With an emphasis on sustainability and holistic thinking, the environmental studies minor provides students with opportunities for the in-depth analysis of global and regional environmental issues, their causes, and their potential solutions. In particular, a required 500-level seminar serves as a capstone experience, helping students to integrate knowledge from several disciplinary perspectives, including socio-cultural, historical, political, economic, ethical, scientific, and/or technological factors. Having completed the minor, students will possess a high level of environmental literacy, an important component of many professional fields within the sciences, engineering, law, journalism, and public affairs.
Notes about this minor:
Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).
The program code for Environmental Studies Minor is ENVIST-MN.
This course is an upper-level undergraduate seminar that explores how science, technology, society, environment and policy are understood in contemporary and historical contexts. The course brings together a variety of views and readings to offer an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the complex ways in which citizens make and understand the world. (Enrollment in Department of STS/Public Policy) Lecture (Fall, Spring).
Choose four of the following:*
Natural Resource Economics
This course develops an economic perspective on one of the most important and challenging issues facing global society: the allocation, use, and preservation of natural resources. The course presents and discusses the methodology economists use to inform natural resource managers and policy makers. Economic thought and analysis are used to evaluate a variety of issues in this area. The course concludes with a brief discussion of the interdisciplinary aspects of natural resource management. (Prerequisites: ECON-101 or completion of one (1) 400 or 500 level ECON course.) Lecture (Fall).
This course examines the relationship and apparent conflict between economic growth and environmental quality, the economics of environmental issues and policy, the environment as a resource and a public good, and the ability and lack of ability of free markets and the government to deal adequately with pollution and other environmental problems. (Prerequisites: ECON-101 or completion of one (1) 400 or 500 level ECON course.) Lecture (Spring).
This class will survey the history environmental disasters (from floods to oil spills) in modern American and global society. Students will study several specific disasters (for example, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Midwestern Floods of the 1990s, Love Canal, and the Haitian Earthquake of 2008) and analyze a series of broader themes that illuminate their meaning, including the economic impact of various disasters, the legal and political ramifications of modern disasters, and the social and cultural meaning of disasters in various societies. Lecture (Fall).
Environmental philosophy examines the ethical, metaphysical, and social justice questions surrounding human interactions with nature and the management of natural resources. This course explores the nature and source of environmental values and how environmental goals are achieved through policy decisions. We evaluate and apply philosophical and ethical theory to environmental issues such as endangered species, climate change, wilderness preservation, sustainability, and environmental justice. Lecture (Fall).
This course provides an overview of energy resources, technologies, and policies designed to ensure clean, stable supplies of energy for the future. The course evaluates the impacts of fossil fuel, renewable energy, and hydrogen technologies on society and how public policies can be used to influence their development. The development of U.S. energy policy is of particular concern, although a global perspective will be integrated throughout the course. Lecture (Spring).
Population and Society
Introduction to Environmental Studies
This course explores the human condition within an environmental context by emphasizing critical environmental problems facing humans on both a global and regional scale. The approach will be interdisciplinary. The issues, their causes, and their potential solutions will be analyzed with respect to ethical, social, historical, political, scientific, and technological factors. Lecture (Fall, Spring, Summer).
Environment and Society
This course introduces the interdisciplinary foundations of environmental science via an analysis of sustainability within a socio-cultural context. This is a required course for the environmental science degree program. Lecture (Fall).
Face of the Land
Based on field trips and critical readings, this course explores how the land around us has been shaped and reshaped through a variety of geological forces and historical developments. By considering the natural landforms of the United States (and other countries, as appropriate), students see how the nature of land has determined its value. As technological innovations occur, old relationships with the land have been altered. Thus the course offers students a historical approach to the relationship of technology and society, as evidence by the landscape. The seminar format for this course will also advance students' writing, speaking, and research skills. Lecture (Spring).
History of the Environmental Sciences
This course surveys the history of the environmental sciences from antiquity to the present. The environmental sciences include those sciences that deal with the Earth's physical and organic environments, ranging from geology and biology to evolutionary theory and ecology. A prominent theme is the influence of social, religious, and political ideas on theories of how the Earth and its plants and animals have evolved. Lecture (Biannual).
History of Ecology and Environmentalism
This course explores the history of ecological science, from the eighteenth century to the present, and it features the political use of ecological ideas in environmental debates, from the 19th century to the present. We investigate how social and political ideas have influenced ecological science, how ecological concepts have influenced Western politics and society, and how different generations of ecological researchers have viewed their role in society. Lecture (Fall).
Energy and the Environment
This course will examine contemporary energy issues, with particular emphasis placed on the environmental implications associated with energy consumption and production. Students will learn about various energy technologies and fuels (including nuclear, coal, oil, natural gas, solar, biomass, and wind) and the environmental tradeoffs associated with each of these energy systems. Lecture (Fall).
Industry, Environment, and Community in Rochester
This course examines Rochester through the lens of industrialization, immigration, technological innovation, and environmental change between the 1890s and 1990s. This class blends readings and discussion with experiential learning and community-based research projects to help students understand community identity as a result of changes in livelihoods, immigration, and environment. Students will examine these social changes in both a local and global context. Students will have a better appreciation for the way historical forces shape a contemporary sense of place. Lecture 3 (Spring).
This course introduces students to federal, state, and local environmental policies and the various policy paths leading to their establishment. Students will understand how societal values inform the content of environmental policies and the impacts, in turn, of these policies on society. In addition, the class will explore how environmental economics informs the new tools of environmental policy. The course covers a range of environmental policies at the U.S. and international levels addressing problems such as air and water pollution, climate change, energy use, and community sustainability. Lecture (Spring).
This course utilizes the Great Lakes Basin as an integrating context for understanding global environmental issues. Examining the basin through an interdisciplinary environmental lens the class applies social science approaches to environmental problem solving. Students assess the local, regional, national and international scope of Great Lakes environmental issues through lecture, role-play, and field experiences and consider the importance of government action, public policy, ethics, economics, sociology, history, and engineering while applying social science analysis skills such as surveys, interviews, and content analysis to better understand the depth of local environmental problems and their potential solutions. Environmental science majors prepare a proposal for an environmental consulting project. Lecture (Fall).
Nature and Quantification
In this course, students will examine the ways in which “nature,” broadly conceived, has been quantified, standardized, and in many cases commodified in the modern West – often in the context of the natural sciences, government bureaucracies, capitalist markets, or some combination of the three. Reading and discussing broadly across history, science studies, anthropology, philosophy, and ecology, students will gain multidisciplinary perspectives on modern informational thinking, and develop analytical tools for assessing contemporary issues related to the quantified environment. Lecture 3 (Biannual).
Topics in Environmental Studies
This course will focus on a special problem or topical area in the field of Environmental Studies. Topics and specific content and methods vary from year to year or Semester to Semester. This course may count for minors and immersions with the permission of the Department. The STS Department Chair and individual instructors may be contacted for details. Lecture 3 (Annual).
Biodiversity and Society
This course explores the problems, issues, and values stemming from the current massive loss of biodiversity. Various justifications for preserving or conserving biodiversity will be examined. Although principals of conservation biology are presented, the social/cultural dimensions of the issue will be emphasized. Lecture (Spring).
The concept of sustainability has driven many national and international policies. More recently, we have become aware that unless we physical build and rebuild our communities in ways that contribute to sustainability, making progress toward that goal is unlikely. It is equally important to recognize the social aspects of sustainability. In addition, it is at the local level that the goals of equity (a key consideration in community sustainability), most often achieved through citizen participation and collaborative processes are most easily realized. This course will broaden students understanding of the concept of sustainability, particularly the concept of social sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability as a way to bring light to the connections between natural and human communities, between nature and culture, and among environmental, economic, and social systems. Working closely with local organizations, students will explore the applicability of theoretical concepts. Lecture (Fall).
* At least one elective must be taken at the 300-level or higher.