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Amherst College Environmental Studies for 2016-17

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. Lecturer R. Levin.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

160 The Politics of Food

Food is a site of politics.  Eating is a social and political practice with repercussions for the relationships between people and between humans and the natural environment.  What we choose to eat, how we produce, process, market, sell, buy, consume, and discard food all involve political choices.  The formal politics of government regulation and legislation affect food in many ways.  Food policy and regulation shapes what we understand as food and how we engage with it.  But the politics of food extends beyond the formal institutions of the state to the spheres of everyday politics, ethics, and economics.  People, animals, and environments here in the U.S. and all over the world are affected by the food choices that we as American consumers make.  What are the consequences of these choices?  This course focuses our attention on our (often taken for granted) food practices and their political effects for the beings and ecosystems with whom we share the planet.  We will explore the politics of food through its life cycle—growing, selling, buying, eating, and discarding—as well as the politics of food legislation and regulation, global food politics, and food movements.  We will examine these issues through the lenses of ethics, economics, environment, and social justice, approaching our food practices with a critical eye. 

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Hejny.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017

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 equivalent. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Temeles.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017

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 2016-17.  Professor Melillo.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

228 Environmental Philosophy

(Offered as PHIL 225 and ENST 228.)  Our impact on the environment has been significant, and in recent decades the pace of change has clearly accelerated. Many species face extinction, forests are disappearing, and toxic wastes and emissions accumulate. The prospect of a general environmental calamity seems all too real.

This sense of crisis has spurred intense and wide-ranging debate over what our proper relationship to nature should be. This is the focus of the course. Among the questions we shall explore will be: What obligations, if any, do we have to non-human animals, to living organisms like trees, to ecosystems as a whole, and to future generations of humans? Do animals have rights we ought to respect? Is nature intrinsically valuable or merely a bundle of utilities for our benefit? Is there even a stable notion of “what is natural” that can be deployed in a workable environmental ethic? Do our answers to these questions result in some way from a culturally contingent “image” we have of nature and our place within it? How might we best go about changing the ways we inhabit the planet?

 Limited to 25 students.  Priority will be given first to declared Philosophy and Environmental Studies majors. Next priority will be given to students with previous experience in one of these areas.  Omitted 2016-17.  Professor Moore.

2016-17: 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 ECON 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. 

Requisite: Consent of instructor.  Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week.  Limited to 25 Amherst College students.  Fall semester. Professor Sims.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017

240 Introduction to Statistics

(Offered as STAT 111E and ENST 240.) Introduction to Statistics provides a basic foundation in descriptive and inferential statistics, including constructing models from data.  Students will learn to think critically about data, produce meaningful graphical and numerical summaries of data, apply basic probability models, and utilize statistical inference procedures using computational tools.  Topics include basic descriptive and inferential statistics, visualization, study design, and multiple regression.  Students who are majoring in mathematics should take STAT 135/MATH 135 instead of this course. ENST majors are strongly encouraged to take this version of the course, but it is open to all students. Four class hours per week (two will be held in the computer lab).  Labs are not interchangeable between sections due to course content.

Limited to 24 students. Spring semester. Professor Wagaman.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017

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.  Omitted 2016-17. 

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2015

252 U. S. Environmental Policy

Why hasn’t Congress passed any major environmental laws since 1990? Why are Republicans and Democrats so far apart on environmental issues? What power does the president have to influence environmental policy? Why are environmentalists constantly suing the government? Where is environmental policy being made if not in Congress? What has Obama done for the environment?  These are some major questions that we will explore in this course.  This course provides a comprehensive introduction to U.S. environmental policy from a historical perspective.  After reviewing the political and institutional context of environmental policy-making in the U.S., we examine the development of federal environmental policy beginning with the rise of the environmental movement and the “golden era” legislation of the 1960s and 1970s.  We then turn to critiques of the command and control model of environmental regulation, the rise of conservatism and its effects on environmental policy-making, and the pushes for cost-benefit analysis and market-based mechanisms in environmental policy.  Since the early 1990s Congress has produced very little environmental policy, but environmental policy is being made in other venues.  We examine the executive branch, the courts, states, and local collaborative governance as alternative sites of environmental policy-making.  Over the course of the term, we will ask how and why these approaches to policymaking have changed over time, we will examine how politics affect environmental policy-making, and we will compare policy-making models and venues to determine which approaches allow the government to make policy most effectively and democratically.

Requisite: ENST 120 or permission of instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Hejny.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017

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 2016-17. 

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015

310 Conservation Social Science

 “Conservation social science” refers to an emergent field of practice and scholarship that is working to expand conservation science beyond its traditional biological moorings towards the social sciences.  This shift in conservation is triggered by the realization that conservation practice must diversify its approach in order to secure financial backing and produce better conservation outcomes. As the lead social scientist at the World Wildlife Fund has framed it, there is a need to enact a form of conservation where “people are the solution” as opposed to just the problem. The efforts to ‘retool’ conservation have fomented great debate within the conservation community, generating fundamental questions and disagreements about what conservation is for, what the metrics of success should be, and fundamentally how conservation science should proceed.  This class will examine what conservation social science is and what it ought to be.  By examining the foundations of conservation, the current debates, and the social dimensions of conservation, this course will examine the following questions: what are the tenets, goals and metrics of success in conservation?  How has conservation practice changed over the years?  What era of conservation are we currently in and what debates are ongoing at this time?  How might the social engagements of conservation be changed or improved moving forward?Requisite: ENST 120, or permission of the instructor.  Limited to 24 students. Omitted 2016-17.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2015

320 Knowledge, Politics and 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. Omitted 2016-17.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016

330 Environmental Justice

Environmental harms are not distributed equally across either U.S. or global populations.  In the United States, low income communities and communities of color suffer disproportionately from environmental harms.  Globally, developing countries shoulder many environmental burdens while the benefits of environmentally destructive production often flow to developed nations.  What are the reasons for this?  How can we address environmental injustice and environmental racism?  What theoretical approaches can help us understand and conceptualize environmental justice?  How have communities engaged politically in the fight for environmental justice?  What does environmental justice look like in practice?  This course will explore these questions.  We begin the course with a look at two cases—in Louisiana and North Carolina—that spawned the environmental justice movement.  To gain analytical purchase on these and other cases, we discuss theoretical approaches to environmental justice from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including economic, social movement, legal, policy, and philosophical.  The next three substantive sections of the course focus on different themes.  In the first section, we look at the role of environmental justice in urban planning, and examine issues of space, place, and local knowledge.  The next section focuses on the relationship between gender, environmental justice, and sustainable development.  Here we look at empirical cases of protests against mountain top removal, women’s empowerment through tree planting, and dam construction in India.  We then focus on three recent cases of environmental injustice in the U.S. that revolve around water—Hurricane Katrina, Flint, and Standing Rock.  We close the course with a discussion of climate justice.

Requisite: ENST 120 or permission of instructor.  Limited to 20 students. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Hejny.


2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015

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.”

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2016-17.  Professor López.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

441 Seminar in Conservation Biology.

Conservation biology is a highly interdisciplinary field, requiring careful consideration of biological, economic, and sociological issues. Solutions to biodiversity conservation and environmental challenges are even more complex. Yet, conservation is a topic of timely importance in order to safeguard biological diversity. Utilizing articles from the primary literature, course topics will include invasive species, restoration, climate change, and biodiversity banking, as well as how to determine appropriate conservation priorities. Three classroom hours per week.

Requisite: BIOL 230/ENST 210 or permission of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 14 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Levin.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015

464 Seminar: Population Ethics

(Offered as PHIL 464 and ENST 464.)  Is our planet overpopulated? And if so, how many of us should live on it? Population raises tricky questions that are both empirical and broadly philosophical:  How should we weigh the well-being of future individuals against the lives of those currently living? Should we aim for a future population whose average or whose total level of well-being is maximized—or should we apply some other standard? Even more fundamentally: are we right to think of human life as, on balance, a positive thing? And how might a policy based on answers to such questions be weighed against rights to reproductive choice, and against considerations of justice?

In this seminar, we will explore recent work in the emerging and fascinating field of population ethics. We will chart new areas for research, as well as for practical policy-making.  Priority will be given to declared majors in either field, and then by year—senior, then junior, and so on.

Requisite: At least one course in either Environmental Studies or Philosophy. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester.  Professor Moore.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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. Professor Temeles and Visiting Professor Hejny.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017

499 Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2018

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