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Examining artistic representations of climate change, questioning concepts of wilderness and famine and understanding impacts of industry on agriculture. Twenty-five faculty members have spent more than a year collaborating on a new cross-disciplinary curriculum for the popular foundational Introduction to Environmental Studies course that encompasses all of these topics and more.

"We were looking for ways to leverage the expertise of environmental studies faculty to provide instructors from every division with ready-to-teach ideas and resources," said Miles C. Moore Professor of Politics and Director of Environmental Studies Phil Brick. "We are blessed with a living laboratory of environmental challenges right outside our doorstep. We hope to connect our students to the place they call home for four years, and, hopefully, later, they will see similar patterns and connections in their future homes."
We took a look at four of the six new modules that investigate regional and global environmental issues through the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities.

The Wild and the Tamed

On the syllabus:
An examination of artist Joseph Beuys' 1974 performance art piece, "I Like America and America Likes Me," in which he tried to live with a wild coyote in a confined New York City space.

Key questions:
What constitutes wilderness versus wildness? How has the concept of the "wild" informed environmental thought and practice in the United States?

Faculty perspective:
"Students think about the tame and the wild through philosophy, the arts, archaeology and history." -Eunice Blavascunas, assistant professor of anthropology and environmental studies

Other faculty contributors:
Delbert Hutchison, associate professor of biology and environmental studies co-director; Nicole Pietrantoni, associate professor of art; Matt Reynolds, associate professor of art history and visual culture studies.

Renewable Paradoxes

On the syllabus:
A field trip to Stateline Wind Farm on Vansycle Ridge (the border between Oregon and Washington), where students seek inspiration for creating a work of art that expresses their positive or negative reactions to turbines. 

Key questions:
Given the scarcity and environmental cost of fossil fuels, what is the appeal of renewable resources? What possible problems exist with wind energy?

Faculty perspective:
"We focus on wind energy and the issues it raises: intermittency problems, environmental problems, the aesthetics of wind turbines and matters of intergenerational equity and energy use." -Jan Crouter, associate professor of economics

Other faculty contributors:
Patrick Frierson, associate professor of philosophy and Paul Garrett Fellow; Kurt Hoffman, professor of physics; Bryn Kimball, former visiting assistant professor of geology.

Climate Vulnerability and Resistance

On the syllabus:
Students identify as an "artist" or a "scientist," then visit Whitman's Organic Garden and record observations about it via their self-selected role.

Key questions:
What differentiates "ideas about nature" and "nature" itself? What issues arise when artists try to visualize climate change?

Faculty perspective:
"Natural systems, and human interactions with them, are not only more complex than we know; they are likely more complex than we can ever know." -Brick

Other faculty contributors: 
Michelle Acuff, associate professor of art; Lyman Persico, assistant professor of geology and environmental studies; Jason Pribilsky '93, professor of anthropology and interdisciplinary studies.

Wheat and Famine
On the syllabus:
An excursion to a local wheat farm to understand the benefits of this dry crop over irrigated crops like grapes or apples, which require more labor and more insecticides.

Key questions:
How have technology and globalization changed agriculture? Should we consider famine an anthropogenic disaster, a natural disaster or both?

Faculty perspective:
"One of the things we wanted to do was introduce students to some of the key environmental issues associated with agriculture, focusing on wheat because it is a major industry in the area." -Jakobina Arch, assistant professor of history

Other faculty contributors:
Nick Bader, associate professor of geology; Amy Molitor, senior adjunct assistant professor and co-director of environmental studies and sports studies; Don Snow, chair and senior lecturer of environmental humanities and general studies.