Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17

Bard College Catalogue 2016-17

Environmental and Urban Studies


Michèle D. Dominy (director), Myra Young Armstead, Alex Benson, Daniel Berthold, Diana De G. Brown, Robert J. Culp, Diana H. DePardo-Minsky, Sanjaya DeSilva, y, M. Elias Dueker, Gidon Eshel, Kris Feder, Felicia Keesing, Peter Klein, Cecile E. Kuznitz, Katrina Light, Christopher R. Lindner, Peter L’Official, Susan Merriam, Tom O’Dowd, Bruce Robertson, Susan Fox Rogers, Monique Segarra (BCEP), Alice Stroup, Yuka Suzuki, Olga Touloumi


Finding workable solutions for environmental and urban problems requires a broad set of methodologies. Both biogeophysical systems and human societies (cultures, economies, political regimes) are nested complex systems. Environmental and Urban Studies (EUS) is an interdisciplinary program that examines the interdependence of human societies and the physical environment. The program strives to ensure that majors have a solid background in the physical sciences, humanities, economics, and policy. It also aims to enhance students’ understanding of the complexities of environmental and urban issues and their awareness of interrelationships between built and “natural” environments.

The program allows students to engage intellectually with people across disciplines, and acquire practical skill sets and hands-on experience addressing urban and environmental ­challenges. Students take several rigorous interdisciplinary and disciplinary core courses, ­complete an internship and a practicum, and attend the EUS Colloquium. To balance transdisciplinary breadth with depth in a particular discipline, students also take intermediate and advanced courses in a chosen focus area. Expertise developed through focus area studies prepares the student for the Senior Project.

The Hudson River, with its estuaries, wetlands, and watershed, is framed by the Catskill Mountains to the west, and its valley communities boast many historical and natural resources. EUS takes advantage of its surroundings, using the region as a laboratory for natural and social science research and interpretation through language and the arts. The Bard College Field Station, located on the banks of the Hudson, is home to the Bard Water Lab and Hudsonia, an independent environmental institute. The Saw Kill Watershed Community brings campus and community members together to conduct watershed science, stewardship, and education. The EUS Program has links to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, to name a few place-based partners. EUS students can build on their global knowledge and experience through the Bard Globali­zation and International Affairs Program in New York City, as well as a rich variety of internship and study abroad programs.

EUS majors with a strong foundation in science and/or economics may apply to the 3+2 program with the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, earning in five years a B.A. and a master of science degree in environmental policy or in climate science and policy.

Senior Projects have addressed questions pertaining to a wide variety of topics, including environment and population growth; sustainable development; environmental impacts of globalization; international efforts to protect the environment; land ownership and the distribution of wealth; the environment and human health; environmental racism; alternative energy; urban sprawl; land-use planning; land and tax policy; wilderness and watershed protection; habitat loss; agricultural subsidies; organic farming; pollution control policy; transportation policy; ecotourism; the viability of small communities; and environmental politics, art, and education.

Focus Areas

The following focus areas suggest the breadth of possibilities for advanced study within EUS: agriculture and food systems; urban/regional planning; ecology and conservation; environment, society, and culture; environmental economics, policy, and development; environmental science and health; sustainable systems; and environmental communications. A student may also design a focus area to reflect his or her particular scholarly and career goals.


EUS requirements strike a balance between the interdisciplinary breadth necessary to address complex environmental problems and the depth and rigor of an individualized focus area. To moderate into the program, a student must have taken the core courses EUS 101 and 102 (Introduction to Environmental and Urban Studies and Introduction to Environmental and Urban Science), plus one 200-level EUS course in one of the following: economics, social analysis (other than economics), and laboratory science (environmental science, biology, chemistry, or physics). The student provides four documents to the Moderation board: the customary two papers outlining his or her academic past and future plan of study, a paper that defines and rationalizes the student’s focus area and names specific courses the student may take to complete that area and other requirements, and a sample of scholarly writing. The Moderation board will not pass a student if the focus area plan is not feasible, coherent, and sufficiently targeted. See the EUS website for details.

Graduation requirements include one 200-level EUS course in economics; one 200-level EUS course in social analysis (other than economics); one 200-level EUS course in laboratory science; EUS 305, EUS Practicum, which includes fieldwork (some study abroad programs may satisfy the practicum requirement); EUS Colloquium (2 credits); one EUS internship or service project (0 credits); 14 additional credits in a well-defined focus area, with at least two courses at the 300 level and one covering methodologies relevant to the focus area (e.g., GIS, biostatistics, or ethnography); and the Senior Project.

Recent Senior Projects in Environmental and Urban Studies

  • “Building a ‘Good School’: Architecture, Interior Design, and Effective Learning”
  • “Landscapes of Control: River Infrastructure in the Mississippi Delta”
  • “Outside the Frame: Mapping and Urban Space in the United States”


EUS offers several dozen courses in a typical semester. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, many of these courses are offered by programs across the four divisions of the College and cross-listed with EUS. The EUS website provides a complete list of courses, including graduate-level courses at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy that are open to EUS students.

Introduction to Environmental and Urban Studies
Environmental Studies 101
This course explores how climate disruption, species extinction, and depletion of fossil soils, fuels, and waters are interlinked with one another—and with social problems such as financial instability, widening economic inequality, food insecurity, intensifying conflict and militarization, and declining public health. The class reviews the empirical evidence of major environmental problems, considers which academic disciplines and practical skills are required to tackle them, and contemplates alternative political options open to governments and communities.

Introduction to Environmental and Urban Science
Environmental Studies 102
The course provides a systems-oriented approach to biological, chemical, physical, and geological processes that affect earth, air, water, and life. Students gain a solid understanding of the fundamental scientific principles governing environmental systems, including the cycling of matter and the flow of energy, and develop their ability to predict potential outcomes of complex environmental issues.

African Oil: New Scramble or New Hope?
Environmental Studies 202
cross-listed: africana studies
An examination of the international political economy of oil in African states, beginning with a study of industry basics: What is sweet crude? How is profit made from an extremely expensive extraction process? Today, almost every African state is subject to exploration for, or extraction of, oil, and superpower countries and companies are overriding sovereignty or colluding with African governments in order to make money. Case studies on Nigeria, Gabon, and Angola highlight what happens when oil and money begin to flow in abundance.

Geographic Information Systems
Environmental Studies 203
A comprehensive review of geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing technologies as they are used in a variety of social and environmental science applications.

Planetary Consequences of Food Production
Environmental Studies 205
Can one produce local organic food with relative environmental impunity? Life-cycle analyses repeatedly show that, on a national average, transportation is relatively unimportant in food production’s overall environmental footprint. While this appears to cast doubts on the “local food” notion, the picture may change dramatically with organic food production because of the absence of environmentally adverse agrochemicals. The course makes use of an innovative campus greenhouse.

The Global Future of Food
Environmental Studies 210
In the United States, calories are plentiful and cheap—but with twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes, those calories are killing us. In many parts of the world, the opposite is true: more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night. This course examines one of our most fundamental problems: Is it possible to overhaul our badly broken system of industrial agriculture and feed Earth’s rapidly growing population, while also growing safe, plentiful, and nutritious food?

Environmental Monitoring Lab: Quality on the Saw Kill
Environmental Studies 214
To get hands-on experience with the nuts and bolts of monitoring water quality in the Hudson River estuary, students plan and implement a sampling program on the Saw Kill to be integrated into Riverkeeper’s tributary monitoring program. In addition to building a monitoring program from the ground up, students become proficient in field and lab methods for monitoring basic water quality. They also become familiar with governmental regulations and policy concerns. Prerequisite: EUS 102, Biology 202, or permission of the instructo.

Food Systems: Human Health and Environmental Health
Environmental Studies 215
This course examines the association between human health and environmental health, with a focus on the links between the “diseases of civilization” and industrial agriculture. The class reviews what nutrition science has discovered about the role of diet in human health and disease; how agriculture has impacted human health and environmental quality; appropriate technologies for reforming our food systems toward less destructive and more sustainable methods of production; and the political and policy obstacles that stand in the way of reform.

The Dust Bowl: Lessons on How Not to Prepare for and Respond to Natural Perturbations
Environmental Studies 220
The Dust Bowl—the prolonged, sustained, and widespread drought that ravaged the southern Great Plains throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, and the blowing sand and soil that accompanied it—is arguably the single most devastating environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. It is also a nearly perfect example of how a natural, entirely expected phenomenon can be turned into an unmitigated regional catastrophe by ill-conceived human action. Students review the physical elements of the Dust Bowl and place them in historic/economic context.

Environmental Studies 221
This course explores the earth’s hydrosphere and its interactions with the biosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere. Topics include origins of the hydrosphere, origins of life, the global hydrologic cycle, anthropogenic influences on that cycle, and pressing environmental issues such as climate change, protection of drinking water resources, ecosystem degradation, and waste water treatment.

North and South
Environmental Studies 225
In this course, students read classic narratives of polar exploration—Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World, Shackleton’s Endurance, and Nansen’s Farthest North—and become familiar with polar geography, the history of exploration, and current environmental issues facing these regions.

Environmental Studies 230
Topics covered in this course include origins of the atmosphere, origins of life, anthropogenic influences on the atmosphere, and connections and exchanges with the hydrologic cycle. Pressing global environmental issues associated with the atmosphere are also discussed, including climate change, air pollution, acid rain, and depletion of the ozone layer. Prerequisite: EUS 102, Biology 202, or permission of the instructor.

Buddhist Views of Nature: A Vast Net of Interconnected Diamonds
Environmental Studies 231
cross-listed: religion
Interconnection is a central teaching in Buddhism. In the Flower Ornament Scripture (Avatamsaka Sutra), the image of Indra’s Net is depicted as a world in which everybody and everything is a diamond, mirroring each other. This course draws from traditional Buddhist views of nature, with readings including ecological appeals in Engaged Buddhism, classical texts, and reflections by modern poets. The goal is to recognize the Buddhist view of an environment where our “inside” nature and “outside” nature are not separate.

Advanced Readings in Environmental Science I, II
Environmental Studies 240-241
While prohibitively technical at times, some fundamental advances in environmental science can be translated into English and made at least partially palatable for the curious, motivated student. This seminar-style course explores  several key papers of recent years covering climate change, water resources, and agriculture.

EUS Practicum
Environmental Studies 305
cross-listed: american studies, historical studies

Climate change is affecting the frequency and severity of storms, floods, and other natural disasters, and also raising sea levels. These changes have significant impacts on the natural, built, and social environments of our large and small cities, from New York City to the Hudson Valley and beyond. This course explores how urban areas can prevent (or adapt to) the worst impacts of climate change using urban planning, environmental science, green infrastructure/architecture, outreach, education, participation, and the political process.

Climate Science
Environmental Studies 313
Offered to a limited number of undergraduates through the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, the course begins with studies of how Earth’s climate system works across a range of scales of time and space. These include investigations of the circulations of the ocean and atmosphere and their dynamic interactions, such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and monsoons; carbon and other biogeochemical cycles; radiation balance; the greenhouse effect; and other factors that force climate to change. Students also explore past climates for insight into our present predicament.

Climate Policy
Environmental Studies 315
This course focuses on the legal, political, cultural, and ethical dimensions of the climate policy–making process. Students evaluate climate change responses including incentive-based regulatory approaches (e.g., carbon taxes and cap-and-trade and cap-and-dividend systems with offsets), command and control approaches, direct promotion of clean technology through regulation and subsidy, and voluntary agreements. They also examine critical issues of monitoring and enforcement as well as the relationships among local, state, federal, and international policy. This is a graduate course offered to a limited number of undergraduates.

Environmental Studies 316
The class takes a close look at the long-term implications of our standard approaches to handling human waste as well as innovations in waste treatment. Students learn the science behind current waste treatment technology (water, air, land-based) and are exposed to new alternative approaches (water reclamation, living machines). Field-based labs introduce the bacteria and biogeochemical processes we rely on for most current and cutting-edge waste-treatment approaches. Prerequisites: EUS 221 and Biology 202, or permission of the instructor.

Advanced Readings: Environmental Costs of Agricultural Processes
Environmental Studies 320
This course compares small versus large-scale farms, organic versus conventional food production, and agriculture in Europe versus the United States and in developed versus developing nations. Key recent papers employing Life Cycle Assessments to uncover the full scope of environmental costs of various plant- and animal-based food items are explored in detail.

EUS Research Seminar
Environmental Studies 399-400
This seminar is required for Environmental and Urban Studies majors. Students and faculty share tips on research methods and sources, academic writing, and strategies for designing and executing a successful project. Moderated students are expected to take the seminar twice, during their junior and senior years.

EUS Colloquium
Why does it seem that natural capital is dangerously overexploited even as human capital is chronically underemployed? Do certain biases in the operation of markets or in the evolution of governance account for a tilt in resource use away from labor and toward nature? If so, are policy reforms open to us that could remove such biases and shift the politico-economic subsystem toward a more sustainable path? Invited speakers address various aspects of this theme from economic, political, ecological, historical, and other perspectives.