Courses and Requirements
The goals of the Hamilton College Environmental Studies Program are to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and interdisciplinary perspectives to understand the causes and consequences of, as well as potential solutions to, the world’s pressing environmental challenges, and to enable them to become environmentally conscious citizens.
The Concentration in Environmental Studies
Note: For the Class of 2021 and Class of 2022, requirements are those appearing in the course catalog of the year in which you declared the concentration, with the exception of being able to fulfill the Senior Program with ENVST 520 or a single semester thesis (ENVST 550) and with the exception of requiring only three electives and not four electives. These adjustments provide more flexibility to those in Class of 2021 and Class of 2022 than the original requirements.
Starting for the Class of 2023, the Environmental Studies concentration consists of 11 courses: 4 required core courses, 4 foundational breadth courses, and 3 electives, and the Senior Program.
There are four core required courses for concentrators: ENVST 110 Intro to Environmental Studies, ENVST 206 Environmental Data Science, ENVST 212 Climate Change, and ENVST 234 Environmental Justice. These are normally taken in the first or second year. ENVST 234 fulfills the Social Structural and Institutional Hierarchies requirement for the concentration.
Students are required to fulfill four breadth requirements by selecting ONE course from each of the following four categories. 1. Earth Science: Any 100-Level Geoscience course; 2. Life Science: Any BIO100 course; 3. Environmental Social Science: Any one of the following: ENVST 285 Environmental Politics, ENVST 287 Environmental Political Theory, ENVST 235 Globalization and Agriculture, ECON 380: Environmental Economics, ENVST 218: Landscape: People, Place and Past; 4. Environmental Humanities: Any one of the following: ENVST 157W: Introduction to Environmental History, ENVST 266: Global Environmental History, ENVST 255W: Gender and the Environment, LIT 267: Literature and the Environment, PHIL 235: Environmental Ethics. We strongly recommend that at least two foundational breadth courses should be taken during the first year: an introductory (100-level) Geosciences course and Biology 100.
All concentrators must also take three electives from the approved list below of ENVST and other environmentally related courses. Upon declaring their concentration, students should meet with their concentration advisor to discuss a focal area of study to help guide the selection of elective courses in the major. Students are encouraged to align their electives thematically around a topic, but the requirement is simply three courses from the list.
• No more than one 100 level course
• At least one 300 level course
• May include up to two transfers from study abroad programs
• Additional foundational course options for Environmental Social Sciences and Environmental Humanities listed above CAN be counted as electives toward the major
Approved ENVST Electives
Note: Courses not appearing on this list but which were previously designated ENVST at the time that the student took them will count as electives.
ENVST 155 Religion and the Wild
ENVST 157W Introduction to Environmental History
ENVST 160W Carbon Footprints and Sustainability
ENVST 218 Landscape: People, Place and the Past
ENVST 220W Culture and History of the Adirondack Park
ENVST 235 Globalization and Agriculture
ENVST 236 Culture and Politics of Food
ENVST 237 Intro to the Science of Food
ENVST 250 Interpreting the American Environment
ENVST 255W Gender and the Environment
ENVST 266 Global Environmental History
ENVST 285 Introduction to Environmental Politics
ENVST 287 Political Theory and the Environment
ENVST 302 Architecture and the Environment
ENVST 305 Climate Risk and Resilience
ENVST 307 Environment and Technology in Africa
ENVST 310 Seminar in Native Ecologies
ENVST 318 Environment and Natural Resource Conflict
ENVST 340 Changing Arctic Ecosystems
ENVST 373 Conservation Biology
ANTH 272W Anthropology of Food
BIOL 237 Ecology
BIOL 238 Community and Ecosystem Ecology
ECON 380 Environmental Economics
GEOS 306 Soils and the Environment
GEOS 380 GIS for Geoscientists
GOVT 360W Politics and Theory of Place and Space
HIST 225 Science and Revolution
HIST 245 Environment and US Global Expansionism
LIT 260 Human Identity in the Natural World
LIT 267 Literature and the Environment
PHIL 221 Philosophy of Food
PHIL 235 Environmental Ethics
The Senior Program in Environmental Studies is fulfilled through one of two options
• Option 1: ENVST 520 Senior Practicum Capstone
• Option 2: Senior Thesis Comprising ENVST 549 (Fall) and ENVST 550 (Spring)
Honors: Students who have earned at least a 3.5 average in courses toward the concentration may receive honors in Environmental Studies through distinguished work on the Senior Project – either the capstone or the senior thesis.
Note that for the Class of 2023, the requirements are the same as those listed above, with the exception that ENVST 210 Gateway to Environmental Studies can be counted in place of ENVST 110 Intro to Environmental Studies.
The Minor in Environmental Studies
Starting with the Class of 2023, the minor in Environmental Studies consists of five courses: ENVST 110 Intro to Environmental Studies, a 100-level Geoscience course, and three other ENVST core or elective courses, with at least one of those 300-level course.
Introduction to Environmental Studies.
This course presents the core literature, theories, and concepts in environmental studies, with a focus on the emerging discipline of sustainability science. It will provide a comprehensive foundation for interdisciplinary study of contemporary environmental issues that will prepare students for more advanced work on the biophysical, social and human dimensions of environmental problems, including problems at the food-energy-water-climate nexus. This course is a required component of the Environmental Studies concentration. Aaron Strong.
Religion in the Wild.
Jesus, Moses, Siddharta, and Mohammed all had significant experiences in the wilderness. These experiences shaped their lives and the religious traditions that they helped found. We will read philosophers, mystics, and spiritual seekers who have gone to untamed spaces for inspiration, right up to the present day. The course begins with a mandatory designated XA orientation trip in August. (Writing-intensive.) Instructor's Permission Only. (Same as Religious Studies 155.) Maximum enrollment, 10. S Brent Rodriguez-Plate.
Environmental History: An Introduction.
This course introduces students to environmental history by examining both foundational scholarship and new research in the field. It will explore the methods and sources—including texts, images, sounds, artifacts, and site visits—that historians use to uncover the natural environment’s past. As an introduction to the history of the natural environment, this course equips students to pursue new areas of inquiry and provide them with a different lens through which to view familiar topics. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 157.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
Climate Change and Migration.
Experts estimate that by 2050 there will be 200 million climate migrants. How can we understand the causes and consequences of this unprecedented upheaval? This course discusses anthropogenic climate change and the political, social, and economic factors leading to migration. Examines historical cases of human migration due to climatic factors, including multidisciplinary methodologies for understanding distant and more recent examples. (Writing-intensive). The course is open to first-year students only. (First Year Course.) Maximum enrollment, 18. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 158.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Rebecca Wall.
Carbon Footprints and Sustainability.
What is a carbon footprint? Is it a useful concept? What are the scientific, social and economic implications of measuring environmental impacts through the billion dollar industry of sustainability accounting? In seeking to answer these questions, this course uses the concept of the carbon footprint as a lens through which to understand and critically assess scientific, economic practices and social discourses around sustainability as it is practiced across American and global society today. (Writing-intensive.) This course is open to first-year students only. (First Year Course). Maximum enrollment, 18. Aaron Strong.
May the Forest Be with You: Ecology and Youth Literature.
Examination of issues that address environment concerns popular in German-speaking nations from the conservative idealism of the late 19th century to the radical environmentalism of the 1960s. Close readings of texts informed by theory and other media such as film, music, and technology. The goal of this course is to better understand these works, the ecological questions they raise, and how they intersect with the culture(s), history, media, politics, economy, and identity in modern Europe. Taught in English. No knowledge of German required. (Same as German Studies 167.)
Putting down roots: Environmental Approaches to Classical Antiquity.
This course introduces students to the literature and theories used to interpret the complex relationship between the ancient Greeks and Romans and their environments. discussion topics include: the problem of defining nature cross-culturally; environmental determinism in classical thought and its legacy in modern racism; deforestation and its impact upon ancient imaginations; natural disasters; the unsustainable practices of ancient imperialism; the fall of the Roman Empire and its causes; and the impact of Christianity and Islam upon classical conceptions of nature. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) (Same as Classics 203.) James Taylor.
Environmental Data Science.
This course examines the potential for big data to address major environmental issues related to climate change, conservation, and water security. We gain a critical understanding of the role of satellites, environmental sensors, and citizen science in describing the environment. Topics will include data life cycles, statistics, visualization, and statistical programming for environmental data. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) Prerequisite, Must have taken a prior course in Environmental Studies, Biology, Archeology, or Geosciences. Maximum enrollment, 20. Heather Kropp.
This course investigates the scientific, social, economic and political dimensions of anthropogenic climate change, including our scientific understanding of its causes, its local and planetary human and ecological impacts, and the potential for technological, social and policy solutions. Throughout the course, we critically examine the roles of public policy and international negotiations in developing equitable mitigation and adaptation strategies to combat the totalizing problem of our times. Prerequisite, One semester of science or permission of instructor for first year students. (Same as Government 212 and Geosciences 212.) Strong.
Landscapes: People, Place, and the Past.
This course explores the deep histories of economic, socio-political, and ritual landscapes, and the tools that archaeologists use to study them. Landscapes, as both physical and cultural entities, are important spaces for human interaction. Archaeologists are uniquely positioned to examine the relationships among people, place, and the environment in the past. This course will link archaeological landscapes to modern issues of development, human-environment interaction, and social change. Prerequisite, 106 or consent of instructor. (Same as Anthropology 218.) Maximum enrollment, 24. Colin Quinn.
Forever Wild: The Cultural and Natural Histories of the Adirondack Park.
Study of America’s largest inhabited wilderness. Survey of natural and cultural histories of the park and examination of ecological, political and social issues. Study of literary, scientific, historical and political texts. Exploration of environmental issues such as acid rain, development and land-use, predator re-introduction and population controls. Prerequisite, one course in literature, biology, geology or environmental studies. May count toward a concentration in environmental studies. Field trip required. Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors in the fall. Oral Presentations. Writing-intensive (Spring). Maximum enrollment, 16. Oerlemans (fall), Teerie (spring).
Environmental Spatial Analysis.
This course will focus on the collection and analysis of spatial data that describes the environment using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) framework. We will gain an understanding a range of remote sensing techniques including satellite imagery, aircraft surveys, uncrewed aerial systems, and GPS for addressing environmental issues. Emphasis will be placed on spatial thinking in the visualization and interpretation of data. We will cover concepts and tools of a GIS analysis with a hands-on approach that uses both GIS and coding-based software. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) Prerequisite, Must have taken a prior course in Environmental Studies, Biology, Archeology, or Geosciences. Maximum enrollment, 15. Heather Kropp.
At a time of systemic environmental crisis, apocalyptic narratives saturate our lives and political discourse. How do we create something beyond? Coupling environmental fiction and theory, this interdisciplinary course examines narratives as sites of ethical deliberation and truth-making, which can reproduce or reframe calamity. Discussion and writing will foreground racial, gender and economic justice and draw from diverse ways of knowing to consider collective ways forward. We will read Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Raymond Williams, Kathryn Yusoff, among others. Prerequisite, One course in Africana Studies, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Literature and Creative Writing, or Women’s and Gender Studies. Not open to first-year students. Senior enrollment limited to 6 students. Priya Chandrasekaran.
This interdisciplinary seminar examines environmental justice as a movement and concept. We interrogate and discuss the historical role of racism, heteropatriarchy, colonialism and globalization in (re)producing and justifying place-based environmental contamination and toxicity. Through close analysis of case studies in the US and the Global South, students analyze and present on how disenfranchised groups have made political demands, scaled up, forged solidarities, asserted climate justice, challenged state and corporate projects and conducted citizen science in rural and urban settings. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, One course in Africana Studies, Government, Environmental Studies, or Women’s and Gender Studies. Not open to first-year students. Maximum enrollment, 16. Priya Chandrasekaran.
Globalization and Agriculture.
How has globalization shaped agriculture? Why is this relationship fraught? This course examines the history and current state of the global food system. We explore tensions between food security and food sovereignty; racial, classed and gendered effects of export-driven agriculture; colonial precursors to global commodity chains; the rise of transnational agrarian movements; and conflicts related to immigration, labor, land use, environmental pollution, climate change and intellectual property. Throughout the semester, we map and reflect on our own relationships to “globalized agriculture.” Prerequisite, Must have taken a prior course in one of the following: Anthropology, Sociology, Environmental Studies, Africana Studies, Asian Studies or Women’s and Gender Studies. Priya Chandrasekaran.
Thought for Food: The Culture and Politics of Food.
A multi-disciplinary approach to study of the food system. Examination of the origins of culinary traditions, contemporary politics of the food movement, the GMO debate, food sovereignty, hunger and food security, and Slow Food. Laboratory sessions include activities in the Community Farm, tastings, and cooking instruction with the college. (Same as College Courses and Seminars 236.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Food for Thought Introduction to the Science of Food.
An interdisciplinary exploration of food with focus on nutrition biology of food and food science; the history of food and contemporary issues related to food production and the food industry. Tastings, films, gardening. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, one course in Biology or Chemistry. (Same as College Courses and Seminars 237.) Maximum enrollment, 16. J Townsend.
Interpreting the American Environment.
A survey of responses to and interpretations of the American landscape. Study of historical, political, literary, and critical texts. Puts contemporary environmentalism in a historical and geographical perspective. Emphasis on changing notions of wilderness, urban development and the cultural contexts of expansion and development. Environmental Studies and related faculty.
Gender and Environment.
The theoretical, historical and material links between gender and the natural world. We explore how the social category of gender relates to environmental issues, but also focus on how other human differences based on race, class, sexuality and nation connect to the so-called "non-human environment.” The course begins with feminist historical and theoretical analysis of the links between gender and environment, including examinations of Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology. Building on this foundation, we then explore Health and Technology, Environmental Justice, and Global Climate Change. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as Women's and Gender Studies 255.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
Political Ecology of Tourism.
This course explores the environmental implications of the global tourism industry. Case studies of tourism in the Caribbean and East Asia offer perspectives on environmental histories of tourism; the political ecology of consumption; and problems of cultural authenticity and place-making. Students will draw on ethnographic and policy-based readings. By studying the patterns and governance of one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors, students will investigate "tourism" as both a cause and effect of globalization and its attendant localization movements. (Same as Anthropology 263.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Andrea Murray.
Global Environmental History.
A survey of topics, themes, and methods in environmental history, focusing on Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Provides a foundation and prepare students for advanced coursework and research in history and environmental studies. Examines major events and trends through an environmental framework, illustrating connections over time. Major course themes include biological exchange between regions, the industrial revolution, climate change, and linking historical environmental issues to contemporary concerns. (Same as History 266.) Wall.
Introduction to Environmental Politics.
An overview of environmental politics, domestic and global. Topics include the environmental movement and its history and values, anti-environmentalism, environmental policy analysis, the relation between environmental science and politics, the domestic and international environmental policy processes, the North-South debate, globalization, race and environmental justice, and the implications of environmental politics for liberal democracy. Students will explore these topics directly and through selected policy issues, including forest politics, sprawl and climate change. (American Politics) (Same as Government 285.)
Political Theory and the Environment.
What should humanity’s relationship with the environment look like, and why? Explores theoretical and practical debates surrounding the environmental challenges of our time. Key topics and controversies in the history of environmental political thought will be discussed. Students will be encouraged to develop their own vision of the proper relationship between human society and the environment in the 21st century. (Political Theory) (Same as Government 287.) Koutnik.
Nature and Technology.
This course examines the sometimes contentious relationship between the natural world and human attempts to understand it (science) and control it (technology). We survey ethical, social, artistic and scientific distinctions between the natural world and the human-built world. Specific topics include everyday tools (e.g., hammers), food and agricultural practices (corn & chickens), modes of transportation (trains), and emerging biotechnologies (genes & humans). Readings will draw from works in philosophy of technology, environmental history, and science and technology studies. Wyatt Galusky.
Architecture and the Environment.
This course examines architecture’s historical relationship with the environment by engaging with broad Anthropocene questions. We will trace changing conceptions of "nature" through the study of the co-production of architecture and the environment, and the ways in which designers continually reconceive the human-nature relationship. Topics include colonial land management, materiality, infrastructure and resource extraction (eg. Erie Canal, dams, solar farms), waste, architecture of logistics (eg. Walmart and Amazon), eco-cities and sustainable urbanism, and landscapes of food production. (Same as Art History 302.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Ruth Lo.
Seminar on Climate Risk and Resilience.
An exploration of our scientific understanding of the risks of climate change. Focused on the primary scientific literature, this course covers risk and vulnerability assessments, climate modeling and scenario development, remote sensing and observational data interpretation, critical thinking about scientific articles, and use of scientific evidence to understand the risks of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other manifestations of anthropogenic climate change. Discussions will emphasize how climate science informs how we can make society more resilient to climate risks. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, One Environmental Studies Science Foundation course. Maximum enrollment, 16. J Townsend.
Environment and Technology in Africa.
An interdisciplinary research course on environment and technology in Africa. Students will become conversant with major developments in and approaches of Science and Technology Studies (STS), an interdisciplinary field that draws from anthropology, history, engineering, among others. Students will analyze complex social, technological, and political systems that shape African environmental challenges. Major course topics include public health and disease transmission, climate change, dam and other infrastructure projects, and conservation. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, one course in history OR one ES core course (ENVST 285, ENVST 287, PHIL 235, ENVST 250, ENVST 220, ES 334, ENVST 212). (Same as History 307.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Rebecca Wall.
Seminar: Religion and Environment.
This interdisciplinary seminar explores the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of indigenous peoples. Drawing upon scholarship from such diverse fields as acoustic ecology, ethno-ecology, ethnography, geography, environmental history, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and religious studies, we will examine indigenous knowledge about particular species and relationships between them. (Same as American Studies 310 and Religious Studies 310.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
This seminar tackles issues of rural development, transformations, populism and identity. Through social science, literature and film, we examine the “rural” as dynamic, power-laden and intertwined with urbanization. What does “rural” mean? How has it come to be? Why is it both overlooked and important? How are race, caste and gender (re)made in rural places around the world? Students cultivate a relationship with a rural organization and periodically present experiences and research to peers. The final project is a collaborative virtual exhibit. (Experiential Learning.) Prerequisite, One course in Environmental Studies, Africana Studies, Anthropology, Sociology or Women’s and Gender Studies. Maximum enrollment, 12. Priya Chandrasekaran.
Environment, Natural Resources and Conflict.
Conflict is an unavoidable part of environmental management and policy development. This course will use an environmental/natural resource lens to introduce theories of conflict and conflict management. Students will study the causes and dynamics of conflicts; consider the role of culture, identity, and scientific expertise in conflict escalation and resolution; and learn conflict resolution techniques. Using case studies and simulations, students will learn to analyze and map conflicts, from simple disputes to “wicked” conflicts, and practice conflict resolution skills. (Speaking-Intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Environmental Studies or Government. Maximum enrollment, 20. Alma Lowry.
Changing Arctic Ecosystems.
An examination of the primary literature on environmental and climate change in Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems. We will investigate the interplay between anthropogenic, physical, and biological processes in high latitude regions. We will explore current research on the cycling of water, carbon and energy throughout high latitude ecosystems and the potential for these regions to amplify global climate change. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, 100-level Geoscience course OR Biology 237 (Ecology) or Biology 238 (Community and Ecosystem Ecology) OR Environmental Studies 212 Climate Change. Maximum enrollment, 16. Heather Kropp.
The History and Literature of Himalayan Mountaineering, from the 19th Century to the Present.
Examines Himalayan mountaineering over the past 150 years, and its roots in imperial expansion, national competition, and cultural and social evolution. Topics include mountaineering in the age of empire, George Leigh-Mallory’s death on Everest, American mountaineering in the Himalaya, conquest of the 8,000 meter peaks, Sherpas'' role in mountaineering, and the rise of commercial mountaineering. Special attention to mountaineering on Everest. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 367.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Maurice Isserman.
Survey of the conservation of biological diversity from genes to populations to ecosystems. We will explore current ideas and literature in protecting, preserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem function. Discussion of ecological foundations, techniques to study conservation (e.g., technological, molecular, habitat restoration), and policy issues. We will examine causes of diversity loss such as habitat loss, and how conservation planning can help mitigate losses in the face of continuing anthropogenic pressures such as fragmentation, pollutants and climate change. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, One laboratory science course. (Same as Biology 373.) Maximum enrollment, 16. C Briggs.
ENVST 520 S Senior Capstone Practicum.
The course is summative and fulfills the Senior Program requirement in Environmental Studies. Building on previous coursework in the concentration, the capstone practicum focuses on developing and applying interdisciplinary research methods, skills and analytical tools to collaboratively understand and address environmental problems. Students conduct thematically linked, community-engaged research projects around a chosen salient environmental problem. Enrollment restricted to senior Environmental Studies concentrators. ENVST Program (Spring 2021: Strong and Chandrasekaran). (Experiential Learning.) Prerequisite, Enrollment restricted to senior environmental studies concentrators. Aaron Strong; Priya Chandrasekaran.
Preparatory Research for Senior Project.
Students doing experiments, data-gathering, or other significant empirical or field work in preparation for their senior project should carry out this work prior to taking 550 and under the guidance of their thesis adviser. This research course is generally done in the fall of senior year, but in certain circumstances may be completed in the spring of junior year or the summer before senior year. Depending on the extent of their research, students may take this course for full or half credit. Environmental Studies and related faculty.
An independent study developed in consultation with a faculty advisor and the environmental studies advisory committee to explore in detail an environmental topic, culminating in a substantial research paper and oral presentation. Proposals for Senior Projects are developed with a faculty advisor and submitted to the ES advisory committee prior to course registration. Prerequisite, Permission of instructor. The Program.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)