What Are Environmental Studies?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Environmental studies is a very broad academic field which examines the interactions between humans and their natural environment. As one might imagine, environmental studies is an interdisciplinary field, incorporating concepts as varied as geology and philosophy. Many colleges offer majors in this field, and in some cases students may pick a specific focus; it is a good idea to research these programs thoroughly, as many have different approaches to the field of environmental studies, and students want to select the program which best meets their needs.

Understanding more about the natural environment is the focus of environmental studies.
Understanding more about the natural environment is the focus of environmental studies.

A big aspect of environmental studies is the sciences. Students in this discipline may study things like biology, chemistry, geology, and engineering in order to understand more about the natural environment. Some people may also pick a specific field, like forestry or fisheries management, probing more deeply into this facet of interaction between humans and the natural world. Most programs have a very demanding science component, to ensure that students have a thorough grounding in the sciences and to show them how to think like scientists.

An environmental scientist may be consulted to identify environmental risk factors at a construction site.
An environmental scientist may be consulted to identify environmental risk factors at a construction site.

Economics, law, ethics, social sciences, psychology, philosophy, and even politics are also integrated into this field. Students learn about these fields to understand how and why humans use the environment, and to examine the nature of the relationship between people and nature. For example, students might examine laws which are designed to cut down pollution, looking at the reasons people and companies pollute and the ways in which they might be persuaded not to. This study would encompass ethics, law, economics, and psychology, along with chemistry and biology to understand the impacts of pollution.

An environmental scientist may work in the field of research.
An environmental scientist may work in the field of research.

A wide variety of things can be done with a degree in this field. Someone could choose to go into a field like law, for example, with a focus on environmental law. Others may become consultants on issues like environmental ethics and sustainability plans. Environmental studies majors can also go on to work as biologists, environmental engineers, geologists, and so forth, typically after completing graduate studies in their chosen field.

Some students also choose to become educators, in the hopes of stimulating thought and discussion about the natural world. In addition to teaching at academic institutions, such educators can also work for resource centers and organizations which offer seminars on environmental issues. Others may choose to educate with the written word; numerous books about various aspects of environmental studies are published every year, and many are aimed at a general audience to encourage frank examination of important issues like keeping the natural environment healthy.

Part of environmental studies is holding seminars on environmental issues.
Part of environmental studies is holding seminars on environmental issues.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon22777

what is the relation between agriculture and forest?

anon14931

in environmental studies there is a concept known as risk. sometimes it is cheaper to assess risk and manage it, rather than remove the source of contamination. risk can be seen as the addition of three aspects, source, pathway, and receptor. the source is the specific contaminant of concern. chemistry teaches us the properties of this contaminant and what the potential for its mobility is i.e. the pathway. the receptor would be humans or any other animals. and that is just one of the many applications of chemistry in environmental studies.

traceytolove

what is the role of natural selection in evolution and what role does it play in environmental science?

traceytolove

why is it important to understand the chemistry of various things when studying environmental science?

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: