Earth Science and Society

Immediate crises, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and ongoing challenges, such as overuse and pollution of ecosystems, point to the importance of studying the intersection of earth processes with human societies. Students interested in understanding these interactions as they are approached both by Earth Science and by Geography can elect an interdisciplinary major that combines these two disciplines. In Earth Science, students gain an understanding of natural processes that impact the distribution and use of resources such as water, fossil fuels, and soil, as well as natural hazards such as climate change, tsunamis, and earthquakes. In Geography, students learn about the spatial distribution of physical and human phenomena and how human societies are shaped by, and also change, the natural world.

Students in the Earth Science and Society major take roughly half their major sequence in Earth Science and half in Geography. Students may focus on one of two general themes:

  1. The physical geography theme focuses on understanding patterns and processes in the natural environment that shape landscapes, with emphasis on climate, soils, water, landforms, and natural hazards.
  2. The land and resource analysis theme focuses on the uneven distribution of resources, such as agricultural soils, water, or energy; their implications for human societies; and debates and various approaches in relation to sustainable development.

The department encourages fieldwork and collaborative research with Earth Science and Geography faculty. Recent examples include investigation of climate change and environmental impact in the Hudson Valley, and land-use studies using geographic information systems (GIS).

Students interested in exploring the Earth Science and Society major are encouraged to enroll in the core introductory courses: Earth Science 151; “The Solid Earth”, which covers the physical geology of our planet, Earth Science 153; “The Fluid Earth”, an exploration of the ocean, atmosphere, and climate system, and Geography 102;  “Global Geography,” which explores the historically formed spatial patterns and relationships between human societies and the environment as well as social inequalities among different groups. Such courses give students a taste of the inter-disciplinary courses available in the Earth Science and Society Program. Students who are interested in declaring Earth Science and Society Major are encouraged to talk to the chair of the department or consult with the academic interns. Students will have two advisers, one from ESCI and one from GEOG.

Courses and Requirements

Earth Science and Society Major

ESSC/ENST Climate Change correlate

Anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat for species and human communities across the globe. Humans have raised levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses beyond those seen for the past many millions of years, and the rates at which these gasses are increasing far surpasses those associated with mass extinction events in Earth history. This correlate sequence seeks to provide a deep understanding of how Earth’s climate system functions, natural and human-induced drivers of climatic change, and impacts of such change on our planet’s physical, chemical, and biological systems. Courses also address climate change mitigation and adaptation, the psychology of pro-environmental behavior, and the role of religion in fostering more sustainable ways of living on the Earth. Students can elect the correlate either under Earth Science and Society (if four or more units come from the Earth Science and Geography department’s own course offerings) or under Environmental Studies (if the majority of courses come from other disciplines).

See the correlate requirements and list of approved courses