Sustainable Development and the Environment (minor only)

Allen Gunter Lairson Lines

The program starts from the premise that the world faces two interlocking moral crises; 1) the need to provide a decent quality of life for all the world’s inhabitants and 2) the need to protect the earth’s natural systems upon which all life depends.  In all likelihood, the earth cannot physically tolerate the spread of the pattern of “development” present in the now developed countries.  Indeed, many vital ecosystems are already overstressed and near collapse.

It is necessary, therefore, to develop an alternative path to economic and human development that is consistent with, rather than contrary to, the laws of nature.  This would be a development strategy that is both regenerative and sustainable.

This program explores both theoretical and actual development strategies that are ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable.

Students who complete this minor will gain an understanding of:

  • the basic principles of environmental protection and sustainability;
  • the emergence and consequences of globalization;
  • the increasing role of international cooperation in managing environmental problems;
  • the political economy of transnational corporations;
  • the range of both positive and negative behaviors of transnational corporations in developing countries, and the ability to evaluate the environmental consequences of those behaviors and recent attempts to measure and evaluate sustainable development, including indicators of corporate practice.


Twenty-eight (28) semester hours are required: four (4) core courses, worth four (4) semester hours each and two (2) seminar/practicum courses worth six (6) semester hours each.


  • POL 130 Introduction to International Politics
  • ENV 292 Political Economy of Environmental Issues OR POL 323 Global Environmental Affairs
  • ENV 348 Sustainable Development
  • POL 333 Case Studies in Sustainable Development

Seminar/practicum courses serve as case studies in sustainable development. Each is comprised of a semester-length seminar followed by a study-abroad practicum. All are focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, areas that serve as representative case studies to illustrate a wide range of issues in sustainable development. Two (2) courses with field study component are required.

  • ENV 353 National Parks and Protected Areas
  • ENV 353F National Parks and Protected Areas Field Study
  • ENV 365 Environment and Development in Central America
  • ENV 365F Central America Field Study
  • ENV 375 Island Economies and Sustainability in the Caribbean
  • ENV 375F Caribbean Field Study -- Dominica
  • ENV 385 Sustainable Development in the Amazon Basin
  • ENV 385F Amazon Basin Field Study

Course of Study

ENV 353 National Parks and Protected Areas
: Discusses value of national parks as pleasuring grounds, genetic banks, working ecosystems, and symbols of national heritage. Optional field study component also available. Co-requisite: ENV 353F.

ENV 353F National Parks and Protected Areas Field Study: Costa Rica has been successful in achieving economic growth and human development, even as the country has been able to preserve and restore much of its environment. By contrast, much of Central America, including Nicaragua, has experienced widespread deforestation, rapid population growth and considerable instability. In combination with several environmental factors, this has led to depressed living standards throughout the region. We will devote considerable attention to understanding these very different outcomes and consider appropriate models of sustainable development for the region. In Costa Rica, we visit a wide range of projects including coffee farms, wildlife refuges, national parks, craft cooperatives and energy facilities. In Nicaragua we visit the spectacular volcanic island of Ometepe, composed of two volcanoes, which emerges from the largest lake in Central America, the Cocibolca, the great Lake of Nicaragua.. Co-requisite: ENV 353.

ENV 365 Environment and Development in Central America: Studies the need for broad-based sustainable development using Central America as a case study. Considers how widespread deforestation and rapid population growth have combined with other factors to depress living standards throughout the region. Examines why Costa Rica has attained a high level of human development. Explores appropriate models of sustainable development for the region. Co-requisite: ENV 365F.

ENV 365F Central America Field Study: The Central Highlands of Costa Rica provide an excellent case study in sustainable development. Students observe and analyze models of sustainability in the areas of agriculture, tourism, and ecosystem services, while examining a wide range of projects including a large-scale coffee plantation, an organic coffee cooperative, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Co-requisite: ENV 365.

ENV 375 Island Economies and Sustainability in the Caribbean: Examines the natural resources and conservation of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats of the Caribbean. Conservation of these resources for future generations while meeting the legitimate material needs of people in the region also discussed. Explores the prospects for sustainable economic development. Co-requisite: ENV 375F.

ENV 375F Caribbean Field Study: Dominica is currently experiencing a major transition from an economy based primarily on agricultural exports to a tourism-based economy. Examines the tension between various competing interests and identifies opportunities for achieving broad-based sustainable development. Co-requisite: ENV 375.

ENV 385 Sustainable Development in the Amazon Basin: Examines the Amazon Basin, the largest remaining tropical ecosystem on earth, considering the crucial ecological services it provides as well as the exceptional biological and cultural diversity it supports. Reviews historic attempts to exploit the rich biological and mineral resources of the region, which failed through a misunderstanding of tropical ecology and an inability to recognize environmental limitations. Discusses new approaches to development that generate income while protecting crucial ecological systems supporting economic development. Examines such efforts in the areas of tourism, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Optional field study component also available. Co-requisite: ENV 385F.

ENV 385F Amazon Basin Field Study: The Peruvian Amazon provides an excellent case study of how governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies can form partnerships to promote sustainable development. Students work with local naturalist guides and project managers to gain a comprehensive understanding of the ecotourism industry. Co-requisite: ENV 385.