should we go about determining environmental policy? And how should we implement the environmental policies we decide upon? What is the most appropriate image of nature?

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Kearns.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

230 An Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

(Offered as ECON 111E and ENST 230.) A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which micro and macro economic systems allocate scarce resources among competing ends and apportion goods produced among people.  Covers the same material as Economics 111 but with special attention to the relationship between economic activity and environmental problems and to the application of micro and macroeconomic theory tools to analyze environmental issues. A student may not receive credit for both ECON 111 and ECON 111E. 

Two 80 minute and one 50 minute lecture/discussion per week.  Each section is limited to 30 Amherst College students.  Fall semester. Professor Sims.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

240 Introduction to Statistics

(Offered as MATH 130 and ENST 240.) This course is an introduction to applied statistical methods useful for the analysis of data from all fields. Brief coverage of data summary and graphical techniques will be followed by elementary probability, sampling distributions, the central limit theorem and statistical inference. Inference procedures include confidence intervals and hypothesis testing for both means and proportions, the chi-square test, simple linear regression, and a brief introduction to analysis of variance (ANOVA). Some sections of MATH 130 have an environmental theme and are recommended for students interested in Environmental Studies. In fall 2012, the environmental section will be section 02; in spring 2013, there will NOT BE an environmental section. Four class hours per week (two will be held in the computer lab).  Labs are not interchangeable between sections due to course content.

Each section limited to 20 students. Fall semester: Professors Liao and Wagaman, Visiting Professor Jeneralczuk. Spring semester: Professor Wagaman, Visiting Professor Manack and Postdoctoral Fellow Hedlin.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

375 The Poetics and Politics of Sustainable Architecture

(Offered as ENST 375 and ARCH 375.)  This course interrogates the prevalent discourse of sustainability in architectural design literature, under the premise that "sustainability" is a politically-framed and context-dependent notion.

The main issue we explore is the often sidelined disconnect between the green design discourse vis-à-vis issues of poverty, migration, and modernization. On one side of this disconnect there is a green design imaginary—based on the idea that everybody, everywhere agrees with the global environmental agenda of natural preservation, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and alternative technologies. On the other side there are four billion people in the world living below the poverty line, and as they face socio-economic pressures, their interests are often at odds with the global ideals of sustainable design and development. If the global green imaginary celebrates exuberant forests, in the local experience the forests are viewed as wood for cooking.

By looking at canonical texts on green design, and analyzing these in light of current events and social science theory, we critically study how the sustainable design discourse relates to that disconnect. Topics include green building activism and so-called barefoot architecture, naturalism in architecture, and an ethno-architectural analysis of Third World villager experiences. We also study the discourse of green design and culture, the poetics and politics of intermediate technology, and lastly, issues of "green colonialism" and the commodification of the sustainability discourse.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Five College Visiting Professor Arboleda.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013

401 Wine, History and the Environment

(Offered as HIST 402 [c] and ENST 401.) Wine is as old as Western civilization. Its consumption is deeply wedded to leading religious and secular traditions around the world. Its production has transformed landscapes, ecosystems, and economies. In this course we examine how wine has shaped the history of Europe, North Africa, and the Americas. Through readings, scientific study, historical research, and class discussion, students will learn about such issues as: the environmental impact of wine; the politics of taste and class; the organization of labor; the impact of imperialism and global trade; the late nineteenth-century phylloxera outbreak that almost destroyed the European wine industry; and the emergence of claims about terroir (the notion that each wine, like each culture, is uniquely tied to a place) and how such claims are tied to regional and national identity. Through class discussion, focused research and writing workshops, and close mentoring, each student will learn about wine while designing and executing an independent research project. We will also get our hands dirty with soil sampling, learn the basics of sediment analysis in the laboratory, and have a go at fermentation. Two meetings per week.

This is a research seminar open to juniors and seniors. Priority given to history and environmental studies majors. History majors may take this course either as a research seminar or in place of HIST 301 “Writing the Past.”

Fall semester.  Limited to 15 students.  Professor Hunt.  Spring semester.  Limited to 20 students. Professors López and Martini.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

420 Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture and Human Populations.

The current world human population numbers 6.7 billion people, and the United Nations estimates that 9 billion people will live on Earth in the year 2050.  Will there be enough food for this many people, and can we sustain our current lifestyle and agricultural practices in the future?  These are among the questions asked in this course, which will address the biological, social, economic, and political aspects of agriculture and human population growth.  Other questions to be addressed are:  How have humans managed to sustain their current rate of population growth?  What is the Green revolution?  What are the environmental impacts of current agricultural practices?  Can we feed the growing world population without destroying our environment, and if so, how?  Is genetic engineering of crops a solution to world hunger? 

Requisite: ENST 120 or 210 or BIOL 230 or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Temeles. 

2014-15: Not offered

430 Seminar on Fisheries

The dependence of many countries on marine organisms for food has resulted in severe population declines in cod, bluefin tuna, swordfish, and abalone, as well as numerous other marine organisms.  In this seminar we will examine the biological, sociological, political, and economic impacts of the global depletion of fisheries.  Questions addressed will include: What is the scope of extinctions or potential extinctions due to over-harvesting?  How have overfished species responded to harvest pressures?  How are fisheries managed, and are some approaches to harvesting better than others?  How do fisheries extinctions affect the societies and economies of various countries and marine ecosystems? How do cultural traditions of fishermen influence attempts to manage fisheries? Does acquaculture offer a sustainable alternative to overfishing? What is acquaculture’s impact on marine ecology?  Three class hours per week.

Requisites: ENST 120 or BIOL 230/ENST 210 or consent of instructors. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professors Temeles and Dizard.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2013

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

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 Temeles and Moore.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015

498 Senior Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015

499 Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

2014-15: Offered in Spring 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

Related Courses

BIOL-281 Animal Behavior (Course not offered this year.)
BIOL-440 Seminar in Conservation Biology. (Course not offered this year.)
CHEM-108 Chemistry and the Environment (Course not offered this year.)
CHEM-381 Atmospheric Chemistry (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-411 Commodities, Nature and Society (Course not offered this year.)
LJST-235 Law's Nature: Humans, the Environment and the Predicament of Law (Course not offered this year.)
PSYC-246 Environmental Psychology (Course not offered this year.)
SOCI-340 The Social Construction of Nature (Course not offered this year.)