Changes to the environment are challenging our ability as humans to adapt. Those changes are occurring across a wide range of scales and at unprecedented rates. Consider planetary issues such as global climate change, the appearance of ozone holes and the emergence of new diseases. At regional scales, witness depletion of resources such as fisheries stocks, or the reduction in biodiversity. At local scales, air pollution threatens urban development and human health while water and soil pollution remove options for agriculture and environmental preservation. Sustainable designs driven by conservation interests ignore the needs for adaptive forms of economic development that emphasize enterprise and flexibility. As the scale of environmental issues increase, the dynamic of undergraduate education changes. Theories, methods and practices that lead to resolution of environmental issues no longer fall neatly into a single discipline.
The interdisciplinary field of Environmental Studies challenges students to examine both the ecological and social underpinnings of environmental issues and the complex interplay among these systems at local to global scales. The Department of Environmental Studies at Emory University offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines coursework in both natural and social sciences and the humanities. Because environmental issues transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, the structure and content of the Environmental Studies (ENVS) curriculum emphasizes systems thinking and integrative learning. Classroom activities and field and individual study courses allow students to engage in real world issues. The curriculum is designed to sharpen critical thinking and problem solving skills by challenging students to translate theory and classroom learning into practice. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in internships and/or research, and to study abroad when possible.