Issues in the Environment

Increasingly complex environmental issues such as resource use, climate change, waste management and water quality surround us in our daily lives. Solutions to those issues require an integrated understanding of underlying scientific principles, policies which provide frameworks for actions, and management options and associated tradeoffs, all within the context of ethics and environmental justice. By better understanding complex environmental issues and the myriad of factors and tradeoffs which influence them, you can become more actively involved and engaged in solving these complex environmental challenges.

This course is an introductory survey of environmental issues that explores the connections between environmental sciences, policy, and management. You will explore interrelationships between the environment and human society, as well as the underlying social, ethical, political and economic factors that affect those relationships. You will also examine the roles for science, technology, policy, and environmental justice in meeting environmental challenges.

All students are welcome regardless of race/ethnicity, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disabilities, religion, regional background, Veteran status, citizenship status, nationality and other diverse identities that each of you bring to class and add to course discussions. We encourage you to set your preferred name and personal pronouns in Canvas so that we know how to address you. Please communicate with the teaching team (your Teaching Assistant or an instructor) if you experience anything in this course that does not support an inclusive environment so that we can work to make things better.

The course begins by exploring environmental justice and scientific, ethical, and economic approaches to environmental decision-making, as well as the psychology of collective action on environmental issues. Then, we’ll apply these perspectives to prominent environmental issues, including resource consumption, human population growth, land management (e.g., forestry, agriculture), energy use, air pollution, climate change, waste management, and water quality and scarcity. Course content will bring in perspectives from different disciplines and cultures. Throughout the course, you will be actively engaged in weekly online discussions with fellow classmates to foster integrated learning. The course is intended for anyone who is interested in the environment and environmental health and wishes to satisfy the University’s liberal education theme for the Environment. The course has no prerequisites and is appropriate for anyone with little or no scientific background.

  • Class time: 75% Lecture and video, 25% Discussion
  • Workload: average of 5 pages of reading per week, 20 graded items (assignments and/or exams)
  • Online exam format: Combination of multiple-choice, matching and true-false.
  • Format: Online asynchronous.


Course ID
ESPM 1011
Semester Offered
Course Frequency
every year