The Stream

Environmental Studies at 50

The study of the environment, either as environmental studies or environmental science, is now so mainstream in higher education that it is difficult to grasp that at one time such studies were not a part of the college or university curriculum. Environmental Studies as a major was born here at Middlebury College 50 years ago this fall, when a small group of visionary faculty led by Howard “Gene” Woodin convinced then-president James Armstrong to approve the creation a major offered by a cross-departmental collaboration among Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Geology (and soon joined by Economics). This was in 1965. Only three years after the publication of Silent Spring, and five years before Earth Day. It was the first such major in the country.

Now, 50 years later, such programs have emerged in virtually all colleges and universities in response to the growing awareness not only of the importance of such issues for society but of its deep and broad roots within traditional academic discourse.

This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Middlebury’s Environmental Studies Program as well as 50 years of commitment to environmental engagement.

The Middlebury School of the Environment may only be two years old, but it is a product of 50 years of leadership in environmental education, pedagogy, and practice. All of us associated with the School of the Environment owe a great deal to the pioneers who, 50 years ago, had the vision to craft a new emphasis for higher education. And it is my intention to ensure that we follow with the same commitment to envisioning a better environmental future for all.

Getting ready for 2016

For most students at college or university, the new academic year began just recently.  But even though Summer 2016 seems far in the future, we’ve already started preparing for the 2016 session of the Middlebury School of the Environment.  Our session this past summer was very successful, and we’re excited to be able to build on that success for the coming year.  All of our faculty will be returning, allowing us to once again offer the very best summer environmental studies program available anywhere.  Coverage will once again include environmental science, policy, humanities, and arts, integrated with each other and with leadership training that will help you be effective in doing something positive for the world and with your career.

If you are looking for a summer environmental studies program offered by one of the top schools for environmental studies and sustainability in the world, the Middlebury School of the Environment is for you.  Come join us!

Understanding Place reflection #4

Over the last two weeks, we’ve explored place in light of temporal time scales and land use, for example through GIS exercises and readings from Foley et al., Matson et al., and Wendell Berry’s ‘Let the Farm Judge’. For this week’s reflection (due Wednesday at noon) please choose a place and describe its dominant historical and current land use(s). Based on local and global land-use trends, what do you think the future of land use in that place might be over the next 100 years (e.g., suburban development, agriculture, urbanization, industry, conservation, etc.)? What do you suggest might be the most suitable future land use(s) in that place in light of ecology, society, and economy?

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #4

John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question is, “Are you hopeful?” Well, are you? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?


Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Understanding Place reflection #3

For the last three weeks we have been building up our ‘toolkit’ for understanding place, with a special focus on agriculture. Please share how you envision your contribution to the final group project – the recipe book. Please include specific details including the kind of contribution you’d like to create or share, what disciplinary or life-experience background(s) you could contribute through your work, and what ‘tools’ for understanding place might be expressed through your contribution. Finally, please briefly note how your proposed contribution applies to our shared place at the SoE or to a place that is special to you, and also how it can be applied to any place.

Your answers to this reflection are not set in stone, and you are free to change your contributions to the final project as we progress through the second half of the semester. This is simply a forum for you to brainstorm, be creative, and share your ideas with your peers.

Provide your reflections as a comment to this post, and remember that your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #3

We began the class three weeks ago with a broad macro-scale perspective on sustainability, and quickly worked toward a micro-scale perspective, focusing on methods directed at small, targeted goals that address specific vulnerabilities for a specific system. Reflect on the pros and cons of these two perspectives. What do we gain and what do we lose by adopting one or the other of these perspectives? What do you think are some solutions or strategies for addressing issues of sustainability that would allow us to retain all of the benefits without suffering from the negative consequences.


Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Understanding Place reflection #2

Many of our discussions and experiences this week revolved around justice and action. Use a concrete example to explain how a better understanding of place can enhance social and environmental justice.

Provide your reflections as a comment to this post, and remember that your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #2

We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning skills, such as systems mapping, human-centered design, and scenario planning. Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such planning skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.


Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #1

In the course of our discussions, we have encountered examples of how the concept of sustainability complements areas of inquiry within numerous specific disciplines. Reflect on your views on how sustainability, as characterized by the principles we have begun to list in class, is relevant within multiple disciplines at your college or university. Also, reflect on how your particular focus in college/university relates to an effort to achieve sustainability.


Provide your answer as a comment to this post by class time on Monday. Remember – your comments are public.

Understanding Place reflection #1

Welcome, all students, to the 2015 SoE!  We shared a great hike up Snake Mountain and a beautiful, moving opening ceremony last weekend, and we are all very excited about the next six weeks. Now it’s time to dive into our work!

We have been exploring definitions, perceptions, and perspectives of ‘place’ this week in the Understanding Place course. Please describe two concepts or experiences you have discovered this week, and how they have contributed to your understanding of place. Also, share one still unanswered question or concern that this week’s classes and/or readings have raised for you.

Provide your reflections as a comment to this post, and remember that your comments are public.




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