Environmental Courses at Rensselaer:


School of Humanities and Social Sciences



Course Descriptions--45 Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Science Studies

45210 Introduction to Environmental Studies An introduction to a variety of ways to study the environment, especially science and technology studies, environmental science, and environmental engineering. Case studies and projects emphasize the cooperation of disciplines in addressing local and global environmental issues such as PCBs in the Hudson River, acid rain in the Adirondacks, and population growth. (Cross listed as 94210. Students cannot obtain credit for both this course and 94210.) Spring term annually. 4 credit hours

45460 Classic Writings on the Environment Intensive writing and discussion course for seniors with substantial background and course work in environmental issues. In-depth analysis of writings representing a variety of perspectives (scientific, historical, aesthetic, social, political, economic, ethical) on environmental issues. Prerequisites: senior status, two H&SS environmentally focused courses (e.g., courses listed in environmental studies concentration), and two courses in biology and/or geology or permission of instructor. (Cross listed as 94460. Students cannot receive credit for both this course and 94460.) Spring term annually. 3 credit hours


Course Descriptions--48 Philosophy

48430 Environmental Philosophy While concepts such as quality of life, environment, nature, global ecology, and the like figure heavily in contemporary discussions, they are seldom integrated into an environmental philosophy. The course tries to achieve this integration by understanding some of the religious, mythic-poetic, and scientific dimensions of the man-nature matrix. Some specific environmental problems are examined in order to illustrate the system of values implied by various solutions. (Cross listed as 49430. Students cannot obtain credit for both this course and 49430.) Prerequisite: junior or senior standing or permission of instructor. Fall term annually. 4 credit hours


Course Descriptions--49 Science and Technology Studies--Humanities Credit

49430 Environmental Philosophy While concepts such as quality of life, environment, nature, global ecology, and the like figure heavily in contemporary discussions, they are seldom integrated into an environmental philosophy. The course tries to achieve this integration by understanding some of the religious, mythic-poetic, and scientific dimensions of the man-nature matrix. Some specific environmental problems are examined to illustrate the system of values implied by various solutions. (Cross listed as 48430. Students cannot obtain credit for both this course and 48430.) Prerequisite: junior or senior standing or permission of instructor. Fall term annually. 4 credit hours


Course Descriptions--50 Economics

50421 Cost-Benefit Analysis Addresses the identification and measurement of the economic gains and losses to different sectors of the economy resulting from public projects and policies. Among the projects studied are those in the area of transportation, energy, environmental, and urban development. Also considered is the evaluation of the effects of government on business, as for example, consumer product and workplace safety regulation. Prerequisite: 50201. Spring term annually. 3 credit hours

50423 Environmental Economics Focuses on the relationships among technology, environmental resources, and economic growth. Builds from the neoclassical model of price-driven resource allocation and competitive equilibrium. The implications for resource scarcity, environmental sustainability, and policy are developed and compared to those derived from other schools of thought. Prerequisite: 50120 or permission of instructor. Offered on availability of instructor. 4 credit hours

50424 Natural Resource Economics This course deals with the allocation of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Renewable resources are those like forests and fisheries which, if used in a sustainable manner, can provide economic services and inputs indefinitely. Nonrenewable resources exist only in finite quantities. Key issues are valuation, sustainable use, and substitutability. Prerequisite: 50120 or permission of instructor. Spring term annually. 4 credit hours.

50425 Ecological Economics Ecological economics is concerned with the relationship between economic systems and the biological and physical world. It recognizes that practical solutions to pressing social and environmental problems require new interdisciplinary approaches which focus on the links between economic, social, and ecological systems. This course draws on contemporary economic thought as well as evolutionary biology, ecology, and nonequilibrium systems theory. Current problems of economic growth and the prospects for continued development in a finite world are examined in the light of new findings in these fields. Prerequisites: 50120, and either 50423 or 50424, or permission of instructor. Spring term annually. 4 credit hours

50623 Advanced Environmental Economics This course examines fundamentals of neoclassical microeconomics as well as other approaches to environmental economics. The main challenge in this analysis is to sort out when standard theory can be applied to environmental policy and when additional approaches are needed. The course stresses both applied microeconomic concepts of market incentives and negotiated solutions and broader policy notions such as sustainable development. Prerequisite: 50201 or permission of instructor. Fall and spring terms annually. 3 credit hours.

50624 Advanced Natural Resource Economics This course deals with the allocation of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Renewable resources are those like forests and fisheries which, if used in a sustainable manner, can provide economic services and inputs indefinitely. Nonrenewable resources exist only in finite quantities. Key issues are valuation, sustainable use, and substitutability. Prerequisite: 50201 or permission of instructor. Spring term annually. 3 credit hours.

50625 Advanced Ecological Economics A multidisciplinary course that explores linkages between economic, social, ecological, biological, and physical systems. Given its multidisciplinary approach to economic analysis, the course seeks to take a fresh look at economic theory and application. Contributing disciplines include psychology, philosophy of science, biology, and ecology. Prerequisite: 50623 or 50624. Spring term annually 3 credits.


Course Descriptions--51 Science and Technology Studies--Social Sciences Credit

51230 Environment and Society The course's main theme is ecological sustainability: what it is, how it might be achieved, how it can be maintained. The theory and practice of sustainability is explored in three parts: through an examination of the concepts, actors, and processes of society-environment interactions; through an analysis of environmental philosophies and models for action; and by addressing the problems and prospects for building sustainable societies. This course prepares students for advanced environmental humanities and social sciences courses. Prerequisite: 49/51111 or permission of instructor. Annually. 4 credit hours

51240 Law, Values, Public Policy: Perspectives on Science and Technology This course examines the interconnections between values and law, seeking to understand how these affect and are affected by science and technology by examining such topics as computers and privacy, medical malpractice, abortion and other legal conflicts surrounding new reproductive technologies, problems of expert witnesses, sexual harassment, patent infringement, auto safety litigation, and siting of hazardous facilities, among others. Annually. 4 credit hours

51432 Environmental Politics and Policy A highly interactive introduction to environmental politics and policy in the United States. Major themes include the background and context of environmental politics and policy, the policy-making process, environmental issues selected and reported on by students, the varieties of environmentalism, and environmental ethics. Prerequisite: any 200-level STS course or permission of instructor. Fall term annually. 4 credit hours

51433 World Politics Analysis of major political forces and policies of the principal nation-state groupings and leading powers that, on the one hand, reflect long- and short-range goals of these entities, and, on the other hand, tend to promote stability or conflict in the international community. Prerequisite: 51133 or permission of instructor. Fall and spring terms annually. 4 credit hours

51439 Environment and International Policy This course explores environmental issues that engage international attention and require new forms of policy and diplomacy. This course also explores the historical, cultural, and political-economic factors that contribute to contemporary concern about the environment. Particular attention is given to changing perceptions about the relationship between technological development, human welfare, and collective responsibility. Prerequisite: junior or senior status or permission of instructor. Annually. 4 credit hours.

51440 Risky Technologies Analyzes the political, social, and technical dimensions of civilian technologies perceived as potentially threatening to human health or the environment. Topics include chemical manufacturing, acid rain, pesticides, chemical and radioactive wastes, greenhouse effect, automobile safety, indoor air pollution, space flight, ozone, nuclear power, and other topics of interest to class members. Aspects of the political process studied include media, public opinion, risk perception, lobbying, scientific advice, Congress, President, courts, EPA and other regulatory agencies. Prerequisite: 51431 or permission of instructor. Offered on availability of instructor. 4 credit hours

51450 Environment and Development This course surveys the actors, processes, and proposed solutions to the problems of environment and development. The theory and practice of three main themes are explored: the background and context of environment and development in North and South; politics and economic development in the South; and the problems and prospects for sustainable societies in North and South. Prerequisite: 51230 or permission of instructor. Spring term alternate years. 4 credit hours

51454 Environment, Law, and Culture This course explores how culture influences the perception of environmental problems, and the legal strategies relied on to solve them. The course also explores how environmental crisis challenges conventional ways of assessing and resolving social problems, requiring the innovation of new standards for establishing evidence, responsibility, and compensation. Case studies analyze historical change in the way the law operates, particularly with regard to threats to human health. Prerequisite: junior/senior status or permission of instructor. Annually. 4 credit hours



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