Students work in the Environmental Pollution class.

Environmental issues and solutions also need to be viewed in a disciplinary and global context. Each student enrolls in one elective based on interest, previous coursework, and discussion with the School's director. Each elective incorporates the skills and knowledge presented in the core courses and the leadership workshops, but is characterized by small class size and an emphasis on intimate exploration of key issues and skills.

Wicked Environmental Problems

Wicked problems are those that have no clear “right” or “wrong” solutions or technical fixes. Finding the single best solution to these dilemmas is a matter of perspective, and the interconnectedness among scientific and social elements means that any resolution carries advantages and disadvantages for stakeholders.  As a consequence, wicked problems often include intractable forces that make “solving” these problems all but impossible. This course explores the environmental governance of wicked problems in environmental policy and politics.  We will use the lenses of systems theory, policy networks, and adaptive governance and management to explore the emergence of wicked problems as well as the current management approaches used by governance institutions to cope with these challenges. Instructor: Curt Gervich. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

Nature, Culture, and Ethics

In his controversial 1967 essay, “The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis,” historian Lynn White, Jr. argued that “what people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them."  In other words, for White, human perceptions of the world influence their behaviors in it, and thus, any cause of or solution to ecological crises must be grounded in some theory of value.  While on the surface White’s claim might seem self-evident—surely, our beliefs influence our practices—mounting evidence from diverse humanities disciplines reveals that such relationships might not be so simple. This course examines the veracity of White’s thesis through a multi-cultural survey of values and nature. Particularly in light of the Anthropocene era, how have different value systems contributed to contemporary ecological and social problems?  Conversely, how might values be involved in motivating action to resolve or address those problems? We will explore the influence of religious, cultural, and ethical systems on several specific environmental issues, including indigenous land rights and development, religious and ethical commitments to nonviolence and their influences on environmental activism, and religious views of divine agency and their impacts on environmental policies, including climate change and development. Drawing on perspectives and evidence from fields of history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, philosophy, and literature, we will discover how an appreciation of the underlying human values and assumptions grounding environmental behaviors may be key to understanding and alleviating current environmental problems.  Instructor: Joseph Witt.  Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

Environmental Pollution

This course is spent in the field in Vermont and Middlebury's laboratories exploring pollution issues that are relevant around the globe.  We use Middlebury’s research-grade instruments and facilities to study the sources, transport, fate, and remediation of specific environmental pollutants. This year we will focus on metal pollution, including analysis of Lake Champlain sediments collected from the Research Vessel Folger, and analysis of water and soil samples collected during EPA-guided explorations of the Superfund Elizabeth Mine and Ely Mine sites. Each student will pose a research question; conduct an in-depth investigation of their study site in light of that question; and weave environmental justice, economics, and politics into their scientific findings to develop interdisciplinary solutions for the prevention of future pollution. Instructor: Holly Peterson. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

Environmental Video Production

In this course students will gain hands-on experience in video production and create short video works that draw on other aspects of the environmental studies curriculum. Video can be a powerful tool for research and creative expression, and has the potential to deeply enhance how we perceive and understand the environment. The course will explore aesthetic and philosophical approaches to video production, and creative techniques for communicating information and producing artistic works. The aim of this course is to develop skills and perspectives that demonstrate how video can provoke profound discourses on issues and ideas. Instructor: Joan Grossman. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

2015 course videos on YouTube