At Lewis & Clark, the Environmental Studies Program is interdisciplinary–drawing from and synthesizing multiple branches of knowledge. In the context of ENVS, interdisciplinarity has a particular significance because it allows us to move outside our preconceived notions of what an environmentally-based program should look like. Many people believe that Environmental Studies as a discipline is simply a combination of ecology and climate science, maybe with some political science thrown in; just last night, I had a conversation with someone who kept referring to ENVS as Environmental Science, despite the fact that I called it Environmental Studies multiple times. Although a program combining ecology/climate science/poli-sci would count as interdisciplinary in the barest sense, allowing students to connect any discipline with Environmental Studies fosters creative thought and deeper connections between scholarly fields. In this way, Lewis & Clark’s Environmental Studies program is truly interdisciplinary because it allows for a broader range of environmental thought.
ENVS minors engage with both the interdisciplinary aspects of the Environmental Studies Program and the idea of cross-disciplinarity, or looking at aspects of one academic discipline in terms of another; for minors, cross-disciplinarity means connecting Environmental Studies with their chosen major in a meaningful way. Minors currently in ENVS 330, aka Situating Environmental Problems and Solutions (their final ENVS class), are working on capstone projects dedicated to this pursuit. One great example of this type of project comes from Raiven Greenberg’s site, where she details her research on the role of children in urban planning. Raiven’s work combines her environmental studies and developmental psychology interests in a unique way; I especially enjoy her focus on the built environment, which sometimes tends to get overlooked in favor of green space when considering environmental-psychological relationships. Raiven also does a great job reflecting on her thought process in her posts, and her Environmental Studies background allows her to look at her work in Psychology with a more critical eye. In particular, this post highlights the application of Environmental Studies methodologies (GIS) and thinking processes. In the post, she goes through the process of looking more closely at previously held assumptions of the importance of children in urban planning. If you’re interested in psychology or urban spaces, Raiven’s site is definitely worth a look.
Another excellent example of the type of cross-disciplinary work done by ENVS minors comes from Ajna Weaver, another junior currently taking ENVS 330. Considering that she is a Rhetoric and Media Studies major, it’s no surprise that Ajna’s site is aesthetically pleasing. However, she also has an interesting and consistent flow of content relating not only to ENVS, but to her other courses as well. This work often includes drawing connections between Environmental Studies-related topics and concepts from other classes. For example, this short film discusses the rhetoric of “green,” using ecolabels as in-depth examples. The language we use has profound impacts on our conceptualizations of big ideas, and this is especially true in Environmental Studies, which is such a broad field of study that I often say I’m “majoring in everything.” Visiting Ajna’s site is a great way to break down some of the dense language that is so often used in environmentally-focused discussions, and her dual perspective makes her posts especially relevant.
Though the words “Environmental Studies” may call to mind a specific combination of disciplines, there’s something in this program for everyone, from hikers to foodies to artists. Both our majors and minors strive to embody these ideals of interconnected scholarship that make Environmental Studies unique–truly creating an environment across boundaries.