Sample of Classes

Global Environmental Justice: Issues and Places

In this class, you will explore how communities around the world are responding to unequal environmental burdens, and how these local-scale justice issues fit into broader global trends such as climate change. We will engage with key environmental justice issues surrounding waste, pollution, water, mining, energy, and more in regions ranging from Latin America to the Arctic and from Sub-Saharan Africa to South and East Asia. At the same time, we will consider how broader geopolitical and economic structures affect environmental justice between countries and regions. The course will prepare you to research and take action on specific environmental justice issues of interest to you, both in and beyond the classroom. 

Climate change in an age of social change 

While the earth's natural systems are being transformed by climate change, movements for social change in the areas of diversity, equity, justice, and environmental relations are expanding across the globe. This course prepares students to understand and engage with crucial issues at the intersection of these two trends through analysis of current events and literature from both the physical and social sciences. We will begin by exploring the physical science behind climate change. Next, we will study its impacts on key human concerns such as agriculture, extractive industries, conflict, health, migration, and development. We will then analyze responses to climate change, including social media campaigns, public protests, and intergovernmental cooperation, and we will carry out our own simulation of a UN climate change conference tasked with keep warming below 2 degrees C. Across the semester, we will situate readings and discussion within diverse theories of social thought. Finally, students will apply what they learn in class to carry out a research project on a social issue related to climate change of their choice, and present their findings to peers.

Society and Environment

Environmental change is a major concern globally. Reflecting the priority placed on environmental issues in our time, several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals target achieving environmental sustainability in different spheres of human-environment interaction. While achieving these goals is critical, understanding the fundamentals of human-environment interaction is a crucial first step. This class combines physical and social science perspectives as a basis for understanding the fundamentals of human-environment relationships and some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, energy use, and persistent hunger and inequality. Through lectures, individual and group activities, and a variety of assessments, we will together explore the means to make sense of environmental complexity. You will get to practice what you learn by conducting your own research project on how these challenges affect a place you know well: your hometown or a place of special importance to you.

Can we mine our way out of climate change? 

To prevent the worst impacts of global warming, policymakers, corporations, and individuals are seeking to reduce carbon emissions by transitioning from conventional to “clean energy.” Yet while this transition will reduce demand for some natural resources like coal and oil, it will increase the need for others, like copper, cobalt, nickel, and lithium to produce solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. The process of mining these materials produces its own carbon emissions, and impacts the environment and society, such as by polluting water supplies and displacing vulnerable communities. In this class, you will grapple with this contradiction by learning about the clean energy transition, how mining works, and the ways climate change and mining interact. Drawing on this knowledge, you will have the opportunity to draft the report you would write if a world leader asked you, "Can we mine our way out of climate change?"