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Environmental studies is broadly defined as the study of nature, including the relationship of humans to the rest of the natural world. Presently, human activities are altering the life systems of our home planet. Climate change, species extinction, atmospheric pollution and loss of ancient forests are common knowledge, as is the planetary impact of human populations and consumption habits. These problems have a biological basis that requires the application of the scientific method to understand them, to discern cause and effects, and to pose scientifically tenable solutions. However, concern for and stewardship of the planet is not solely the purview of the scientist. Our understanding of these issues is impossible without social, cultural, political, ethical and economic considerations. The work of understanding these trends and forming alternate visions for the future draws upon ideas, information and insight from disciplines across the curriculum as well as from co-curricular activities.
The goals of the environmental studies major and minor are two-fold: 1) to help students achieve cross-disciplinary perspectives on the environment, and 2) to create a community of concern among students and faculty who participate in the study area-a community that encourages learning how to act as well as to understand. Even if no environmental problems existed, students and faculty would study how natural systems function, how the arts and social studies reveal connections between humanity and nature, and how the environment has nurtured philosophical and religious ideas about the place of humans in the universe.
To complete a major or minor in environmental studies, a student must satisfy the following requirements designed to establish the breadth and depth of knowledge consistent with the goals of the environmental studies study area.