12 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 intended to avert what some claim is an impending catastrophe.
Limited to 75 students. Spring semester. Professors Dizard and Martini.
Offered as History 26 [C] and Environmental Studies 20.) 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.
(Offered as Biology 23 and Environmental Studies 21.) 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 ecosytems, and the effects of humans and other organisms on population, community, and global stability. Three hours of lecture per week.
Requisite: Biology 18 or Environmental Studies 12 or permission from the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Temeles.
23 Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications
(Offered as Environmental Studies 23 and Economics 11, section 3.) A study of the central problem of scarcity and the ways in which the U. S. economic system allocates scarce resources among competing ends and apportions the goods produced among people. We will apply core economic concepts to major environmental/natural resource policy topics such as global climate change, local air and water pollution, over-harvesting of renewable resources, habitat loss, and solid waste management.
Students who have already taken Economics 11 can satisfy the Environmental Studies requirement by taking Economics 25.
Limited to 25 Amherst College students. Fall semester. Professor Sims.
(Offered as Mathematics 17 and Environmental Studies 24.) 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, non-parametric alternatives to standard hypothesis tests of the mean, the chi-square test, simple linear regression, and a brief introduction to analysis of variance (ANOVA). In a semester when two sections of Math 17 are offered, Section 02 is recommended for students interested in Environmental Studies. Two class hours plus two hours of laboratory per week.
Each section limited to 20 students. Fall and spring semesters. Professors Liao and Wagaman.
Invasive species are the leading cause of extinction, accounting for 39% of known species extinctions on Earth. A recent report noted that invasive species in the United States cause major environmental damage and losses adding up to more than $138 billion per year. There are approximately 50,000 non-native species in the USA, and the number is increasing. But what, exactly, are invasive species, and why do they pose such tremendous problems for the conservation of biodiversity and the nations’ economies? In this course, we will explore the biological, economic, political, and social impacts of invasive species. We will start by examining the life history characteristics of invasive species which make them likely to become pests, and the features of habitats which make them most susceptible to invasion. We will then consider the consequences of invasive species for loss of native biodiversity and the disruption of ecosystem processes, as well as their global environmental and political impacts. Lastly, we will address the tougher issues of what can be done to halt or eradicate invasive species once they have become established, and how to identify and prevent the introduction of potential pest species.
Requisite: ENST 12, Biology 23, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 14 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Temeles.
2017-18: Not offered Other years: Offered in Fall 2008
52 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: Environmental Studies 12 or 21 or Biology 23 or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. Spring semester. Professor Temeles.
2017-18: Not offered Other years: Offered in Spring 2010
53 Race, Gender and Class in U.S. Environmentalism
Since 1997, a global scientific and political consensus has developed on the reality of global climate destabilization (aka "global warming") and the urgency of action at many scales of political, geographical and economic organization. In 2008 and 2009, social justice and environmental justice advocates and organizers have combined the urgency of fundamentally changing production and extraction systems with the need to right historic and contemporary inequities, which they have called "climate justice" and "the just transition." Their actions challenge the dominant stereotype held by working class and people of color communities that environmentalism is a movement composed of middle-class, educated elites. In this course we will examine the many trends of thought and action that have formed U.S. environmental movements, focusing on the period from the 1960s and 1970s to the present. We will examine how race, class, gender and other aspects of social positionality have affected, and continue to affect, different groups' ideas--and practices--of issue selection, political action, and solutions to environmental and human rights struggles.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Copeland Fellow Wu.
2017-18: Not offered Other years: Offered in Spring 2010
70 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 Miller and Sims.