Rapid increases in human populations, consumerism, and industrial growth have intensified the stresses human beings place on the biosphere and its ecosystems. As a result, major environmental challenges of this time include: the expanding human population; the ability to sustain biodiversity; access to and availability of natural resources – especially food & water; and climate variability arising from altered biogeochemical cycles. To meet these grand challenges, we need to develop a comprehensive and rigorous understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment. We achieve this understanding through the intersection of knowledge and expertise from the natural sciences, social sciences, the arts and the humanities, and apply ideas to the study of the intellectual and physical connections that define our role in the environment. We strive to contribute to an understanding of biological and physical processes, responsible policy and practice, imaginative thinking, and ethical reflection in both local and global communities.
Environmental Studies at St. Olaf offers both a major and a concentration. As an interdisciplinary department, it enriches its curriculum by drawing upon faculty and courses in other departments. The Department’s strengths arise from faculty and participants’ grounding in traditional disciplines, and an interdisciplinary perspective on environmental problems and possible solutions derived from course work and hands-on experiences.