Environmental Studies Courses

The ES Major or Concentration begins with an introduction to environmental studies, a class focusing on global environmental problems viewed from a natural and physical science perspective but treated within the larger context of political, economic and ethical concerns. Students then select additional courses from the three areas of emphasis. These course choices provide a significant focus on discipline-centered studies of the environment, and include areas such as environmental history and ethics, conservation biology, earth system science, environmental chemistry, literature of the environment, and environmental policy. Choices for the remainder of the requirements include a number of off-campus studies as well as courses from allied departments. Examples of the former include winter ecology, desert ecology, and tropical ecology, or participation in programs in Costa Rica, south India, or Australia. The capstone seminar, required of ES majors, is also an option as one of the elective choices for the Concentration.

2015-16 Offerings (Past and Current Topics Courses (ES 281 and ES 381))

AS 277: Nature in Japanese Literature (AH elective)
ES 123: Geophysics/Introduction to Earth Science
ES 137: Introduction to Environmental Studies
ESPS 201: Global Environmental Politics
ES 202: The Culture of Nature
BIES 226: Conservation Biology
ES 232: Environmental Policy and Regulation
ES 235 A&B: Sustainable Development
ES 245: Global Climate Change
ES 255: Remote Sensing & Geographic Info. Systems
ES 270: Nature and American Landscape
ASES 277 Environmental Sustainability in Japan
ES 281: Environmental Film Documentary (Arts and Humanities elective)
ES 281: The Culture of Elephants (Arts and Humanities elective)
ES 350: Biogeochemistry
ES 381: Contested Spaces (Arts and Humanities elective)
ASES 396: Environmental Research in Asia (off-campus interim, Natural Science elective)
ES 399: Senior Seminar In Environmental Studies

Note:  SOAN 297 Environmental Anthropology (SocSci) will be offered in Fall 2015.

CAUTION: Majors enrolled in the social science or the natural science areas of emphases may count either REL 278 or PHIL 257 towards their major. Majors may not count both courses. This rule also applies to concentrators: only one of the two courses may count towards the concentration.

FALL 2015
EnvSt 235 Sustainable Development
(SOCSCI) – Seth Binder
The past 200 years have seen unprecedented, exponential improvements in the health and material well-being of humankind. Yet, a substantial portion of the world’s 7 billion people is largely excluded from this progress. Many of the same forces that have created this extraordinary material growth and concomitant inequality have also contributed to the vast and rapid alteration our natural environment. The unintended negative consequences of environmental change threaten to rob current and future populations of the benefits of continued economic development. This has led to a call for “sustainable development”. In this course, we will discuss the ethical and historical underpinnings of the sustainable development concept; explore what exactly is required for development to be sustainable(especially with respect to the environment); investigate the factors that have led development to be particularly unsustainable; and evaluate a variety of steps–both incremental and radical–that can put us on a path to more sustainable development.

EnvSt 281 Environmental Film Documentary
(ARTS/HUMANITIES) – Cecilia Cornejo

In this course students develop critical viewing and practical video-making skills as they explore the aesthetic, rhetorical, and expressive potential of documentary films to positively impact our environment. We study a variety of documentaries and their ties to the main genres within nonfiction (including Direct Cinema, Cinema Verite, and the Essay Film) and examine how these works construct meaning and influence society. Concurrently, the course introduces students to the basics of video production, building the technical and conceptual skills that budding practitioners need to translate ideas into video format. Focusing specifically on the critical analysis of works that address environmental sustainability and human consumption, the course is comprised of readings, film screenings, discussions, technical demos, and the production of a collaborative short documentary where students convey their own observations, hopes, and concerns on the subject.


AS/ES 277 Environmental Sustainability in Japan

AS/ES 396 Environmental Research in Asia


ENVST 381, Topics: Contested Spaces (Into the Woods)

This Arts and Humanities emphasis seminar takes an integral ecology approach in considering the value of trees, forests and woods. While we’ll constantly dip into scientific information about woods and forests as well as policy-related concerns, our focus will be on what trees and woods do for the human spirit and the development of an ecological ethos. This will involve meditating on a woods at hand, Norway Valley, with special emphasis on what thinkers in the arts and humanities such as Thoreau in Walden and poets and photographers teach us about trees, woods and valuing nature. Would it be a loss if St. Olaf cut down the Norway Valley trees and used the land for other purposes? Who, if anyone would mourn or worry about such a loss and why? Those will be the seminar’s bottom line questions.

EnvSt 281 — Topic: The Culture of Elephants
(ARTS/HUMANITIES) – Jacob Erickson

No creature quite captures the imagination as profoundly as the elephant—charismatic, mysterious, the largest land mammal on earth. From deployments in war to representations in spirituality, from wild herds to circus spectacles, from complex emotional intelligence to the ivory trade, interactions with elephant life have shaped what it means to be human in intricate, wondrous, tragic, violent, and often unexamined ways. This arts and humanities emphasis course seeks to interrogate assumptions about nature and culture, humanity and animality, companionship and exploitation, intelligence and compassion, violence and ecological justice. We do so by journeying through the entangled lives of humans and elephants in biology, history, cultural representation, psychology, and contemporary conservation efforts. We might very well ask, as Caitrin Nicol Keiper does in a recent essay interrogating our “elephantasies,” “Whether there are millions or just one, what does it mean that there is such a thing as Elephant?”

For Past Course Offerings, follow this link.