Environmental Studies

Program Chairman: Theodore L. Steck, CLSC 721, 702-1329,
Administrator: Leigh S. Raymond, CLSC 721, 834-0621
E-mail: envstd@uchicago.edu
World Wide Web:

Program of Study

College students are increasingly interested in the environment. They recognize that the impact of human activities on the natural world grows steadily more profound. They see the quality of life on Earth challenged. They draw implications for their personal and professional lives and for the well-being of humankind and the web of life in the generations to follow. They seek educational opportunities to guide their citizenship, scholarship, and career development. They want to know and understand and respond to what is going on.

The primary concern of the program in environmental studies is with the manifold relationship between the human enterprise and the natural world that sustains it. Approaching this vast topic calls for a multidisciplinary education through which complex issues, now unfolding, can be approached. We therefore aim to build mastery of specialized knowledge upon a broad background. A seminar program is also conducted to acquaint students at all levels with the practical implications of their didactic courses and to provide a forum for guest lectures and senior research presentations. The environmental studies program is sponsored by the New Collegiate Division, a home for innovations in interdisciplinary undergraduate education.

Program Requirements

Candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies will ordinarily enter the program before the end of their second year by meeting with the program chairman. They will pursue a plan of study tailored to their individual interests under the guidance and oversight of the program chairman and their College adviser. Normally, students will pursue depth in an area of biological, physical, or social science to develop recognized expertise in a traditional discipline in preparation for graduate study or professional activity. This focus should be balanced by a broad environmental education. Following are suggestions of relevant courses that meet general education requirements, as well as courses appropriate for a concentration program emphasizing biological, physical, or social sciences. A senior paper is required.

Summary of Program

General Education. Introductory courses appropriate for students interested in environmental studies include the Natural Sciences sequence entitled Environmental Sciences (Environmental Studies 12100-12200-12300-12400-12500-12600); this six-quarter sequence satisfies the general education requirements in the physical, biological, and mathematical sciences for humanities and social sciences students. Other relevant introductory science courses include Chemistry 11100A-11200A-11300A, or a physical sciences sequence that includes Geophysical Sciences 13300 or 13400, or a biology sequence that includes ecology. The entry point for the concentration is Environmental Studies 21200. Two Big Problems courses, Environmental Studies 24400 and 28400, are now offered to fourth-year students without prior environmental course work.

Concentration Program with Emphasis on Biological or Physical Sciences. Courses suggested to students who emphasize these natural sciences include Biological Sciences 24000, 25100, 25500, and 27100; Chemistry 20100-20200, 21000, and 22000-22200; Physics 12100-12200-12300; and Statistics 22000.

Concentration Program with Emphasis on Social Sciences. Courses suggested to students who emphasize social sciences include Environmental Studies 20500, 20600, 21800, 22000, 23100, 23300, 23600, 24100, 24700, and/or 24900.

Environmental Studies Seminar. Students and faculty associated with the concentration program meet periodically to host visiting scholars. Senior papers are also presented in this forum. Concentrators are expected to participate in the seminar but without course credit.

Summary of Requirements

Concentration 1 ENST 21200

1 ECON 19800 or higher

1 course in statistics (ENST 12500 or higher)

2 additional social sciences courses of


2 additional biological or physical sciences

courses of relevance

3 additional courses in the area of emphasis

1 ENST 29900 (senior paper)

ENST Seminar


Grading. Courses required for the concentration may not be taken on a P/F basis without consent of the program chairman.

Honors. Students may be nominated for graduation with honors on the basis of the excellence of their senior research papers if their overall grade point average is higher than 3.25.


David Archer, Associate Professor, Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College

John C. Bailar III, Professor, Department of Health Studies

R. Stephen Berry, James Franck Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Chemistry, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, James Franck Institute, and the College

Michael P. Conzen, Professor, Committee on the Geographical Studies and the College; Chairman, Committee on the Geographical Studies

Don L. Coursey, Professor, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and the College

J. Ronald Engel, Professor, Meadville/Lombard Theological School

John E. Frederick, Professor, Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College

Henry L. henderson, Senior Lecturer in the College

Alan L. Kolata, Professor, Department of Anthropology and the College; Director, Latin American Studies Center

Howard Margolis, Professor, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and the College

Marvin W. Mikesell, Professor, Committee on the Geographical Studies and the College

David W. Oxtoby, Mellon Professor, Department of Chemistry, James Franck Institute, and the College; Dean, Division of Physical Sciences

RAYMOND T. PIERREHUMBERT, Professor, Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College

LEIGH RAYMOND, Lecturer in the College

Allen Sanderson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics

Theodore L. Steck, Professor, Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, Committee on Cell Physiology, and the College; Chairman, Environmental Studies Program

Michael Stein, Professor, Department of Statistics and the College

George S. Tolley, Professor, Department of Economics


L refers to courses with laboratory.

10400. Environmental Ecology (=BIOS 13107, ENST 10400, NTSC 10400). PQ: NTSC 10300. This course emphasizes basic scientific understanding of ecological and evolutionary principles that relate most closely to the ways humans interact with their environments. Topics include population growth, adaptation, and ecosystem structure and function. We also discuss the regulation and consequences of biodiversity. Discussion required. M. Leibold. Winter.

11100-11200-11300. General Chemistry I, II, III (=CHEM 11100-11200-11300, ENST 11100-11200-11300). PQ: Good performance on the mathematics or calculus placement test. The first two courses in this sequence meet the general education requirement in the physical sciences. A discussion of atomic and molecular theories, chemical periodicity, and types of chemical reaction is followed in the first quarter by the chemical importance of pressure and temperature, phase diagrams, and acid-base and heterogeneous equilibria. During the second quarter the principles of chemical thermodynamics are covered, with applications to chemical and biological systems and to phase equilibria and electrochemistry. In the third quarter, ideas of atomic structure and chemical bonding are studied, along with the special features of liquids and solids and the chemistry of the representative elements. Lab work in Chem 11100-11200-11300 includes some quantitative measurements, the properties of the important elements and their compounds, and experiments associated with the common ions and their separation and identification by semi-micro methods. Section A emphasizes the role of chemical and physical processes in the environment, especially in water and in the atmosphere. Section B has a more traditional organization. 11100A P. Guyot-Sionnest, 11100B J. Norris, Autumn; 11200A D. Oxtoby, 11200B N. Scherer, Winter; 11300A R. Clayton, 11300B K. Freed, Spring. L: Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

12100. Atmospheric Chemistry and Air Quality (=ENST 12100, NTSC 12100, PHSC 13500). PQ: MATH 10600, or placement in 13100 or higher, or consent of instructor. This course considers: (1) the chemical, physical, and radiative processes that determine the composition of the atmosphere; and (2) the effects that increasing global industrialization and agriculturization are having upon the atmosphere. Particular attention is given to stratospheric ozone depletion, the chemistry of the global troposphere, the quality of urban air throughout the world, and the formation of acid precipitation. The extent to which locally-released pollutants affect the atmosphere on a global scale is addressed. J. Frederick. Autumn. L.

12200. Life and Its Principles (=BIOS 13116, ENST 12200, NTSC 12200). PQ: ENST 12100 or consent of instructor. This course examines the basis for life on Earth: its origins, its chemistry, its use of energy, the structure and function of biological molecules, the organization of cells, and heredity at the level of the individual and the population. We also consider controversies surrounding recent developments in genetics (i.e., the cloning and/or genetic modification of organisms), the biological effects of anthropogenic pollutants, and declining biodiversity. A. Turkewitz. Winter. L.

12300. Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast (=ENST 12300, GEOS 13400, NTSC 12300, PHSC 13400). PQ: ENST 12200 or consent of instructor. This course presents the science behind the forecast of global warming to enable the student to evaluate the likelihood and potential severity of anthropogenic climate change in the coming centuries. It includes an overview of the physics of the greenhouse effect, including comparisons with Venus and Mars; an overview of the carbon cycle in its role as a global thermostat; predictions and reliability of climate model forecasts of the greenhouse world; and an examination of the records of recent and past climates, such as the glacial world and Eocene and Oligocene warm periods. D. Archer, G. Eshel. Spring. L.

12400. Organisms And Ecosystems in the Environment (=BIOS 13108, ENST 12400, NTSC 12400). PQ: ENST 12300 or consent of instructor. This course examines the interactions between organisms and their environments. Topics include reproduction, nutrition, disease, population, habitat structure, and interactions between species. We also discuss the importance of genetic and species diversity in maintaining the health of populations and of ecosystems. R. Perlman, A. Hunter. Autumn. L.

12500. Quantitative Methods in Environmental Science (=ENST 12500, NTSC 12500, STAT 12500). PQ: ENST 12400 or consent of instructor. This course studies mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches to scientific issues raised previously in this sequence. Three principal tools are: differential equations as a way to model a changing world, probability theory as a way to quantify uncertainty, and the application of computer simulations to understanding environmental processes. M. Stein. Winter.

12600. Environmental Science and Society (=ENST 12600, NTSC 12600, PHSC 12600). PQ: ENST 12500 or consent of instructor. In this course, we apply the knowledge and the methods of science to an exploration of humanity's use of its natural environment. We explore the meaning of scientific knowledge and how it is applied to problems in human affairs (e.g., the use of scientific evidence in policy and public debates). Of particular interest is the nature and application of energy. We also explore the parallels between science and art. G. Eschel. Spring.

13300. The Atmosphere (=ENST 13300, GEOS 13300). PQ: MATH 13200 or consent of instructor. This course provides an introduction to the physics, chemistry, and phenomenology of the Earth's atmosphere with an emphasis on the role of the atmosphere as a component of the planet's life support system. Topics include: (1) atmospheric composition, evolution, and structure; (2) solar and terrestrial radiation; (3) the role of water in atmospheric processes; (4) winds, the global circulation, and weather systems; and (5) atmospheric chemistry and pollution. We focus on the mechanisms by which human activity can influence the atmosphere and on interactions between atmosphere and biosphere. J. Frederick. Spring.

20500. Introduction to Population (=ENST 20500, SOCI 20500/36000). This course provides an introduction to the field of population studies. It provides a substantive overview of our knowledge of three fundamental population processes: fertility, mortality, and migration. We also cover marriage, cohabitation, marital disruption, aging, and AIDS. In each case we examine historical trends. We also discuss causes and consequences of recent trends in population growth and the current demographic situation in developing and developed countries. L. Waite. Spring.

20600. Population and Development (=ENST 20600, SOCI 26700/36700). This course is a broad overview of demographic issues in the less developed regions of the world. Demographic patterns and change are discussed with an emphasis on the relationship between socioeconomic development and demographic factors. How do social and economic changes affect population dynamics? Is there an optimal rate of population change? In the light of empirical evidence, we discuss how demographic thought and policies have evolved on these issues. P. Heuveline. Autumn. Not offered 2001-02; will be offered 2002-03.

21200. Introduction to Environmental Studies (=ENST 21200, NCDV 21200). We analyze the impact of the human enterprise on the natural world that sustains it. Topics include human population dynamics, the role of economic and industrial activity in human well-being, our use of natural resources (e.g., energy, soil, and water), biodiversity, prospects for sustainable development, and the role of cultural institutions and values in these matters. The format includes reading and discussing diverse sources and writing a short paper each week. T. Steck. Autumn.

21800. Economics and Environmental Policy (=ENST 21800, PBPL 21800). PQ: ECON 19800 or higher. This course combines basic microeconomic theory and tools with contemporary environmental and resources issues and controversies to examine and analyze public policy decisions. Theoretical points include externalities, public goods, common-property resources, valuing resources, benefit/cost analysis, and risk assessment. Topics include pollution, global climate changes, energy use and conservation, recycling and waste management, endangered species and biodiversity, nonrenewable resources, congestion, economic growth and the environment, and equity impacts of public policies. A. Sanderson. Spring.

22000. The Anthropology of Development (=ANTH 22000/33500, ENST 22000). This course applies anthropological understanding to development programs in "underdeveloped" societies through case studies of food production, nutrition, and health care practices. We pay special attention to the role and impact of indigenous and anthropological concepts in development projects. Topics include development within the world system, the role of national and international development agencies, the cultural construction of well-being and deprivation, the impact of world market mechanisms and consumerism on underdevelopment, local resistance and engagement in development, the politics of underdevelopment, and future development. A. Kolata, J. Fernandez, R. Fernandez. Winter.

23100. Environmental Law (=ENST 23100, LLSO 23100, PBPL 23100). PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing or consent of instructor. This lecture/discussion course examines the development of laws and legal institutions that address environmental problems and advance environmental policies. Topics include the common law background to traditional environmental regulation, the explosive growth and impact of federal environmental laws in the second half of the twentieth century, regulations and the urban environment, and the evolution of local and national legal structures in response to environmental challenges. H. L. Henderson. Autumn.

23300. Europeans and Their Environment: A Cultural History, 500-1800 (=ENST 23300, HIPS 22200, HIST 20800). This course assesses seminal ideas, movements and events in European history bearing on our understanding of the relationship of humans with nature. Special emphasis is placed on examining the on-going debate among members of the European elite about whether the conservation or exploitation of the environment defines our appropriate relationship with the world around us. B. Naddeo. Winter.

23500. Political Sociology (=ENST 23500, PBPL 23600/33600, PLSC 23200, SOCI 23500/33500). PQ: Prior general social sciences course. This course provides analytical perspectives on citizen preference theory, public choice, group theory, bureaucrats and state-centered theory, coalition theory, elite theories, and political culture. These competing analytical perspectives are assessed in considering middle-range theories and empirical studies on central themes of political sociology. Local, national, and cross-national analyses are explored. T. Clark. Spring.

23600. The Environment in U.S. History (=ENST 23600, HIST 19000, LLSO 23600). Contemporary environmental issues are deeply rooted in a complex history, often ignored or misunderstood. This course examines human engagement with the natural world in what is now the United States: how the expansion of the market economy impacted the natural world; how various peoples struggled to control resources; how landscapes changed from ecosystems to infrastructures; how natural resources fostered industry and agriculture; and how conceptions of the natural world evolved. We consider the politics, economics, and social and cultural development of the United States in an environmental framework. C. Cahill, J. Opie. Spring.

23900. Environmental Chemistry (=CHEM 21000, ENST 23900, GEOS 23900). PQ: CHEM 11100 and 11200, and prior calculus course. The focus of this course is on the fundamental science underlying issues of local and regional scale pollution. In particular, the lifetimes of important pollutants in the air, water, and soils are examined by considering the roles played by photochemistry, surface chemistry, biological processes, and dispersal into the surrounding environment. Specific topics include urban air quality, water quality, long-lived organic toxics, heavy metals, and indoor air pollution. Control measures are also considered. D. Archer, M. Humayun. Spring. L.

24100. The Environment in U.S. Politics (=ENST 24100, NCDV 24100, PBPL 22600, PLSC 20300). Environmental policy has frequently been forged amidst major public controversy. This course considers the role played by environmental issues and ideas in U.S. politics from the late eighteenth century to the present. These issues are analyzed in the context of theories of political behavior and the changing social values regarding the relationship between humans and the environment. L. Raymond. Autumn.

24400. Is Development Sustainable? (=BPRO 23400, ENST 24400, HIPS 23400, NCDV 27300, PBPL 24400, PLSC 21200). PQ: Open to fourth-year students with no prior Environmental Studies course. This is a discussion course intended for senior students without an environmental background. Its aim is to develop skills in analyzing "big problems" that surpass the scope of traditional disciplines and single paradigms. These include human population growth, the unintended consequences of technology, the conflict between economic development and the preservation of our habitat, and choices regarding the allocation of resources to present versus future needs. T. Steck, Staff. Spring.

24500. Gandhi (=ENST 24500, FNDL 24900, PLSC 24500/35900). Course readings deal with Gandhi's life (including his autobiography), texts that articulate his thought and practice, and critical and interpretative works that assess his meaning and influence. Topics include nonviolent collective action in pursuit of truth and justice, strategy for cooperation and conflict resolution, and alternatives to industrial society and centralized state. L. Rudolph. Spring.

24700. Environmental Policy (=ENST 24700, LLSO 28900, PBPL 22500). This course considers alternative approaches to the quantitative, market-based analysis of environmental policy. The course focuses on two policy settings in particular: the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the protection of biodiversity under the Endangered Species Act. L. Raymond. Winter.

24900. Global Environmental Politics (=ENST 24900, NCDV 21100, PBPL 24200, PLSC 21100). This course offers an introduction to global environmental politics. Explorations in selected environmental issue areas are used to identify the roles, interests, and behavior of main actors such as states, international organizations, NGOs, and the business community. Major contemporary debates are introduced that relate environmental issues to trade liberalization, security, global justice, and human rights. These analyses provide students with analytical tools to further explore environmental issues. H. P. Schmitz. Spring.

25100. Ecological Applications to Conservation Biology (=BIOS 23351, ECOL 31300, ENST 25100). PQ: Completion of the general education requirement for the biological sciences and consent of instructor. We focus on the contribution of ecological theory to understanding current issues in conservation biology. The course emphasizes quantitative methods and their use for applied problems in ecology, such as the design of natural reserves, the risk of extinction, the impact of harvesting, the dynamics of species invasions, and the role of species interactions. Course material is drawn mostly from the current primary literature. Two Saturday field trips and computer modeling labs are in addition to scheduled class time. J. Bergelson, C. Pfister. Autumn. L. Not offered 2001-02; will be offered 2002-03.

25500. Biogeography (=BIOS 23406/35500/45500, ENST 25500, EVOL 45500, GEOG 25500/35500). PQ: Completion of the general education requirement for the biological sciences or consent of instructor. This course examines factors governing the distribution and abundance of animals and plants. Topics include patterns and processes in historical biogeography, island biogeography, geographical ecology, areography, and conservation biology, such as the design and effectiveness of nature reserves. B. Patterson (odd years), L. Heaney (even years). Winter.

25900. Cultural Geography (=ENST 25900, GEOG 20100/30100). This course is an examination of the two main concerns of this field of geography: (1) the logic and pathology revealed in the record of the human use and misuse of the Earth, and (2) the discordant relationship of the world political map with more complicated patterns of linguistic and religious distribution. M. Mikesell. Winter.

26100. Roots of the Modern American City (=ENST 26100, GEOG 26100/36100, HIST 26900/36900). This course traces the economic, social, and physical development of the city in North America from early industrialization to the present. Emphasis is on evolving urban systems and the changing spatial organization of people and land use. Superior term papers from this course may be selected for special publication. An all-day Illinois field trip required. M. Conzen. Autumn.

26500. Environmental Economics (=ECON 26500, ENST 26500). PQ: ECON 20100 or consent of instructor. This course applies theoretical and empirical economic tools to a number of environmental issues. The broad concepts discussed include externalities, public goods, property rights, market failure, and social cost-benefit analysis. These concepts are applied to a number of areas including nonrenewable resources, air pollution, water pollution, solid waste management, and hazardous substances. Special emphasis is devoted to analyzing the optimal role for public policy. M. Greenstone. Spring.

27400. Principles of Epidemiology (=ENST 27400, HSTD 30900). Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health and disease in human populations. This course introduces the basic principles of epidemiologic study design, analysis, and interpretation, through lectures, assignments, and critical appraisement of both classic and contemporary research articles. The final project is to write a brief, critical review of the epidemiologic literature on a topic of the student's choice. Staff. Autumn.

28000. Environmental Moral Philosophy (=ENST 28000, LLSO 29300). In this course, we explore an approach to environmental philosophy that tries to see the ways human life and life in the Earth's biosphere might be joined in our self-understanding. Specifically, we consider (1) the ways our moral concepts might be open to the universe of life, and (2) the ways nature might pervade our sense of life. We also analyze the central arguments in animal liberation, bio-centrism, land ethics, and deep ecology. J. Bendik-Keymer. Spring.

28400. What Environmental Crisis? (=BPRO 25500, ENST 28400, NCDV 25000). PQ: Open to fourth-year students with no prior Environmental Studies course. Consent of instructor. Various aspects of global environmental change are considered in successive weeks by a team of specialists from several disciplines (e.g., anthropology, ecology, economics, ethics, geography, geosciences, law, political science, public policy, and sociology). The goal is to apply several traditional modes of thought to the analysis of a "big problem:" human impact on the natural world. The format is the reading and discussing of diverse sources and the writing of a short paper each week. T. Steck, Staff. Winter.

29700. Reading Course. PQ: Consent of faculty supervisor and program chairman. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Must be taken for P/F grade. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

29900. Senior Paper Preparation. PQ: Open only to Environmental Studies concentrators with fourth-year standing. Consent of faculty supervisor and program chairman. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Must be taken for P/F grade. This course is designed for fourth-year Environmental Studies students to be used for the preparation of the required senior paper. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.