College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Jul 15, 2024  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Environmental Studies




CHRISTOPHER GRAVES, (Chemistry and Environmental Studies) Program Coordinator
Sandra Sullivan, Administrative Assistant II


Adrienne Benally (Environmental Studies) 1
Elizabeth Bolton (English Literature)
Giovanna Di Chiro (Environmental Studies)
Carr Everbach (Engineering)
Christopher R. Graves (Chemistry and Environmental Studies)
Eric L. N. Jensen (Physics and Astronomy)
José-Luis Machado (Biology)
James Padilioni (Religion) 2
Jennifer Peck (Economics and Environmental Studies)
Jennifer Pfluger (Environmental Studies)
Christine Schuetze (Anthropology)
Mark Wallace (Religion)

1 Absent on leave, 2024-2025
2 Absent on leave, spring 2024.
3 Absent on leave, 2023-2024.

Why Environmental Studies? Why now?

Profound anthropogenic changes are occurring in the land, water, and air around us, with the result that human societies face greater changes and environmental challenges than we have ever known. Global population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2040; global energy consumption is rising sharply while even present-day carbon emissions intensify global warming. Along with global warming, trends such as deforestation, mass extinctions, and eutrophication threaten the finely-balanced marine and terrestrial ecosystems on which we rely for food, water, shelter, and more. Sea-water rise along with increasing heat and drought will create climate refugees and resource conflicts on unprecedented scales. Responding to these crises requires all the creativity and rigor and compassion we can gather-including the cultivation of intellectual skills that until recently were housed in discrete and disparate disciplines.

Environmental studies brings together the natural sciences and engineering, the humanities, and the social sciences to tackle environmental issues of great complexity and socio-political importance. In relation to climate change, for instance, natural scientists provide data to understand the scope of the problem and the processes that result in global warming, social scientists help to understand and craft policies around human behaviors that cause climate change, and humanists provide the moral and historical framework to understand our obligation to action and the tools to communicate environmental values. Only an integrated, interdisciplinary approach can address the extremity and complexity of the challenges we face: students must learn to think across and through disciplines in order to become the kinds of problem-solvers our societies so urgently need.

The Academic Program

Cape Town South Africa Program on Globalization, Environment, and Society

Swarthmore is a member of a consortium with Macalester and Pomona Colleges that sponsors a junior year environmental study abroad program in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Students from the three consortium schools, as well as those schools under consortium agreements with the three schools, may apply. For more information, see the website:


First Course Recommendations

While Intro to Environmental Studies (ENVS 001 ) is taught in the spring semester and we encourage all interested students to take it as soon as possible, there are also Environmental Studies courses offered each fall that are open to first-year students. Students interested in possibly majoring or minoring in ENVS should look at the fall ENVS course offerings and consider taking one of those courses if possible.

Course Major

Students majoring in Environmental Studies will complete ten credits in the program, including Introduction to Environmental Studies; one Environmental Science and Technology credit; one Environmental Social Science credit; one Environmental Arts and Humanities credit; five elective ENVS courses; and the Environmental Studies Capstone or a thesis. Students are expected to articulate a topical or disciplinary focus (4-course minimum) for their ENVS major in conversation with the faculty coordinator and their academic advisor. 

Environmental Studies courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford can also be applied to the major or minor, as can study-abroad and domestic programs authorized by Swarthmore’s Office of Off-Campus Study and the Faculty Coordinator of Environmental Studies. 

Course Minor

Students minoring in Environmental Studies shall take at least six credits in the program, consisting of Introduction to Environmental Studies; one Environmental Science and Technology credit; one Environmental Social Science credit; one Environmental Arts and Humanities credit; and two elective ENVS courses. Students are expected to articulate a topical or disciplinary focus for their ENVS minor in conversation with the faculty coordinator and their academic advisor.



Honors Major

Honors majors will complete all of the requirements for the course major, and will also designate three two-credit preparations on which they will be examined.  These preparations may either be two-credit seminars that count toward ENVS (e.g. ECON 176, Environmental Economics, BIOL 137, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning) or combinations of two one-credit courses that have been approved by the ENVS program as suitable combinations for honors preparations.  Students writing their sophomore plans should consult with the Faculty Coordinator and their advisor for the current list of approved preparations.

Honors Minor

Honors minors in Environmental Studies must complete all of the requirements for the course minor while also proposing one honors preparation as outlined above.

Overview of the Curriculum

a) ENVS 001: Introduction to Environmental Studies. This is a team-taught, interdisciplinary introduction to the field of Environmental Studies. Faculty instructors are drawn from the natural sciences and engineering on the one hand and from social sciences and humanities on the other in order to ensure cross-disciplinary perspectives and connections.  Students interested in majoring or minoring in Environmental Studies should take this course as early as possible; we anticipate that most students declaring a major or minor will have taken it by the sophomore year.

b) One Environmental Social Science course. We expect our students to grasp the fundamentals of economic policies, environmental histories, and socio-cultural formations; we also want them to be able to design, conduct, and analyze empirical research.

c) One Environmental Arts and Humanities course. We want our students to be able to analyze rhetorical strategies of individual texts and broader discourse communities (e.g. climate justice movements as well as climate denial). We want them to question the assumptions underlying existing cultural structures and explore alternatives. When possible, we want them to develop creative skills to help them inspire and motivate others.

d) One Environmental Science and Technology course. We expect our students to be able to conduct inquiry-based science, working with raw data as well as understanding data produced by others. 

e) Five elective ENVS courses.


Students are expected to articulate a topical or disciplinary focus ( four-course minmimum) for their ENVS major in conversation with the faculty coodinator and their academic advisor. This focus offers our students the opportunity to develop their own areas of expertise while also developing greater depth and breadth in interdisciplinary problem-solving. Sample thematic and disciplinary foci are listed below.

f) Environmental Studies Capstone or a thesis. The capstone brings graduating seniors back together to work on collaboration and to share their diverse talents and backgrounds in tackling a shared topic or challenge. The capstone meets the requirement for the senior comprehensive experience. 

Sample thematic foci:

Food: ENVS/BIOL 009 Our Food; ENGR 010 Fundamentals of Food Engineering; ENVS 052/CHIN 086 Chinese Food, Culture and Farming; PHYS 024 Earth’s Climate and Global Warming.

Disasters: ENVS 006 Visions of the End; ENVS 026 Environmental History of the Soviet Union; ENVS 031/PEAC 055/SOCI 055C Climate Disruption; ENVS 051/JPNS 035 Narratives of Disaster and Rebuilding in Japan.

Sustainability: ENVS 085 Urban Environmental Community Action; ENVS 089 Sustainability Research Methods [2 credits]; ENVS 092A Directed Reading: UNFCCC COP.; Independent Study Project.

Asia (courses developed through Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment): CHIN 089 Tea Culture; CHIN 087/POLS 087 Water Policies, Water Issues: China & US; POLS 088 Environmental Governance in China; ENVS 052/CHIN 086 Food, Culture, and Farming in China.

Sample disciplinary foci:

Environmental Biology: BIOL 036 Ecology; BIOL 037 Conservation Biology; BIOL 137 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function [2 cr]

Environmental Economics: ECON 055 Behavioral Economics; ECON 081 Economic Development; ECON 176 Environmental Economics [2 cr]

Environmental Engineering: ENVS 075/ENGR 063 Water Quality and Pollution Control; ENVS 076/ENGR 066 Environmental Systems; ENVS 077/ENGR 035 Solar Energy Systems; ENVS 078/ENGR 057 Operations Research

Environmental Literature: ENVS 042/ENGL 089E Ecofeminism(s); ENVS 043/ENGL 089/SOAN 20M Race, Gender, Class, and Environment; ENVS 044/ENGL 089B Materials that Matter; ENVS 045B River Stories or ENVS 040/RELG 022 Religion and Ecology.

CR/NC Policy

Courses taken during the first semester of the first year are taken CR/NC for all students.  After that semester, only two courses with a recorded grade of CR can be used to fulfill the requirements of an Environmental Studies major and only one course with a recorded grade of CR can be used to fulfill the requirements of an Environmental Studies minor. These limits do not include courses which are required to be taken as CR/NC.

Off-Campus Study

In addition to the Swarthmore-specific ENVS study abroad program outlined below, there are many programs that offer environmental opportunities in their coursework.  ENVS majors who study abroad often use courses from that experience as an integral part of their four-course focus.


ENVS 020-039 Social Sciences

ENVS 040-059 Humanities and Arts

ENVS 090-099 Directed Reading, Independent Project, Capstone