Understanding environmental change and its impact on natural and social systems is a critical frame of analysis that needs to be added to the repertoire of student perspectives (such as race, class, gender, and power) and competencies (such as writing, quantitative skills, and languages). Each of these frames/skills is an arrow in the quiver of a 21st century liberal arts education.
Upon graduation, students encounter problems—environmental change, poverty, war, disease, injustice. An environment frame, together with race, class, gender, and power frames, is critical for a more-sophisticated understanding of (1) environment within a social context and (2) society within an environmental context. That is, it is not just about habitat, charismatic animals, or big government/corporate policy, but about all of the ways that the social and the cultural intersect with questions surrounding environment — What is nature, how it is implicated in our lives, who benefits and who loses from environmental harm, what issues of power and identity are invested in environmental discourses, how do we make policy or economic decisions given these questions?
Adding an environmental frame to courses does not connote advocating a particular agenda or ideology. Rather, it is one of several analytical frameworks that allows faculty and students to evaluate critically the interconnected dimensions of our contemporary world.
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